Goodbye, Tamako Kitashirakawa. We Hardly Knew Ye.

tamako kitashirakawa, tamako market, tama-chan

art by ajthefourth

“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.

tamako market, tamako kitashirakawa

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.

14 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Tamako Market

14 responses to “Goodbye, Tamako Kitashirakawa. We Hardly Knew Ye.

  1. darkfeline

    A good read as always. Though slice-of-lifes don’t stand up to more plotful series in the meaning and depth department as a matter of course, Tamako Market paints a vivid picture.

    • Thank you! ^ ^

      I’d argue that the emotions that resonate through Tamako Market are equally as meaningful as something awash with literary, philosophical, or artistic references, albeit with each series attempting to achieve different things. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Yeah, dropped this one after two episodes. God forbid Kyoto Animation ever stop endlessly reusing the same dull formula and actually make something a little auteur or risky. It’s not like they have the popularity or funds to do that… oh, wait.

    I don’t expect every show to be Revolutionary Girl Utena, but some thematic ambition would be nice.

    • dmitrij

      Blah blah blah. It was nice, charming, little series with some legit depth. And actually every recent kyoani show have different formula.

    • Hehe, we already spoke elsewhere about this, so all I’ll say is that I deeply disagree with you, but I’m glad we could come to an understanding of sorts. ^ ^ Cheers!

      • Agreed. What I said on twitter still stands, by the way. If you ever feel like elaborating on how you feel Tamako Market did a good job handling its emotional narrative, or its strengths in general (besides the two posts already written on the series here, of course), or, for that matter, an expansion on the reply you gave to darkfeline, I’d be very interested in reading that.

  3. Oh, and just noticed the caption saying “art by ajthefourth”. That is seriously impressive.

  4. jreding

    Excellent post, Ajthefourth! I loved the ending of Tamako Market for exactly the same reason. Tamako’s outburst in ep. 11 was very impressive as she had seemed ever so happy before. Even in the same episode, when everyone’s thoughts are on her marriage, she’s playing business as usual as long as she can. She doesn’t even care to discuss the marriage proposal.
    But do you approve of the ending? If you take the marriage as a symbol for personal growth and moving on than Tamako decides not to grow. She rejects every girls dream (marrying a prince), one could argue, out of fear of losing what she has. I would have preferred if Tamako made some experience of the world outside the market before rejecting it.
    “She actively chooses what she had loved all along: the shopping district and her life as a mochi-maker’s daughter.” True, but (1) it is not an informed decision b/c she does not take a single step outside this life and (2) she can’t stay mochi-maker’s daughter forever anyways.
    You have a good point in suggesting that Tamako’s familiar background is the reason for her attachment to her current life. But to me her decision seems less actively choosing than further postponing personal growth. It’s not a big deal, as she is still young. But it would be a waste if she were stuck in that shopping arcade w/o daring to see what other choices she could have. Even Mochizou will move on one day if Tamako decides to stay a kid forever.

    • jreding

      Postscriptum: The market and its odd inhabitants seem to me as the archetype of a small Japanese village community translated into modern days. They even have a common bathhouse and a village assembly. Small family shops and producing mochi by hand is a nice and nostalgic thing. People are eccentric but only superficially. One could argue it stands for Japanese society as a whole (protected services sector, homogeneous population). Now a foreigner appears, a prince at that, promising change. But he is, albeit politely, rejected in an instant and everything stays as before. This might appeal to otaku types but I’m not sure if it is a good plan for the future.

    • Thank you! (Also, may I add that it’s good to see you around and commenting again. ^ ^)

      Do I approve of the ending?

      I definitely do because the important thing for me wasn’t that Tamako would choose to stay or choose to go but that she chose. It can be incredibly easy to go along with the flow without addressing your own desires or realizing that you may actually be unhappy. For me, Tamako didn’t choose the shopping district out of fear, she chose it because she realized just how much it meant to her. At this time in her life, it was the right decision as she gains a new understanding and appreciation for what she already had. Sometime in the future, yes, she will more than likely be confronted with the same decision and then I can see her choosing to leave. As the people of Usagiayama tell Tamako’s father, at some point she may leave, and honestly, I would have been happy with either outcome provided that it was of Tamako’s own will.

      • jreding

        “(Also, may I add that it’s good to see you around and commenting again. ^ ^)”

        I’ve never been away! I just didn’t have that much to contribute recently and I have been sorely lagging behind w/ the series I’m following. E.g. when the colloquia on Shinsekai Yori were posted I was always a few episodes behind and commenting was pointless once I had caught up.

        Re Tamako: I agree that quite often it’s easier to go w/ the flow. It seemed absurd to me but for some reason everyone around Tamako seemed to assume w/o second thoughts that she would indeed marry that prince. So going w/ the flow would have meant in this situation agreeing to this fundamental change. Here, Tamako indeed took a decision.

  5. Pingback: Hello, Tamako Kitashirakawa. Perhaps I knew you a bit better than previously thought. | atelier emily

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