Tamako and Dera

Animation Company: Kyoto Animation
Website: tamakomarket.com
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Airing Date: January-March 2013
Summary: Tamako knows just about everything there is to know about mochi, the traditional Japanese dessert treats. When she’s not attending her first year of high school, she even invents new flavors and varieties for Tama-ya, her family’s mochi shop. School and growing up, on the other hand, are some things that she’s still trying to find the right recipe for. But with the help of her best friends Kanna and Midori, two girls whose parents run businesses in the same shopping district, Tamako’s determined to make the best of things. It’s complicated though, especially when it comes to emotions and her relationship with her best boy friend Mochizou, whose family runs a rival mochi shop. And lately, Midori’s been feeling a little odd about her feelings towards Tamako as well. And what’s with up with that strange bird fluttering around, the one that speaks fluent Japanese? It’s all very mysterious and overwhelming, but at least Tamako always has one thing she can count on: No matter if your day’s been good or bad, there’s certain to be something sugary and delicious waiting at the end of every adventure whenever you take a walk through Tamako Market! –Source MAL
Trailer: PV 1, PV 2


Story/Plot: 3/10

My knee-jerk reaction would be to say “What story?” but that’s not totally true. Tamako Market was trying to tell a story. What that story was exactly is up for debate. Was it about a girl living in a shopping arcade looking for a certain song? The search for a bride by a prince in a far away land? A magical tale of a talking bird? Was it a slice-of-life? A comedy? A romance? Something more along the lines of magical realism? In the end, the show was too many half-baked ideas stuffed into one half-baked cake, and while I can go for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream every now and then, Tamako Market probably could have used a little bit a lot of focus. Maybe it’s because I don’t usually go for these kinds of meandering shows, but certainly I fell for this one since it hinted that it might actually have something more than just “cute girls doing cute things!” And maybe that’s why I feel a little let down that Tamako Market didn’t do more with what it had.

It could have been great if it had picked one of its many themes and just stuck with that. I think it could have worked equally well as a high school romance (the love triangle between Tamako, Mochizou, and Midori could have been great if done right), or something more comedic (Dera really had some hilarious moments!), or maybe more drama, or more magic (they could have pushed the fact that the show has a talking bird/projector and really gone crazy with some more surreal elements!) or more…something. As it is the story goes from being about Dera looking for a princess to love triangle to girls making friends and doing cute things without much rhyme or reason. Nothing goes anywhere, many things are left unresolved in the end, and episodes range from amusing to boring as sin. The ending is unsatisfying and over the course of the show, not much changes. Which is why I’m giving the story a three, since really, there wasn’t very much of one, and what there was was done poorly.

Such pretty animation!

Characters/Development: 4/10

Again, Tamako Market had some great characters and kind of…wastes their potential. Kanna and Dera are hilarious, Mochizou and Midori are cute as love-struck fools, Papa Kitashirakawa is downright adorable, but because the cast is so large, it feels like there’s barely any time to spend with them. Tamako herself was for me the least engaging character of the bunch. She was cute as a button, but that was about all there was to her. It’s a real shame that some of the secondary characters were so pushed back that I don’t even know their names. Like all of the other store owners at the Market. They’re in almost every episode, and I have no idea what any of their names are. Even Shiori, who’s a main character! Half the time I can’t remember her name either!

And for the fact that the show covers one year in these character’s lives, they certainly don’t develop much. Everyone is pretty much the same as they were at the beginning of the show. This is again, probably due to having such a large cast. There’s not time to spend showing these characters making any real growth. Mochizou and Midori are the only ones who make any real progress, and that’s only because Mochizou finally manages to give Tamako a birthday present (look at how low of a standard that is for character development here folks) and Midori because she kinda-of sort-of comes to terms with having feelings for Tamako. I liked the characters but they’re forgetable and could have been done a lot more with. So only a four here.

Animation Quality: 8/10

Yeah, that’s KyoAni for ya. They’ve got the big bucks to spend on having stunning animation, whose quality doesn’t dip at all from episode to episode. It’s a shame, since they always seem to choose to spend said money on this type of…I don’t want to say senseless…but maybe frivolous? type of show. I want to see KyoAni do something different. No more moe and cute girls! You’ve got the budget to do something great and visually amazing! Why don’t you do that instead of this? Imagine if Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure or Shin Sekai Yori (to pick two series that ran during the same time) had this budget (not that I don’t love them the way they are). They would be so beautiful! On the character design front: it probably helps that I haven’t watched K-ON! because from what I can tell, the character are almost carbon-copies of each other. That’s another thing KyoAni needs to stop doing. Stop recycling your character designs! You can’t honestly tell me that Tamako isn’t the more moe version of Chitanda from Hyouka. The show’s easy on the eyes, recycled characters aside, so I give it an 8.

Tamako and some of the cast
Tamako and some of the cast

Original Soundtrack: 9/10

I’ll give props where props are due. The music in this show really matches the tone of the series to a T. The opening is cute and upbeat without being overly annoying. The ending! Oh the ending! So GOOD! I love that song. It’s up tempo but at the same time relaxing enough to be an ending and not an opening. Music plays a big role in the show itself as well, which was one part of it that I really really liked. Mr. Record Shop Owner always seemed to know just the right track to put on to convey the mood of the moment. Which was great! I liked Tamako’s Dad’s song that he wrote for her mother. It was catchy and wonderful in its own right. The rest of the music was also appropriate for the show. It was never not tasteful, and it always matched what was happening on-screen. It’s probably not going to be the most memorable soundtrack I’ve ever heard in the long run, but it was good enough. So we’ve got a 9 here (it was going to be an 8 but the ending alone deserves a full point).

Overall Score: 6/10

Maybe I set my hopes too high after the first episode. Everything seemed to be pointing towards something with more romance, magic, and just plain story than what actually came out in the end. Gorgeous animation and good music will only take you so far in my book. Even for a slice-of-life, this was a pretty weak effort. All of the “story” bits (and Dera the talking bird) get in the way, making it hard to go with just the daily events of the life of a semi-normal young girl and her friends. I just think that this show could have gone 50 different ways, and instead of picking one and doing it well, it chose to half-ass all of them. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen (far from it), but it certainly isn’t the best either. It’s just…fine. The animation saves it from being totally average, but there’s nothing really to make it special or memorable. Like I’ve said before, this show is like a marshmallow. Sweet, fluffy, and sometimes pastel colored, marshmallows can be good; but they will never fill you and if you eat too many, you’ll just make yourself sick.

Recommendation: Nope.

Unless you’re really, really, really, really, really bored you can probably skip this. Sure the animations nice, but so are all KyoAni shows (so are a lot of other shows for that matter). It’s not really a slice-of-life, so those of you who worship at that alter won’t really find fulfillment here, nor is it fantastical enough, romantic enough, funny enough, or even horrible enough to really deem it as a “must watch”. Or even a “watch it in between seasons”. Or even just a “watch this at some point in your life when you have a spare Sunday to kill and it’s raining outside”. Unless you’re the most die-hard KyoAni fan ever and you have “Moe 4 Life” tattooed on your chest, I’d say skip it. There are a million better things to waste your time on.

Okay we get it, you're super cute
Okay we get it, you’re super cute. You can stop now.