“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.” –James O’Barr
During a phone call with Chihiro, who’s visiting a summer festival with Tomo, Fū recalls an old promise that she’d made with Chihiro long ago – they were to visit the summer festival in yukata together. Fū’s grandmother would begin making a yukata for her, but after Fū’s father had passed away, these plans were shelved. In the present, Chihiro invites Fū to visit her in Yokosuka for the next summer festival. Fū’s grandfather is also visiting, and he’s brought over the photos Fū’s father had taken, along with an undeveloped roll of film: having been certain the photos were going to be flops, he’d felt it was a waste of money to bring them to light. When Fū mentions the upcoming summer festival, Fū’s grandmother reveals she’d actually finished Fū’s yukata from long ago in anticipation of the day that Fū would find her smile anew. On the day of the festival, Fū meets up with Norie, Kaoru and Maon. Before they head off to the event grounds, everyone receives a surprise message from Sayomi. Although they are exasperated to learn another mind-bogglingly long adventure is in the works, after meeting up with Kō and Fū’s grandparents, Sayomi posts an update, saying her coursework has kept her tied up, and the “surprise” spot she had for them was actually Fū’s place. From the quiet here, everyone enjoys the fireworks, while Fū tries to photograph them with her camera. Seeing Fū prompts Kō to comment on why their father referred to a good yukata as resembling a warm breeze. When the show ends, Fū’s mother explains the origin of Fū’s name, and everyone then sends their photos to Chihiro. Later, Fū picks up the developed pictures from her father’s camera roll, learning that they were his fireworks photos, and moreover, that they’d come out blurry, just like Fū’s. This is Tamayura ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, which accompanied the home release’s final volume. When I had gone through Tamayura ~Hitotose~ for the first time, I’d been a university student, and it’d been an academic semester, so I ended up setting the OVA aside, resolving to one day revisit it. That day didn’t come until eleven years later; things back then had been quite busy, and as time passed, the ~Hitotose~ OVA fell to the back of my mind. After revisiting Tamayura a year ago, I realised I’d missed this OVA on my original watch of the series and resolved to give it a go, although I’ve not been able to find a moment until now.
The concept of “at your own pace” is integral to Tamayura, and here in ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, another milestone Fū’s healing journey is shown. Fū’s grandmother puts things best – although she had intended for Fū to wear that sunshine-coloured yukata to the next summer festival with her father, after he passed away, everything was put on hold. In her words, time had come to a standstill as everyone grieved for this loss. However, Fū’s grandmother has been around the block and understands that there would come a day when Fū would recover and would want to take a step forward again. Knowing that Fū’s ability to accept thing was inevitable given her own growth, Fū’s grandmother would ultimately finish the yukata she had originally started. This is a consequence of the wisdom she’s accrued over the years, and in this way, by the events of ~Hitotose~, when Fū’s desire to wear a yukata to a summer festival is sparked following a conversation with Chihiro, her wish is able to be fulfilled because the people around her have been looking out for her. In this way, this OVA accentuates how, even though Fū’s father is gone and has left a considerable hole in her life, Fū still has plenty of people around her, all of whom are able to help support and nurture Fū so that she can stand of her own accord. Through both the warmth from her brother, mother and grandparents, and the energy and spirits that her friends bring, Fū’s curiosity to explore the world around her becomes rekindled. Along the way, she is able to try out the things that she’d previously avoided owing to the difficult memories they brought up, and with the people around her, Fū comes to appreciate that to honour her father’s memory, it is imperative for her to take those tricky steps forward. In doing so, Fū learns that so long as she is able to do this, her father’s memory will continue living on – after Fū takes those photographs while watching fireworks with her friends, the end result is identical to the photos her fathers had taken, showing how even now, those precious memories can persist and endure into the present. In this way, Fū’s father is still with her, and as Fū gradually takes an increased initiative to seek out the things her father had loved, she finds that she’s able to incrementally learn more about him, and along the way, discover more about herself, too.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Tamayura reminds me of a simpler time of back when I was a student – I had come upon the anime while looking for something similar to K-On!, and immediately took a liking to it. As a student, however, my life experiences back then were limited, and consequently, my impressions of Tamayura back then weren’t quite as articulate as they are now. Nowadays, I feel like I’ve got a better measure of where Tamayura‘s strengths lie; in the last year, I revisited the OVAs, ~Hitotose~ and ~More Aggressive~ because it’d been a decade since the original series had aired.
