Tari Tari First Impressions
July 6, 2012 Leave a comment
Tari Tari is a new series that is as much about the joys of friendship and how music can create links and bonds where you thought it impossible as it is about the feelings of loss. While many other similar series often focus on the first or second years of high school where everyone is striving to improve in club activities as well as making lasting friendship, Tari Tari is set during the final months of this particular group of high schoolers third year. It takes place in and around Enoshima, a city that should be known to anyone who watched Tsuritama, although there are probably less aliens this time around. While Tari Tari appears to focus on a girl named Sakai Wakana, it is a series about a group of five high schoolers who are brought together by chance and form a new music ensemble during their final summer of high school.
What is so fascinating is how the characters differ from each other, they are not bland or generic, but rather have their own unique differences and characterisations that help to make each one distinctive. Sakai Wakana appears to have recently lost her mother and as such has to focus on her studies while also looking after her father and the household chores. What is clear is that having no mother, or more accurately loosing her mother has had a tremendous effect on her personality and how she approaches life and those around her. We see for a brief moment Wakana playing with her mother when she was very young during the short introduction, her cheery face is a far cry from the stoic, almost ice-cold appearance that we see on her as a high schooler.
Her inability, or perhaps unwillingness to interact with her classmates in part appears to come from having recently moved, but she also gives the impression of not wanting to get close to anyone, lest they hurt her once again. She has therefore deliberately shut off her heart and mind from those around her, instead keeping her distance until graduation and perhaps university. The one thing that appears to tie her to her other and will likely tie her to the other people in this story is her love for music. This may not appear to be clear during the first episode, but it is obvious from her sharp reactions when Miyamoto Konatsu mentions music and singing that this is something that means a lot to her. It is clear that music was something that tied to her to her mother and that by dying there was this feeling of loosing an incredibly important connection, thus Wakana appears to have given up on music for good.
Miyamoto Konatsu on the other hand is an energetic girl, but one who appears to have lost confidence in herself and feels that she has not achieved anything during her time at school. She loves music but is unable to truly express this and be part of the choir club since she appears to have made a mess or a recent recital. The Vice Principle who is also in charge of this club has clear goals in mind, setting her sights on a prestigious recital that the club will taking part in. it is clear that to the Vice Principle (we have no name as yet) only certain kinds of music are worth looking at and that certain people are just not meant to sing or play music no matter how much they love it. This is an old-fashioned opinion and one that Konatsu clearly rejects. She feels unfulfilled as if her high school life has amounted to nothing; in a conversation with Okita Sawa the third main female lead we see how she is already looking ahead to college and a job afterwards. To her high school is the only time when you can truly enjoy yourself unrestrained by the pressures and problems of society, but her high school life is in some respects empty, as if she has never truly accomplished anything. Her love for music is the thing that keeps her going and is clearly pushing her to find the thing that she is missing during their final summer as high school students.
The most interesting character so far however has been Wein, a returning student who has spent twelve years living in Australia. While his character is partly there for comic effect with his incredibly old fashioned language along with his mannerisms and ways of addressing people that could have come from an old samurai film. While such characteristics are exaggerated, it is a fascinating view into the Japanese attitude towards ‘returnees’ and how they are viewed within society. While they may have Japanese nationality, they are not considered to be truly Japanese, having little understanding of the customs, mannerisms and social niceties that are considered essential within Japanese society. Wein’s curious use of old fashioned Japanese, along with his overly formal greeting complete with ‘dogeza’ are all sincere but show us how little he truly knows of Japan as a country.
This is obviously not his fault as he has spent the majority of his childhood life in Australia a very different country and society to Japan. He seems to be a sincere character, someone who is trying his best to understand and learn about the country that he was born in, but oddly is now a stranger. He appears to treat as a foreigner, or perhaps a simple oddity – seeing a Japanese high schooler diligently taking notes about the differences between ‘ane’ and ‘ani’, along with not understanding how to eat Ramen. He is not shunned, but neither is he truly understood and in a way we can see him being treat quite warily as if he were a dangerous stranger. Similar attitudes are found within Japan, and especially the Japanese government where returnees are considered to need a true Japanese education in order to perhaps push out the potentially dangerous and disruptive attitudes and ideas that they have learned in other countries.
What makes Wein coming to this small school so interesting is that for the most part returnees go to special international or returnee schools where they can learn how to be Japanese while also mixing with others in similar situations. It will be particularly fascinating to see how he fits in with Konatsu, Sawa, Wakana and finally Taichi when they finally set up this club. It is clear that they are all unique and a little strange in their own way, however, by being together they should be able to find what they either felt they lacked, or something else before they graduate from high school. In particular the relationships that Wakana will clearly develop look to be essential for her to overcome her mothers death.
What fascinates me about this series after the first episode is the potential it has, we have a cast of distinctive, but also brilliant characters who appear to be complete opposites of each other, but are nevertheless drawn together. There is also the setting, with a few short months between the start of the series and these characters graduation from high school. Such a setting is rarely used and gives you the impression of an end to something, as if these ‘magical’ years that are supposed to be Japanese high school are simply a fleeting moment in their lives. What these characters may learn then is that they can enjoy themselves and create something even when they feel there is no point in such an activity. I particularly look forward to seeing how Wakana changes and grows as the series unfolds; she appears to be the one who will benefit most from this new group of friends and their ensemble club. At least it looks like we are getting another excellent slice-of-life anime from P.A. works the studio behind Hanasaku Iroha one of my favourite series of last year.