The Tatami Time Machine Blues

By Tomihiko Morimi and Yusuke Nakamura, based on the play “Summer Time Machine Blues” by Makoto Ueda. Released in Japan as “Yojōhan Time Machine Blues” by Kadokawa. Released in North America by HarperVia. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.

I had mixed feelings about The Tatami Galaxy as a novel, as I appreciated the story, the writing, and the other characters, but the nameless protagonist drove me nuts. We honestly spent far too much time inside his head, to the detriment of my enjoyment. If only, I probably did not think at the time but should have, there could be a book with the same cast but where events happen so fast and require so much action that the protagonist does not have all that much time to be a pretentious ass? I was probably yearning for a book just like this one. Taking a pre-existing play written by frequent collaborator Makoto Ueda before The Tatami Galaxy was written (it has a famous live-action film of its own) and putting the Tatami Galaxy characters in it is a fantastic idea, mostly as it turns this into a comedic farce. And boy do these characters work well in that genre.

This is not a sequel to the original, but more an “alternate story”. The setup is the same. The narrator lives in a dilapidated apartment complex, he has his terrible best friend, his cool beauty crush, and the annoying guy who’s been a college student for at least ten years now. The plot starts when the remote for the complex’s one air conditioner, in the narrator’s room, is broken and it’s the hottest time of the year. This is a problem, as they’re busy doing things like making Akashi’s movie about a time traveler going to the Shinsengumi period and turning them all into slackers. Then a *real* time machine shows up, and they get the bright idea to go back in time and grab the air conditioner remote before it gets broken. But… doesn’t this create a time paradox?

The discussion of time paradoxes and closed time loops is interesting, but honestly it’s just an excuse for madcap antics and the narrator freaking out at said madcap antics. The narrator has the same problem he had in Tatami Galaxy – he wants to ask Akashi out but is too much of a coward – but aside from one section in the middle he is not allowed to dwell on this, and honestly his problem ends up being solved by the time loop and Akashi, who (as in the first book) has the patience of a saint. There’s also a time traveler from the future, whose identity is so obvious that even spoiling it here would feel lame, but who allows the plot to happen. And there’s Ozu being terrible, and Higuchi being annoying, and Hanuki being a free spirit, etc. This doesn’t have the grand feel of the last quarter of Tatami Galaxy, but it’s not aiming for that. And honestly, it may be the true canon. The narrator and Akashi come up with the plot for The Tatami Galaxy towards the end, and even name it. So perhaps that’s the fiction and this is the reality.

If you enjoyed the first book, or the anime, this is a must read, and go watch the anime too. Honestly, maybe Morimi should use pre-existing plots more often.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.

Speak Your Mind