- The nostalgic feel surrounding Tamayura evokes memories of my time in Japanese class: I don’t mind admitting that I took introductory Japanese so I could gain some experience with Japanese, and while my major’s requirements meant I wasn’t able to continue, having some understanding of basic grammar, hiragana and katakana, and vocabulary was helpful. It would’ve been nice if I could take a few more courses and gone on an exchange programme. While the fulI programme is meant for majors, I learnt that there was a summer programme open to non-majors, and the only requirement is introductory Japanese.
- I had considered signing up just for the experience, before I could make a decision, my supervisor invited me to help out with the Giant Walkthrough Brain project. The opportunity to work on a science communication show would ultimately be the spark that drove my desire for a career in software development, and in retrospect, it was more beneficial than spending seven weeks in Japan. I do not have any regrets about the path I took; while it would’ve been nice to meet someone like Sayomi in my travels, choosing to stay home and work on the Giant Walkthrough Brain ultimately laid the groundwork for my graduate thesis and also sparked my interest in iOS development. I can always visit Japan again in the future.
- I’m fairly positive that I skipped over the Memories of a Warm Breeze OVA when I first went through Tamayura, and because of my tendencies for procrastination, I never actually got around to writing about it. Longtime readers will be familiar with the fact that I have a fondness for writing about OVAs – while OVAs have been considered to be side-stories that are used for comedy, slice-of-life series utilise the additional space to expand on the characters’ worlds and provide insights into things that might not fit so neatly in to that series’ regular run.
- Shortly after making her promise to Chihiro, Fū had asked her grandmother for a yukata. Fū’s father had mentioned that the yukata should evoke the same feeling as a warm breeze. Such descriptions are common in poetry, and while they can be a little hard to parse at times, if one has a creative mind, the intentions behind such descriptions are more apparent. Fū’s grandmother has no such problems with making Fū a yukata to her father’s description, but since he would pass away shortly after, everything was put on hold.
- When Tamayura‘s original OVAs aired, it was 2010. During this time, the first iPad was released, and Intel’s Westmere 32 nm processors had just hit the market. In Tamayura, high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets are absent, allowing the anime to exist in a timeless context. The story is therefore able to proceed at its own pace, and even a full decade later, the lessons and experiences Tamayura shares with viewers feels recent. Fū is shown using a feature phone here, and she’s rocking her father’s Rollei 35S, a film camera that was introduced in 1966.
- While Chihiro and Fū did meet up in ~Hitotose~, since the OVA was released after the series, the conversation that is shared here would foreshadow the events of ~More Aggressive~, which aired in 2013. Living up to its title, ~More Aggressive~ saw Fū taking up a more active role in her life as she started her own photography club, and even hosted Chihiro, who would be overjoyed to see her best friend for the first time in over a year.
- For this OVA, however, Tamayura decides to take small steps: a new promise to meet up the next time there’s a summer festival is born of this conversation, and Fū finds herself quite excited to see Chihiro again. However, since it is the summer, and since there will be a festival in Takehara, Fū begins to wonder if she’s got a yukata of her own floating around.
- As it turns out, Fū’s grandfather has shown up and plans on accompanying everyone to the summer festival. After enjoying lunch at Café Tamayura, he shows Fū and Kō some of their father’s old photographs: when he picked up photography, Fū and Kō’s father had pursued perfection and didn’t really enjoy looking at images that came out blurry. While he hadn’t found the photos of note, Fū’s grandfather had kept them. Today, advances in technology has meant that cameras are now an integral part of smartphones. One can take incredible photos and share them without ever requiring a film developer, increasingly sophisticated sensors automatically stablise a device, and algorithm adjust lighting and contrast in images to produce photos of exceptional quality.
- This, however, takes away the skill in adjusting a camera to produce the best shot, and similarly, the anticipation that comes from waiting for film to develop is lost. Tamayura captures the romance of these older times and envelopes them in tenderness. Here, Kō tries on the almost-complete yukata: Norie is beside herself in excitement. In Tamayura proper, Komachi would show up and spoil her fun as a bit of a recurring joke for viewers, but in this OVA, Komachi doesn’t appear. After Norie composes herself, Fū gives the yukata a try, and her grandmother explains the remainder of the story for everyone’s benefit.
