The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Running and Inviting: Revisiting the Beginning of Tari Tari a Decade Later and the Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club’s Influence On a Journal Publication

“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” –Joshua Marine

When Tari Tari was announced, beyond a key visual of three characters who greatly resembled their counterparts from Hanasaku Iroha, there had been very little information surrounding what this series would deal with. After the first episode concluded, it became clear enough that Tari Tari would be musically themed; viewers are introduced to Konatsu Matsumoto, a disgraced member of the choir club who wants to sing for her own enjoyment and Wakana Sakai, who is transferring out of the music program in a bid to move on after her mother’s passing. Tari Tari would ultimately detail how these two conflicting paths would reconcile, and how seeing Konatsu’s earnest efforts towards pursuing an interest would remind Wakana of how her own mother had approached music, as well. This would lead Wakana to come to terms with her past and in doing so, help Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro create something meaningful as their school sends off their final cohort of graduates ahead of a redevelopment project. Uplifting and inspiring, Tari Tari indicates that when people stumble, it is support from others that help them to find their way again. Unlike other series, Tari Tari has a very intense pacing: Wakana comes to terms with her mother’s death mid-series, and uses her newfound enjoyment of music to both help Konatsu leave a legacy behind as their school closes, as well as Sawa to find her way again when she begins to lose hope after being rejected from an equestrian program. Much as how Sawa and Konatsu had tried to help Wakana, Wakana is able to grow and return the favour to her friends in a big way. The first episode of Tari Tari, however, betrays none of this to viewers: at the end of the first episode, viewers were only introduced to the characters, creating a sense of intrigue as to how the series would unfold. First impressions in anime are important, and Tari Tari certainly captured my interest during a time when, having finished my physics course, I became wholly focused on preparing for the MCAT. Each and every week, I had a new episode of Tari Tari to look forwards to, and seeing how the series showed a group of individuals putting in the effort to make something bigger than themselves would have another, unforeseen impact on what I ended up doing after the MCAT concluded.

A half-year before Tari Tari began airing, one of my colleagues had suggested the idea of submitting a paper to an undergraduate journal about the versatility of our lab’s in-house game engine in visualising and interacting with biological processes. After classes ended, we would spend time drafting notes on what the paper would deal with in the student lounge on the medical campus. Halfway into the winter term, however, the coursework began picking up – I was struggling with biochemistry and needed to keep up with cell and molecular biology, while my friends similarly became busy with their own studies. The paper became forgotten as a result. When my MCAT finished, I had three weeks left in the summer left to me. By this point in time, Sawa had recovered her own determination after overhearing her father vouching for her while on the phone with an admissions officer from the equestrian institute she’d applied to. Together with encouragement from Wakana, Konatsu, Taichi and Atsuhiro, Sawa returns to school to help her friends convince the music instructor they should be allowed to perform at the culture festival. In the last hour, everyone had pulled through and set the groundwork for realising their wish of doing something together. Although three weeks was not a lot of time, my summer schedule had been quite open. I therefore approached two of my other colleagues who’d been interested in the paper, and they readily agreed to continue with the paper, being more than happy to refine their notes into passages. In the space of two weeks, I worked on the paper and transformed a set of notes into a full-fledged publication. My peers were pleased, but to my surprise, my supervisor was also impressed. A few revisions later, we had a complete first draft ready for submission. Both my colleagues had suggested that I take the first author position, having spearheaded the paper; while I am not one for ceremony, it suddenly dawned on me that a desire to do more with my summer beyond just the MCAT had left me with an experience not unlike that of Tari Tari. Having now written our first-ever publications in a journal, I became curious to see how Tari Tari would conclude, and the ending, which aired as my undergraduate thesis project was under way, was every bit as heartwarming and satisfying to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tari Tari caught my eye because I had greatly enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha: at the time, I would’ve still been a novice to anime, and had picked my series based on their similarities to shows I’d previously watched. At first glance, the character designs in Tari Tari were very familiar and had clear counterparts in Hanasaku Iroha: Wakana is Minko, Konatsu is Ohana and Sawa is Nako. However, while there are some overlaps in terms of personality, I would quickly find that Sawa is more confident and foward, while Wakana lacks Minko’s bite. Konatsu, while energetic, lacks the same stubbornness seen in Ohana.

  • The music in Tari Tari is top-tier: Shirō Hamaguchi is the composer for the anime’s soundtrack, and the series’ leitmotif, Kokoro no Senritsu, was such an iconic song that I felt compelled to watch this series on the virtue of listening to the music alone. As it turns out, Hamaguchi has a very extensive resume to his name, having previously composed the music to Ah! My Goddess, and later, would score the soundtracks for Shirobako and Girls und Panzer. Hints of Ah! My Goddess and Girls und Panzer can indeed be heard in Shirobako‘s music. However, Hamaguchi is a versatile composer, unlike Kenji Kawai or Hiroyuki Sawanoo, whose style makes them immediately recognisable.

