“I love photography, I love food, and I love traveling, and to put those three things together would just be the ultimate dream.” —Jamie Chung
It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a Tamayura review; the site’s archives say that the last time there was a Tamayura review was back in July, when the OVA came out. It’s been just a little less than a year since then; announced a month after the OVA was released, Graduation Photo is a four-part film that was shown in theatres, dealing with Fū, Norie, Kaoru and Maon’s final year of high school as they prepare to graduate and pursue their own career paths. The movie’s first part deals with the girls’ return to their final year, and the new members of Fū’s photography club: Takumi Shindou (a first year) and Suzune Maekawa (a second year) join the club, adding a new flair to things now that Kanae’s graduated. They provide a new dynamic to Fū’s club, given that Takumi’s focussed, technical perspective severs as a counterbalance to Fū and Kanae’s approach towards photography: whereas the latter view photography as a means of capturing the emotions of a moment, Takumi takes a more technical approach, believing that skill is able to produce excellent photos. Despite the different perspectives, Takumi and Suzune fit right in with the photography club, and soon, focus turns towards Fū’s contemplations concerning her future career path. Fū decides that her dream career would be one that combines photography with travel, provided that photos have the potential to link people’s hearts together. The first part of the movie also sheds more light on the Tamayura phenomenon, and how the photo of Fū’s father came to be. The final section of this movie deals with Fū learning about Riho’s plans to leave Takehara to open a gallery with one of her friends. Despite being agitated throughout the movie, a final conversation with Riho puts her at ease, and Fū resolves to wholeheartedly follow her career path.
The final instalment to Tamayura is appropriately one that deals with graduation from high school, and the journey that lies ahead. This is a relatively common theme in anime, one that is widely done because audiences can largely relate to the interface between high school and adulthood. However, Tamayura adds an additional facet to this story: it’s been three years since Fū’s moved back to Takehara, and in this town’s peaceful setting, with the support of all her friends, she’s gradually accepted her father’s passing and has learnt to find joy again. This appreciation of all the small things in life, whether it be the play of light on a sunset, the taste of Norie’s cooking, Maon’s stories or Kaoru’s dynamics with her sister and the journey she shares with everyone. With graduation now approaching, Fū’s got a repertoire of accomplishments under her belt, including successfully leading the Photography club as its president, and hosting two exhibitions to Takehara. However, the journey is only just beginning, and the approach of graduation signals the beginning of one journey as the old one draws to a close. Thus, the Graduation Photo movies follow a Fū whose experiences and friends have allowed her to gather the strength to follow the future that she feels is most appropriate for her.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Tamayura‘s OVAs first aired in September 2010, when I was beginning my second year of my undergraduate studies. I found out about the OVAs during the summer of 2011, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve watched them. Compared to the OVAs of five years ago, it’s obvious that Tamayura‘s become more polished in animation quality and fluidity, even during moments of comedy.
- While unrelated to Tamayura‘s theme, the progression of animation quality and character design feels quite fitting: like Fū, the animators were working to find their footing during the OVAs, and having had five years to hone their craft, things simply look and feel a lot better as they improved. Quite similarly, Fū’s growth throughout the series has been a rewarding journey to follow, and in her final year of high school, the photography club gains two new members.
- Takuni is rather more focused about photography and is very familiar with all of the technical aspects; she’s very analytical and desires greatly to learn the secret behind the Tamayura phenomenon, although the Tamayura, small light specks that appear in photos capturing moments of happiness, appear to be supernatural phenomenon, provided that even Fū herself cannot cause them to appear in her photography at will.
- If the first movie is anything to go by, then it appears that each part of the movie is going to deal with a distinct story that meshes in with the entire part, and movie’s overarching storyline. The first movie’s first part illustrates how things are going with the new member’s induction into the Photography Club, and with Takuni’s spirited personality, it appears that this club is one that’s going to participate in more competitions than previously. While it initially feels like this is disrupting how things’ve been done previously, the pacing means that even Takuni yields to the overall atmosphere within Tamayura as the movie progresses.
