More likely, I think, is an inspiring outlaw festival that gives everyone one last chance to sing and promise never to forget each other, followed by the school closing but not before the evil Chairman is humiliated in some way. We could also see something last-minute with Wien’s friend Jan (could he show up for the festival? Nah…) and we’re certain to see a big finish surrounding Nao-san and Wakana. And what of Taichi and Sawa – will we get a little open-ended romantic finish in that rare school series that’s resolutely avoided it so far?
If you were looking for surprises, you were looking in the wrong place. And honestly, I’m well and truly fine with that – I didn’t expect surprises from this series when it started, and I certainly wasn’t expecting them by the end. Tari Tari knows the rules and it plays by them, no questions asked. What we got was eerily close to what was expected, right down to the humiliation of the Chairman – though literally getting pantsed in front of the kids and his subordinates was a bit more literal than even I might have planned on. They didn’t miss a trick with this guy, right down to having him light up a butt in front of the students as he was stepping on their dreams one last time. Booo! Hisssss!
Of course, if one were to nit-pick the whole business with the White Festival was really a manufactured conflict – there was really no need for the festival to be cancelled except to give the Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club one last chance to be plucky, and to really paint the Chairman and his icky band of 1%-ers as evil. But it was still fun, and one of the reasons is that this final episode – like the ones that immediately preceded it – wasn’t overwrought with maudlin emotion and didn’t take itself too seriously. The kids were very matter-of-fact about the whole situation, sardonically amused even, right to the end, and that confrontation at the school gate. Probably the most dramatic moment came when Principal Ikezaki finally broke down from the shame of what he was doing and confronted the Chairman. In terms of the club themselves, there were no tears until the departure of Sawa, and that’s hardly an overreach.
So we had our White Festival, and all the boxes were checked off. The rain stopped, the gates were locked, we had our confrontation, and Nao-san stepped up to save the day. Everyone showed up, even Konatsu’s brother and the kids from the hero show in the shopping district, and the play was amusingly awful (though Wakana’s song was fine). And nothing, ultimately, was changed – the school wasn’t saved, and the club members were left with a future that meant going their own way. The wrinkle was Sawa’s decision to go overseas to try and learn to be a jockey in a country where a few extra pounds might be more acceptable, which accelerated the schedule of farewells a little. I quite like the way they handled the issue of Taichi and Sawa’s relationship – Tari Tari wasn’t a romance show and didn’t suddenly become one. There was a scene at the airport as the choir sang over the dialogue, but it was apparent what was happening – and the whole thing was refreshingly low-key. The odds are Taichi and Sawa never see each other again, but at least he said what he wanted to say.
So where do we leave things? Poor Principal Ikezaki has presumably kissed his retirement package goodbye. Taichi got his badminton scholarship, and Konatsu appears to have been invited to join some sort of singing club at her university. Wien has finally gotten his letter from Jan, and gone back to Vienna where they have an uber-moe reunion. Sawa is pursuing her dream either in the US or Britain, presumably. And Wakana has declared to Nao-san that she’ll be pursuing her dream of music after all, and asked if she can continue to look to Nao as a mentor in the future – thus allowed Nao-san to fulfill the deathbed request Mahiru made, at long last. All the boxes checked off, just like you’d expect. It seems fitting that things would end with Wakana coming home to her Dad, since apart from a brief feint towards Konatsu early on it’s been clear that she was first among equals in this cast.
Looking back at Tari Tari as a whole, I think it’s relevant to ask whether an anime in under any obligation to have any sort of larger purpose. Does a series have to have a point, or a meaning it’s trying to convey, or something new it’s intent on trying? Or is it enough for it simply to exist, and try to be entertaining? If you believe the latter I think this show has a lot to recommend it. I certainly don’t think Tari Tari is an essential anime in any way, and I don’t think it changed the medium or even seems likely to have a lasting impact. But still – it was a good show. Nothing more or less than that, just good – fun, and self-deprecating, and pretty to look at, and well-acted with a lovely soundtrack. It made me laugh sometimes and smile most of the time and even almost cry once (the end of the Wakana arc) and that’s a hell of a lot more than many series I’ve watched all the way to the end. TT didn’t really do anything to make me love it, but it was pretty tough not to like it.
If there’s anything notable that Tari Tari accomplished, it was maintaining its balance for almost all of its run. I think it perched right on the edge between a slice-of-life series and a plot-driven one, lacking a strong narrative spine but still offering traditional conflict/resolution structure and character development. It was five or six little mini-series with the same cast, really, and given the breezy nature of the show that probably worked to its benefit. A real opportunity was wasted by reducing Taichi and Wien to bit players for two-thirds of the series, because it was a better show when they were involved – Wien especially brought a lot of heart and good-natured humor to the final arcs.
Faintly praising a show for not trying to do too much might seem like damning it, but I think knowing what it was – and wasn’t – was critical to making Tari Tari successful. It wasn’t the flashiest horse in the PA Works stable but it still featured more than its share of the studio’s trademark gorgeous backgrounds. With only a couple of missteps (mostly in the Sawa mini-arc) overdramatic moments were sensibly avoided, left to shows for whom drama is the natural habitat. Tari Tari certainly lacked the Bohemian brilliance of Hyouka or the ambitious psychoanalytical melodrama of Kokoro Connect, but it was comfortable in its own skin, and that gave it real authenticity. Writer/director Masakazu Hashimoto did pretty well for his first time with creative control, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing if he matures as a writer enough to reach for a little more next time.