Tamako Market – Looking at the world through the eyes of a talking bird
February 9, 2013 2 Comments
Tamako Market is a fascinating series largely because of how normal it is, with the characters going about their daily lives without having to contend with demons, magic or giant mutated monsters or aliens from outer space. The very presence of Dela Mochimazzi is also rather curious because of how normal a talking bird is in the context of this series; far from being weird or out of place he has quickly become just another character in the Market. The normal world that we see in this series is however a highly romanticised one; we never see any crime, violence or social disharmony; instead everyone goes about their businesses and generally remains happy. In many respects Tamako isnt necessarily the main character of the series, rather the community of shop and business owners in Tamako Market make up the single most important character, or more accurately existence within the series. Tamako and her friends are a part of this community of traders and we are given a glimpse into their lives through her families business and everything that revolves around it.
This is where Dela Mochimazzi comes in because, despite being a talking bird, his character has become a part of everyday life in Tamako Market, and in many ways he is portrayed as a human character rather than a bird. By being a bird Dela can provide the audience with a glimpse into the everyday life on this small market and those who work there. If he were a human character the various perversions that he has demonstrated, along with his willingness to follow particular characters such, as Shiori wouldn’t necessarily work. He can follow individual characters around and in part act like a fool largely because he is a bird and as such isn’t confined by the laws and social constructs of human society. However, by taking on the persona of a human Dela is able to give the audience a view into the everyday lives of these people as if he were looking down from above. He takes on the form of a foreigner as well, exhibiting particularly attitudes towards these characters that may seem strange and alien to them. Furthermore, the numerous misunderstandings and random pieces of comedy are generated precisely because Dela is a foreigner and is therefore ignorant of Japanese customs and traditions. During the most recent episode for example he takes about Mochizou’s wind-chime as representing that there was a welcome party going on, which is why he came into Mochizou’s room. This may be the case in his culture, but in Japan wind chimes (or Fūrin) are simply another decoration, with modern wind chimes originating from designs in the Edo Period.
As we follow Dela it becomes clear that one of the main reasons we can see the everyday lives of Tamako, Mochizou, Kana, Midori and Shiori is because of this crazy talking bird. He provides us with a glimpse into their lives while also adding a certain amount of comedy due to his ignorance and occasional ineptitude. He is a part of the community largely because Tamako has accepted his existence and allowed him to stay in the family business. What is particularly interesting about this character is how easily and readily those who meet him accept the existence of a talking bird. Many may wonder why a talking bird can be so readily accepted, but this particular character also helps to demonstrate another aspect of Japanese culture and beliefs. Shintoism and the Animist beliefs associated with this religion are an essential part of Japanese culture. These beliefs find their way into anime through the use of nekomimi, and more broadly, the numerous talking animals that can be found in series and especially Ghibli films. If we look at the number of anime series that involve some sort of animal, or character in the form, or using the powers of animals it quickly becomes clear that the power in nature, like so many other aspects of Japanese life makes its way into anime. If we look at Shinto practices and beliefs we see that Kami and people are not separate and exist within the same world, thus sharing its interrelated complexities. Within this set of beleifs the existence of a talking bird makes far more sense, and we can begin to see why having a talking bird within an anime that appears to portray ‘normal’ Japanese society is perhaps as normal as anything else.
Dela acts as an intermediary between the main characters, and in many scenes we only ever get a closer look at their thoughts and way of life through his eyes and interactions with them. Even the scenes that don’t directly involve this character are in some way influenced by his presence or lead onto a scene where Dela makes his appearance. While it is a highly romanticised version of Japanese society, the relatively normal activities that Tamako, Mochizou, Kanna, Shiori and Midori take part in all give this series a sense of calm and peace. What is however quite interesting is the absence of adults other than on a few occasions where the shopkeepers of Tamako Market make their presence known. We see Fuku (Tamako and Anko’s grandfather), Mamedai (Their Father), along with Mochiko and Gohei (Mochizou’s parents), but other than that the absence of these adult figures is rather striking. The same can be said of other similar series though, because with the absence of adults the world we see is only a small part of Japanese society. Adults clearly exist otherwise the schools, shops and transport wouldnt be run, but we are never really introduced to them except for in passing.
Tamako Market differs from this traditional slightly because we see Mochizou and Tamako taking an active part in their family businesses, although Tamako is far more enthusiastic than Mochizou. In this respect we see how the family works and lives together and how these characters have parents who care for them, although they clearly aren’t afraid to make fun of their children, especially in the case of Mochizou. Tamako Market is a fascinating series, and the general air of calm and quiet that each episode has belies the hard work and frenzied activity that clearly goes on in the titular market. Through the presence of Dela Mochimazzi, and his current relationship with Tamako’s family we are able to take a peek into this small corner of Japanese society and see the numerous shops and characters that run them. It is however a highly idealised society, and the complete lack of any problems is both fascinating and strange in its absence, it does remain a fascinating series however, and the character of Dela Mochimazzi not only adds humour but also allows the audience to look into these peoples lives and explore their family and daily routines. It certainly has the same sort of aesthetic that many of series involving ‘cute girls doing cute things’ have, but if we look a little closer there is more going on than meets the eye.