Uchitama?! Have you seen my Tama? – Anime Review
Synopsis: Somewhere in Japan, there’s a flyer on Third Street with a picture of a cat, bearing the words: “Have you seen Tama?” A young boy gazes at the flyer, but he has fluffy ears on his head!? The dogs and cats from Third Street take on a human form and are about to get in some mischief. Uchitama is a brand-new type of heartwarming anime that may even be the new definition of kawaii!? (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Uchitama came out of nowhere, surprising us over this past Winter as it quickly became the title we most looked forward to every week. Uchitama?! Have you seen my Tama? is actually a re-imagining of a long running franchise that first came about in the late 1980s. The main series focuses on a group of cats and dogs, Tama being the center star, and their everyday lives. Uchitama takes that same premise and characters but portrays the cast in anthropomorphized forms whenever humans aren’t around, likely an attempt to appeal to more modern demographics in today’s anime market. It works though, as UchiTama’s wide array of fun, quirky characters offers plenty of varied comedy episode to episode, bolstered by ‘pet vision.’ We frequently get to see the world through the eyes of Tama and Co., only to have that turned on its head when a human steps into frame and we can see what’s really going on. The cats may think they’re helping with work when really, once we take off the pet vision goggles, all they’re doing is playing with a small block of wood.
Linny: UchiTama proves again and again through its run just what a perfect fit it is for dog and cat lovers. Most episodes are composed of two to three segments/stories per episode, making for perfect bite sized doses of comedy without wearing out any of its welcome. It gives the show the chance to showcase multiple different characters as the focus per episode and avoid stretching out any of the gags for too long. UchiTama bucks its typical presentation twice however. In one instance the show instead uses an entire episode to try and build up to a single big gag, marking this as undeniably the show’s lowest point. Not only does it take too long to get to its ‘big’ joke, but the joke itself isn’t all that funny and definitely not worth the lengthy build up, turning episode 6 into a total dud.
Tom: Even with two to three stories an episode not everyone gets equal focus. While most of our fluffy cast gets to star now and again, like Tama himself, Tora, the go getter of the cats, or Kuro, a hyper athletic dog, other characters like Momo, the adorable princess cat of a sweet shop or Koma the youngest cat of the group, are featured less frequently in starring roles. Still, unless you’re mad for Momo or keen on Koma there’s more than enough variety as we shift from Tama getting himself lost again, to Bull and his Chūnibyō-esque shenanigans or Tora’s absolutely odd romance. Just don’t expect every cat and dog to get a shot at the spotlight for very long.
Linny: Most of UchiTama is about showcasing the silly and lovable personalities and daily lives of its animal cast. It’s a sweet and imaginative take on what pets get up to when left to their own devices. The titular Tama and his best friend Pochi are rather innocent and air-headed, making them adorable, lovable mascots for the entire cast. And almost everyone else on the cast has their own little quirks that warm them up to the audience, often by reminding you of your own fluffy babies at home. Seeing the humanized interpretations of these pets activities and actions brings a whole new level of cute and plenty of comedy to what would otherwise be mundane. But that doesn’t mean Uchitama can’t get a bit dark and emotional either. The cast includes a stray cat named Nora and a lot of the stories revolving around him are draped in a more somber, even saddening tone. In fact, episode 8 is an deep dive into his past and the tragic circumstances surrounding it. It’s highly likely to make pet owners misty eyed, wanting to go adopt every single stray out there.
Tom: I’m a bit less keen on Nora’s depressing origins. While not nearly as great a misstep as Episode 6, the series is so much more geared for comedy than turning back the clock and showing the tortured kitten years of poor Nora. I think part of the problem is the way the series utilizes Nora outside of this storyline. Nora is a lot like Momo or Koma. He’s used sparingly, perhaps even more so than the girls, and often only features as a wise sage like character to impart knowledge when the rest of cats are befuddled by humans or curious about the world. The sudden turn to focusing on him for an entire episode, and jettisoning all the comedy, doesn’t jive with the rest of the show. There’s a short plot line for Nora in the next episode though, focused on him befriending a stray kitten that reminds him of himself. It’s much more enjoyable because the insight into Nora is balanced alongside with what you’d come to expect from the rest of UchiTama. I think I might’ve found Episode 8’s exclusive focus on Nora’s tragic history more agreeable if we’d had some kind of build up to it prior, with more attention given to Nora before introducing such an atypical episode.
Linny: On the topic of missteps, I would like to point out that UchiTama has a totally unexplained supernatural element in the form of one of the cats, Beh and his uncontrolled ability to open portals through time and space. Beh himself seems completely unaware of this ability and the power seems to activate randomly or more often specifically when the plot needs it to. It first makes its appearance as a gag in the background then becomes a major component of two later story lines. This whole portal element feels really at odds with the rest of the series’ content. Yes, the show takes some liberties depicting the daily lives of its cast but they’re mostly minor and generally believable (or explained via the ‘pet’ vision Tom discussed above.) This portal stuff however exists first for a lol so random comedy element and then as a plot device to help bring about or solve situations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened at all. It’s implemented roughly and sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb among what is otherwise a whimsical but grounded show.
Tom: Uchitama?! though, in the show’s defense, isn’t totally grounded. Gon, the laid-back dog of the group, abandons the show’s regular presentation for an on-stage comedy set in one episode, and another features a robo-dog come to life, looking to learn from Tama and Co. about how to be more cute. Still, I have to agree that the more Uchitama?! removes itself from reality, the less it works. It’s highs are when Tama and Co. get up to something wild and we then remove the pet vision goggles to see what’s really going on. When the series finds the fun in the mundane, or portrays the lovable idiocy of pets that any owner will recognize, is when UchiTama feels absolutely perfect. Thankfully that’s the majority of the series and what marks it as such a memorable Winter title in my eyes.
Linny: All in all, UchiTama remains one of my personal undisputed and definitely surprise top anime of its season. It’s the kind of show you put on when you want to see something adorable and heartwarming. Its anthropomorphic cast is portrayed with a lot of love and laughter and it never strays into any questionable content unlike other anime with anthropomorphic animals (Here’s looking at you, Nekopara franchise.) It definitely isn’t perfect, struggling to pull off its more lengthy narratives and balancing out its more fantastical elements with its more grounded slice of life vibe. But if you are on the lookout for something with a healthy dose of sweet, funny and emotional content and are intrigued by its adorable and innocent cast of pets, UchiTama could end up as a beloved show for you too.