- Maon, Norie and Kaoru seem to sport slightly different appearances in the last installment in the Tamayura series: while it’s most noticeable with Kaoru and her new hairstyle (to signify change), both Norie and Maon also seem to carry themselves slightly differently, hinting at the subtle changes that accompany being in their final year of high school. These changes seem quite pronounced in-universe, and even Norie notices Kaoru’s lack of retorting to the former’s constant calling of the latter “Kao-tan”.
- Familiar places, such as the Tamayura Café, make a welcome appearance. While there are definite differences with respect to the atmosphere in Graduation Photo, things like Norie’s rivalry with Komachi are still present. Things like these remind viewers of how the old cast interact with one another, and simultaneously illustrate to new audiences the sort of dynamics that one might reasonably expect from the characters within the series.
- Whether Fū herself is aware of it or not, her own journey towards acceptance and moving on, and the photography she’s done, has inspired several people, including Kanae and Komachi, rather similar to how Riho acted as a role model for Fū during the 2010 OVAs. This kind of cycle of inspiration is a part of Tamayura, and the movie appears to be striving towards bringing things around a full circle to act as a final, satisfying send-off for what has become one of the best iyashikei around.
- Fū, her mother and grandmother reminisce about the photo showcased at Maestro’s shop: depicting Fū’s father standing in a field surrounded by Tamayura, Fū’s told that she was initially disappointed with how the photo had turned out, but the photo’s composition itself is quite entrancing. Ultimately, it comes to represent the town’s confidence in Fū’s return, signifying everyone’s faith in waiting for her, and consequently, has a great deal of meaning for Takehara’s denizens.
- Fū’s camera is her most precious treasure, and throughout the entire series, acts as a symbol for her acceptance of the past, making the most of the present and hope for the future. The film means that once an image is captured, all of the attributes in a moments, including the imperfections, are also imbued into the image; this can be seen as illustrating how Fū is able to accept the imperfections, as well as happiness, within a moment, again attesting to her growth after rediscovering her joy for photography.
- Hoboro, Sayomi and Riho share a moment together under Takehara’s sunset. As the more mature characters in Tamayura, they offer Fū and the others advice and support as required, although for the most part, Sayomi’s adventures wind up being a source of dread for everyone: she’s managed to drive her Mazda 5 into a ditch in ~Hitotose~ and gets some air time in ~More Aggressive~. Despite these misadventures and their misgivings when Sayomi proposes such activities, Fū and the others wind up enjoying things nonetheless.
- Kanae graduated during the final episodes of ~More Aggressive~ and is a college student at present, majoring in astronomy. The first movie has an emphasis on what things are like post-secondary, and it appears that everyone’s got their own plans: as per the page quote, Fū’s aiming to be a photographer, Norie aspires to take the culinary arts, Maon wishes to major in literature, and Karou’s somewhat uncertain about what she’ll be looking for.
- Fū, Takumi and Suzune partake in club activities as preparations for the year’s Bamboo festival commence. This is cut short when Takumi and Suzune mention that the overheard discussions about Riho’s plans to leave Takehara, news that agitates Fū. Tamayura excels at presenting moments that evoke emotions in the characters that cannot easily be explained in words, and
- Chihiro and Tomo visit Takehara for the Bamboo festival; the movie brings back all of the characters from the previous seasons and allows them to interact with one another for the first time. We recall that Tomo is rather talkative and loves asking questions, to the point of intimidating those around her. I watched this movie last Thursday, nearly a month since the air date, and by stroke of coincidence, the Red Wagon Diner was on campus; it’s been quite some time since I’ve had their smoked meat hash, a delicious combination of potato covered in Montreal Smoked Meat, onions, mushrooms, peppers and cheese, topped with a pair of sunny-side up eggs and rye bread. The last time I enjoyed this was while reviewing Sora no Method with a cold, and it was just before my supervisor went on sabbatical.
- Tomo seems to get along just fine with Takumi: whereas the former loves asking questions, the latter loves giving answers. I suddenly realise that my posting pattern’s been all over the place as of late, and this is a consequence of my settling into the summer, as research kicks up full-speed. Over the past week, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of the Unreal Engine, and have finally re-implemented most of the features from my Unity model. The next step will be to build a path interpolation mechanism and some prototype signalling pathways to demonstrate the reusability of my methods.
