This review is mostly of episodes 7 – 8, but I do include some discussion of the overall style of storytelling which refers to the previous episodes that I explicitly reviewed earlier.
Rating: 5 of 5
Tari Tari continues to impress! The basic pattern of the show does everything in two episode mini-arcs, with the first two dealing primarily with Konatsu and her issues, followed by Taichi (though his arc is kind of episodes 3 and 5, and much less each episode is dedicated to his issues) then Wakana gets her turn in episodes 4 through 6, which is a bit longer, but also a weightier topic. The pacing of the show is very good, with none of the sense of dragging that frequently plague slice of life stories, but also avoiding the disjointed feel that many in the genre suffer from. One reviewer commented that Tari Tari only marginally qualifies as slice of life, due to its use of rather conventional dramatic story structure and I concur. I also have felt that the narrative structure makes far greater use of time jumps than your average slice of life show. However, the nature of the story telling style still conforms to the general slice of life pattern.
One of the biggest strengths of the show is the understated and realistic way it presents and resolves the character’s problems. Instead of having things spelled out clearly, we learn of each character’s issues over a series of episodes, with most of the details coming through behavioral cues as opposed to direct exposition. When the character’s problems finally come to a head, the audience is well aware of what is going on and hearing the character talk with their friends or family about their problems feels cathartic, as we have been allowed to feel their pain grow over the course of several episodes. It is partially due to this story telling structure that there is a general feeling that the character of Taichi was “short changed” on his “arc”. Since it happened early in the season, there was less build up to his story, but also his was an easier fix than most of the other characters. I would also argue that Konatsu’s arc was treated in a similar manner, with the caveat that, in a sense, her arc is the entire series, since the choir and sometimes badminton club exists because of her issues of wanting to overcome her stage fright that caused her trouble in the past and that the entire season involves her continuing quest to be able prove to the vice principle that music does “love her”*, even if it is only when she is making music with her friends, and to answer the question that Wakana asked her early in the series: “What do you sing for?”
In addition to the gradual presentation of the issues a character faces, the show also has a very “life goes on” style of resolving each character’s problems. Every character still has some lingering issues after the set of episodes dedicated to the details of their problems have past. There is no magic trick that makes the problem that was causing the character to be depressed, cranky, or close to the edge simply go away, never to bother them again. Instead, with the support of their friends, they can deal with their problems with much more ease. However, each character still must continue to deal with aspects of their personal crisis in the remaining episodes. This incomplete problem resolution style lends an air of authenticity to the issues the characters face.
This well executed story telling style most likely comes straight from the top: director Masakazu Hashimoto. This relatively untested director, who’s CV contains many more references to positions such as Storyboard, Episode Director, Assistant Director, and Production Coordinator than it does Director, is creating an extremely well thought out and deftly executed story that has captured the hearts of people on both sides of the pacific, with Tari Tari consistently showing up near the top of “best shows of the Summer 2012 season” in Japan and the US. Hashimoto deserves even more credit than your average director, since his name also appears behind several other jobs when the credits roll, such as Series Composition and Screenplay for episodes 1-8 and 11. That much involvement in story development and actual writing of the series in addition to direction makes Tari Tari practically his personal project, in many ways. That level of involvement in a show is rather rare these days.
On to the episodes at hand!
In episodes 7 and 8, Sawa gets her turn at the “wheel of pathos” as her 2 episode mini-arc comes around. Her problems revolve around an envelope she received in the mail and the issues she has with her father not supporting her desire to make a career out of riding horses. In order to avoid spoilers, I will use only discuss the issues briefly, but suffice it to say that there are certain factors that limit Sawa’s ability to achieve her dreams that are literally beyond her control. The lack of support from her father doesn’t help much and her already fiery temper flares at her friends in the process of discussing the issues. The way that Sawa’s character had been built up to this point, with several instances of her quick temper and tendency toward sarcastic humor, along with her playful teasing of her friends meshed seamlessly into a sharp tongued, short fused, and rather brutally abrupt person when Sawa’s stress level increased due to the events of these two episodes. If she hadn’t had that wicked sense of humor or had never snapped at Konatsu earlier in the story, it would have seemed out of character and forced. As it was, it seemed like the logical progression of how a Sawa that was failing to deal with the pressure in her life would behave. When you consider that the general niche that people placed Sawa in at the beginning of the series was the “anime perfect girl”, complete with looks, brains, talent, and an impressive bust line, it is rather impressive to see her in a decidedly imperfect light. Of course, the way she was written, it was clear that that initial classification was very far from correct. “Perfect girls” don’t generally slap their friends on the backside to get them to snap out of a funk or tease their friend who just had a major personal failure by asking “are you crying?” Sawa, on the other hand, does those things, with a smile, and sometimes a shy glance and a blush, when Taichi happens to be the target of her teasing. (The “shipping” of Taichi and Sawa was not strongly hinted at in these episodes, but there was some indication of a certain amount of attraction between them. It still remains to be seen if romance is in the offing for any of the Tari Tari characters, but if it is, these two seem the best candidates.)
In the end, Sawa comes to grips with the inevitable and learns to deal with things that cannot be changed, in addition to learning a bit about her father’s dedication to her. (We also find out that Sawa’s fiery temper isn’t entirely inherited from her mother!) The fact that a moment of crisis for the choir (and sometimes badminton) club arises at the same time as Sawa’s personal crisis doesn’t help things, but it is the support of her friends, in a unique, enormously cute, totally appropriate (considering the type of club they are), and slightly cheesy fashion that pushes her to her feet in order to make sure she doesn’t let her friends down.
The next character to have his life put through the wringer will be the fish-out-of-water transfer student from Austria, Wien. Several interesting hints were laid out in these episodes, as well as those that came before, to give us hints at what Wien’s crisis might entail. It is a certainty that the power-ranger like heroes he seems to idolize will figure strongly in his story. The previews do not diminish that impression.