The review slot for Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi was originally intended for Kyoto Animation’s Tamako Market. A remarkable show in its own right, but one that didn’t quite leave with me with enough praise nor criticism to write a full review of it. Assuming my “Reasons To” articles even count as proper reviews.
Of the two shows about struggling shopping arcades, I do have to say that I liked Tamako Market better. It’s a show that delivers exactly what one would expect from its renowned studio, which is both a positive and negative point towards the anime. Sure, you get your gorgeous visuals and a stellar soundtrack, you get an interesting setting and fun characters to populate it, but it also feels too by-the-numbers; it’s the default Kyoto Animation anime.
I was initially leaning towards a recommendation for the show and I’d still give it a 7/10 if I did traditional scoring, but it’s too saccharine and doesn’t end up achieving anything memorable with its story. Like many of KyoAni’s greats, it has some mystical elements to it in the form the talking bird Dera and his vaguely-defined mission, but that storyline gets shoved to the side and only briefly causes some excitement in time for the finale. Every other storyline is neatly contained to a single episode each, limiting their impact on the anime as a whole and leaving it without an overarching story to be invested in.
Around episode 7, I started getting bored of the short story formula and character gags that kept getting recycled for comedy bits. I enjoyed the cast of characters, but their comedic potential was limited and they don’t undergo enough development to stay interesting for such a long show. The introduction of Choi midway through injects some life back into the series, only for it to quickly settle back into familiar routine soon after.
On that note, I had trouble taking some characters seriously. Most prominently, the titular Tamako. There’s this one bit where characters are having a fight in the foreground and she’s just behind them hopping up and down with a frozen, happy expression on her face. She is aggressively moe and that made it difficult to take the show seriously when it throws a lever and Tamako dives into full-on depression. It doesn’t feel like there is much of a middle ground with her, which left me feeling lukewarm about the character.
More frustrating is the show’s curious track record with love. Romance plays a big role within the story and every character goes about it in the most annoying way possible. Tamako’s sister throws temper tantrums whenever her crush is addressed, there is this awkward store owner that never has the balls to confess his feelings but keeps awkwardly shuffling around his love interest anyway, and, of course, there is Tamako herself. Tamako needs an entire movie just to sort out her own romantic problem.
While the anime was pretty decent, Tamako Love Story I would rate as just barely passable. It only briefly involves Dera and the other foreign characters, before spending 80 minutes on establishing the painfully obvious romance between Tamako and next door’s Mochizou, whose family runs the rival mochi shop in the shopping center. This was a long and frustrating movie to watch; it somehow manages to shine the spotlight on only the worst aspects of the show, while telling a story that adds almost nothing to it.
If you’re a fan of KyoAni’s works or looking to get into their other shows, then Tamako Market is a safe bet. It’s an inoffensive and unchallenging anime that shows off the studio’s sense of style and it includes a lot of tropes commonly seen in their works. It also serves to once again prove how Kyoto Animation is the unrivaled king of moe.