Rating: 5 of 5
In episodes 9 and 10 of Tari Tari, the character of Wien gets his turn in the spotlight of sadness. Over several previous episodes, we have been introduced to Wien’s situation mostly through his letters to Jan, a young boy that he met in Austria. He writes to Jan about the antics of his friends, frequently passing on Konatsu’s trollish teasing in a completely clueless manner. He also shares his deep personal doubts about his direction in life and the fact that he really has none. While his friends all seem to be striving for future, Wien is just sort of going along for the ride, unsure of what comes next. The two were tied together by their love of a “Power Rangers” type show that Wien’s grandfather sent videos of to Wien. The boy seemed to be rather frail and perhaps was living in a hospital or children’s home of some sort, but the details of his situation are never fully explained. As Wien’s arc begins in earnest, he receives news about Jan that disturbs him greatly.
The club has problems of its own. They have decided to do a musical for the White Festival, their school’s cultural fair, but they have practically no budget from the school and can’t afford costumes, props, and backgrounds. Konatsu suggests that they brainstorm about ways to raise money for the festival. As the episode goes on, Taichi notices that Wien is not acting like his normal self, he isn’t taking notes about what the others are saying and seems to be out of it in general. It seems that, without his desire to tell Jan about his life, his lack of direction manifests itself with a powerful level of apathy. With the whole group heading out after school, Wakana, still having trouble with her mother’s song, asks if she can talk to Sawa’s mother about how her mother composed music. Sawa’s mother surprisingly asks Sawa to bring the whole gang over for some cake. She has a favor to ask of them. The shopping district is planning a promotional campaign to try to increase business. The campaign needs five people to cosplay in Power Ranger type suits, act out mock battles against villains, and hand out flyers for discounts in the local shops. This is a perfect fund raising opportunity, and the super hero aspect seems to reinvigorate Wien, who takes a leadership role in designing their skits and personas as the “WestShopRangers”, protecting the valued patrons of the Western Shopping District from spoiled produce and inferior products!
Several other monkey wrenches get thrown into the mix, including some build up for the final three episodes and some much needed character development for the hard to love Vice Principle of their school. As with the majority of the other characters, Wien is back to acting like himself by the end of his arc, with the help of his friends.
The ending of the arc has some of the cheesiest moments of the show, rivaling Wien and Konatsu’s cheers and songs at Taichi’s badminton tournament and the cell phone serenade by the other four members to Sawa, followed by Sawa’s wild ride, in the previous arc. However, these cheesy moments are far from a distraction or a detriment to Tari Tari. In fact, those are some of the shining moments of this wonderfully uplifting and emotional series.
For the most part, Tari Tari plays it straight, when it comes to the characters and their personalities. They are all very believable and easy to relate to, with some minor eccentricities to make them more salient than your average high school senior. (For instance, Wien’s wonderful fish-out-of-water gullibility, Konatsu’s energetic nature and tendency to prey on said gullibility, Wakana’s initial brooding nature and sharp tongue, and Sawa’s wickedly sarcastic sense of humor and quick temper, and Taichi’s ever present calisthenics, single-minded fixation on his sport, and a very endearing compassion for his friends that frequently paints him in a different light.) These little moments of cheesy goodness lift the characters out of their ordinary, slice-of-life character personae and push them into a more emotionally satisfying mold. These moments of “I don’t believe they just did that!” are a large part of what make the characters memorable, even more so for how real they feel when they are going about their daily routines.
The other major strength of the writing for Tari Tari, is the way the character’s problems are “resolved”. I put the word in quotes because they are not, in reality, resolved the majority of the time. For each character’s issues, from Konatsu’s desire to sing, Taichi’s and Sawa’s badminton and horse riding dreams, Wakana’s sorrow and regret, or Wien’s fish-out-of-water aimlessness, the end of their personal arc finds them back to functioning as they usually do, if not better, as in Wakana’s case. Their problems, one the other hand, are still there. In each case, the problems or repercussions of them, linger. Just like in real life, your problems are not solved by a song from your friends and a hug. They are still there, just easier to manage because you realize you are not alone and that, with the help of people who truly care for you. This “life-goes-on” style of problem resolution adds tremendously to the realism of the story.
While not an earthshaking series by any stretch of the imagination, Tari Tari is still a wonderful show to watch. Consistently entertaining, with very good balance between humor and emotion, the show is sweet without cloying, emotional without being manipulative, funny without disrespecting its characters, and able to inject just the right amount of cheesy, feel good charm to keep the mood light, without becoming silly. Add to that some wonderful music and amazing artwork and you have a show that could very well stand the test of time.
Next, the school cultural fair is in full preparation mode, with the choir, and sometimes badminton, club preparing to do a musical play that they are writing themselves. Can they pull it off, or will the strange issues between the vice principle, principle, and the chairman of the school’s board that have been hinted at for the past few episodes cause problems for our plucky group of young singers? I can’t wait to find out!