Throwing the characters into the meat-grinder of Valentine’s day, Tamako Market’s second episode is as confusing as the first, but for very different reasons. It’s unexpected to say the least; while it retains a lot of the childish charm that it’s predecessor had, some of the subject material is given an infinitely more mature perspective. Usually, this would be nothing short of welcomed, but considering the fact that this is ultimately an anime about a girl and her talking bird, it creates a monolithic disparity between the incredible contrast of the cute and the serious. The end result of which seems to be a sense of ambiguity as to what direction, if any, it’ll end up taking.
Granted, the setting seems to be innocent enough. At the instigation of an enthusiastic Tamako, the shopping district has taken to make preparations for the ever-lucrative Valentine’s day. The immediate conflict stems from Tamako’s father conservative attitude towards changing traditional business, and Tamako’s insistence of doing so. There seems to be some real potential for a thematic commentary here, your trite “tradition vs modernity” argument here. It could’ve been subtle, with both sides giving veiled arguments without it having to turn into anything that would’ve violated the comical air that follows Tamako. Unfortunately, any discussion of the theme is hardly given any attention at all, with the show being more hesitant to create a fuss, than Tamako’s dad is hesitant to change.
This isn’t necessarily bad. In the stead of thought-provoking cultural commentary, is an incredibly saccharine take on the relationship between the Tamako and her father, simultaneously adding to their characterisation. After all this might have fundamentally been more appropriate for an anime that’s not above colliding a shuttlecock with the protagonist’s head as an excuse for humour. Still, if it was done, and done well, it certainly would’ve elevated the episode beyond it’s current lackadaisical apprehension of it’s core episodic theme.
Within the confines of an entirely-facetious main plot, lies a sub-plot that almost seems to come from a different anime, or perhaps a totally different medium for that matter. Composed of the feelings of Midori towards Tamako, the subplot succeeds in an accurate portrayal of the uncertainty of infatuation. The sentiments are kept far from obvious, and while most people would go away from the episode being fully-aware of what’s going on, the anime masterfully achieves this only through the most subtle of hints. The humanity of Tamako Market’s treatment of the subject matter is rare, and the characterisation and direction (as in the directing) is adroit for the few scenes that Kyoto animation has chosen to pay tribute to the girl’s feelings.
The entire mini-arc of Tamako getting the market to adopt her suggestions takes the most screen-time in the frame of the episode, but it’s inevitably mostly a bottled-up plot, one that probably won’t have much of an effect on the rest of the episodes. What will have an effect on the rest of the episodes, in this episode, I’m not entirely sure of either. On one hand, you have an overly-loquacious cockatoo’s need to find his prince a princess, an astoundingly eccentric plot for an equally eccentric cast of characters. On the other hand, you have a juxtaposed more mature take on the relationships between different characters, a sensible harem-esqued web that Tamako finds herself in. I can’t imagine the anime not having to do some combination of the two together; ignoring one or the other would be too great a travesty of disrespect to the first two episodes, but which side will get end-up getting more attention will make or break this anime.
The high road, the one that consists of a well-written, well-drawn out relationship would be an obvious favourite over the uncanny nature of the alternative. But something like that might prove problematic in the long run, when the complexity of Midori’s character starts to create problems with the straightforwardness of Tamako’s. As much as such a nicely framed romance would’ve been tempting, I’m equally sceptical of whether or not Tamako Market is the right anime for such sentiments. Everything over here seems to be to be antonymous with Midori’s very three-dimensional character, almost all of the main cast is composed of ditzy, simplistic characters, the conflicts are as innocent as the cast, and there’s a sexually aggressive robot-parrot in here for god’s sake. It’s almost as if Midori’s in the wrong anime.
The anime’s direction towards the focus of their relationships would be unexpected, but unwelcome? It’s quite hard to imagine Kyoto animation pulling off something sincere in front of a backdrop of unashamed wackiness, but it’s definitely possible. With that in mind, note how the episode ended in a loony tunes-esque circle into blackness.