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Tamayura: Hitotose Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Tamayura Hitotose CoverEchoes of our fathers.

What They Say:
As a little girl, Fuu Sawatari’s father taught her to love photography. They took pictures everywhere they went. But after he passed away, seeing those photographs only served as a reminder of her loss, so she locked them away to be forgotten. Years later, her brother Kou finds their father’s picture album, and as he flips through its pages, the pictures remind Fuu of all the happy memories of her father that she will carry with her forever.

Now, as the shy Fuu enters her first year of high school, she once again takes up her father’s old camera, determined to take wonderful pictures that will bring joy and happiness to others.

Contains episodes 1-12 and special episode 5.5.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is done up in its original Japanese language track only and is in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The show is all about the dialogue, mood, and atmosphere with what it wants to present and it does it pretty well. It’s not a series that’s looking to stretch its audio abilities in the slightest but it works to create a good mood for the show through the use of the background sounds and the incidental instrumental music throughout. This lets it all build into something nice and engaging overall, but mostly because it’s just beneath the surface and not beating you over the head with it. The opening and closing songs are where things are ramped up just a bit more but it’s not something that’s over the top. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2010 and airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series and OVA release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release structure is solid as we get the first disc with just the four OVAs (which are 15 minutes each) while the remaining three discs spread out the twelve episode TV series plus special episode. Animated by Hal Film Maker and TYO Animations respectively, the show has a pretty good look about it. With solid bit rates given to the episodes with plenty of bumps towards the upper end, the quality of the backgrounds with its detail and color design comes through well. The character animation is like most slice of life shows in that it’s a bit slower, but it’s balanced well with some nice nice fluid areas and some cute jumps here and there. The character designs have some good detail to them and the expressiveness of the characters is a big plus here, especially with so many on screen at once. The transfer is solid standard definition fare to be sure and fans of the show will be pleased by it.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is done in a standard sized keepcase with two hinges inside to hold the four discs that make up the series. The front cover artwork goes with the familiar image of the four main girls walking together through the town and it’s certainly an evocative piece with the way it gives us an older feeling with the architecture combined with the innocence and brightness of the youth. It’s definitely a more downbeat cover in a sense with all the heavy grays throughout, including the skyline, but it’s also fairly distinctive overall. The back cover carries through these gray tones as we get Fuu in winter mode where it’s just very color as she looks up into the sky at thing to take pictures of. We get a few more colorful shots from the show to give it a boost, which it needs. The premise is nicely covered in a circle that’s not too detailed but captures it well and the breakdown of what episodes are included is clean and easy to understand. Extras are also listed clearly. The bottom has the minimal technical grid that provides an idea of the makeup of the presentation and overall we get a clean and simple design here that’s solid. No show related inserts are included with this release.

Menu:
The menu design for this release goes for a simple but solid approach as the left two-thirds of the screen is given over to the static image that changes from disc to disc with colorful and warm images of the cast in different locations around the town. It has the right kind of slice of life feeling that will draw you in and set the mood easily. The right side has an all white panel where we get the logo through the middle with its orange tones while the navigation below is done in orange as well. Orange isn’t always the easiest color to work with, or find something that complements it and stays in tone, so the choice here is good and it all comes across quite well. Submenus load quickly and everything is easy to use and problem free.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences alongside the various promos and commercials. The OVAs are included as the extras and they’re presented as the first disc in the set where they’re self contained. Originally running fifteen minutes each, they’re done as two thirty-minute OVAs here that tackle some of the basic stories and character setting pieces. They’re a bit awkward to start with and I recommend watching them last, since there’s some mild repetition of material early on. But they’re welcome additional pieces overall.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having enjoyed a lot of the works that Junichi Sato has done over the years, Tamayura has certainly been a series that I’ve been curious about. Originally produced as four OVAs that ran for about fifteen minutes each back in 2010 and then going to a full series a year later that ran for twelve episodes, it also generated a second TV series, two more OVAs and is in the midst of releasing four films at the moment. Though the show doesn’t generate a lot of chatter across the anime world, people are obviously interested in it if they keep producing these works. Nozomi picked up the first OVAs and the first TV series for this release and it’s pretty easy to see why it’s liked in Japan and has its quieter fanbase abroad.

