What’s this – could there finally be a little romance creeping into our chaste Tari Tari at last, so close to the end of all things?
After the melodramatic hyperventilations of another much-discussed high-school series this weekend, the feckless charm of Tari Tari made for an especially refreshing break. This series certainly isn’t doing anything new – the themes and plot twists aren’t even cliché to the world of anime, they’re more generically cliché than that – but the complete lack of guile and pretense has pretty much won me over. It’s not a series I love and it’s not a life-changer – in fact, I’m not even sure I’m going to remember it much once it’s over if I’m going to be honest – but for me it’s just about impossible not to like. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with series that don’t make the audience work too hard to enjoy them.
I generally take notes when I’m watching an anime episode I plan to blog. Sometimes they can get pretty extensive (Jinrui and Eureka Seven AO come to mind) but with this episode of TT, I looked down at the end and noticed I’d barely picked up my pen and was looking at an almost pristine sheet of paper. I was just enjoying the experience, I guess, but not much stood out. Konatsu’s insipid fantasy stage play was sort of funny, in an amusing sort of way (Frog Brothers? That sounds about right, from the writing staff) and I quite enjoyed the “Flashdance” montage of all the kids hard at work on their respective jobs, but apart from one scene I’ll discuss in a minute there really wasn’t much that jumped out. Maybe that’s because Tari Tari (and this is a good thing, mostly) is a series that paints in primary colors. There generally isn’t a whole lot of subtlety here, and not much left to interpretation – there certainly wasn’t much this episode. There have been eps where that wasn’t wholly true, but not many.
Really, as much as I enjoyed the episode only one scene really jumped off the screen, and that was when Taichi went to sneak pictures of Sawa to give to his friend in the Art Club in exchange for taking over the background design for the play. I never thought noble-hearted Taichi would actually do it (he didn’t) but this was a really nicely framed moment, with Taichi sneaking into the doorway and watching Sawa dancing to Wakana’s unfinished song (which was just faintly audible to us) on earbuds. I liked the quick cuts between them as he grew progressively more entranced by what he was seeing, developing a healthy blush, before the epic moment when Sawa did a backflip (slow motion well used) and gave him quite an unintended show. Now if you apply the Chekov’s Gun theory to romance – call it “Chekov’s Blush” – perhaps there might be a hint of something between the two of them in the final two episodes. The show has resisted the temptation to dabble in this area as almost every other school-life show does, but they are teenagers after all…
Mostly, though, the episode contented itself with fly-on-the-wall observation on two fronts, the kids getting ready for the culture festival and the Principal lowering the boom on the staff and parents that the school was going to close. Wien naturally threw himself into the props work with gusto, proving himself quite adept at it, but Taichi was truly as execrable at drawing as he protested he was (as a completely inept visual artist myself, I sympathize). Mostly, though, the focus of observation was on Wakana finally committing herself wholeheartedly to finishing her mother’s song, having fun at it as Shiho-san suggested. That’s been the one element that’s provided a spine and some emotional weight to the overall story, so it was no surprise to see it playing a crucial role in the concluding arc of the series.
Sadly, it doesn’t look as if the song and Konatsu’s silly play will be performed at the culture fest, which has been cancelled (which seems needlessly cruel) – all part of the Chairman’s plan to raze the school and build a “combined apartment block for wealthy retirees”. There’s actually a valid social commentary at work here, as Japan’s population is aging rapidly with the birth rate having been extremely low for many years – schools aren’t so profitable when their enrollment continues to drop. So we have a pretty classic scenario building here, a bunch of plucky kids banding together to save their school from greedy one-perencters – but just like HanaIro (forgive me for bringing that show up this close to the end, when I’ve resisted for months) I smell a bittersweet ending on the offing. However the series chooses to wrap things up, based on past performance I have a good deal of faith that it won’t take itself too seriously or become sanctimonious in the process, and that the ending will have enough light-hearted charm to provide a suitable coda.