Last week did a nice job of setting up the conclusion of Wakana’s arc, and honestly, I really couldn’t have asked for much more from this episode than it delivered. There are a couple of lingering frustrations for me (whose nature will surprise no one) but on balance this really worked. Because Tari Tari is a show that relies on gentle humor and wistful tone far more than real drama, an overly theatrical episode like the one Kokoro Connect staged yesterday just wouldn’t have worked. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem – the subject matter of the arc packs plenty of emotional punch without needing a lot of embellishment, and it was wrapped up in dignified and understated fashion.
What I liked this week far outweighed what I didn’t, starting with the fact that there was no artificial drama used to force some kind of grand revelatory ending. Dora was back home safe and sound when the storm ended, but Wakana had a little cold – no big deal. That cold gave her some free time to think about what had happened with her mother, and the impact it was having on her now. Rather than one moment of insight that changed everything, it was simply the process of being alive that gave her the perspective she needed to move on with her life. It was appropriate (and perhaps not coincidental) that this arc aired around the time of Obon, because it delivered a fitting message – be grateful to your ancestors for all that they gave you, and take joy from the fact that you’re alive.
Another nice element of the way this played out was that everyone was involved in helping Wakana get through her dark time. Konatsu was her usual baka self, but her clumsy concern and accidental wisdom managed to reconnect Wakana to the world a little. Sawa – seemingly the sunniest and happiest of the group – shared her passion for horses and her belief in pursuing her dreams, and her mother shared the photo of Mahiru and herself, and a cassette of them singing together in high school. And Wien and Taichi managed to get a smile and even a laugh out of her with their amateurish attempts at training – and in doing so, forced Wakana to recall (and use) a method Mahiru had used with her.
As it should be, though, the most important person helping Wakana deal with her crisis was her father, Keisuke. He was a model of wise parenting all throughout the entire event, keeping his distance and letting his daughter work through her grief in her own way and at her own time, while letting her know he was always available to talk. When she asked him questions directly, he answered – even, most painfully, the question of why Mahiru never told Wakana of her illness. He picked the perfect moment to finally share the half-written song Mahiru had begun, and best of all he discreetly prevented Wakana from doing something she would have forever regretted by throwing away her mother’s piano and so many memories of their time together. That was a star turn by Dad there in every respect.
It’s also important that Tari Tari didn’t abandon the sly humor that’s been a trademark as it moved into somewhat more serious territory. There were several of the oddly funny moments that have peppered the series so far, such as Konatsu’s “I wonder if anyone can tell I’m not wearing a bra” (nothing to worry about, there) and Wakana’s answer when Wien asked what he and Taichi most needed to progress as singers – “Common sense?” That’s not to mention the note Wakana left her Dad telling him his breakfast was in the microwave – which he opened to find a loaf of bread. Humor is never more needed than when times are hard, and it just wouldn’t have felt like Tari Tari without moments like that. We were also treated to tastefully emotional ED montage over the choir club singing Mahiiru’s song – the first time all five of them sang together.
I can’t help but wonder where the show goes from here. 6 episodes of 13 have been completed, and we’ve had a three-episode arc about Konatsu, and about Wakana. The math obviously doesn’t add up for everyone to have an arc of their own, and – sadly – there’s really no evidence that the series intends to use Taichi and Wien as anything more than comic relief and plot drivers. If that sounds familiar, it should – and as much as I like this show (a lot) it does frustrate me that it could be even better if it would take the bold step of treating teenage boys as if they were as complicated and worthwhile subjects as the girls. I suppose the most likely scenario now is an arc focused on Sawa, with the remainder of the series giving us a kind of super-story that ties everything together (including the Vice-principal’s backstory). Hopefully Tari Tari will surprise me and actually give all three of it’s thus-far supporting “leads” a chance to be the extended center of attention – but to be honest, I think that’s a long shot.
ED3: “Melody of the Heart” by Shirahama hill high school choir club