The show is the epitome of slice of life material in a way as it revolves around a group of young high school girls living in Takehara. The premise is an interesting one in that it deals primarily with Fuu as our central character, a girl who lost her father the year prior and has been struggling with unresolved feelings since then. She’s put a lot of these things to the side for most of the time used for grieving afterward but it’s all brought to the forefront when her younger brother is looking through the photographs that her father had taken years ago. It reminds her of a lot of things and that causes a chain reaction of events, fairly quickly overall, where she decides that for her high school life she wants to move to Takehara where her father grew up. It’s a big change that really takes a lot of courage since it means leaving her friends, but there’s also that element to high school shows that’s there about how this period in life is very transitional. That her family as a whole moves there as well? Now that’s a welcome change of pace from the eldest child out on their own.

What we get with the series is that it takes Fuu and moves her through about eight months or so of her life in moving to Takehara. We get her attending high school as a first year and making friends which carries through to the new year festivities and the like that concludes the season, or thereabouts. Within that framework there are a lot of character pieces as the group that forms around her ends up having a lot of fun in that kind of simple slice of life kind of way. Fuu certainly still feels like a middle school age kid here and it’s enjoyable to watch her reconnecting with her father and his past as she takes ownership of his old original film based camera and discovers a path through photography that can bring her closer to him while also bringing her view of the world to light for others. There isn’t a huge focus on this, but there are regular nods and moments regarding it that helps to keep it as a constant piece under the surface of everything. Naturally, a character like this has a quirk and hers comes in the form of a nickname with Potte, which is used to represent the sounds she makes when she walks a certain way. It’s not terribly engaging or memorable but it adds a nice piece to how the others interact with her.

The cast fills out nicely, particularly as a childhood friend reconnects with Kaoru – who is all about the pot pourri, while also adding new friends with an aspiring illustrator (for now) named Maon, and Norie, the one who likes to bake and make sweets that also has a little brother fetish and is all over Fuu’s brother Kou in ways that are cute but could also be taken to be fairly creepy depending on the circumstances and perspective. The show also does keep some ties to her middle school friend Chihiro, who comes to visit for an episode and is involved in some text and phone conversations. I rather liked this element as it helped to keep some of that part of the past connected to who she is while also making it clear that long distance friendships are damn hard even in the age of technology like this.

There’s a few other characters that pop up from time to time with some family members and some other adults, but beyond that it’s fairly weak in terms of male presence. Which is to be expected as it’s a slice of life growing up slowly kind of story for these young women and a lot of the focus in its subtle way is on Fuu and her relationship with her father. This is something that does play well throughout as he’s a near constant presence even if we never really see him all that much in any form. I’m not a fan of the absent parent storyline simply because it’s so common in anime, but this show balances it out well with that kind of background presence through his growing up in Takehara and the fact that her mother and brother moves with her back there. It’s a supportive environment and one that’s well accented by her friends as well.

And that’s kind of what the show is about. The relationships between the characters. There are no big moments, no elements of danger, and thankfully no big serious arc towards the end that ramps things up in a difficult way for the cast. What we get is that realistic look at life in how it moves slowly but surely. The only thing really missing is just how much time these kids should really be doing homework and that they wouldn’t have anywhere near as much time to hang out as they show them doing. But Junichi Sato is conveying the mood and feeling he wants here and he does it expertly within this framework to give us something engaging and interesting to watch as the months go on within the show. My only recommendation is to not marathon it because it all blurs far too much.

In Summary:
Tamayura is a solidly done slice of life show that has all the usual hallmarks of a Junichi Sato property done in “real world” fashion as opposed to something more stylish or unique in setting and environment. That may drive down the interest factor for some, but the reality here is that through the use of characters, location, and mood combined with the color tone and music of it all the show ends up becoming quite engaging with what it wants to do. It’s a solidly built slice of life show that has some very welcome elements to it, notably with how Fuu’s father and his presence is handled, and the slow but steady progress of time. I definitely liked the show, but it’s one I really encourage viewers to not marathon.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Tamayura OVA Series, Clean Openings and Endings, Promotional Videos, Commercials

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B- (I don’t count the OVAs as real extras; they’re content!)

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
MSRP: $44.99
Running Time: 389 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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