“Sometimes, you just have to let go and embrace what you’ve become.” —Adam Jensen, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The finale to Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ is the culmination of Fū’s journey along the path of acceptance and her moving into the future, on a path that she’s chosen. Fū’s camera is repaired, and she participates in adventures with her friends, as well as preparing to write her entrance exam for her post-secondary institution of choice. After watching the first sunrise of a new year with Sayomi and the others, Fū makes clear her intentions to move to Tokyo to pursue a career in photography: Riho invites Fū to be her roommate should she pass her exam, and later, once the exams are done, Fū and the others make one final hike up Mount Asahi. Her old camera finally fails on this trip, although Natsume had dropped by a DSLR camera for Fū with the hope that she’ll put it to good use, and in April, Fū graduates with Kaoru, Norie and Maon. They go their separate ways after one final goodbye, and in Tokyo, Fū shows that she’s kept both the final photo from her father’s old camera, as well as the first photo from her new camera; both images capture the Tamayura phenomenon. Once the last of the credits have rolled, it’s quite difficult to pin down the precise aspects that make Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~‘s finale so compelling: perhaps in this episode, more than any other, I am reminded of my own experiences at present:
The finale to Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ deals primarily with Fū as her journey of discovery and acceptance draws to a close. This journey is tangibly felt in her camera’s state: having accompanied Fū throughout her entire journey, her father’s camera is a symbol representing her past, as well as her resolute determination to make the most of the present and come to terms with what’s happened. These were the themes throughout Tamayura ~Hitotose~ and Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, with Fū rediscovering the joys of Takehara and gradual increasing sense of identity as she explores photography with her friends. This camera ultimately is a tangible reminder of Fū’s past, and while Fū’s come to accept her father’s passing, that her camera malfunctions is a sign that nothing truly lasts forever: having matured substantially since she arrived in Takehara, she’s nearing a point where she must step out and embrace her future. Although Fū cherishes the camera, its age means that Fū must retire it: it is fitting that its final image is one of her and her friends. Natsume later drops off a brand-new camera: a DSLR model, it is a professional tool, a world apart from her old Rollei 35S. Because Fū is serious about her future career, she accepts this upgrade, mirroring her willingness to now walk the path to a future that she has chosen, without regret or doubt.
Fū later learns that her examination results were quite good, and she is accepted into her first choice. Kaoru, Norie and Maon likewise follow their own paths forward; despite their doubts about being apart, they come to embrace their futures, knowing that they can always meet with one another again in the future. Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ is centred around high school students entering post-secondary, but the feelings of hope and trepidation following graduation that Fū and the others experience are the same as those felt during a post-secondary convocation. Three years ago, I graduated from the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences program, watching my friends walk across the stage and prepare themselves for pursuit of their dreams. I followed suit, deciding to take on a Master’s of Computer Science after learning that while I greatly enjoy the biological sciences and medical sciences, I wish to work in a field that allowed me to solve problems using the technology I’ve become so fond of. In this time, I’ve moved through the courses and research that a graduate degree entails, and presently, sit on the eve of the graduate defense. On one hand, I’m excited to finish this degree on the best possible note I can deliver, but on the other, I’m also a little nervous about what will happen next. This feeling is captured in whole within Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~, and through watching Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon walk their stage, I’m reminded that I myself will likely graduate in November (provided that I do not mess up during my defense examination). I remarked elsewhere with one of my readers that one of the greatest strengths in Tamayura is that its thematic elements and illustration of Fū’s journey can resonate with individuals of diverse backgrounds: everyone watching Tamayura might have their own experiences and stories, and some facets presented in Tamayura lead different people to recall different memories. This is rather difficult to accomplish, but the fact that Tamayura succeeds in doing so shows just how much heart and sincerity went into its writing.
Screenshots and Commentary
- When I drafted the review for Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~‘s third installment back in March, I was on the eve of wrapping up my final academic term. Over the past few months, many things have happened, and it’s been outside of my comfort zone; I prefer order, but it’s been chaos all around as I juggle my thesis work and an internship position. This chaos hasn’t been bad, though, given that having new things to take on each day keeps things from falling into monotony.
- Fū’s camera is repaired, but Maestro remarks that it’s unlikely he would be able to repair it again should the same component fail. Unlike the previous Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ posts that I’ve written, this one has thirty images rather than the typical twenty, as there are more things to talk about. The page quote for this finale post comes from the most unlikely place: the upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Referring to Adam Jensen and his slow acceptance of augmentations, it could equally apply to Fū and her resolve to pursue a future of her choosing, as well as my own acceptance of my career choice.
- Norie and the others enjoy red bean buns at Saihou-ji Temple in Takehara. As is fitting of a Tamayura episode, where I do a poutine challenge or equivalent food challenge of some sort, I stepped off-campus today and revisited the Vendome Café after faulty intel from the university translated in no food trucks actually being on campus. I ordered the Breakfast Poutine once more, and this time, with my constitution at full performance, I managed to finish this delicious behemoth of hash browns, ham, peppers, onions, cheese and Hollandaise sauce in full.
- After giving things careful thought, Fū makes known her intentions to study in Tokyo to her mother and grandmother. While she was expecting a bit more resistance, both her mother and grandmother accept her decision, advising her to talk with Riho first about her decision and its impact. Fū also confides in Chihiro: one of the more subtle but meaningful things in Tamayura were the subtle changes in each character’s actions, and during a phone call, Chihiro no longer bawls her eyes out wherever Fū and her father’s camera are involved.
- With Fū set to graduate, Takumi and Suzune are next in line to run the Photography Club. Here, they sort through photographs for the yearbook, and I am reminded of the times I spent in a yearbook design committee both during high school and my undergraduate careers. Reflecting on my propensity to fulfill a jack-of-all-trades role, I composed and took photographs, coordinated the different individuals working on the yearbooks and designed some of the layouts in both cases.
- While on break from studying, Kanae visits Fū and the others. It strikes me that I’ve not written a final exam for two years now, with my last one being a physics exam back during April 2014. Instead, most of my exams are now oral or presentation-driven: I prefer these to multiple-choice exams because I have an opportunity to talk my way through a question and reason out an answer. While it’s been a while since I’ve done written exams, the skills I picked up during the MCAT are (hopefully) still largely intact, so I imagine I could still perform satisfactorily should the need arise.
- Tamayura ~Hitotose~ and Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ featured the “We Exhibition”, showcasing the girls’ creations to the community to bring everyone closer together. With entrance exams looming, however, Norie, Kaoru, Maon and Fū decide to skip this year to focus on their studies. On New Year’s Eve, they wind down, but get the feeling that a relaxing New Year’s Eve is unlikely. Their fears come to pass when Sayomi appears and drags everyone on an evening hike.
- Equipped with banners and high in spirits, the girls hike to the top of a hill to observe the first sunrise of the year, chanting that they will pass their exams for certain. It appears that Sayomi is driving a second generation Mazda 5, which is the vehicle I learnt to drive in. With a high maneuverability rating, the vehicle handles nicely but lacks engine power (which suits me fine: I don’t really enjoy speeding and prefer using handling to keep safe on the road). I hear the Mazda 5 line is being discontinued, but I do not see myself buying a hatchback as my first car.
- As always, Sayomi’s adventures give Fū and her friends a chance to experience something memorable together: Fū takes pictures of the crowds gathered at the top of the hill. Her monologues show a great deal of insight into her character, and contrary to the worries of those around her, Fū shows that she is at peace with the world around her. Ayana Taketatsu (K-On!‘s Azu-nyan and Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s Alice Shimada) delivers a gentle voice to mirror Fū’s personality, in comparison to her typical role as tsundere characters.
- The ending of Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ had Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon share a tearful farewell with Kanae, who was graduating at the time. Under a similarly beautiful sunrise, Kanae wishes that they had more time together, and from my end, I’m amazed at how quickly these past few years have elapsed. It only seems like yesterday that I was watching Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ and learning to appreciate the subtle things in life again after a particularly difficult summer.
- In contrast to the earlier movies, the finale illustrates the flow of time in a much more erratic manner, showing snapshots of Fū’s everyday experiences as she draws closer towards graduation. She stays over at Chihiro’s house while in Tokyo for her entrance examinations.
- Fū begins her written exam here, and later takes an oral exam/interview component. I know the pressure associated with exams and interviews; for written exams, I tend to study for long periods until I feel confident with the material, while for the oral exams and interviews, I strive to speak more slowly and clearly than I normally would, taking the a bit of time to construct a reasonable answer without slowing things down.
- Post-exams, Fū visits Riho at a café she’s working at and meets one of her colleagues. As it turns out, Riho appears to be uncommonly well-prepared to take Fū as a roommate: her apartment is quite close to Fū’s prospective university and has sufficient space for two.
- Later, Chihiro and Fū share a conversation about how far things have come since they’d first met. It turns out that Chihiro is prone to tears for Fū’s sake, showing that she cares deeply for Fū. However, as Fū began finding her way, Chihiro finds herself crying with a reduced frequency, and Fū is grateful for her unwavering support after all this time.
- The ticket with no destination was a major symbol throughout the whole of Tamayura, signifying that the destination might not always be known, but it’s the journey there that makes all the difference. Ergo, when Fū notes that there is a destination now, it would demonstrate that the journey that is Tamayura is drawing to a close for the viewers, as well as Fū, who sets her sights on a tangible objective in her future.
- It turns out that everyone’s made it into their universities. It’s late June right now, and while my own exam is not more than five days away now, countless high school students are making use of the university facilities to prepare for the diploma exams. With university admission standards rising, more and more students are enrolled in preparation courses to score well on their exams.
- Despite a harrowing ride in Sayomi’s Mazda 5, the girls set out to enjoy the hike at Mount Asahi. This is the spot that everyone first visited after Fū arrived in Takehara, and after they stop to take in the scenery, Fū decides to take some photographs.
- While her camera yields one good shot, it croaks on the next: this marks the end of Fū’s treasured Rollei 35S, and her friends worry that Fū will grow depressed as a consequence. After confirming that it’s beyond repair at Maestro’s shop, her friends watch the scene with growing concern, almost as though they were bracing for an explosion of sorts.
- While Fū’s dialogue does sound a little strained, she keeps a cool head about her and learns from Maestro that a package has arrived for her. It’s a Nikon-model DSLR camera: while Natsume figured he might resume photography, his schedule was not conducive, and he felt that Fū would be able to better utilise it.
- DSLR stands for “Digital Single-Lens Reflex”: these cameras utilise a CCD chip as digital cameras, but have a lens system as opposed to the mirrorless systems seen in most digital cameras. They produce images without parallax, and their larger CCD chips reduce noise, making them more effective under low light conditions. Here, Fū looks through the camera’s operation manual.
- The move from her old Rollei to a new Nikon is a substantial jump, although Fū breaks in the new camera with a subject she’s most comfortable with — she takes an ordinary shot of her friends and instructors.
- Fū reminiscent about her time with her father, and it turns out that as a child, Fū was more selfish than she is. She misses deeply her father’s patience and kindness; after her father passed on, Fū became selfless. This transformation reminds me of Kincade’s remarks in Skyfall: after learning of his parents’ death, a young James Bond hide in the family home’s priest hole. Kincade notes that when Bond comes out, he was no longer a boy.