- Through Fū’s grandmother’s story, viewers are given another glimpse as to how deep Fū’s feelings of grief and loss were after her father’s passing. Since Tamayura is set after Fū returns to Takehara, one doesn’t really have a full sense of how extensive these feelings were, but what is shown to viewers is how, amidst the historical town of Takehara, its gentle breeze and cozy streets, Fū begins to find herself again. Having known Fū since she was born, her grandmother is able to spot that Fū’s slowly beginning to heal, and as such, is overjoyed that Fū has now reached a point where she is able to begin seeking out adventure and discovery on her own initiative.
- At the Hanawa residence, Kaoru and Sayomi’s conversation reveals that Fū’s father had passed away before the Hinamatsuri – the Festival of Dolls is observed on March 3, and this means that this would’ve happened in February. The choice of month is probably not significant, but for me, February is among my least favourite months of the year simply because it is cold and grey. Having known Fū for so long, the Hanawa sisters understand that asking for Fū’s grandmother for a yukata acts as a milestone of sorts for her.
- Fū’s grandmother finishes the yukata ahead of the summer festival, and it fits Fū perfectly. The shade of yellow brings to mind the gentle warmth of a sunflower field on a summer’s afternoon. It is befitting of Fū’s personality, and now that it’s ready, all that’s left is to give things a go on the day of the event. Fū’s mother and grandfather both comment on how her father would be pleased to see this moment. Since Fū is now able to live her life more fully, her father’s spirit would rest knowing that Fū’s been able to accept what’s happened and find her own way.
- Death isn’t something a topic I’m fond of discussing, but thanks to a combination of my parent’s thoughts, and my own experiences, I hold the belief that we honour those who’ve passed on by living our own lives with integrity and generating value for those who live. A part of this actually does come from Tamayura: Fū’s journey is consistently shown as being respectful, honouring her father’s memory by having her experience and cherish the things he once did while at the same time, doing so on her own terms, and in her own manner.
- When the festival arrives, Fū meets up with Kaoru, Maon and Norie, all of whom are similarly wearing yukata. Kaoru sports hers with confidence, saying that while it once belonged to Sayomi, it looks better on her. Kaoru’s been a character I’ve long been fond of – her confident, no-nonsense personality is similar to my own, but she’s also supported Fū since she returned to Takehara, which would in time give Fū the confidence to befriend Norie and Maon.
- The peace is broken when Sayomi messages Kaoru with the promise of yet another adventure. Sayomi’s proposals often leave the girls on gruelling experiences that take them way out of the way. Sayomi loves exploring, but her sense of direction means that more often than not, anyone who participates ends up getting lost. The reason for this in Tamayura is two-fold: it creates humour, but it also shows that life is full of craggy roads and unexpected detours. As unenjoyable as being sent off-mission is, if one approaches things with patience, the resulting journey and outcomes can be quite memorable, too.
- For the present, Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon resign themselves to Sayomi’s impending adventure and head off over to the harbour to meet the others. The walk from Café Tamayura to Ōnori Elementary School, where the Takehara Summer Fireworks festival is held, is about 5.8 kilometres, so on this evening, I’d imagine that everyone would take the train to reach the festival grounds – after walking to Takehara Station, it’d be a 24 minute ride over to Ōnori Station.
- While Fū’s family and friends enjoy the best foods the summer festival has to offer, I recall on yesterday’s Christmas shopping outing. I swung by the largest mall in the city to pick up some gifts for parents and relatives, before stopping by the Local Public Eatery for lunch. For old time’s sake, I ordered their Fried Chicken Ramen, a fusion dish with Miso-sesame broth, charred corn, mixed greens and a soft-boiled egg, topped with Southern-style crispy chicken. The moment the first bite hit my mouth, I was hit with a veritable flavour explosion that brought back memories of an older time: the ramen was savoury and rich, and the fried chicken was succulent and juicy; this time, rather than the Steven Avenue branch, I swung by the Barclay branch, a new location that opened this past summer.
