Recap: With the Prince visiting the market himself, the moment has arrived for Tamkako to make her decision.
Jel’s Thoughts: Alright, I’ll admit it. I took the bait. I thought Tamako Market was going to give us some kind of substantial closure and I was wrong. I probably should have paid more attention to the fact that the show was never about romance, it was about the market itself and the wonderful community Tamako lives in. In that regard the ending was a success. Rather than confessing to a boy, Tamako essentially confessed to her way of life that she loves more than anything. Poignant moments like Tamako remembering the market closing the day her mother died and Dera’s final man to man talk with Mamedai all neatly tied a bow on that aspect of the story.
Still, you can’t help but feel disappointed when there were so many pieces coming together and none of them panned out. In one scene I thought the Prince was going to choose Kaoru, which would have been amazingly bold. I suppose that was more my own misunderstanding though. I guess the shot where it’s implied Choi has the princess mark was a neat way of finishing her plot line, but why would she go through such great lengths to find another bride? She seemed pretty into to the prince so that didn’t really make sense.
Then you have the real let down in the last scene with Mochizou finally getting the courage to give Tamako a birthday present. So much elaborate build up with the chase around town and then… nothing. Now it’s not like I needed to see the two of them get together, in fact it probably made more sense they didn’t right now considering Tamako’s priorities. But why would you put us through all of that? What purpose did it serve? Was it just to tease the fans?
Overall this episode accomplished its purpose on the most basic level but I feel like there was so much untapped potential in Tamako Market. A lot of that hinged on these final 22 minutes, and while the episode had its moments I still feel pretty disappointed with the outcome.
Tamako Market has plenty of great individual bits and and pieces. It’s chock full of lovely, organic vignettes that effortlessly weave in and out of the nostalgic small town setting. Whether it’s the playful absurdity of an entire town trying to ward off a curse or the more personal wistfullness of a widower remembering his wife, to name a few examples, they’re all crafted with the technical skill and nuance we’ve come to expect from Kyoto Animation.
Impressive too is the cast of the characters that inhabit the market. They manage to embody the best of old fashioned community ideals while still having a certain modern sensibility to them. The obvious examples are Midori’s crush on Tamako and Kaoru the florist who appears to be transgender, but even in small details like Mochizou’s earring you get a sense that this is very much a story taking place in the here and now. Tamako herself is earnest and caring without being too sweet or patronizing. She’s one of the most normal anime depictions of a 16 year old girl in recent memory, and she’s a perfect fit for her role as the center of the Bunny Mountain Shopping District’s universe.
The problem I had with Tamako Market is none of that fine craftsmanship really comes together as a whole. That would be fine (albeit boring) for a conventional Slice of Life show, but Tamako does have some semblance of a plot with a main goal. Introducing an exotic prince and his talking bird searching for a bride does give the show some sense of purpose, and I’ll admit the novelty of it all was amusing at first. But in the end it’s all just an elaborate contrivance to show how much Tamako loves her community, something that was completely clear from the start. Despite having all the right pieces for it, the opportunity for real drama, humor, romance, ANYTHING significant is wasted.
What we’re left with is a sweet, feel good Slice of Life series with a few lovable oddball characters and a positive message about your freedom to love whom and whatever you please. That’s fine, sometimes that’s just what you need. But that also means we’ll all probably forget Tamako Market existed by this time next year, which is a shame because I think with a little more ambition this could have been something special. Instead it will be lost in the sea of other like minded shows in the genre, an unpolished gem that deserved better.
Iro’s Final Impressions:
As seems to be the trend with KyoAni fare, Tamako Market‘s production is incredible and filled with nuance, but it’s not utilized very well. I may well be the guy on the GLORIO crew who hates slice-of-life, but I can’t help but feel like this show isn’t worth watching. Nothing of consequence really happened, no real lessons were learned, lots of mochi was eaten, and the status quo was restored. The end.