Let’s not kid ourselves – that was an incredibly silly episode. The only thing it might’ve had more of than silliness was cheesiness – it put Paris to shame in the fromage department. Just as there weren’t many shows that could have pulled off the episode Hyouka did last week and few would even have tried, I think the same could be said about this episode of TT. In most cases this would have been a disaster, but the tone of this show is such that five teenagers breaking out into song in full super sentai costumes after a chase scene actually feels like something that could almost happen. And given the excesses the episode went to, it’s no surprise that Wien was once again close to the center of action – this sort of thing is right in his strike zone.
There really aren’t many surprises with Tari Tari, and I think that’s actually one of its top selling points. This is the sort of show people watch to see comfortable familiarity executed well, and the fact that it has a really good heart is what seals the deal. The ground covered by the final three episodes is going to be familiar, and it’s been pretty much telegraphed for most of the series. The Choir Club’s “Hey kids – let’s put on a show at the White Festival!”. Wakana struggling to finish writing the song her mother promised to finish with her in time for the show. Wakana and the Vice-principal (in deference to Mahiro I’ll call her “Nao-san”) coming together over Mahiru’s memory, and Nao finding her heart as she sees more and more of Mahiru in her daughter. The Chairman’s sleazy plan for the school, with Nao eventually leading the opposition. And a few moments squeezed in for Sawa’s horse problem, Taichi’s badminton and certainly, for Wien to live out his hero fantasies. None of that will be surprising and none of it will be thematically original, but the show wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t follow that path.
As for what went on in the episode this week, it was basically a sandwich – teenaged super sentai antics on either side of some drama involving Wakana and Nao-san. While the end sequence was flashier, I actually enjoyed the first scenes with the “West Shopping District Westshoprangers!” the best. It felt more organic and funny (“beta carotene shower!”) without trying too hard to be – very much like how four very embarrassed kids and one enthusiastic one putting on a show for the townsfolk might actually look. Wien might not be a complicated boy, but he’s definitely genuine – one of the most “true to himself” characters this season, and it’s undeniably fun to see him eat the whole act for lunch and still have room for dessert. As you’d expect it’s the extroverted Konatsu that overcomes her fear first and joins the fray as “Curry Yellow”, with the others straggling in behind – all to do battle with three middle-aged shopkeepers (one of whom slips a disc during the “fight”). This was innocent, completely un-self conscious fun – probably a good acid test of whether this is the show for you or now. I also loved seeing Shiho-san fill in for the fallen villain, and finally give the Shoprangers a foe worth fighting (though I was disappointed she didn’t trot out her special move, “ass-slap attack”).
The meat in the sandwich was the interaction between Wakana and Nao-san, who was so out of it when she approved the Choir Club’s afterschool jobs that she didn’t even remember having done so. I thought Wakana calling her “unprofessional” for trying to go back on her word was harsh but right on the money, and it was no surprise that it was immediately afterwards that she broke down and asked Nao-san about the song on the cassette tape. This has all been telegraphed since the series started but it’s nice to see it fleshed out: Nao is obviously carrying some deep regrets over not doing more for Mahiru while she was alive, and for not following through on Mahiru’s implied request to look after her daughter, both musically and generally, in school. She gives her only one nugget of advice – that writing songs is supposed to be fun, not work – but this being Tari Tari, I’m sure that’ll be enough to get our main character over the hump.
As for the last bit, with Wien chasing down the dude who snatched Konatsu’s bag – on foot while the perp was on a bike – that was a lot to ask, even for me, even with Tari Tari. I guess it was when the bleeding and bruised Wien broke into the Gambaraijer theme song, soon to be joined by the others as a crowd gathered, that I sort of let the stupid wash over me and tossed “suspension of disbelief” out the window. At that point we achieved a sort of meta moment, as the show degenerated into a flat-out homage to the super sentai genre, complete with a victory pose framed by the setting sun. And Wien is so damn sincere that he almost makes the whole shooting match believable. I’d really like to see his story get a grounding in reality to match this fantastical apotheosis, and for him to actually be able to deliver those letters to Jan.