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12 days of anime #2 – On stronger characters in adaptations [The Tatami Galaxy & Whisper of the Heart]


There’s something in common between The Tatami Galaxy and Whisper of the Heart. Both of them influence my perspective. Moreover, I’ve recently realized that both of them as adaptations have stronger main characters than those in the source materials.

Ever since making my personal favourite list of anime, I’ve always tried to figure out how they could easily exert such an influence on me. This is my discovery of the year:


In the case of Whisper of the Heart, the shoujo manga only depicts a teenage romance of a kind and sensitive highschool girl. When adapting it to animation movie medium, Hayao Miyazaki’s script and Yoshifumi Kondou’s direction boldly underline another side of Shizuku, letting her translate and sing songs, read stacks after stacks of books, and finish her first-hand novel regardless of pressures or barriers. Shizuku in the manga couldn’t bring herself to complete the story (which is not even a novel). The manga character, hence, couldn’t experience such strong emotion as the Ghibli’s one.

From what I make of it, Shizuku in the anime is filled with angst and self-doubt. She’s still that kind, curious, sensitive kid but with more sense of self-worth. She’s already an industrious student who has a little bit of talent here and there but even that can’t help. Shizuku’s quest to prove herself can sometimes be frustrating (and all the more depressing considering that the director of the movie died of overworking soon after this). She has to look for the precious stone inside of her, while in the constant fear that all she could ever end up is just a dead bird. I feel for her. If the movie stayed loyal to the manga, viewers would never be able to witness such a character and such an arduous ride.

WotH - mission accomplished


As for The Tatami Galaxy, the novel is creative and witty in its own right, but there is still plenty of room for director Masaaki Yuasa to leave his mark on. As I was lucky enough to read the fan translation of the novel, I sometimes ponder over the changes Yuasa made to the story and its characters, besides the quirky style.

Episodes 3 (cycling club), 5 (softball cycle Honwaka) and 9 (secret society Lucky Cat) are totally the anime’s own addition. These are the episodes where Watashi actually has more specific/measurable targets: win a race, win a chance to see the beauty or be the one on top of an evil society; whereas in the novel, his aims in each loop are rather vague: making good movies, pleasing master Higuchi, getting the right girl, etc.

In episode 3, 5 and 9, Watashi patiently works towards his goals through blood, sweat and tears. He went out of his way to gain as much money/power as possible. He even has the will to train his body and become so muscular that the Birdman society has to turn him down. Every other episode adapted from the novel is cleary focused on being fun-loving, and their scipts are much more superior compared to the anime-originated ones. Despite all that, I still find the cycling club episode strangely relatable, especially how Watashi’s new bike – the fruit of his 2-year labours – is stolen right in front of his eyes, as well as how he is so blinded by the birdman outcome that he ultimately loses sight of the meaning behind it. This is Yuasa’s interpretation of Watashi. This is a stronger, more determined Watashi that also really needs to explore the infinite tatami galaxy.

Tatami Galaxy 03 - Icarus


All I want to say is how much the anime adaptations have transformed these characters. I find this discovery interesting and just want to share it.

But since I have to write something to conclude, how about this:

  • If you really want to do something, do your best. You can be like Shizuku, having achieved her goal, but still think there’s a long way to go. You’ll see the light of your inner stone, congratulations!
  • If you really want to do something, do your best. You can be like Watashi, losing it all in one bet, but still thinks that every moment is worth the appreciation. You’ll live a much fuller life and find a love that transcends time, distance and even gender, congratulations!

Recommended for desperate people.

Now I see why I like these things.

  1. ndqanhvn permalink

    “and find a love that transcends time, distance and even gender”
    I do ship Ozu/Watashi, you know =))
    Both the novel and the manga, it ends when Watashi learns to appreciate his life and accepts Ozu as his true friend (the black threads of fate indeed)
    Watashi, it’s Ozu who is your true love, really =)) (I still like Akashi-san a lot though)
    As a person trying to look for her inner stone now, I feel sadness, desperate, and hopelessness a lot. But really what else can we do, except from trying to carry on?

    • At first I thought Yuasa must be a true shipper of Watashi/Akashi seeing how he changed the focus of each episode. But then I realized even Morimi never said a word about the transcending-gender love =))

      You see, I ship Watashi/Akashi =)) and I also like Ozu too.

      Now in reply to your last point, on the bright side, I really like what you write (not that I read a lot of your stories, but yeah I said it), and I think that hopelessness may just be another sign that you have an incredibly good taste ;)) And sure, just… write on.

      • ndqanhvn permalink

        He has not, but there’s surely a lot of shippy moment =)) That music played at romance scene? The name is “Red thread Black thread.” Red thread must mean Akashi, and then the black thread of fate…

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