The anime community has had an interesting reaction to Dera.
There are some people who think he is incredibly annoying and single-handedly ruins what might have been a good show and then there are others who think he is the best (or second best) character in Tamako Market.
It us not uncommon to see a large gap in opinion in the blogosphere, but such a large disparity is slightly less common.
In case it wasn’t immediately obvious from the title, I am part of the second group of people. That is to say, I think Dera is the second best character in Tamako Market and one of the best characters this season.
Even in the context of a Japanese cartoon show, Dera is larger than life.
He is a bird that talks, sings and dances. He refers to himself as nobility and asks others do the same. He is somewhat narcissistic and quite full of himself. He dispels advice like a know it all. He eats so much mochi that he loses the ability to fly.
Oh and he is a convenient, high definition projector! (Well, technically projector + modem as he somehow live streams the video.)
Dera is flamboyant, over the top and demands attention every time he is on screen.
The way he walks, the way he talks, even the way he stands, all of it is so exaggerated and pompous, I can’t help but laugh.
Then he crosses his legs, winks with his glorious eye lashes, opens his wings, makes some grand proclamation and my laughter can only gets worse.
And yet, despite how over the top and attention grabbing he might seem, Dera’s act is authentic.
He doesn’t seek attention or glory, he is simply proud. He holds his beak up high and spreads his wings because he is proud.
He is proud of himself, his current place and the people he is with.
It is this pride and the resulting self-esteem that lends him a place in the Usagiyama Shopping District community.
You’d think that an oddball like Dera would never fit into this show, at least not without significant resistance from the other characters but that isn’t true at all. Dera fits right in. He fits in because despite being far more flamboyant than the rest , he is just as proud and happy as they are.
The characters in Tamako Market are a happy, proud bunch. They are happy with whom they are and proud of the market they run. They are content with their lives. Dera to is content. That is why he fits right in and never feels like the oddball talking bird that he is.
If it is his pride and joy that lends him a place in the market, then it is his kindness that cements his place.
Tamako Market is a show about kindness.
People seem to be quite confused about the point of Tamako Market. “It has nice animation and cute girls, but I don’t see where this is going.” or “What’s the point of this show?” are common concerns echoed by many. Now, I would argue that Tamako actually does a great job of talking about many interesting things (please go read RedBall’s posts on Tamako), but at the heart of it all lies the the simple notion of kindness.
The market prospers because everyone is kind to one another and through this kindness, they cooperate and succeed. The children of the market are growing up surrounded by this kindness and love. Even though they run into their own little problems, those problems don’t last long because everyone else is there to lend a helping hand.
It is really quite beautiful.
And Dera is part of this beauty.
Despite his seemingly conceited nature, Dera is very kind.
He does chores for Tamako’s family. He acts as a messenger when needed. He keeps an eye on the kids when the adults are busy. He plays cupid when little ones are struggling with love. He gives out wise advice (genuinely good advice that is based on keen observations) when people are stuck. He calls Tamako “my girl”.
That “my girl” it gets me every time. I love that phrase when Dera says it.
I do not think he means that in the possessive sense (my possession, my pet, my girlfriend, etc, etc..), I think he uses it in a genuinely caring fashion. Out of all the high schoolers in Tamako Market, Tamako is the one with the least problems and that is why she has never really had to rely on Dera, but I’d like to think that if she ever truly needed him, he’d help her without a second thought.
When Choi first asked Tamako to be a bride, all of Tamako’s friends took it hard. They couldn’t stand the idea of being separated from the one person that connected them and brought endless mole smiles into their lives. And yet, Dera was arguably the only one who complained straight to Choi (his master).
Why would Dera mind if Tamako became a princess? They would be going back to the same island and he’d still get to enjoy her company. Unlike everyone else he wouldn’t have to say goodbye to her. Heck, if Tamako became a bride, he could go home sooner and finally fulfill his duty to the prince.
He doesn’t want Tamako to become a princess because he knows that Tamako herself does not want to be one. Out of all the characters in this show, he is the first to consider her feelings on this matter. That is why I think he is kind, so very kind and I love him for it.