Otoko Oidon: I could be stuck in a 4½ tatami mat room and count myself king of infinite space (though it would be tough)

[My condolences to the people of Japan.  I can’t begin to imagine all the suffering that is going on.  I hope we’ve seen the worst already and that the Japanese may once again show that resilience and unity that characterizes them.]

Tori and Nobotta share a (rare) quiet moment together.

This post has some comments on Volumes III and IV of Leiji Matsumoto’s manga Otoko Oidon.

One interesting thing is the self-referentiality of the thing.  I went ahead and counted all the chapters in this manga that have the words “4¼ tatami” in the title: there are no less than 17!!  Seibonjinden, another work in the same genre, has 3 chapters with such titles.  And only 6 or 7 chapters in Ganso Dai Yojouhan Monogatari do not have the words “4¼ tatami” in the title (and this series is 6 volumes long!).  I’d say the obsession with the concept mirrors the sort of behavior that people stuck in tiny little rooms are likely to develop.  The aesthetic at work imitates the personality of the character.

It’s pretty pointless to review these volumes in detail, since it’s pretty much the same thing it’s been since volume 1: Nobotta keeps going from job to job and failing each time.  He keeps running into women who treat him more or less well, and then turn out to have boyfriends (or, in a variation, turn out to be deceiving him for some purpose).

Construction worker Nobotta Oyama

Rather than delineating some kind of progress on Nobotta’s life, the stories in these volumes focus often on how lucky he really is when compared to a lot of other people.  There’s a mysterious, wealthy-looking woman who hangs herself and is found by Nobotta.  He saves her in the nick of time and she thanks him and disappears (III 6).  There’s a new tenant, Tomoko Yano, who supposedly is going to university.  It turns out she’s a poser, a youngster who doesn’t study at all but roams college campuses pretending to be a student like everyone else (III 7).  At one point Nobotta gets a job as a construction worker and he borrows a worker’s uniform.  He goes to the ramen shop in uniform and he and the shop owner start making fun of the way he looks.  A real construction worker sitting at another table scolds them and reminds them life is tough when you actually do construction work everyday to make ends meet (IV 3).

The landlady (she’s named Ms. Yamada, we learn) keeps remarking to herself how lucky Nobotta is in many ways.  He’s usually cheerful and even in the midst of great depression he never gets downright suicidal.  He doesn’t pretend that he’s something that he isn’t.  And things never get too bad, thanks in large part to the landlady herself, plus Nobotta’s ability to make young women enjoy taking care of him.

Besides the landlady, there are two women who seem interested in maintaining a long-term friendship with Nobotta: Ito and Nishio.  Ito was Nobotta’s coworker in his factory job at the beginning of the series.  She married and moved away, but she comes back with her four-month baby to visit him (she also happens to have had a fight with her husband and wants to stay in  the hostel that night).  Alas, Nobotta is in a drunk stupor and he doesn’t even know she’s come by.  His sorrowful sight reminds Ito of her husband and how lonely he must feel so she decides to go back home.  Ito begs the landlady not to tell Nobotta she was even there (IV 10).

Ito and baby.

Then there’s Nishio.  We met her as a tenant in the hostel during Volume II.  Her record with our hero was dubious at best: she tended to use Nobotta as an assistant for her various affairs.  Now she’s gone, but she still sends Nobotta a Christmas present (III 12) and she even comes to visit.  Once again, Nobotta is terribly drunk and he thinks he’s dreaming she’s around.  He sobers up just as Nishio is leaving in a car.  When he rushes out to confirm she was really there and say goodbye, the landlady stops him.  The old woman has seen that Nishio is driving off with a man, and she’d rather Nobotta thought it was all a dream than break his heart (III 13).

It’s not all bittersweet, though.  Tori is as hilarious as ever, and his verbal skills just keep on improving!  I was very disappointed back in volume 1 when a cat showed up only to be killed soon after.  I wanted to see  the Arcadia pet pair from Space Pirate Captain Harlock all lined up!  Well, it just so happens that Nobotta’s next door neighbor is another youth from the country who has tons of striped boxer shorts like Nobotta (they often fight by tossing them at each other).  He finds and begins to take care of a cat he calls Neko.  Then he gets sick and has to go back to the country, asking Nobotta to keep him (yes, Neko is male).  He returns eventually, but we get a feeling Neko will be around for a long time (IV 5, 7, 13).

Detente.

One of the funniest and most infantile scenes so far in the series is when Neko gets cold and sneaks inside Nobotta’s shorts seeking warmth.  Tori goes after him and they begin fighting inside!  Each of them bites one of Nobotta’s testicles!  If he’s a lucky person, it’s a very unlucky sort of luck…  A small consolation is the fact that Nobotta has learned the testicle-biting technique from Tori and he begins to use it in fights!

~ by Haloed Bane on March 13, 2011.

5 Responses to “Otoko Oidon: I could be stuck in a 4½ tatami mat room and count myself king of infinite space (though it would be tough)”

  1. The landlady is an angel! That’s Nobotta biggest piece of luck, really. Are they ever bickering?

    • They bicker all the time. Nobotta doesn’t want to be thrown out so he restrains himself BUT he ends up cursing her while alone in his room, so Tori listens to him and then starts screaming “DIE OLD WOMAN!” at the top of his avian lungs!!! Nobotta desperately tries to shut him up. It’s funny.

  2. […] I could be stuck in a 4½ tatami mat room and count myself king of infinite space (though it would b… […]

  3. When I saw the title, I was all ‘oh, I bet he has some interesting things to say about _Tatami Galaxy_!’

    /can’t decide if disappointed

    • Hehe. “Tatami” and “Galaxy” are two of Matsumoto’s favorite words, but I don’t think he’s ever put them together. Tatami World, yes, but Tatami Galaxy, not in the Leijiverse.

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