Cover Image: The Tatami Galaxy

The Tatami Galaxy

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Member Reviews

nice one. expected it to be so much more though; the premise promises so much but the book gives too little.

- thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the free e-ARC.
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I did not enjoy this like I thought and hoped I was. I had never seen the anime before so this was a completely new story to me. I've seen other reviewers say the anime is much better than the book so I might give it a shot. I thought the main character was so unlikable and it made reading and caring about the story very hard. I went into this with an open mind and zero expectations and was somehow still let down. There were definitely some moments I found myself interested in, but those were few and far between.
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Tatami Galaxy is a very creative (if sometimes intentionally repetitive) take on the multiverse story, exploring the many ways a college junior's life would be the same or different based on which of 4 clubs he chooses to join at the start of his freshman year.

In separate quarters of book, our narrator chooses either a film club, being the disciple of a weird older man, a softball team, or a secret society. In each, he is tormented by his frenemy Ozu, lusts after a woman or two, and has various run-ins with flooding, fortunetelling, moth swarming, and college social politics. He is always extremely shy and hyperaware of a sense of duty and withdrawal that hinders connections to others.

The last part is especially mysterious and expands the "galaxy" part in a very creative way. This is a great thought experiment on how you can't really escape yourself and some circumstances, but where you can make some meaningful changes and hopefully break the pattern when you find opportunities and seize them.
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I have no clue how to review this book. I will start by saying that I had seen the Anime adaptation of this book a while back so I wasn't completely unfamiliar with the story before picking up the book. I was STILL confused by the story lol. This is a Groundhog's-Day-type story where there is a repetition of the same events in different contexts. I do think there were moments where I could see this could be genius, but I do think the translation was a problem. There were a LOT of moments where I was just confused by the language choice or the sentence structure. It felt like a translator trying too hard to be faithful to the original text rather than contextualizing it. There was also the fact that I'm a woman and reading from the perspective of a, frankly, unlikable college boy (with paragraphs devoted to talking to his penis and all) is just not my jam. I wish I could give it a glowing review, and I do feel that if I had a way to read the original Japanese this could have been a higher rated book, but as it stands, I'm just luke warm on it.
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I really enjoyed reading this! I was not familiar with the anime, so the story was new to me. I did find the characters to be unlikable, however I believe that added to the reading experience. This was my first book that explored parallel universes and i loved it! I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, lighthearted read!
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A terrifically weird and unique piece of translated fiction. 

This is a unique spin on my beloved campus novel subgenre, and it does an excellent job of blending literary humor with typical campus novel fodder. 

It’s an odd blend of fantasy and reality that somehow works well together, peppered with exceptionally good humor and insight. It almost feels like a semi-absurdist satire of the typical “trying to find a way to fit in and thrive” trope common to campus fiction. 

I loved the characters in this (even the ones I also kind of hated), and the humor is extremely good. 

A tip of the cap to the translator, who did an outstanding job preserving both the humor of the writing as well as the subtlety of it, no small feat when working a novel into a second language.
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"Tatami Galaxy" is an offbeat book that explores the concept of parallel universes and the idea of "what if" we had made different decisions in life. The book examines this idea through the lens of the anime adaptation, which adds to its strange and unique nature. While the concept of the book is interesting, the execution left something to be desired. The stories tended to drag on with too many details, making it difficult to know what to focus on. Additionally, the unnamed protagonist's goals were unclear and the plot was hard to follow, making it hard to stay engaged with the book. In comparison, I found "The Midnight Library" to be a much better read.

Despite its flaws, "Tatami Galaxy" does make an interesting point about our regrets and how we might achieve similar outcomes regardless of the choices we make. This message can be somewhat depressing for those who enjoy thinking about different outcomes, as it suggests that such questions may be pointless.

I've heard that the anime adaptation of "Tatami Galaxy" is better, but I have never watched it myself. It's possible that the visual elements of the show might help to clarify some of the confusing aspects of the book. Overall, I'm not sure if I liked "Tatami Galaxy" or not. It may be better suited for a younger audience, particularly those in college who can relate to the protagonist's experiences with choosing different clubs to join.
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This is a book that I appreciated for the premise, but the execution was a bit hit and miss for me. The main character is an aimless college student in Kyoto who holds to the idea that he’s a great guy who threw away the last two years of his life because of bad influences and a series of decisions that took him further and further away from that ideal “good person” ideology. He has all of these ideas about who he should be and what he should have, but he doesn’t take much of the responsibility for what he has ended up with. 

