The Tatami Time Machine Blues Deserves Better Than a Hulu Burial

TV Reviews The Tatami Time Machine Blues
The Tatami Time Machine Blues Deserves Better Than a Hulu Burial

Did you know The Tatami Time Machine Blues is now streaming on Hulu? Judging by the almost complete lack of social media chatter about it, it seems even fans of The Tatami Galaxy, the 2010 Masaaki Yuasa-directed anime miniseries to which this is a sequel, have missed this news. The release strategy for this sequel has been strange, to say the least. It was licensed internationally by Disney and released in September in Japan both as a theatrical film and as an episodic series on Disney+. Disney announced it as coming to the American version of Disney+ in November—a surprising move for a relatively niche adult-oriented anime with no franchise connections. The day before it was set to premiere, it was then suddenly switched from a Disney+ release to a Hulu one with zero promotion.

If you haven’t seen The Tatami Galaxy, I absolutely recommend it both as an incredible show in its own right (it ranks sixth on Paste’s Best Anime of All Time list) and to enhance your enjoyment of this sequel, though finding it at the moment is harder than it should be. It’s only streaming for subscribers on Funimation, a streaming service that’s functionally dying as new shows have stopped being added and the back catalog is slowly being integrated into Crunchyroll following their merger. And judging by the limited number of copies listed on Amazon, the home video release also appears to be going out of print.

But for now: The protagonist and narrator of The Tatami Galaxy and The Tatami Time Machine Blues is an unnamed college student, officially referred to as “Watashi” (Japanese for “I”). Watashi is an extremely fast talker; you’ll want to make sure the subtitles are properly synced—something I repeatedly ran into issues with on Hulu whenever I started an episode of the new series. His goal of a “rose-colored campus life” has been repeatedly foiled by his no-good classmate Ozu. The Tatami Galaxy was a Groundhog Day/Russian Doll-style time-loop story, wherein Watashi would relive the same year in the hopes that selecting different extracurriculars would improve his lot in life.

Similar to how Russian Doll switched from time loops to time travel in its second season, The Tatami Time Machine Blues involves (you guessed it) a time machine. It’s summer, and Ozu’s broken the remote for the air conditioner in Watashi’s 4.5 tatami dorm room. Watashi’s crush Akashi is busy directing a time travel movie when suddenly Ozu appears with a time machine—which might just be the only way to fix the air conditioning.

Essentially, this is a small-scale comedy about using time travel to solve relatively minute problems, closer to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time than Doctor Who in scope (to compare with two stories that get referenced in the show). Some of the students who find out about the time machine have ambitions to travel back to the Taisho, Edo, and Jurassic eras, and some even succeed, but all the action on-screen is set within the confines of the college campus and mostly in the present day. This could all easily be done in live-action or on stage—which makes sense, given that the story is a reworking of screenwriter Makoto Ueda’s 2001 play and 2005 live-action film Summer Time Machine Blues.

What the medium of animation brings to The Tatami Time Machine Blues is a stronger sense of character. No live actor, even in extensive make-up, could possibly embody the devilish Ozu as well as the anime version, with his tall angled eyes and pointy-toothed smile. The same goes for Higasawa, a huge-chinned senior who might be an immortal god. Even characters with more realistic features, like the laid-back time traveler Tamura, make strong impressions via design alone. The animation of this series is as great as one expects from the high standards of the Science SARU studio.

Masaaki Yuasa is currently on a hiatus from directing after an extremely busy run of work that included Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, and Inu-Oh, among other anime series and movies. Filling in for him on The Tatami Time Machine Blues is Shingo Natsume, whose past credits include Space Dandy, Sunny Boy, and the first season of One Punch Man. Natsume is a director who regularly changes styles, and his work here seamlessly meshes with Yuasa’s on The Tatami Galaxy.

You can easily binge all six episodes of The Tatami Time Machine Blues in one afternoon. The first five episodes are essentially a 90-minute movie broken up into odd chunks of varying lengths, and the sixth episode plays like a bonus episode of The Tatami Galaxy, situating this new story within that show’s time loop. I just wish it was easier for people to find out about and get into this series, because there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Perhaps with a time machine….

The Tatami Time Machine Blues is now available to stream on Hulu.

Reuben Baron is the author of the webcomic Con Job: Revenge of the SamurAlchemist and a contributor to Looper and Anime News Network, among other websites. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndalusianDoge.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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