Tamako Market is Kyoto Animation's first actual original story that was not adapted from anything (as all their other anime they made were either adapted from light novels, visual novels etc.) and it really shows. How do I put this...This would be the sort of anime that Kyoto Animation would make if they were given a big pile of money and told- "You can use this money to create an anime series on anything you like. Anything at all.". While most other studios would attempt to make a masterpiece, this is Kyoani we're talking about. So you could imagine what they will came up with even before they think of it themselves.
Tamako Market introduces Tamako Kitashirakawa- the daughter of a mochi shop owner. She and her family live in the mochi shop which is at the end of a market place. Everything is going well and the story starts with our main character meeting a strange talking bird called Dera- a bird who has been sent from an island in the South to find a bride for his prince. Dera is well-received in the market and the Kitashirakawa household (despite the fact that he is a talking bird. I would send him off to some lab or something.). He grows fat from eating too much of the shop's mochi and is rendered unable to fly. He therefore has to freeload at Tamako's place until he can continue his journey.
Have I lost you yet? Don't worry. It lost me as well. Well, that's the premise of it and we see all that happening in the first episode. My first impressions for it weren't that favorable. I wanted to turn the bird into a pie the second it introduced itself (probably because of the voice) and it's kind of...well, normal. You could almost akin it to "boring". What kept me in was the fact that this was made by the same team who worked on K-On! That tells you something already. The story is mostly episodic and follows the everyday life of Tamako and her friends as they do...stuff.
The fact that this was a go-alone anime with no one to tell them what to do, the staff probably cheered and did every episode in the style they always wanted to make for other anime but couldn't. There's a Valentine's day episode, a school festival episode and a school outing episode. I have always known that Kyoto Animation staff get as sidetracked as their characters (or do the characters get as sidetracked as the staff? Very philosophical indeed...). I'm just going to make this review just that much easier to understand by saying this- Imagine K-On. It's heavily influenced by that in the sense that the story goes way-ward 99% of the time and the characters are not that original.
There's Tamako- your typical dunce who is always energetic and excited about things. Her friends don't have much to be said either- being other typical tropes. The only original character I could think of id the bird- Dera. But I wanted to shoot him the every time he opened his mouth because he is rather annoying. The anime has a rather large cast as it also introduces many of the shop-keepers of the market where Tamako lives. Let's just say, they're quite a weird lot. And fun. Very fun.
You see, this is a feel-good anime which is meant to just provide a got spot of light-heartedness and fun. The story might have been lacking and forgettable but each episode has their own fun story with and enjoyable cast of characters interacting well with each other- even if they are unoriginal. I actually got a hypothesis- every character in the anime- especially the shop keepers- were individually created to fit each staff member of Kyoto Animation. Might sound idiotic but that goes to show just how much of Kyoto Animaton's soul was put into the work. If you look at all the anime that they have done, you would see that nearly all of them have the "Comedy" genre. They are comfortable at what they did for this and it shows through the simplicity of how this anime just made the mood better. It also had its serious moments which were actually quite good and added its weight to the anime. There may have been quite a few low points in this anime but these were balanced out nicely by the high points.
Moving to the art- it is exactly what you could expect from Kyoto Animation. It looks fantastic- sort of a blend between many of their previous works. It is very colourful- even for Kyoani standards. The many shops and colours make it look like a carnival- perfectly explained just from watching the opening. This myriad of bright colours just makes things seem more fun. The good music you should expect is there and they just make the scene much more lighter. I only have the complaint that they sometimes play it during the more serious parts and this confused the hell out of me. Nevertheless, the visuals and sound are great and lives up to Kyoani's reputation.
Everything is done very...nicely. The characters might be tropes but they are developed well enough that, in the end, I even liked Dera. All the shopkeepers were likable. There, of course, could have been a lot more depth in everything (such as the romantic part- which they''re doing in the upcoming film) but, if you know this studio as much as I do, things are sort of okay. Forget comparing this to K-On, this is so much better.
Overall, Tamako Market was very enjoyable. It may have many, many, many, many, many faults but has the honest feeling that hard work was put into this. This is an anime which embodies what Kyoto Animation is, much like the Monogatari series is to Studio Shaft. It delivers what it says effectively and is great if you're looking for a fun anime that isn't too deep. I am a pessimist and I really didn't expect myself to give such a positive image of this anime. Oh well. Once a Kyoani fan, always a Kyoani fan. And proud of it.
I like anime's that could bear the following tags "cooking/food", "SoL", "fluff". Whatever. So when I spotted this, I thought it'd be in my wheelhouse. I didn't expect a fat talking bird and some royalty romance subplot. Thankfully, it doesn't really disrupt what I wanted to see, even if it wasn't expected.
The characters are fun (even the fat talking bird, once I got used to him). The relationships between the characters, as well as our mc's complete obliviousness to rival some of the greats, are fun to watch. Seeing it all, the whole subplot of the prince didn't really do anything for the story since it's wrapped up in a hasty way. All it does is provide a pretext for certain characters showing up. I feel like this could have been handled better. Still, in the end, I had fun. And enough fun to check out the movie that wraps it all up in very satisfying fashion.