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Tamako Love Story Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Tamako Love Story ComboCan this love remain unconfessed?

What They Say:
In Tamako Love Strory, while everyone else is excited about high school finally coming to an end, Tamako has a sad realization: getting older means losing touch with friends as they drift off to new lives. While Tamako’s friends all seem to have big plans and amazing dreams, Tamako’s never thought beyond staying right where she is, working in her family’s mochi shop. But maybe she won’t be as alone as she thinks, because there may be someone who wants to make plans that include Tamako.

Time is running out, and as the days count down before he leaves for university, Mochizo Ooji must find a way to overcome his shyness and confess his feelings. As two young people walk alone on diverging paths, what will it take for them to find each other?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language mix, both of which are encoded in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. While the film is one that is pretty much all about the dialogue and there’s not any real action to be had, the lossless nature of it definitely helps it out overall by coming across warmer and fuller – especially with the music. For the majority of it, though, it’s all about the dialogue and slice of life sounds that populates the show and the mix comes across well here. There’s some decent placement at times with the dialogue and even a little bit of depth within some of the market scenes, but overall it’s not a mix that has a lot of hard work to do. The show pretty much comes across cleanly and clearly without any problems and the end result is one that makes for a decent mix that fits the material well.

Originally in theaters in 2014, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the project works a look and design that closely mirrors the strong looking TV series design but ups it just a bit to give it a proper theatrical level without going too far with it. There’s a good bit of detail to be had, colors are very solid throughout and the palette used definitely has some great life to it as well as some subtler approaches at times. Kyoto Animation does a lot with the fluidity of its animation and you can see that here well enough in just the simple movements, notably with how Tamako moves (or flails) at times, and overall we get a good, clean transfer that definitely has a great look and clarity to it overall.

The packaging for this release is presented a standard sized Blu-ray case that has both discs against the interior walls. The front cover works the familiar key visual for the film of the two walking along together under the trees that gives it all the right feelings of youth, but it’s the little nod to the film aspect of it that gives it some extra impact. The back cover provides for more of the flowers across it that we had with the TV series cover design with a soft but appropriate mix of colors in the background and we get a decent look at a few shots from the film across it. The premise is well covered in the middle in an easy to read form while the discs episodes and extras are also laid out well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is pretty nice and again plays for the teenage girl vision that a lot of people have – and a lot of girls are like. The layout is split in half where the right side has the key visual piece to it that has the colors working an even more layered and richer tone to it. The left side goes for the menu navigation where it has more of the dreamlike aspects from the back cover with the flowers, just writ larger, that adds a great bit of atmosphere and mood to the piece. The navigation is simple and straightforward enough, language selection is a breeze and the extras are easy to access as well.

The extras for this release are a bit minimal but expected when you get down to it. We do get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences to the work as well as the original promotional video. The big extra to delight fans is the six-minute bonus OVA that involves Dera on the southern islands where those characters ended up after the TV series. It’s welcome to reconnect with them a bit but it also reminded me why they should not have been in the film and it was right to keep it to just Tamako and Mochizo.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the fun of the TV series that Kyoto Animation produced in the winter 2013 season, a feature film landed in the spring of 2014. This is what provides the closure, and I use that really sparingly here, to the show itself. I had enjoyed the TV series the couple of times I’d seen it, first on DVD and then as a bilingual Blu-ray release, but they’re not really required for this film. What we get here continues things from the same creative team with director Naoko Yamada and writer Reiko Yoshida, so it has a good flow to it and you’ll get more if you saw the series but it’s also designed to be pretty accessible to new viewers as well. That’s something that a lot of projects tends to forget.

The focus of the film gives us our two leads in Tamako and Mochizo as they’re continuing on with their lives since the others left. There’s some fun with friends from time to time but with both kids hitting the eighteen mark or so and the end of the high school period coming up, there’s an undercurrent of tension that’s injected into it. Tamako is trying to do her best to make things work at her family mochi shop with creative ideas but they’re running afoul of her father who is keeping her pretty under control in this area. For Mochizo, he’s getting things together for his future that’s going to take him to Tokyo, something that he hasn’t told Tamako about yet. You know it’s going to be a problem but that’s because there’s so much unspoken between the two that’s obviously but hasn’t come together in a clean way yet.

The film dances around this for a good half or so of it, allowing us time to enjoy some of the flashbacks and nostalgia-like elements of the childhood relationship that has grown as they’ve grown into teenagers. There’s no referencing to things that happened in the TV series in a lot of ways as they’re just going through their days now and what’s to come. But the further along we go the more we see the tension that Mochizo is dealing with and how it’s really getting to him. He knows he has to tell Tamako and his mother makes that clear as well, but it’s not an easy thing. Particularly since when he does do it he ties it to the reveal/confirmation/obviousness that he’s in love with her and has been for a long time. That sends her into a tailspin for the remainder of the film where she’s trying to suss out her feelings a bit and taking in all that their mutual friends bring to their view of it as well.

The problem for me is that where the film gets interesting is pretty much the last minute or two of it, but this is a common problem in anime when it comes to relationships. Particularly of the teenage segment, top to bottom. There’s so much focus on the will they or won’t they that the really interesting material in how they handle what happens afterward is ignored. And this is a critical area, particularly for people that watch these shows but nothing else outside of anime or manga related properties, and miss out on what’s there. Tamako Love Story reveals the love that exists here, which we knew from the TV series, and ends just as we finally get both characters on the same page. It rips the viewer away from where the real heart and meaning of it will be and instead essentially plays at greeting card level feelings that are nice in the moment but rarely make any impact beyond that moment.

In Summary:
Tamako Love Story is a welcome epilogue to the TV series Tamako Market and gives us a look at where the two leads end up and some of their struggles along the way. Kyoto Animation continues to delight me with what they put together in their shows in terms of visual design and quality of animation and this project is no exception. It’s appealing from start to finish and delivers in all the right ways there. The story is one that feels largely interchangeable with too many other anime films that deal with this kind of story and characters. I wanted something with more weight and meaning to it but was once again denied that kind of story satisfaction. There are fun bits to be had throughout and I definitely enjoyed the bonus short with Dera and that will overall make it a welcome addition to any fan that enjoyed Tamako Market.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promo Video; Derachan of the Southern Islands, Clean Opening and Closing Animations

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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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