What They Say:
“Sunny Days and Crying and Sometimes Singing”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So, the rain pours, but it’s supposed to let up later, just in time for the White Festival that Konatsu plans to hold. Of course, when they get to the school, the gates are either locked or guarded. The Choir Club thinks about breaking in, but the Chairman of the school’s board of governors is there and confronts them. He’s there basically to show what a heartless jerk he is, flaunting his power and highlighting their powerlessness. He calls it “education.”
A new player arrives when the Principal, Mr. Ikezaki, arrives and confronts the Chairman. He tells the students that he will allow them to hold their cultural festival and the Chairman has no power to stop them, though his own job can be in danger. The Principal makes an impassioned speech about education and the power of song to soothe troubled minds…before accidentally tripping and pulling down the Chairman’s pants (perhaps a way of saying the emperor has no clothes?). If this is meant to be a spot of humor to lighten the mood, it falls flat with a resounding thud. The Chairman says he will fire the Principal, which he can, though at this point another person arrives, Naoko Takakura the Vice Principal. She notes that the dismissal procedures against the Principal will take time, and the cultural festival will be long over before he is formally ousted. She also lets the Choir Club know that they have the support of the vocal club and the woodwind club. So, it looks like Konatsu’s crazy idea will come true.
The Chairman leaves, huffing and puffing that no one will come to the White Festival. He’s wrong, of course, as the rain stops and people come. The gym is locked, but that doesn’t stand in the way of music, as they hold the festival outdoors. The Choir Club puts on their silly little play, but it leads up to the song that Wakana wrote with her mother Mahiru. Of course, the sun happens to come out exactly as they start singing the song. Here’s the climax of it all, as we see the Choir Club take center stage and sing, with the vocal club and a full band accompanying them. The crowd seems pleased (a decent-sized audience came), and there are smiles all around.
All that’s left is to hear of the future plans of the Choir Club members. Taichi is happy that he got into the college of his choice. Sawa has decided to pursue her dream of being a jockey by going to an equestrian school overseas, probably in the English-speaking world as we have a brief scene of her learning English. Sawa isn’t even going to wait for graduation, leaving just a month after the festival. We have a further scene with Naoko and Wakana, where Naoko openly admits her jealousy of Mahiru, though Wakana comes to thank her for her help and even asks if she may ask for her help again in the future, especially with getting into a college that has a music program.
There is no time wasted on the final weeks of the school. We flash forward to the last graduation ceremony for Shirohamazaka High School, where Sawa’s presence is represented by a stuffed animal horse on the seat that would have been hers. Afterwards, the club members gather to sing one last time for her, in a video Shiho made of them and sent. As the end credits roll, we have a complete tying up of all of the various characters’ subplots in a montage to the ending theme: Sawa is at her school abroad; Naoko is helping Wakana with entrance exams for a music school; Taichi is busy at badminton practice, perhaps at his new school; Wien is back in Austria to visit young Jan, from whom he received a letter, and Wien’s first name, Matsuhiro, is spoken at last; and finally we see Konatsu in college, where she is asked by some girls to join their club. Put a bow on it, it’s over. Well, except for an after credits scene that I can’t quite explain having any importance.
If you wanted to see a slice-of-life show, then Tari Tari has certainly fit the bill for you. Nothing supernatural, no special powers (except for the power of song), no secret technology, nothing strange here, just the normal lives of five high school students who want to sing. Overall, the execution was fairly good, though in retrospect, the show seems to fall into a paint-by-numbers method of composition, or if we want to put it into musical terms, it was composed as much by sampling the common pools of popular themes as by any attempt at original composition. The “villains” of the piece were adults, thus putting this in the classic mold of heartless adults trying to crush the dreams of innocent, good-hearted children. Some of the villains had changes of heart (the Principal and Vice Principal), while others were little more than stick-figure evildoers, there to be mean, selfish, greedy, and cruel (the Chairman of the school’s governing board). Not all adults were villains, of course, but it was mainly the students’ parents who filled the roles of good adults.
The animation was nice, bordering on gorgeous at times, PA Works showing us that they are one of the higher quality studios out there. That said, there was not a large amount of action-heavy or overly complex animations to deal with, so it was probably not too hard to do high quality work on a budget. The writing, however, was not quite as detailed as the artwork. I’ve already noted the shallowness of the antagonists, but in addition, there was a serious focus problem at times. Comparing this to another work of theirs, the extremely well-done Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari in comparison suffers from a focus problem. It’s not having multiple subplots and many characters that is the problem in itself. What was confusing at times was the lack of a central figure around whom to focus events so that a more coherent narrative might emerge. With HanaIro, Ohana Matsumae provides our focus, an anchor upon which we can depend in trying to follow the swirl of everyday life. I know some fans whom I’ve talked to like the less coherent nature of Tari Tari, as the confusing and overlapping stories reflect the messy, chaotic nature of real life itself, but I would have preferred to have a little more structure to help organize things.
It did not help that while the show pretends to focus on all the members of the Choir Club, in reality the most attention was given to Sawa and especially Wakana, whose story did happen to be the most touching. Konatsu appeared to be the central focus at the beginning, but once the club was up and running, she never really held the spotlight again for any story that had an impact upon me. Taichi was largely ignored, while Wien was given an interesting story, but one which received only cursory attention. It may be that the focus naturally fell upon the more interesting characters, but then that is a fault in the writing, that there was no way to give Konatsu or Taichi more depth, so that they would seem less shallow in comparison to Sawa or Wakana. All part of a certain imbalance to this show.
A further impediment to cohesion was the uneven pacing of the story. Sometimes, the writers felt fine simply skipping ahead without showing the intermediate stages of certain chains of events. Sure, the middle parts of their set piece plot developments might not be all that interesting, but the quick cuts to the finish distorted the flow of time, at least distorted its perception for me as a viewer, compressing things far too much. This was hurtful in that some events for which one would expect a large payoff because of the time spent on the buildup, that feeling of fulfillment was never sufficient, because of a mismatch between the amount of time spent building up the event and the time actually devoted to the event. We see this even in the final episode, where the grand concert and the big song are nice, but don’t feel all that special when they take up only a few minutes, while practically the entirety of the penultimate episode was spent building up to this final burst of song (which doesn’t even turn out to be the final burst of song).
So, while there were nice moments, especially in Wakana’s story, good animation, passable songs (they were a little too anodyne for my taste) and some decent voice acting, there were also serious flaws in terms of characterization, especially of the antagonists and two of the ostensible leads, and when it came to the pacing of events, as well as keeping the audience’s attention when the scattershot approach to presenting the action made it hard to focus on what was happening at times. I do not think that this show will stand up as a classic for the long run, but if you want a pleasant slice-of-life show that gives you some laughs (sometimes at the wrong time) as well as draws some tears, you could do worse than Tari Tari.
Streamed by: Crunchyroll
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard