The Tatami Galaxy (Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei), in its three aired episodes, has drawn comparisons for both its unique visual style and frantic delivery to the work of acclaimed studio Shaft under director Akiyuki Shinbou. However, there is little to this comparison beyond the fact that Tatami and Akiyuki Shinbou’s work can be ambiguously categorized as visually “abstract” - Shinbou’s style is - particularly recently - much sharper and more aggressive, even in shows such as Hidamari Sketch, and the surreal elements are primarily non-diegetic. Conversely, Tatami’s visual style gives off a more unfocused feeling, drifting between more-directly-surreal scenes which the characters react to directly.
Tatami’s premise, across its first three and likely fourth episodes, is that each relates the story of main character Watashi’s (“I”, “anonymous”) first two years in college - in entirety. The variance between episodes is mostly in the details, such as which club he joined and met Ozu in, and consequently where he is or what he is doing when the same basic series of events happens. There has been some difference between the episodes in which events happened, but the overlap between them is heavy - while the cake and Watashi’s promise to Akashi didn’t occur in episode 03, other elements such as the keychain were played down in episode 2. It’s too early to tell whether his success in these lesser events will improve as the show progresses.
It’s also too early to tell exactly how the show’s chronology is presented - while each episode retreads an identical timeline, there probably aren’t eleven Watashis walking around at any given moment. The rewinding clock at the end of each episode implies that each retelling isn’t, for example, an alternate universe, but there are still many other ways the timeline could be reset. The ever-present voice-over seems to imply that the story is at some level a personal recollection - but is he simply rewriting his recollection each time with new memories? Is there some sort of supernatural force at work which actually reverses time and allows him a chance to revise?
Whatever method the reversal works by, the show is fairly liberal with its indications of the idea’s importance - every episode includes multiple instances of Watashi complaining that if he had only joined a different circle his college experience would have been so much better, and that it was all Ozu’s fault that he wasted so much of his life.
But Ozu shows up in every club Watashi decides to join - it’s become obvious that, within the story, Ozu is in every instance planning to get to Watashi in order to make his life a hell. Why? The most obvious assumption so far is that Ozu represents something about us, which follows and finds us everywhere, no matter where we hide from it. It’s been established in the show that the characters’ faces are interchangeable - each “character” design indicates a few personality traits but the details of each character’s life are rewritten each episode. So it’s unlikely that Ozu represents one static human who hunts down Watashi regardless of where he runs to.
In fact, this applies to Watashi as well - his hobbies and tastes change with each episode; perhaps there are eleven Watashis running around. Perhaps there are, say, 6.69 billion Watashis. 6.69 billion unremarkable faces running around every day, making stupid mistakes, missing out on incredible opportunities, being crushed under the wheel of fate and their own incompetence. Maybe Watashi is us.
The continuity jokes, such as the old woman’s price hikes, appear to indicate that this doesn’t hold up as a literal reading of the premise. But Tatami is so surreal that I doubt in eleven episodes there will be any one satisfactory literal reading. The message of natural predestination is much more applicable to human life in a framing that makes it realistic - not, as in Suzumiya Haruhi’s Endless Eight arc, that given identical environmental input a person will produce the same emotional output 15,532 times in a row, but that given the similar input of “the modern world” six billion people will produce comparable outputs in each of their lives. The message speaks not to individual human nature but to the aggregate human experience.
Of course, with only one-fourth of the show unfolded by now this is mostly speculation, but that’s what I have so far.