Turns out “Tari Tari” was Japanese for “That was better than I expected”.
OP: “Dreamer” by AiRI
It always seemed odd that a premise so seemingly derivative as this one was the only original (not an adaptation or sequel) series of the season. Formula is definitely the formula this season (not uncommon in summer anime) and truth be told, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot in Tari Tari that sets it apart from its prototype. We also have the entire operation (direction, composition, storyboard, OP and ED) in the hands of one man, Hashimoto Masakazu, whose résumé doesn’t offer up much to go on in terms of style or substance. Then again, we also have P.A. Works, a studio that generally produces anime that look fantastic, and whose overall track record is pretty good in terms of quality.
So considering how predictable this looked, it was a surprisingly hard series to get a handle on. And after the first episode I can say that some things don’t surprise at all – it’s very much a generic premise, and looks beautiful – and some do, namely that the writing is quite snappy and even offers a bit of an edge at times. While the premiere was relatively low-key, it did offer a few good laughs and managed to hook me into the plot, at least a little. There are a few small tweaks to the boilerplate setup – we do have a couple of boys involved in the group at the heart of the series, though at this point it’s hard to tell if they’re going to be real characters or are simply there to placate those viewers who – like me – are completely burned out on the girls@school premise.
If I’m to pick one member of the ensemble who’s the “star”, it would have to be Miyamoto Konatsu (Seto Asami, Chihaya herself). She’s the one who drives the action anyway, as a frustrated singer who screwed up on stage as a 2nd-year and quits the official school choir in frustration because the Vice-Principal in charge (Tanaka Atsuko) refuses to let her do more than flip pages for the pianist. Battling for top billing is Sakai Wakana (Takagaki Ayahi – who, ironically, played young Taichi in Chihayafuru) a talented singer who refuses to sing, and the daughter of a florist. There’s also Miyamoto’s BFF Okita Sawa (Hayami Saori), who’s in the archery club. And in the interest of equal time for Y-chromosomes we have Tanaka Taichi (Shimazaki Nobunaga, who was great as Kaito in Ano Natsu), the only member of the Badminton Club (and possibly Miyamoto’s osananajimi – Chihaya and Taichi?), and Wien (Hanae Natsuki in a debut performance) a transfer student just moved back from Vienna (not sure what his real name is) and a dead ringer for Tarou from Ghost Hound.
The gist of the plot looks pretty straightforward – Miyamoto questing to put together a new Chorale Club from scratch and score points for justice and decency in the process. I confess a great feeling of nostalgia in watching a Seto Asami character try and find five members for a new club, and she’s basically playing Chihaya here. We pretty much know who the five members are going to be, though the show does take the time to show Miyamoto blackmailing her younger brother Makoto (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, very busy this season) into joining – but as he’s not in any of the promo art I doubt he’s going to stick. Everyone will battle with their personal demons and find the courage to stand proudly on stage, united by the love of music (and fear of Miyamoto). In terms of plot, I really don’t think we’re going to see a lot of surprises here.
That said, I enjoyed the premiere somewhat more than I expected. Say what you will about the very cute character designs, but paired with the beautiful scenery (average by P.A. standards, spectacular by most others) they make this a very comforting and easy show to look at. The cast is solid, with Hanae-san making a very strong first impression as Wien. I enjoyed the little touches such as the song the choir is working on being “Reflectier” from True Tears (P.A. Works’ creative high point), and also Wien’s hilariously inaccurate grasp of Japanese customs (we clap twice at a Shrine, Lad, not when thanking a friend) – I suspect the book he’s working from was from the same publisher as the Hungarian-English dictionary in “Monty Python”. There are other funny moments – Sakai’s Dad planting her bouquet in the garden – and some sharp-edged ones, like Miyamoto’s fantasy of ripping the V.P. a new one. And no, I didn’t think of HanaIro once the episode hit its stride – the resemblance seems to be mostly a superficial one.
It’s small things like that which turn a boring and played-out plot into a series with real character, and there’s reason to hope there’ll be enough of them to keep Tari Tari (P.A. Works and “TT” – hmm…). And when a character like kindly and pregnant Ogawa-sensei (Kimura Akiko) says “I hope they don’t have a weird chemical reaction and explode” when classic genki girl Miyamoto goes off to recruit classic angry girl Sawa, that tells me that Hashimoto-sensei gets the fact that he’s dealing with very familiar themes here, and understands the need to poke some fun at them. I take my cue from the ED – the eye is drawn to smiling Miyamoto and Okita in the school courtyard as they tap their feet to music only they can hear, but I’m watching the girl in the distance, staring at them as if they’re crazy. Maybe I’m projecting too much of my own hopes into this, but this just might be a series that’s more interested in mocking clichés than perpetuating them.
ED: “Shiokaze no Harmony” by Shirahamazaka High School Chorus Club