- It’s a very profound change in both cases, and here, Tamae, Fū’s mother, wonders if she’s truly alright and whether or not she has been a good mother to Fū. Parenting is a remarkably tricky business, and in conversation, I’ve wondered how one learns to be an effective parent. Then I think that, as I am now, I’m probably not mature enough to be a parent just yet.
- It’s an hour to the stroke of midnight, and here I am, trying to finish this post such that I have tomorrow clear to rehearse my defense presentation and construct a pair of coherent conference presentation that’s set to take place in a little more than a week. I am reasonably confident in presenting my work, but this time, I have the additional task of presenting a colleague’s work. I know the biology fairly well (it’s chemotaxis, which isn’t too bad), but the implementation, I’m less familiar with.
- Fū walks across the stage for high school graduation here: Norie, Maon and Kaoru are also shown, although there are some moments that I feel to be inadequately conveyed by static images. In conjunction with trying to keep this post length manageable, I’ve decided to only illustrate Fū walking across the stage.
- Graduation is a magical moment: for the first time I can recall in Tamayura (this is a series I’ve been following for five years), the Tamayura themselves show up outside of a photograph. Fū feels that her father would be quite proud of where she is now, and looking forwards to my own convocation, it’s going to be in November. So, I’ll get to experience the same ceremony I did when I finished my undergraduate degree, although this time, there won’t be a banquet after the fact.
- As Fū leaves Takehara, her friends and instructors give her a spectacular farewell, wishing her the best in her studies. I watched sections of the finale at the Vendome Café while attempting the Breakfast Poutine challenge, parts on the train and the rest back at the lab: it was quite tricky to hold back the tears. I ordinarily do not find myself easily moved, so it was quite the achievement that Tamayura could bring out those emotions.
- I’ve heard that those who do not find themselves moved to tears by Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashi~‘s finale must have the cold, mechanical heart of a robot. This finale was definitely moving, and in the epilogue, glimpses of post-secondary life for Norie, Kaoru, Maon and Kanae are seen. Takumi and Suzune now head the photography club and invite new members to join with great enthusiasm. It appears that everyone’s settling into their new lives, and again, I’ve opted not to show screenshots, since these moments are better watched.
- Fū’s last image with the Rollei and first image with the Nikon are framed here: both have Tamayura, signifying that both moments capture happiness. I feel that this is a satisfying, rewarding conclusion to Tamayura and as such, do not expect that there will be any continuation. Further to this, the manga concluded its run back in March 2011, so there is no new content to adapt. In light of this, Tamayura comes to a close in an excellent spot.
- With the help of Flower from AnimeSuki, this message reads “To all who have given Tamayura their love over the years — thank you.” The animators and writers may or may not know that their message transcends culture and nations: viewers from across the world, such as myself and the English-speaking fans at AnimeSuki, have also found great joy in watching this wonderfully crafted anime. With this, my final Tamayura post draws to a close.
My final verdict on the four Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ movies is that they worth watching without question: each movie is immensely moving, capturing the seemingly contradictory emotions of excitement and trepidation for the future. The narrative is presented such that it allows the characters to grow and mature as naturally as people would in reality, and in conjunction with top-calibre production values from both a visual and aural sense, Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ more than satisfactorily demonstrates that it is one of the top-tier healing anime, reminding its audience that the simple, subtle things in life are not to be underestimated or undervalued. In sending off all of the characters on a high note (everyone has settled into life as university students in the epilogue), the finale acts as a decisive, satisfying conclusion to Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ and the Tamayura series as a whole: everyone’s decided on the path they will walk and have taken the critical first steps. As such, Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ earns a strong recommendation from me without question. I note that Tamayura does not appear to be widely known, but for individuals who’ve not heard about it, it is well worth one’s while to watch (unless one has a strong aversion to slice-of-life anime in general). With Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ now completed, the Tamayura series decisively comes to a close: as Fū and the others begin walking the path to their future, it’s high time I do the same, as well. All that stands between myself and this future is the toughest examination I’ve faced yet.