He’s given a chance to relive that stretch of his life and see where he would have ended up with different decisions being made. I enjoyed the time manipulation aspect to the book, as well as some of the surreal and absurd experiences he has as he’s making more and more questionable decisions. The repetition of descriptions became a bit of a slog, though, and I felt like much of the book could have been paced a bit more consistently.

Overall I think there are some powerful themes to the book, but it isn’t one I would plan to read again.
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First published in Japan in 2008; published in translation by HarperVia on December 6, 2022

This thoroughly odd novel was apparently a hit in Japan, where it was adapted as an anime television miniseries (because Japan). I watched the trailer on YouTube and it’s, um, colorful? Anime rarely speaks to me, but different strokes.

The book was apparently followed by a “spiritual successor” and an actual sequel. The sequel also became an anime miniseries in Japan that has apparently been released in the US on Disney+ or Hulu. (I glean this information from Wikipedia so take it with a grain of salt.) The sequel (Tatami Time Machine) will be published in translation in 2023. I think I’ll give it a pass.

The novel is set in four parallel universes. It tells, at times, a somewhat interesting story. It is typical in a novel of this sort to illustrate how a life might be different if a person makes different choices. Tomihiko Morimi eschews the typical by imaging a character who makes similar mistakes and encounters similar misery in every life he lives. The story is, at times, so absurdist or surreal that it might have been inspired by Borges.

The unnamed narrator is a college student who, in each universe, is beginning his junior year, having accomplished nothing during his first two years. He is pretty much the same guy in each reality. He consistently lives in a four-and-a-half tatami room and he always has a porn collection. Ozu is always his friend and a man Ozu calls “Master” always lives above him. He always reads Jules Verne. Some passages, including his description of the regret he feels for wasting his first two years at the university, are repeated verbatim in each section.

The stories diverge in other details. In each universe, he flashes back to his first year in college, when he examined flyers for student clubs and, although they all seemed “pretty shady,” chose one he would later abandon. He makes a different choice in each universe. The first is a film club called Ablutions. In the second universe, he becomes a disciple of Master Higuchi (although for two years, the narrator is not sure what kind of disciple he was).  The third is the Mellow Softball Club. In the last universe, the narrator joins an underground organization, Lucky Cat Chinese Food, and more particularly, the Library Police, a suborganization that has taken on the life of an intelligent organization.

The narrator sees the clubs as opportunities to expand his nonexistent social contacts. The narrator has limited social skills, which might explain why he ends up making friends only with Ozu, a troublemaker who might or might not be a good companion. In the third universe, he practices conversation with Ozu’s love doll; in the fourth, a plot is afoot to kidnap the doll. In the first, the narrator calls himself the Obstructor of Romance because of his unsuccessful love life. A mysterious fellow “who dared call himself a god” is apparently trying to decide whether to play cupid with the narrator or his friend Ozu. The god is not clear that either of them are worthy of Akashi, a judgmental engineering student who (in some universes, at least) makes a “positive impression” on the narrator.

The god tells the narrator that he ties and unties the red threads of destiny each year. That’s quite a job, but the god seems to tie and untie them in nearly the same way in each universe. While the details vary, the narrator’s life always begins with hope and seems to end with a feeling of lost opportunities. In repeated universes, a fortune teller advises the narrator to seize chances. He finds it difficult to heed that advice. He knows he should ditch Ozu, who is something of an albatross, and pursue paths to happiness — perhaps Akashi — but the narrator is incapable of overcoming his social ineptness. Even moths are better at socializing than the narrator.