- However, it’s not all business: I also had the opportunity to attend a Nerd Nite in my area, and on Friday, I had dinner at Big T’s BBQ; this year, I decided against visiting Otafest, and instead, decided to celebrate the successful implementation of several key elements of my simulation by having a full rack of St. Louis-style ribs with Maple Bourbon sauce, hush puppies and chili cheese fries. It was delicious, although in that food challenge, the hush puppies defeated me. Next time, I’ll probably go with steamed vegetables, or a half-rack.
- Takumi appears to be adverse to being photographed, preferring to photograph, instead, and that leads to a rather amusing, though awkward, number of interactions between her and the parade’s viewers. On Sunday, I headed out on a day trip to the mountains, and although the morning was quite cloudy, the weather cleared up after an Angus burger lunch, and we took a hike on a quiet trail before returning home for a prime-rib dinner.
- Kanae was coerced into fortune-telling at Sayomi’s hands, with Norie and Kaoru expressing disinterest in doing the same. While Fū’s got a propensity to append nano de (なので, lit “it is so”) to the end of her sentences, Kanae tends to say things twice especially when nervous, evoking Jacob Two Two’s speech patterns. I treat fortune-telling as good fun, but ultimately, unless it’s free, I tend to pass. Today, I spent a fair portion at IKEA: my ten-year-old desk lamp was cracking at the base, and I bought a new LED one. It illuminates a smaller area than my old halogen lamp, but has the region it lights is more luminous. Having arrived around the lunch hour, I had a hearty plate of fish and chips at IKEA’s cafe, as well; a year ago, I’d just come home from shopping, having purchased a new watch and proceeded to watch the finale of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn: time really flies.
- After Fū and Riho share a conversation, the former learns that the latter was also feeling quite agitated about not being able to tell Fū that she’s planning on leaving Takehara to help a friend open a gallery. This conversation puts both Fū and Riho at ease, and Fū finds the resolve to go into a career that involves both photography and travel. It is respectable that Fū has found her career interests, being inspired by the desire to bring people together through photography. This has been something that Fū’s been impressed by since ~More Aggressive~, where she learns that photography has brought her closer with a couple who owns a bed and breakfast.
- With this conflict resolved, the first movie draws to an end. It is relaxing in the same manner as its predecessors, although the movie does stand out on virtue of introducing new conflicts for the characters, and then managing to capitalise on the series’ overall calming atmosphere to lead the characters to a solution. The next movie is going to come out in August, and unlike this first movie, which I only reviewed a month-and-a-half after release, I’ll try to be more timely with the next one. With that being said, I believe that this here talk is still the most sizable collection of screenshots around at the time of writing.
- Fū and company wave goodbye to Chihiro and Tomo, who are leaving Takehara for home. It’s an appropriate close to the movie and this post. At present, I’m largely caught up with the Spring 2015 anime, and will spend the next post talking about Wolfenstein: The New Order after half of the game was beaten. After that will come a talk on the Ano Natsu de Matteru OVA, and a reflection of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan-chan at the ten-episode mark. Research is going to pick up, and I’ve got my advanced road exam coming up, so posting will resume after the exam concludes.
With the first part now over, part two (titled Hibike, translated as “Sounds” or “Echoes”) will see release late in August. I’m naturally looking forwards to this, having followed Tamayura since ~Hitotose~ was aired back in Fall 2011. While seemingly a calming slice-of-life anime, Tamayura as a whole weaves an uncommonly intricate story that deals with a variety of topics that are a part of life, and Graduation Photo is no different. Though a new installation in Tamayura, Graduation Photo act as a blend of the unfamiliar and familiar, bringing new characters in to liven up the inter-character dynamics while retaining largely the original casts’ defining features. Thus, Graduation Photo is reasonably accessible to those who’ve not seen Tamayura before, although all of the subtle aspects would be more appreciable for viewers that are completely caught up in the series. There’s a little more than three months before the next part is screened at theatres in Japan, which is ample time to watch the original four OVAs, ~Hitotose~, ~More Aggressive~ and all of the OVAs associated with their respective seasons.