- Despite the amount of time that’s passed, the Fried Chicken Ramen remains as delicious as I remember; the last time I enjoyed this dish, it would’ve been back in 2019, when I was eating lunch with my previous team. Our developer from Los Angeles came into town to visit us in person prior to our app’s full launch, and after this, we were scheduled for a retreat in Canmore. At this time, I had also written a post on Non Non Biyori Vacation, a post that celebrates the film’s portrayal of travel; the movie is one that hasn’t received much recognition despite its sincerity. Back in the ~Hitotose~ OVA, Kaoru receive a message from Sayomi. Norie and Maon brace themselves, but as it turns out, Sayomi’s swamped with schoolwork and therefore, is unable to make it. She ends up giving Fū and the others the location she’d wanted to take them to anyways.
- This “secret spot” turns out to be none other than the Sawatari residence. I’ve previously done location hunts in Takehara, but the Sawatari home was one spot I never bothered finding because it was probably set in a fictionalised area. The only clue I had was the fact that from Fū’s home, the Takehara Thermal Power Station’s distinct smokestacks are visible, and this led me to look around Ōnori Station. The area is home to a number of residents, but is a little less-travelled compared to Takehara proper, making it a suitable spot for fireworks.
- When the fireworks start, the Sawatari residence proves to be a wonderful place for viewing the show, being a quiet sanctuary far removed from the hustle and bustle of the festival grounds. The spot is, in short, perfectly suited for the sort of aesthetic that Tamayura strives to convey, and while there is a strong case for being in the middle of things at the festival grounds, the calm here provides a moment for introspection. Even in its most rambunctious moments, Tamayura has always exuded a cathartic, tranquil tone, with the aim of slowing down the story and helping viewers to focus on the moment.
- Viewers are afforded a view of what the fireworks look like from the Sawatari residence: although they don’t fill the skies as they would when viewed from much closer, it’s not so far away that the fireworks appear as tiny, distant bursts of light. Here, the Takehara Thermal Power Station’s smokestacks can be seen, and together with hills, I was able to roughly guess where the Sawatari residence is. With this in mind, I would imagine that Tamayura had fictionalised the spot (as Yuru Camp△ did with a few locations) for convenience, and because a decade has passed, the rice paddies seen here in this screenshot are now broken up by a few more houses.
- As the fireworks continue, Fū breaks out her camera and attempts to capture the show on film. The sort of focus and flow that Fū enters whenever she’s got her heart set on taking a good photo is noticeable, and for both Kō and Fū’s friends, watching her going after that next snapshot of a moment is the surest sign that Fū is incrementally finding her place in the world. This moment prompts Kō to comment on how Fū seems to resemble to serenity a warm breeze might create: Fū’s father was almost certainly referring to this when describing the idea yukata, and while in words, things may seem a little cryptic, having the imagery makes the meaning behind his words much clearer.
- During the last summer, I had a chance to watch my first fireworks show since the global health crisis began, and I was thrilled to see that the Calgary Stampede’s fireworks remained just as spectacular as they did in previous years. This time around, I had an iPhone Xʀ, and while it’s an older phone without any night mode functions, I was quite surprised as to how well the photos I took turned out. They are nowhere near the level of what a professional photographer, with the right camera and knowhow, can take, but as a point-and-shoot, the results came out impressive. I remember a time when digital cameras were in their infancy, and night photos demanded a tripod (otherwise, they’d come out blurry).
- From the iPhone 11 onwards, advances in lens technology and image processing means that night photos are now far easier to take than they’d been a decade earlier. However, from a thematic standpoint, if Fū had an iPhone 14 Pro, the idea of waiting to get her photos developed, and treasuring the blurry photos as much as the successful ones, would be lost. From a professional standpoint, a digital camera is more practical than a film camera in almost every aspect, and even back in 2010, digital cameras were already of a sufficient maturity so that their usage was widespread.
- At the end of Tamayura, Fū ends up receiving a DSLR camera from Nozomu Natsume, a friend of her father’s. Behind is gruff and cold exterior is someone who had deeply cherished his friendships with those around him, and after meeting Fū for the first time, he realises that his best friend continues to live on in his daughter. A digital camera will change the way Fū approaches photography, but throughout ~Hitotose~ and ~More Aggressive~, Fū continues to run with her Rollei 35S. Tamayura treats film cameras with respect and highlights the advantages of such cameras, but at the same time, also shows how even in a space as timeless as Tamayura, things continue to advance.
