The first episode of any anime is important. The necessity of a satisfying introduction, a hook to entice further viewership, and the all-important first impression, becomes a 20 minute long balancing act. Spending too much time trying to introduce the setting and characters will affect how much screen-time’s left for demonstrations of comedy or drama that the viewer might expect later. If the studio fails to deliver, they have to wait another week to get a second chance to redeem themselves, assuming that they get a second chance in the first place. Few anime, if any, ever achieve a perfect first act. Unfortunately, Tamako Market isn’t one of those.
To give due credit, the introductory episode achieves doing something too many other anime fail to do, actually introducing the anime. Besides the obvious exclusion of the rest of the plot, nothing’s been omitted, most of the main cast makes an appearance one way or another, the setting is given enough attention; Kyoani definitely spends this episode making sure that you have a good idea of the background before showing us what’s left in the foreground. It’s definitely annoying to deal with the vagueness of some settings and scenarios especially ones that require more explanation. But while the no-omissions rule might be a good idea for an exam, it might not be the case with a single episode.
Try summarizing Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 30 words. You might conceivably be able to do so without leaving out any of the important details, but you have to omit other important things like how exactly it was written, the thing that makes Shakespeare Shakespeare. Brevity and an omission-less piece don’t go together very well, and while Tamako market certainly makes the viewer achieve a level of familiarity with it’s characters, it’s not without a price to it’s presentation. Having so much separate pieces of information jumbled up like that also means that the scenes in the episode won’t have much in the way of continuity and it’s almost impossible to predict the next scene from the last.
Tamako Market seems to be a comedy at heart, and the central component of any comedy is the humor. Questions like: “Is the humor here actually funny?” necessarily arise. The answer for most of this episode, and perhaps most of the anime, is an unfortunate “only if you’re five”. Most of it’s either slapstick or witless conversational humor, things like Tamako getting hit on the head by a shuttlecock (haha “cock”), or a baton, random unexpected interjections, the metrosexual parrot’s name, etc. Things that would make you question just what demographic this anime was meant for. If we have indeed found ourselves in the wrong section of the anime department, it figures that having a parrot nosebleed at the sight of the main character changing might be slightly misplaced.
In terms of plot, this episode offers hints at the direction the anime is headed, and it’s almost certainly not going to be anything dramatic. The main character’s “troubled” past, is something that’s established in a simple conversation with a sexually-aggressive avian, and there doesn’t seem to be any psychological baggage that the plot needs to patch up. In other words, you’re not going to sacrifice any tears over poor Tamako watching this. It’s also probably best to assume that the character development over the course of the next 11 episodes will be kept to a minimum. Expect a plot, and expect progression, or at least some semblance of that sort, but don’t expect Tamako, or any of the characters to experience an epiphany that changes the entirety of their persona.
Of course, this certainly might not be the case in future episodes. For all we know, Tamako Market might be an allegory for the cold war. But even if the bird isn’t symbolic of the Redford plan, it still doesn’t make Tamako Market a bad anime in any sense, the same way K-On! wasn’t bad. The art style here is almost entirely reminiscent of K-On! and so is the humor, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Tamako Market is the spiritual successor of it’s Kyoani predecessor. Humor might not take main stage, but somehow the adorableness of Tamako’s character coupled with the lightheartedness of the show might pave this anime’s way to greater heights. Obviously, it still could be shit, but only time will tell.