“I don’t want to change. I want to change. We all hold in our hearts conflicting feelings, each back to back.”
-Dera Mochimazzi, Tamako Market, Episode 11
We all have strong feelings that often go unexpressed, right? Meandering from week to week, Tamako Market wonderfully extracts these emotions from its audience, as characters begin to feel better about loving whom they want, remember chuunibyou confessions, and are able to make friends for the first time. Throughout this, the focal point is Tamako Kitashirakawa, a happy-go-lucky girl seemingly obsessed with mochi and a deep devotion to her town: the Usagiyama Shopping District.
At the end of Episode 11, Tamako is called upon to make a choice: leave the shopping district, or stay. This leads us to ask ourselves, just how well do we know Tamako Kitashirakawa?
It’s a trick question. We know her well from her actions in the series; however, unlike many other protagonists, we are not privy to her innermost thoughts.
For comparison, Tsuritama does an amazing job from its first episode establishing the the exact thought process of protagonist Yuki Sanada, using specific visuals and audio to reiterate a point. More often than not, as it is with Yuki, we are allowed to pry into the lead character’s head through narration, whether an ongoing stream of consciousness or post-series retrospective, but this is not the case with Tamako.
“Why is everyone acting like this? Do they want me to leave that badly?”
-Tamako Kitashirakawa, Tamako Market, Episode 11
Episode 11 of Tamako Market brings Tamako’s thoughts to the forefront for the first time in the series, with this little outburst quoted above. Prior to this, Tamako had always been fairly passive, well-loved, and overall good person. In addition to Tamako’s obvious charms as a character, we had grown to know and love her through her interactions with others, and their expressing opinions or memories of her. Tamako was someone whom others acted for, not someone who took specific action herself, leading to doubt on my part as to whether her love for mochi wasn’t a bit of a facade due to a possible inability to move on from her mother’s death.
The important thing is that Tamako finally speaks up in Episode 12. She actively chooses what she had loved all along: the shopping district and her life as a mochi-maker’s daughter. Afterwards, everyone else has their say –– Dera and Choi both speak up in favor of Tamako staying –– but Tamako speaks first, for once, clearly delineating where her heart truly lies. Yes, we may have been able to surmise her choice from the first episode. And yes, Tamako may have known all along that she was already perfectly happy, but in vocalizing this, she establishes herself as someone who is not simply content with where she is, but actively choosing to be there.
As a final aside, it was wonderful to see that Mochizou, of all characters, was the first to inquire about Tamako’s feelings in all of this when the shopping district members were gathered to discuss the subject of her supposed marriage.