Rating: 5 of 5
Synopsis: (From Crunchyroll)
Too young to be adults, but no longer children… Wakana Sakai was involved in music, but gave it up one day. Konatsu Miyamoto loves singing and can’t be torn from it. Sawa Okita would do anything for her closest friends. They laugh, they fight, they worry, they love… Through their very ordinary lives, little by little the girls learn to move forward. Sometimes they feel as if they can’t go on alone, but as long as they have their friends, they believe they’ll make it someday. Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, and the music they make in their ensemble weave a tiny but dazzling story of the power of music. The last summer of high school… It’s too soon to give up on dreams. The song echoing throughout Enoshima continues to give us courage today.
Slice-of-life coming of age drama is not for everyone, but it is very much “up my ally”, so you can use that information in evaluating this review. As they say, your mileage may vary.
This story blends many themes familiar to shows of this genre, and many of the characters may seem to be fairly typical of the archetype, but there are some nice twists to the familiar character types. One of the really interesting story telling methods this show uses is showing images of the main characters when they were younger. This serves two purposes: 1) providing some plot driven back-story with minimal expostulation, and 2) they are sooo darn cute!
At the beginning we are presented with the main characters. There is Konatsu, a pint-sized spitfire who used to sing in the school choir, but was removed from the choir because of some event at the previous year’s district choral festival, and now serves the music club by turning pages for the accompanist.
Sawa is first seen riding a horse, has a keen fashion sense, is on the school archery team, and is obviously looked up to by her classmates. Her dreams revolve around horses, but she is happy to help her best friend Konatsu in any way. Sawa appears to be the “cheerful best friend” character, but further inspection reveals surprising depth and a fairly vicious sarcastic sense of humor that frequently keeps Konatsu and the others on their toes!
Taichi comes early to school every day to practice his badminton skills, despite the fact that he is the only member of his club. He plans to go on to play badminton in college and perhaps even professionally if he can manage it. He has an older sister that also plays badminton.
Wein is transferring into the school a couple of months after the year began after living in Austria for the past twelve years. He has forgotten much of what he knew as a small child of Japanese language and customs and has tried to study up on them using books. (Not particularly good ones, according to Taichi, who is asked to show Wien around on his first day.) He is also a fan of a “Power Rangers” like super hero show, as seen below. (Possibly his one link to his native culture that he maintained while growing up in Austria?) Incidentally, Wien doesn’t appear to be his actual name, but the German name for the city he moved from: Vienna.
Last but certainly not least is Wakana, who is featured in the first episodes opening flashback playing with her mother. At the start of the show, she is seen making breakfast for her father and her cat, berating her father for sleeping too late and cooking too much for dinner (she gives him leftovers for breakfast), and generally doing the kinds of things that one would identify as “things mom does”. We find early on that she used to be in the school’s rather exclusive music major program, but has transferred to the general education program for some reason.
The show does several things to make itself stand out from the crowd. One is pacing. The most common complaint about slice-of-life shows is that they drag and nothing ever happens. This show does not suffer from that problem. At the end of the first episode, the plot has been set as “Konatsu, refused re-admittance into the music club, forms her own choir club; The district choral festival is one month away; and the majority of the show will be Konatsu gathering the five friends to her to form the heart of this choir and triumphantly performing at the festival. Sound pretty standard? Well, that is not Tari Tari! Instead, by the end of the 2nd episode the choral festival is over and Konatsu is faced with new problems, the two guys were not even in the choir at festival time, and the sense of “been there, done that” that even the best slice-of-life stories exhibit has been entirely thrown out the window. In its place, we have a show that sets up an issue and tends to deal with it in two episode mini-arcs. Instead of a show about forming a choir and meeting the goal at the end, we now have a show about a group of friends doing what they need to do to help each other achieve each individual’s dreams, while they are still young enough to believe that such things are possible and old enough to actually do something with them in the event that said dreams become reality.
Another thing that makes the show stand out is the art! PA Works, the studio that brought us Hanasaku Iroha last year, has once again taken on a story based in a popular resort area in Japan, this time the Enoshima area: one of the most popular beach resort towns near Tokyo. This does several things for the show. It lends natural beauty to the background scenery that is astoundingly beautiful, gives the town that crisp clean tourist haven look, and provides for natural fan service as the girls don their bikinis to hang out or even work at the beach without it feeling out of place, forced, gratuitous, or like an obligatory beach episode. For a “scenery porn” addict like myself, shows like this are one of the main reasons I love anime! I could look at those exquisitely drawn sunsets, beach scenes, shrines in the middle of the forest, and stunningly drawn cityscapes for ever and not get tired of them.
The character designs also shine brightly here, though some may see too much of Hanasaku Iroha in them. That is natural, since many of the creative talents that brought you Hanasaku Iroha are also on board for this show. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the designs are stunning, attractive with realistic proportions, beautiful, and cute beyond any ability on my part to resist their charms.
The music also stands out as a high point for the show. Since a large portion of the plot revolves around music, it is good that the music is well done. The use of music to drive the plot in Tari Tari is fantastic! It is clear very early that Wakana’s mother and the music she was involved in when she was in high school and beyond is a driving force behind much of what happens, from Wakana’s problems to the behavior of the teachers and other adults. Music and how it impacts people’s lives is a major theme in this show and it is used to wonderful affect as well as effect.
Another strong point, which Tari Tari shares with Kokoro Connect, (another show airing this season in Japan and simulcasting on Crunchyroll) is the natural sounding, realistic dialog. The high school seniors in this show sound remarkably like real high school kids in the way they talk with each other, tease each other, etc… There is a natural sense of flow to the conversations, with some brilliant, and extremely difficult to follow with subtitles, sections where multiple conversations between multiple people flow naturally, with many people talking at once in a natural cacophony that strengthens the characterizations and sets the mood extremely well. It comes off as natural and not scripted, which is really hard to do with a scripted drama!
The reason I chose to do a review of the first 6 episodes is that, from my perception, the show has reached a turning point. Many of the issues that were impacting our young protagonists lives up to this point have been cleared up for better or worse, and the group of five friends is truly together, with each member dedicated to the cause, despite the fact that most of them had no intention of doing what they are doing at the beginning of the school year. The first few story arcs took us through a great deal of detail about Konatsu, Taichi, and especially Wakana, who was the last to really sign on to the plan laid out by the energetic young force of nature known as Konatsu. In addition to telling a wonderful, sad, painful, sweet, and eventually uplifting and hopeful story, these six episodes display the process of these five people going from classmates to friendships close enough to be akin to family in some cases. Sawa and Konatsu were already BFFs, but as the episodes rolled along we got to see Wien becoming close to all of them, but particularly Taichi and Wakana; Sawa and Konatsu reaching out to pull the sullen and frequently abrupt Wakana out of her self imposed shell and into a blossoming friendship that could very well define who she becomes as an adult, and a budding closeness between Sawa and Taichi which looks to be the major romantic story-line, at least from what has come so far. The growth of these relationships between these five friends has been realistic, gradual, and stunning in the way the writers have shown the empathy and level of caring between the characters.
The episodes culminate with the absolute finest single episode of anime that I have seen this season, and possibly for several seasons, with the revelations and emotional catharsis that is episode 6, “Laughing and Remembering”. I spent a good deal of the episode in tears, then later that night, listening to the exquisitely beautiful ED for the episode, had a personal reaction related to Wakana’s story line that had me in tears for several minutes. It is a powerfully written story, emotional, yet not manipulative, with natural emotion dealing with issues that will resonate with many viewers.
Now to titillate and cajole you into checking the series out, with a few animated GIFs from the first few episodes: