The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Echoes: Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ (Graduation Photo) Movie, Part Two Review and Reflection

“A career path is rarely a path at all. A more interesting life is usually a more crooked, winding path of missteps, luck and vigorous work. It is almost always a clumsy balance between the things you try to make happen and the things that happen to you.” —Tom Freston

Last time I did a talk about Tamayura, it was back in May; the gaps in the movies’ releases are nontrivial. To give an idea of how long ago this is, during May, I was porting my simulation from Unity to Unreal, so my Unreal project was largely a collection of meshes, incomplete Blueprints and a pile of notes summarizing how these parts were to fit together. Now, I’ve got complete processes, navigation, multiple simulation spaces that can pass messages to one another and an intuitive user interface for the Unreal simulation, plus a fully-realised Unity implementation of the same simulation with VR support; a lot has happened over the past five months, and  though there’s still quite a bit to do before my simulation is minimally viable, it is ever-pleasant to hear more about Tamayura. The second Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ movie focuses on Norie and Kaoru, following their struggles in determining which careers they wish to pursue for the future. After her older brother, Masanori, challenges her dream of becoming an internationally-renowned patissiére, Norie decides to drop this route altogether. Fū and the others wish to give Norie one final opportunity to make sweets; to this end, they host a small party of sorts, and ultimately, Norie realizes that making sweets is precisely what she wished to do. The movie’s second half deals with Kaoru and her seeming lack of a well-defined career path. However, this changes when Chimo asks the girls to her help organise a wedding reception, and later, Kaoru encounters another wedding in Takehara. Moved by the wedding planner’s efforts, and after hearing Sayomi’s advice, Kaoru sets her sights on becoming a wedding planner to bring people together. Together with Fū, Norie and Maon, she helps Chimo with her wedding planning and later learn that her groom will be none other than Dougou.

Far more than the first movie, “Echoes” struck a resonant chord with me owing to its message about career paths and the future. It’s definitely a topic that lingers in the minds of high school students, and thoughts about what one’s future entails endure as one moves through post-secondary and even their careers. For Norie, her choice to quit making sweets is borne of an uncertainty about her own resolve: when her brother remarks on the profession’s challenges, Norie suddenly wonders if she’s committed to such a career. The truth of the matter is that any career will involve challenges, but for those who are genuinely passionate, they can and will find ways of overcoming these challenges. Through Fū and the others’ intervention, Norie comes to realise that yes, making sweets is precisely what she is passionate about, and after their “farewell”, Norie resolves to do what it takes to be a successful patissiére. Kaoru is impacted by a different problem: though she enjoys helping people, she initially does not really understand how to turn this interest into a viable career. Throughout Tamayura, she most frequently laments the fact that everyone else has a tangible dream (Fū’s photography, Norie’s sweets and Maon’s family business). This inadequacy leads her to organise the We Exhibition, and after spending the movie’s second half struggling to make a decision, she receives a spark when she sees a wedding planner in action. Kaoru’s enjoyment of event planning and organisation was already apparent through the We Exhibition, so it comes as little surprise that she draws inspiration from a wedding planner and subsequently aspires to follow this career path. For both Norie and Fū, unwavering support from their friends allows them to reach a choice they are satisfied with, suggesting that the future can become a little clearer with a bit of encouragement from one’s friends and family.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The mark of a strong friendship is where one is able to determine when their friends are not on their game, even when they’re insisting things are fine, so it follows that Kaoru, Fū and Maon are quite close to Norie, whose down when she decides to change her career goals after her brother bluntly tells her of the difficult path forwards.

  • Fū’s photography club is doing quite nicely, with Takumi and Suzune partaking in photography in and around Takehara. Musuko mentions that the photographs could place nicely in a tourism photo contest, and upon seeing Norie in one of the photographs, Fū wonders if Norie will give up her dream.

  • After classes, Norie speaks with Dougou about a change of heart in her career plans, and back at Café Tamayura, the others hear Kou compliment Norie’s cooking. I’m certain that numerous people have had their dreams challenged, criticised or even mocked before, but a part of that journey is to consider whether or not a dream is worth pursuing in spite of these problems. If a dream is worth pursing, then one would naturally be inclined to invest the effort to make it possible.

  • This is primarily why Norie is having such a difficult time considering the alternatives: quite simply, her passions do not lie anywhere other than in creating confectionaries, and as such, when her brother brings her some red bean buns to apologise, the buns’ creation remains on her mind against her will.

  • Kanae makes a return, remarking that she’s gotten her license to operate a moped. Where I’m from, all we need is a learner’s license (Class VII) to drive mopeds, with cars requiring a Class V. It’s been a few months since I’ve done my exit exam: in fact, said exam was back in May, when the first of the Tamayura movies had come out.

  • There’s something aesthetically pleasing about the angle and composition of this image. With Kanae’s arrival, the girls are reminded of the impact that Norie’s cooking, and decide to meddle by asking for a farewell party of sorts. Whether or not Fū was gambling on this to bring back Norie’s interest in sweets is ambiguous, but it was a pretty clever move.

  • That Norie agrees without hesitation strongly demonstrates that Norie’s heart is still yearning to follow her dreams of becoming a confectioner. With Kanae, Fū and the others fight off brain freeze to hastily finish off their shaved ices and contact her. This phenomenon, better known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, results from the cold affecting the capillaries of the sinus that is thought to impact the nerves, resulting in a short-lived headache.

  • Upon arrival, Norie settles into her element and produces sweets that reminds each of her friends of the emotional value that her cooking has had on them. In addition to bringing sweetness into Fū and the others’ lives, certain of Norie’s sweets have emotional value that reminds the girls of what they had been doing while enjoying said sweets.

