Kyoto Animation has made quite a few shows about cute girls doing cute things. They dominate the genre, such as it is. However Tamako Market (Anime Network) seems to have something special, a level of joyfulness that lifts it above the competition.
Tamako Kitashirakawa is a high school student whose family owns a shop that sells mochi (traditional sticky rice cakes) in the Usagiyama (“Rabbit Mountain”) Shopping District. This is a close-knit community of family-owned shops, a kind of place that really is characteristic of urban Japan.
One refreshing thing about the show is that Tamako isn’t stupid. Howver she is innocent and enthusiastic. She loves the mochi business and the shopping district and is always looking for ways to promote them.
She is not only able to persuade the shopkeepers to do a joint Valentine’s Day promotion, but she is willing to dress as a rabbit to make a promotional video and is able to get her friends to go along. Sort of like Haruhi Suzumiya, except that she doesn’t make her friends do bad things–just things that they would normally be too embarrassed to do.
There is a large cast of locals including (L to R) Chouji Yumoto the bathhouse owner, his daughter Sayuri (with glasses), Tamako’s little sister Anko, Fumiko Mitsumura who runs the butcher shop, Mari Uotani the fishmonger, Tamako (center), Tomio Shimizu who sells tofu and is secretly in love with Sayuri, Kaoru Hanase who runs the flower shop, Kunio Yaobi who runs a combination record shop and cafe, and Mochizou Ooji whose father owns a rival mochi shop but who secretly loves Tamako.
Kaoru the florist looks like a woman but has a male seiyuu, so “she” is probably a man in drag. Everyone pretends not to notice.
The costar of the series is Dera Mochimattzi, a pompous, arrogant and lecherous talking cockatoo who arrives at the flower shop in a shipment of flowers. Tamako sneezes on him which for birds is a declaration of love, so he feels entitled to go home with her and impose on her hospitality.
Unfortunately his name sounds like “dera mochi mazui” (“mochi is very distasteful”) which infuriates Tamako’s father.
Dera says that he is an emissary of the royal court of a foreign land, on a mission to find a bride for his prince. Tamako assumes that he is talking about a bird prince, but we see in a video projection that the prince is actually human. (Dera seems to be able to function as a video conferencing system.)
Dera, perhaps fortunately, seems oblivious to the possibility that he has the perfect princess right in front of him. He is determined to press on with his mission, but he gorges himself on so much mochi that he becomes unable to fly, so he probably will be sticking around for a while.
Naturally Mochizou’s father Gohei (L) and Tamako’s father Mamedai (R) are bitter rivals. Mamedai is particularly contemptuous of Gohei’s decision to give his shop an English name in the hope of getting foreign business.
Tamako’s two best friends are Kanna Makino (L) and Midori Tokiwa (R). They are all in the school’s Baton Club.
Midori is the granddaughter of Nobuhiko Tokiwa, the elf-like owner of the toy store. Kanna’s father is a carpenter but we haven’t met him yet.
Shiori Asagiri is a painfully shy classmate who is in the badminton club. Dera sees her, falls instantly in love and starts stalking her. He’s pretty obnoxious but fortunately this allows her to make friends with Tamako, whom she idolizes.
This is a light-weight lighthearted show but so far it has been superbly executed. It’s very funny and charming and the animation is great (as we would expect from KyoAni.)