Number of Episodes: 13
Production Company: P.A. Works
This anime is licensed for DVD by Sentai Filmworks.
Brief Overview: Konatsu quit the choir club because, due to a humiliating incident the year before, their advisor wouldn't allow her to sing. Instead, she decides to create her own choral club by pulling in favors and recruiting her friends.
Episode 1 Summary: Konatsu is an enthusiastic singer who's been relegated to the sidelines as the page-turner for Wakana, the choir club pianist. When she asks to be allowed back into the choir proper, club advisor Takakura-Sensei shuts her down thoroughly. In a fit of anger, Konatsu quits the club and vows to start her own.
The problem is that she needs at least five members to start a new club, and most of her fellow students are already committed to various other clubs and groups. Eventually she decides to go after Wakana, who refuses in a manner which seems overly-dramatic to the situation. Undaunted, Konatsu practices her singing in the park where her classmates happen to see her.
Thoughts: New anime series produced by animation studio P.A. Works are always a bit of a mixed bag, in my opinion. I've found all of their series to be very technically-proficient and good in many other ways, but they all seem to be lacking something that keeps me from forming an emotional connection to the narrative. CANAAN had a lackluster second half which resulted in an unsatisfying conclusion. Angel Beats had an underlying atmosphere which owed too much to otaku tastes. Hanasaku Iroha was only at its best when dealing with the multi-generational central relationship. Don't get me wrong, these are all good, nice-looking series, they just contain minor missteps that have had a negative effect on my impression of them.
Does Tari Tari stand to change that? It's difficult to say at this point. I watched the first episode with my husband, who quipped that Konatsu seemed to be this series' analogue of Aisaka Taiga. While I don't entirely agree with that assessment, I do feel like the series is working with a lot of borrowed elements that may not be immediately obvious. It would be tempting to accuse it of ripping-off K-On!, due to its "little music club that could" story element, but this series' atmosphere seems fundamentally different. What I think is at work here is that so many high school drama series have a similar tone, look and feel nowadays that this feels a little bit like deja vu. Before I had seen some of both, I was consistently mixing this series up with Kokoro Connect. Now that I have watched it, there are bits here and there that remind me a little bit of Hyouka and even Chihayafuru. It's not that these series are direct copies of one-another, but as an effect of their similar settings and emotional tones which fall within the same mood group (like a food group, only moody), their sunset-filled classrooms and more subdued-looking (but still cute!) character designs begin to feel as if they're being drawn from the same point of origin.
That said, the studio does a lot of what it does best in this episode, which is produce frame after frame of delicious scenery porn. The blooming hydrangeas, the seaside vistas, the old-style Japanese homes, these all figure prominently despite most of the actual action taking place at the characters' school. It should be no surprise that every P.A. Works series I've watched to its conclusion has been tolerable in part because I just can't get enough of the visual detail. It's in this one area that I often allow myself to indulge in a bit of shallowness.
It's the characters about which I'm not quite as sure. I get a clear sense from the first episode that Konatsu has been suffering through some sort of real anxiety; while her journey of addressing this isn't covered in the first episode, her conversation with Takakura-Sensei suggests that it's something she's been working on since the big school recital last year. I'm glad that, whatever the issue was or is, it doesn't seem as if it's been "solved" by some convenient, arbitrary plot device. Some of the other characters are going to require a bit more development to really "work," though. I have the sneakiest of suspicions that Wakana is suffering from "dead mom syndrome," which is a very cheap plot device that tends to reduce the mothers in question to holy figures rather than real people. I'm not quite sure how long I'll be able to put up with gags about Austrian student Atsuhiro's misunderstanding of Japanese culture, though I will admit that his errors throughout the episode did manage to keep from being mean-spirited, which was nice. Honestly, though, I'm frustrated with Takakura-Sensei, who is completely cartoonish in her thwarting of Konatsu's goals. She comes off as angry and unreasonable, blaming a student for one mistake that happened a year prior to the beginning of the series, which I find infuriating. Of all the characters, I would really love to see her attitude justified in some way, and that really hasn't happened as of yet. Luckily, there are thirteen episodes within which the character issues can be addressed, so most of these items aren't damning at this point.
