As much as I enjoy the comfortable familiarity of Tari Tari, there are times I wish it would surprise me a little more. But then, “to thine own self be true”…
I was really hoping TT wasn’t going to go in the direction it always seemed most likely to go after the Wakana arc concluded – straight into a three episode story about Sawa. In the first place that was the eminently predictable choice, and one that would likely ensure that the male characters would never receive any real development to boot. As well, I’m really not crazy about Sawa as a character, truth be told. I don’t dislike her but I didn’t find her peerless perfection over the first six eps all that interesting, and I don’t like her much better as a moody princess either, based on the early returns. Building a drama around her feels a little forced to me – there’s a clockwork quality to it, as if putting the check-mark in the right place was the main goal.
But then, Tari Tari really isn’t about breaking the mold or even new ground – it’s about giving us something familiar and trying to package it attractively. So far it’s done a very good job with that – largely thanks to its quirky sense of humor and the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. So there was never any real reason to hope the series wouldn’t immediately go exactly where it has, into a dramatic arc about Sawa – and if it was going to do so, the conflict between she and her father over her future was where all the foreshadowing has been so that was the logical landing point. And I’m sure it’ll be fine, though I didn’t find this episode to be one of the more compelling the show has managed to date.
Apart from the shift to Sawa as the dramatic center, this episode actually delivered quite a bit of the same. Wien is still struggling with his Japanese, and the subject of some fairly mean-spirited trickery by the girls, who convince him via the art of Japanese wordplay that the culture festival is actually a time when the white rhino locked in the school basement is released. He also gets his usual pre-open and very brief in-episode development tease, this time a letter he’s writing to “Yang” where he expresses his frustration at having no idea what he wants to do (another commonality with Wakana). Taichi remains almost completely vestigial, and the girls generally ignore both the males when they aren’t teasing or insulting them. Konatsu is back to plotting ways to outsmart the Vice-principal, this time in getting the Choir Club on the main stage for the culture festival, and generally acting the buffoon.
Probably the best part of the episode for me, though it was very brief, was Wakana’s interaction with her father. This has become the most interesting and relatable relationship in the series, and their quiet moments of affectionate banter are quite charming and believable. I love the way he makes her say “Please, dearest Father” when she wants him to cook the rice, and the way he makes her a love-love bento that embarrasses her in front of Konatsu. We also have what I suspect might be the final arc of the series set up, as the Chairman is concocting some sort of scheme that he’s intimidating Principal Colonel Sanders to cooperate with (perhaps Miss V-P will end up siding with the good guys in a heroic fight against whatever the chairman has up his sleeve).
As to the Sawa drama which is the main focus of the ep, it’s pretty basic stuff. Her father thinks her dream of pursuing horsemanship as a career is frivolous, and tells her so quite boorishly. She tells him she hates him and that he should go bald, and her Bohemian Mom tries to keep the peace. She also appears to be starving herself – possibly with the intent of making herself a more desirable candidate to an equestrian academy she’s applied to but seems to have rejected her (Konatsu naturally gets this completely wrong, imagining she’s been rejected by a married older love interest with kids) and it’s here that Taichi has his one relevant moment of the ep. As an athlete he recognizes the signs she’s trying to lose weight quickly and awkwardly but sincerely tries to help and receives nothing but abuse for it from Konatsu and Wakana.
In the end, distracted and depressed, Sawa winds up falling off her horse during archery practice and apparently being knocked out cold. Not much of a cliffhanger given that we’re only at episode 7, but there you go. I don’t see any way this story is going to be as gripping as Wakana’s or as fun as Konatsu’s – it seems to be in an awkward place of “too serious to be fun and not serious enough to be dramatic” – but perhaps the next two eps (and Sawa) will surprise me. In the meantime Wakana has officially joined the Baka Brigade in the ED, the surest proof yet that she’s clearly part of the group now, both officially and spiritually.