- While Fū prefers to take photos with her film camera, when the moment calls for it, she has no qualms about using her feature phone’s camera to snap a quick image. By the time Tamayura aired, camera phones were moderately sophisticated: 4 MP cameras were not uncommon, and high-end devices had 8 MP cameras. Nowadays, thanks to the incredible advances in technology, smartphones and cameras are on the same hardware platform, making it easier to share than before. It does feel a little strange to see Fū using a feature phone to send photos more quickly, since she’s usually seen with her Rollei 35S: here, she sends an image of everyone in their yukata to Chihiro, who replies almost immediately.
- I’ve always loved the calm that follows a fireworks show; ~Hitotose~‘s OVA captures even this during its runtime, and after the show’s over, Fū receives a phone call from Chihiro, who worries about forgetting to send a photo of Tomo over. Tomo would be formally introduced in ~More Aggressive~. The scenes are set to Natsumi Kiyoura’s Hanabi, a slow ballad that joins the other vocal pieces in Tamayura as being cathartic songs that convey a sense of longing and nostalgia. The music in Tamayura is of a great quality, and over the years, multiple albums have been released. The “Tamayura Complete” album would compile everything into a single place, and came out in April 2021 along with the complete BD collection. Having all of Tamayura‘s music in one album means being able to fully appreciate just how unique the music in this series is: I listen to the album whenever I go for drives or walks.
- The morning after the fireworks festival, Fū heads over to Hinomaru to get her photos developed alongside her father’s undeveloped roll. While her photos came out blurry, she is shocked to learn that the photos on his camera roll are more or less identical to those of her father’s. This is significant because it shows how Fū’s experiencing the same as her father, and in treading the same paths he once did, is able to continue connecting with him, and share the same thoughts as he did. Thanks to the home release labelling the OVA episodes, Fū’s experiences at the summer festival are set following Chirio’s visit to Takehara, and prior to the Path of Longing Festival in autumn.
- The idea of setting an OVA between episodes of a given series is not new, but it’s a successful approach because moments in between the milestones are still worth sharing. ~More Aggressive~ would do the same thing, following everyone’s adventure to Onomichi after Maon falls ill prior to a class trip. I had previously written about this OVA eight years earlier, shortly after it released with ~More Aggressive~‘s OVA, praising the OVA for portraying the idea that travel is worthwhile because of who one is with, rather than the nature of the destination, and also speculated on what a Tamayura continuation would entail. If there is interest in my revisiting ~More Aggressive~‘s OVA, I would be happy to do so (please let me know in the comments!), and in the meantime, I will be resuming to scheduled programming with Yama no Susume: Next Summit‘s eighth episode.
The idea of a new promise evoking old memories creates a bit of irony – although ~Hitotose~‘s OVA was a part of the first season, I’d actually never watched it during my original run through the series a decade earlier. Going through this OVA, I am reminded of the fact that that when revisiting things anew with a fresh set of eyes, the experience may yield new discoveries. Things that one may have forgotten about take on newfound value upon revisitation. This is what allows Fū to create new memories of her friends to cherish: a happenstance mention of wearing yukata to watch the summer fireworks with Chihiro might not have fully materialised yet, but Fū is reminded of her old promise and suddenly wishes to do the same with Kaoru, Norie and Maon. In the process, Fū not only has the chance to see fireworks with her friends in Takehara, but she also discovers more about her father and becomes, in her and Chihiro’s words, “more aggressive”. Simple decisions to take a step forward can have an immensely valuable impact on one’s perspective and help one along; in an environment where Fū longs to learn more about her father at her own pace, with people who are there to support her at each step, ~Hitotose~‘s OVA shows yet another snapshot into Fū’s journey as she gradually opens up. That Fū’s photographs wind up being similar to her father’s old photographs is a very valuable show of Fū connecting with him, and despite his absence now, his memories continue to endure, acting as a source of comfort and inspiration. The idea of seemingly trivial events creating fateful moments is not new in anime, but Tamayura does an especially solid job of conveying this to viewers – being open to new experiences can pave the way for life-changing moments down the line, and similarly, there is worth in looking back and revisiting old memories with a new perspective. For me, there is always joy in discovering something new in a given activity or object I had thought to be familiar. I was surprised that I’d never written about ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, but now, I am glad to have done so – going through the OVA has accentuate my enjoyment of Tamayura, making Chihiro’s visit in ~More Aggressive~ all the more significant, and with this, I believe that I’ve now written about everything in Tamayura to some extent.