  • When her brother admits that Norie’s sweets are good, he also apologies and remarks that his workload partially contributed to his earlier words. University is like that, after the first month of classes, assignments, midterms and papers begin accumulating: it’s a firestorm from there until the exam period.

  • Viewers with an acute memory will have noticed that Norie looks rather different in “Echoes”: her hair is no longer styled in angled ponytails, and her figure’s also become more well-defined (I think that some are saying “stacked” is the term to use here, although the specifics are neither here nor there for the present discussion).

  • I’ve chosen the image distribution such that half of them depict the events in Norie’s story, and half to follow Kaoru’s story: the second movie is evenly split down the middle, and as soon as Norie resolves to continue making sweets, focus turns towards Kaoru as she struggles to figure out what she’d like to do for her future.

  • Of all the characters, Karol’s hobby of scent-making had been the least practical, and despite being the most level-headed of anyone, she’s also the one with the most uncertainty about her own future. I suppose one could go into chemical engineering or medicine if their interests was in the olfactorial system, but that would probably break the mood in Tamayura.

  • Chimo’s okonomiyaki features a brand-new flair as a result of her travels: she adds hamburger meat, bamboo shoots, beef tendons, potato salad and scallions to her latest creation, resulting in a okonomiyaki that is surprisingly tasty. I happened to watch the second movie while eating the Red Wagon Diner’s smoked meat hash, a delicious combination of Montréal smoked meat, potato, fried egg, mushroom, banana pepper and mushroom with a side of rye bread that I never grow tired of. Today progressed in an eerily similar fashion as it did exactly a year ago; I visited the food trucks after a presentation to some anatomy students about our lab’s anatomical software at the campus library’s visualisation studio. This year, though, I’m watching Tamayura rather than Sora no Method, and I’ve thankfully got no cold to fight off.

  • A wedding planner is able to convince a reluctant father to smile at his daughter’s wedding: this forms the magic moment for Kaoru, who begins to consider wedding planning as a possible career. It does take a spark for some to figure out what they’d like to do in life, but for others, their career goals are set plainly in stone. In my case, I’m quite similar to Kaoru in that I had been indecisive about my future even during my undergraduate program.

  • It was not until a year ago when I decisively settled on doing software development, and I’ve since come to understand that iOS development most fits my present interests. Here, Kaori reacts after Sayomi shares some advice with her and accidentally concludes that Kaori is considering marriage. With this misunderstanding cleared out shortly after, Sayomi offers some meaningful advice to Kaoru.

  • It’s 2015 and my heart still melts whenever I see moments like these. Viewers learn that Kaoru’s tendency to put others ahead of herself goes way back, seen when she resolves to leg the distance to Fū’s home to cheer her up. As her sister, it makes sense that Sayomi understands Kaoru’s personality deeply: knowing that Kaoru is highly determined to help someone once she receives a request, Sayomi suggests that wedding planning would be a suitable career for Kaoru because of the latter’s dedication towards seeing things through properly would ensure her clients are happy.

  • Armed with this new resolve, Kaoru proceeds to plan out Chimo’s wedding. It appears that they’re making use of Maon’s drawings (the concept art resembles her sketches from the OVA), and to make the wedding special, they’ve proposed a massive okonomiyaki in place of a traditional wedding cake, leading the girls to wonder if the groom will be okay with this arrangement.

  • After spending the entire half of the movie wondering who the groom is (with the girls feeling bad for Dougou), it turns out that Chimo is going to marry Dougou. Their feelings for one another have been subtly hinted at throughout Tamayura, and with four years having passed since ~Hitotose~, it’s a well-deserved, welcome outcome for those who were hoping that Chimo and Dougou would become a couple. The story behind this is rather incomplete, but given that Chimo and Dougou have known each other for quite some time, it’s definitely not implausible.

  • With her way forward now clear, Kaoru’s worries lessen: being the one in the cast who’s always wondering about her future, it’s rewarding to see her finally determine what her direction in life would be. Kaoru is regarded as someone who’s contributed significantly to Norie, Maon and Fū’s self-discovery (by organising the We Exhibition), and with a bit of nudging from Sayomi, she’s able to find an occupation that allows her to help others follow their path.

  • So, the second of four Tamayura movies come to a close. I heard that the BluRay disks sold out at the theatre events, making it impossible to watch the movie shortly after it premiered. If this trend continues, I foresee that my review for next OVA will also be delayed by a few weeks. I’ll try to get a talk out as quickly as possible, but there won’t any guarantees. For now, we’ll take things one step at a time and so, the next talk coming out will deal with GochiUsa after the three-episode mark.

As the months between the present and my defense dwindles down, I find myself looking towards the future, wondering which career path I will be taking after I walk across the stage. As of late, the economic situation means that it’s much more difficult to find employment as a developer, which is a sufficient worry to keep me up at night. Watching Tamayura, curiously enough, alleviated some of that stress. After following both Norie and Karol’s situations, I fully empathise, and the lessons learnt here seem to have helped me reach a better decision about what I myself plan to do with my life after graduate school. Through Norie, I’m reminded to be tougher than my problems by finding new ways to create advantages for myself, and through Kaoru, I’m reminded to pick the subset of software development that I hold an edge in. To this end, I’ve set my sights on being an iOS developer, and I’ll improve my situation by designing and implementing several apps, as well as brushing up on complexity and software engineering theory over the next few months. Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~‘s second movie is able this level of introspection precisely because Norie and Kaoru’s stories were highly relatable, and well-written. Looking ahead to November 28, I’m excited to see what the third movie, dubbed “Adoration”, will encompass.

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