One of the big draws of this series seems to be the music, and so far I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of the singing and type of music used. The bonus for me is that much of the music isn't limited to the type of idol-pop that comprises the bulk of insert songs that appear in anime. I'm hopeful that this isn't just a trait of the first episode, but continues throughout the series.
Follow-up Episodes (2-9): Konatsu manages to recruit enough members to form a club, and they begin to prepare a piece for the recital. They encounter another hurdle in that the Vice Principal tries to keep them from singing the song they've chosen, but the group eventually manages to get their way. When they encounter some bureaucracy that prevents their bus from leaving the school, it's up to the few members who arrive to sing their piece as representatives of the group. Later on, after the club has disbanded and reformed, we learn more about the characters' individual situations and the things which are keeping them from performing at their best. In the second half of the series, they decide to enter themselves as an act in the school festival.
I have to admit that I'm a little bit angry with myself. My suspicions about Wakana's mother turned out to be true; she passed away from some sort of unnamed mystery illness that seems to plague many mothers in anime. I find the whole "dead mother" trope to be really frustrating, because there's such a lack of stories in which mothers and daughters are allowed to have a substantial, positive relationship with one-another. Granted, in this case there are at least two or three other mothers or positive female role-models who play substantial roles in the narrative, so this is certainly not the worst case I've ever encountered, but I have a very strong knee-jerk reaction to this sort of thing because it feels manipulative, with the added irritation of being dismissive of what can be a very strong relationship between people. I'm angry with myself, though, because the resolution of Wakana's story arc just about punched me in the gut with strong, unexpected emotions, and try as I might to mitigate that with my perfectly logical argument about why that sort of thing seems like a cheap shot, I wasn't successful. Well played, show. Well played.
The other characters each get their turn to be in the spotlight for a while. Their respective moments of character development are helpful in accentuating the process of the group coming together as a cohesive whole. I should note, however, that the female members receive an unevenly large amount of development in comparison to the boys. I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, it makes it more difficult to connect with the male characters, and they come across as more comical and less important to the plot. On the other hand, there are many, many series in which the opposite is true, and considering that the three girls appear alone on the bulk of the promotional artwork for the series, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise that they're given center stage more often. Those in search of a true ensemble series, though, should be aware that this one has some balance issues.
Takakura-Sensei is finally given enough development (via the memories of the adult characters with whom she was friends in high school) that her sour attitude doesn't seem quite as meaningless as it does at first glance. I'm still waiting for a big emotional breakthrough on her part, because some of her rule-enforcement tactics seem pretty arbitrary and she still comes across as being unfair towards the choral group. I'm guessing (hoping?) that this will play a part in how the final story arc unfolds.
I've gotten a lot more enjoyment out of this series than I would have expected at first, which should be obvious by the fact that I got two-thirds of the way into the series before being able to stop and write about it. It has its problems, but they're by-and-large fairly minor and the emotional, often heartwarming narrative tends to overshadow most of my complaints. Despite dealing with a lot of "parents just don't understand" teenager issues, there's also a heavy emphasis on the characters learning to be happy with their own skills and to discover what path their lives will take after high school, so the whiny material tends to come across as less melodramatic than it might otherwise. I'm curious to see this series through to the end.
- Beautiful background art and moments of excellent character animation make this series very easy on the eyes.
- There's some decent character development contained in some very emotional story arcs.
- I really enjoy the music featured in the show.
- Certain characters aren't developed as completely as others; Takakura-Sensei hasn't yet had the breakthrough that I think she should.
- The "dead mother" trope rears its ugly head, though it's part of an otherwise satisfying story arc.
Recommended? Unlike many other series that I'd place at more of a medium level of overall quality, this one's failings are not a result of being insulting to the audience or containing a lot of offensive content. The show is entertaining and heartwarming in spite of a couple of missteps, and fans who enjoy drama and can put up with a little of what I usually call "high school bull crap" ought to like the series.