The last section creates a source of hope in a bleak story. The narrator finds himself in a labyrinth (hence the Borges comparison) consisting of endless four-and-a-half tatami rooms. The contents are not always identical (Ozu’s love doll appears from time to time) and some might come from one of the other realities, but the food supply (fish burgers and sponge cake) is always the same. The narrator makes infinite decisions during the 80 days he spends wandering through the rooms, creating the possibility of infinite fates, but his fate always seems to be another four-and-a-half tatami room. In the end, an escape changes the narrator’s life, but he won’t talk about that drivel because (as he observed in another reality), “There’s nothing so worthless to speak of as a love mature.”

I’m not sure what to make of The Tatami Galaxy. The novel alternates between being engaging and boring. The narrator is frustrating in his incapacity for change until he changes. The idea of living a life in alternate realities is a clever variation on the venerable time loop story, but the final journey through a labyrinth piles fantasy on top of fantasy and distracts from the story’s point, assuming Morimi had one. Maybe I need to watch the anime miniseries to make sense of it all, but lacking the motivation to do that, I’ll leave it to readers to form their own conclusions.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
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This has a very intriguing premise, yet it failed in execution. I heard that it is based on an anime, which is precisely what I thought while reading it. It feels like an anime, but I'm not sure it works as a novel. I will probably check out the show one day because I'm intrigued.
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Thank you to NetGalley and HarperVia for my ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Tomihiko Morimi's "The Tatami Galaxy" is, in short, a surreal story about a college student who goes on an adventure of a lifetime. 

I applied for an ARC of this because of the anime by Masaaki Yuasa which I loved and fully expected to get that sort of whimsy and angst-ridden fun in the original novel. It's difficult because I didn't necessarily hate this book, I just had a much more difficult time connecting to the unnamed MC. Morimi really shines in this novel with his use of imagery and just the strangeness of the story and the events that take place. I personally didn't like the MC and I didn't really care about his journey but I liked all of the side characters. 

Overall, I think if you liked the anime, you may enjoy this for the most part. Unfortunately for me, I just didn't find it as memorable as the anime.
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It’s a standard parallel universe what-if story, but it’s safe to say it’s better than most. And ahh it was nice to have something unexpected there at the end. It made the means all the more worth it.

Thank you for this opportunity!
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There’s reason behind every decision one makes. A mere placing down of an object like a phone or cup can result in a chain of events that could lead to one’s great fortune or even demise. Author Tomihiko Morimi understands this well, as he places an emphasis on every action of his unnamed protagonist in the 2004 novel The Tatami Galaxy. What follows is a trippy tale of a man fighting against destiny to make something better of himself.

The Tatami Galaxy has our unnamed hero having four different experiences that result in the same outcome. Much of it has the same premise: the hero joins a club, befriends a weirdo named Ozu, and the zaniness commences. In one instance, it’s a film club; another time, a laid-back softball club. But it all links together towards an explosive outcome involving the hero, Ozu, the girl Akashi, and every enemy Ozu makes.

Much of the narrative repeats itself in a similar fashion as either Groundhog Day or Yasmina Reza’s play Life X 3. Whether it’s conversations, Ozu’s quips, or a sudden moth attack, much of these repeated situations links to something grander and explosive. However, it’s the ominous Fortune Teller that sets things into play for the anonymous protagonist, using the word “Colosseo” as a key to everything that’s about to happen. What is this “Colosseo”? Well, it depends on the timeline!

What doesn’t change within The Tatami Galaxy timelines — outside of the overall outcome — are the characters. It’s clear that the unnamed hero has some sort of ego problem, albeit one that causes only minor problems and not major. Ozu is clearly an awful person, but has a certain kind of mannerism that makes it hard to shake him off. Akashi is blunt and to the point, but knows when to show a bit more kindness when it’s needed. Then there’s Higuchi (AKA “Master”), whose actions in the first timeline may actually be the reason behind why the hero keeps repeating scenarios over and over again.

However, while the first three scenarios are similar in their execution, the final one is where things get weird…er. The hero finds himself stuck in a never-ending loop of tatami rooms, as he seeks a way out. He finds some good aspects (finding a ¥1000 bill in each one makes him richer, an endless supply of castella cake), but also some bad aspects (no toilet, nobody but a sex doll to talk to). Yet in its own weird and wild way, this last part manages to reveal many of the mysteries behind the anomalies from the first three.

