Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Tatami Time Machine Blues, on Hulu

In the Quantum Leap series, neither Sam Beckett or Ben Song worries too much about time paradoxes. Changing history is their mission. However, these Kyoto college students are more familiar with time travel science fiction that argues any change in the past could potentially destroy the present as we know it. Unfortunately, they remember all that butterfly-effect jazz after they start fooling around with the time machine they discover in their dorm. Putting the time travel tooth paste back in the tube is tricky prospect in the six-episode anime series Tatami Time Machine Blues, directed by Shingo Natsumi, which premieres today on Hulu.

Anime fans might remember how luckless Senpai pined for “The Girl with Black Hair” in Masaki Yuasa’s
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. It turns out her name is Akashi. He hasn’t really asked her out yet, but he sees her regularly when she visits residents of his “tatami” dorm. Much to his dismay, Akashi has become a disciple of Higuchi, an eternal slacker-student, along with Senpai’s nemesis, Ozu.

Described as a half-demon-half-student, Ozu loves to torment Senpai, but he rather irks everyone when he damages the remote control to Senpai’s air conditioner, the only working unit in the housing complex. The next day, when they students discover a working time machine hidden in the closet, the logically decide to travel back in time to save the remote (the only way to turn it on). However, the more they think about it, the more they realize they might be causing a space-time continuum disaster. To prevent catastrophe, they must travel back in time again, which inevitably leads to even more complications, and so on.

Makoto Ueda’s adaption of Tomihiko Morimi’s play (which was a sequel to his novel
The Tatami Galaxy) is a very clever micro-time travel romp, in the spirit of Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, while retaining the neurotic humanism of Walk on Girl. It is sweet, smart, and often quite funny. The animation is not quite as vibrantly colorful as Yuasa’s film, but it is still lively and distinctive, while the character design is largely consistent.

After the opener, the next five episodes are something between fifteen and twenty minutes, which gives the series a really peppy tempo. The sixth episode is not as strong, because it is a backstory flashback. However, episodes one through five form a cohesive, intelligent, and entirely self-contained narrative.

It really is quite amusing to see how all the temporal strands connect. The time travel pieces truly fit together, or if they don’t, we never notice the seams, thanks to the brisk energy of the animation. Highly recommended for fans of anime, time travel sf, and college romance, Tatami Time Machine Blues starts streaming today (11/9) on Hulu.