  • In its opening moments, Tari Tari gives all of the main characters some shine time so their personalities can be established; unlike Hanasaku Iroha, which had two cours of time to work with, Tari Tari only has thirteen episodes. This meant that there is a lot less time to develop nuances, and I found that compared to the previous anime I watched, such as Ah! My GoddessAzumanga DaiohGundam 00 and Real Drive, things were a lot more condensed. The early 2010s were a time when anime studios were transitioning away from two cour series so they could work on a wider range of projects, and today, one cour series are more common than they had previously been.

  • On his first day of classes, Atsuhiro transferred into the same class as Sawa, Konatsu, Wakana and Taichi. Atsuhiro’s commonly known as “Wein” because he’s from Vienna, and while he’s unfamiliar with Japanese customs, speaks Japanese well enough. Tari Tari chooses to have him framed in a way as to face the school by morning to reinforce the idea that he’s new around these parts, and while originally, I had the least to say about Atsuhiro, it turns out he fulfills an important role: he acts as a surrogate for the viewer, who’s effectively dropped into things. Atsuhiro, like viewers, are unfamiliar with everything that’s going on around in Tari Tari, but over time, would come to get to know Wakana and her group better.

  • Even today, the visual details in Tari Tari are impressive: True Tears had been unremarkable, but from Angel Beats! onward, P.A. Work directed a great deal of effort into their lighting effects. Scenes end up becoming much more vibrant, and reflections are used to great effect. Here, one can see subtle reflections in the gymnasium’s wooden floor, and throughout the remainder of Tari Tari, reflections are utilised to make environments pop more. In giving spaces a shiny and reflective character, P.A. Works’ locations convey a sense of cleanliness.

  • While Wakana might not be friends with Sawa and Konatsu per se at the beginning of Tari Tari, everyone does appear to know one another well enough to share a conversation. Wakana is voiced by Ayahi Takagaki, whom I know best as Gundam 00‘s Feldt Grace, True Tears‘ Noe Isurugi and Honoka Ishikawa of Non Non Biyori. Now that I think about it, Wakana has the same voice as Honoka, so I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t notice this earlier. There’s a slightly childish trait about Takagaki’s voice in portraying Wakana and Honoka that makes both characters quite endearing. I’m not too familiar with Asami Seto’s roles, but I know Saori Hayami (Sawa) best as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, Yuzuki Shiraishi of A Place Further Than The Universe and Oregairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita. Hayami is playing Ruby Rose in RWBY: Ice Queendom, as well.

  • Instructor Tomoko Takahashi is set to go on maternity leave at Tari Tari‘s beginning: this decision was made to emphasise to viewers that they are dropped into the story at a time of great change. Tari Tari would ultimately convey many themes, but at the heart of this anime is the idea that people always have the chance to count on one another and overcome obstacles that are too great for one to handle individually. This theme is a very popular one because it mirrors human society: our greatest achievements come as a consequence of teamwork and collaboration.

  • At Tari Tari‘s beginning, Konatsu struggles with music. She loves singing greatly, but ever since an incident which saw her fail spectacularly, she was demoted from an active role. She tries to convince the Vice Principal to reconsider reinstating her, but she is unsuccessful: the Vice Principal, Naoko Takakura, believes that one must approach music with finesse and precision. This behaviour foreshadows her own past friendship with Wakana’s mother, who had been very free-spirited and felt the best music came when people were free to be themselves. To dull the pain of Wakana’s mother’s passing, Naoko takes a very serious and no-nonsense approach to music.

  • Since the Hanasaku Iroha days, P.A. Works has been very fond of adding what I call “funny faces” to their anime. Said funny faces are usually a particularly strong reaction to something, and while some folks felt they break immersion, I’ve always found that funny faces really show how characters are feeling in ways that words and actions alone cannot. Funny faces reached their height in Shirobako, where Aoi Miyamori would sport a myriad of expressions in response to frustrations she encounters while on the job. Subsequent works, like The World In Colours, dispensed with this completely, but more recently, The Aquatope on White Sand brought funny faces back.

  • P.A. Works has gone through a lot over the past decade, and while they don’t always produce works I’m interested in watching, I’ve found that their coming-of-age and workplace are their strongest series, telling a very convincing and authentic tale of growth and self-discovery. This is a matter of personal preference: I happen to enjoy anime set in the real world, dealing with people and their problems. With this in mind, not every individual will share this perspective, and this is perfectly fine. However, over the past ten years, I’ve noticed people hating on P.A. Works to an unnecessary extent: AnimeSuki even has their own dedicated thread for criticising and tearing down the studio for everything they’ve produced after Hanasaku Iroha.

  • Things eventually reached a point where people regard True Tears and Shirobako as the only works of note P.A. Works has produced, with every else being an abject failure. After taking a closer look, it turns out some of AnimeSuki’s members, especially one Pocari Sweat, popularised the intense vitriol that arises whenever the name Mari Okada comes up. It is one thing to watch an anime all the way through and then do a reasoned breakdown of why it failed for an individual, but it is quite another to broadly dismiss a work simply because Mari Okada’s name appears as the series’ director.

  • Although I get that people have certain directors they dislike (Pocari Sweat’s hatred of Mari Okada is equivalent to people who do not watch Michael Bay films because of their hectic cutting and emphasis on special effects over substance), to have maintained this level of hatred for over a decade is unhealthy. I personally assess series based purely on its own merits and generally couldn’t care less about who’s directing it. While directors do have a signature style (e.g. Christopher Nolan’s films are very contemplative) that impact how a story unfolds, the worth of a work is based on how themes come together with other things like acting, visuals and flow.

  • Tari Tari was directed by Masakazu Hashimoto, who had previously worked on storyboards for Hanasaku Iroha and Angel Beats!, and as such, has a more subtle feel about it (whereas Mari Okada would’ve been a little more blunt about things). In a series about finding one’s path, this approach ends up being a ways more appropriate – there is some drama in Tari Tari, on account of the series being a coming-of-age story towards the end of secondary school, but things are resolved in a satisfying and conclusive manner.

  • As memory serves, I actually didn’t watch Tari Tari on its original airing date: a decade earlier, I’d been enjoying a day out in the mountains on a well-deserved break from studying for the MCAT, and ended up writing about the first episode on the second of July. Fast forward ten years, and the mountains have now become a very crowded destination owing to the fact that National Parks having free admissions on Canada Day is now common knowledge. This year, I ended up taking the family out over to the Badlands to check out the Atlas Coal Mine, after making a promise to my parents that we’d do a mine tour some five years earlier.

  • Tari Tari is a series I consider to be underappreciated in the anime community; despite its short length, this was a series that captured, with full sincerity, what it feels like to take the initiative and make the most of something. Although perhaps seen as annoying those around her, Konatsu’s spirit means that she’s ultimately able to bring Wakana out of her shell, and in doing so, Konatsu indirectly helps Sawa out, as well. Tari Tari betrays none of this in its first episode, but the combination of likeable characters and visually appealing visuals meant that I had no trouble becoming invested in Tari Tari as my summer wore on.

  • From here on out, my focus was singularly directed towards the MCAT. Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect gave me something to look forward to weekly, while my day-to-day schedule was spent studying extensively in mornings and afternoons. On days where I had my MCAT preparation course, I would usually linger on campus until around two in the afternoon before returning home. After five, I would put the brakes on studying and kicked back by spending most of my time in Team Fortress 2. My friend also introduced me to MicroVolts, which proved to be a fun third person arena shooter until the servers shut down

  • Without a physics course to also focus on, my days developed a pattern, and over the course of the summer, my practises MCAT scores climbed. From a score of 14 on my first-ever full length, I would rise to a 27 by the time Tari Tari reached its third episode, and by the time Wakana’s love of music returns to her at Tari Tari‘s halfway point, I scored a 33 on my last full-length practise exam. Emboldened, I finally felt ready to square off against the MCAT, and in the aftermath of the exam, I saw myself with nearly three full weeks of break left. Seeing the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club work tirelessly to put something together for their school festival inspired me to pick up the journal publication, which my colleagues had started but left unfinished.

  • Much as how Konatsu was able to start things with her spirit and have the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club send their school off in a bang, my efforts were met with a successful publication. I entered my undergraduate thesis year filled to the brim with confidence, and while the MCAT score would remain little more than a curious topic for dinner conversation, the learnings that I picked up from the summer of a decade earlier have remained relevant right up to the present. Similarly, Tari Tari has aged very gracefully: despite being ten years old, the anime’s themes are still applicable, and the artwork itself looks gorgeous. It’s certainly worth a watch, representing a very optimistic tale of how great things can manifest when one opens their heart to those around them.

Although I was effectively four months behind on my undergraduate thesis work (I effectively spent the entire summer at my desk studying for various exams while my peers were laying down the foundations to their thesis project), working on the paper led me to realise that, because of how modular and flexible the game engine was, I already had my project. Within the space of two weeks, I had drafted out a complete proposal of what my own undergraduate thesis would be, and after my first week of term ended, I finished building a prototype proof-of-concept as a part of my proposal; in effect, I made up for three month’s worth of time lost in the space of a week. This was made possible by the fact that I’d known the game engine so well, as well as seeing what is possible when one is sufficiently motivated through Tari Tari. In Tari Tari, the narrative progresses very rapidly because the characters don’t dawdle: they either know exactly what their goals are and will not hesitate to act in a way as to pursue them, or, when they do stumble, people in their corner help to pick them back up. I would ultimately give my proposal presentation in front of my entire graduating class, and the project was given approval to proceed, right as Wakana and her friends put on a successful final musical performance before their school closed. In this way, Tari Tari would become a masterpiece for me. I would encounter some difficulty in finding the right words for praising this series, but in subsequent years, it would become clear that Tari Tari was a series that left a nontrivial impact on my life. While the series did receive an OVA with its ultimate collector’s addition, along with a sequel novel set ten years after everyone graduated, Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s futures generally remain unknown to overseas fans of the series. However, if my outcomes are a reasonable precedence, it would be reasonable to suggest that, while the path may not have been the smoothest, everyone’s found their way as adults – this is an encouraging thought, but a part of me wishes to read the novel for myself because, despite Tari Tari having concluded in a very decisive manner, I’ve long wondered if Taichi ever was able to pursue a relationship with Sawa.

4 responses to “Running and Inviting: Revisiting the Beginning of Tari Tari a Decade Later and the Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club’s Influence On a Journal Publication

  1. Michael E Kerpan July 12, 2022 at 18:46

    I started a comment a while back — and somehow I lost it before posting it.

    This really was a charming and hear-warming series. And the setting was is one that my wife and I are quite familiar with — Kamakura and Enoshima/Fujisawa.

    I’ve always wondered what happened to the underclassmen at the school when it closed? Did they all get transferred somewhere? I was also never sure whether the school was supposed to re-open again after the project was complete.

    It is frustrating that there is no trace (in English) of what went on in the 10 years after sequel story — even in the form of a brief synopsis (at least not that I can find).z

    It is always a bit mystifying why some shows find a following — and others (despite being quite good) do not. Oh well, I’m just glad I discovered this — thanks to my quest to watch all of PA Works’ shows.

    Like

    • infinitezenith July 22, 2022 at 22:07

      Which parts of the Kamakura and Enoshima area would you recommend to a first-time visitor? While I’ve yet to return to Japan on account of my scheduling, and my first destination is likely going to be Takehara, Enoshima and Kamakura do sound tempting.

      Back in Tari Tari, I would imagine that notices were sent out well ahead of the school’s closing, and the district may have even arranged for the students to transfer into another school: as memory serves, the school was to be demolished for a full-scale redevelopment project in the area, which is why things became as urgent as they did.

      Regarding the sequel novel, it must be ridiculously obscure, since I can’t even find the means to buy the original Japanese text. Translation apps would get me far enough to get a gist of what’s going on, and that’d be enough for me to at least post something, but no way to buy it means even this remains outside the realm of possibility. Considering it’s been out since 2018, one would figure that someone would’ve at least bought it and done at least a summary.

      Finally, I’ll hazard a guess as to why some anime become more popular than others assuming all else is held constant; it might have to do with whether or not there are other blockbuster series airing that summer. I think Tari Tari was going against the likes of Hyouka and Sword Art Online: while folks might watch smaller shows, all discussion and attention would be directed towards the giants, leaving technically excellent shows like Tari Tari to fall under the radar.

      Like

  2. Michael E Kerpan July 24, 2022 at 09:57

    I think there is so much to see around Kamakura (up to Kita-Kamakura) and Enoshima/Fujisawa that one can hardly go wrong. Despite two visits to that area, there is so much we have yet to see. All the standard top spots are worth seeing, but the real joy is discovering all the other marvelous places scattered about. Two examples — Kenchoji (a large Zen complex between Kamakura and Kita-Kamakura) and Meigetsuin (in Kita-Kamakura), especially during hydrangea season — also it has a fondness for rabbits and rabbit images. And riding the Enoden and the Monorail…

    Like

    • infinitezenith July 27, 2022 at 18:13

      This kind of reminds me of how even here at home, there’s so much of my home city I’ve not even explored despite being a native! I’ll be sure to keep these recommendations in mind for any trips I plan in the future. The lingering question I’ve got before planning out such a trip is, if I were to be a solo traveller with only a rudimentary understanding of Japanese, how hard (or easy) would it be for me to get around?

      Like

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