While The Tatami Galaxy can be confusing at times, its sharp humor keeps it from being a headache to read. The antics Ozu and the hero get into feel cartoonish, but in a way that comes off as believable. Situations involving rival club members and love letters have a good mixture of shock value and hilarity. Then there’s Akashi, who takes everything at face value, but knows when to showcase a humorous cold side when people (i.e. Ozu) deserve it.

It may not be Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but The Tatami Galaxy is a wild and imaginative trip towards meaning and purpose. Although there are some Japan-exclusive aspects of this tale, it’s presented in a way that makes it worldly inclusive. After all, we’ve all experienced something out of the ordinary in our college lives. The Tatami Galaxy simply amplifies that strangeness to a crazy-yet-relatable degree, in ways that make it stand out from the rest of the coming-of-age narratives out there.
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Before I begin this review, I would like to thank HarperVia and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title.

Have you or someone you knew had a moment in your life where you asked yourself a question like “What would have it been like if I pursued that job?” or, “What might have it been like if I chose to marry my Highschool Sweetheart?” In Tomihiko Morimi’s The Tatami Galaxy, we get to look at those realities in a new light.

In this novel, an unnamed junior at a prestigious university in Kyoto is on the verge of dropping out of college. After rebelling against a dictatorial jock-president of the film club, he and his only friend, who was described as the worst, and a creep named Ozu are now personas non-grata on campus.

After two years of making the wrong decisions, our protagonist is about to make another mistake. He and Ozu prepare for revenge, a fireworks attack on the film club’s welcoming party for new members. Then, a chance encounter with a self-proclaimed god sets the confused and distraught young man on a new course. A realm of possibilities opens for our protagonist. As time begins to rewind, and from the four-and-a-half-mat tatami floor of his dorm room, he is plunged into a series of adventures that will take him to four parallel universes. In each universe, he is allowed to start over as a freshman in search of rose-colored campus life.

Here is a fun fact about this novel for those who aren’t familiar with this series, it is the inspiration behind the beloved anime series (and also the one currently on Hulu.) I would describe this novel as one that blends dark comedy, psychological and romantic comedy into a thrilling story.

In my opinion, part of this story reflects how people thought before making a decision, trying to think out every possibility of what could have been or what might have been. Life is unpredictable, and opportunities hide in places that you don’t expect, but when it comes, you must seize them. This story offers a beautiful way of communicating a message to its readers, and that is one of the reasons that this series is one of the most memorable to fans.
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Stars: 2.75/5.0

It's not that this was a terrible book, but I can definitely see where this was originally an anime/manga. I believe the conversion to a book makes it a bit more difficult to keep my interest. Especially as we were seeing certain elements of the story being repeated. That being said, I do understand and actually appreciate how it repeated to show how it there was an interconnected storyline. But eventually the redundancy did make me remove myself from the story.

That being said, the way in which the storyline came together in the end was good. The way in which the different universes were brought together was what did kept me coming back to read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harpervia for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This was fine but not what I expected from the synopsis. The writing read far too dry to be enjoyable.
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I expected to love this! But I just. Didn’t.

I found the writing style to be odd and I struggled to get into it. I found the main character to be kind of unlikeable. And quite frankly, I spent a lot of time bored because this was very repetitive.

The concept of this is very interesting. The things like lore about the gods or about the red strings or anything along the more fantastical aspect were neat. I wanted more of that! And less of college boy wants to live a fulfilled life. I suppose I didn’t really know what I was getting into with this book, and that’s definitely on me!

I’d say this is definitely aimed more toward people who want a character centric story and less around a fast moving plot or a lot of action.
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Tatami Galaxy is a novel that is described as  dark comedy, psychological, and romantic comedy.

The story is about a young man in college and he goes through parallel universes where he is in a different student society in each.

This book is very different from what I usually read.

The book inspired an anime with 11 episodes.
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Fascinating and mystifying book that felt like a puzzle. But it was a good book and worth reading it. And I liked ti pretty much.
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So this one ended up being okay for me. Even though I liked the concept of the story, this one wasn't for me, but I'm pretty sure I will tune in for the anime which was released a couple of years ago.
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