The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Tamayura

Tamayura OVA: Review and Reflections on Beginnings of a Journey

“Appreciate everything, even the ordinary…especially the ordinary.” –Pema Chodron

Fū Sawatari heads over to the local camera shop to retrieve her camera with her friend, Kaori Hanawa, a Rollei 35S that had belonged to her late father. Here, she meets Norie Okazaki and Maon Sakurada. The four immediately become friends and visit a local Okonomiyaki shop, before returning to Tamayura Café, where Fū receives a letter from professional photographer, Riho Shihomi; inspired by Fū’s photos, Riho had found a newfound love for photography and sent Fū an unusual train ticket lacking a destination. It turns out Riho is hosting a photography exhibit and is keen to have Fū visit; on the day of the exhibition, Fū is nervous but overjoyed to finally meet Riho in person. Later, Fū begins to wonder about the photo she’d taken of her father, and her little brother’s drawings only gives her a rough idea of where the photo might’ve been. When she asks Kaori, Norie and Maon, Kaori’s older sister, Sayomi, overhears their conversation and offers to help them track the place down. Although Sayomi’s lacklustre navigation skills send the girls on a wild journey, and the destination winds up being quite unlike the spot that Fū had visited, Fū nonetheless has a wonderful time, seeing it as another precious memory. Riho visits Tamayura Café and speaks to Fū about how photography had become an integral part of her life. On their walk, Fū helps two friends take a photograph. Sayomi determines that she might’ve located the spot Fū was seeking and suggests they go on another trip. After a harrowing drive, the girls make it. While Fū sprains her ankle, she fortuitously runs into Hinomaru, who helps carry her; from this vantage point, Fū realises this is where her father had taken them years earlier. Tamayura begins in four OVAs that were aired during the autumn of 2010: produced by Hal Film Maker, they mark the first instalments to the Tamayura story, which follows Fū and her life in Takehara after her father’s passing. Although an air of wistfulness lingers throughout Tamayura, Fū does her best to find joy in her life, taking after her father in photography and striving to capture happiness as her father once did with her new friends.

The Tamayura OVAs introduce the two most important symbols within the series. Fū’s Rollei is a physical piece of her past, of the joy and memory she shared with her father. By continuing to take photographs with it, Fū simultaneously pays respects to her father while at the same time, indicates that she’s also pursuing a new path. This camera therefore comes to mirror the contradiction within life – in order to move ahead, Fū continues to honour what is important to her, and similarly, in order to be respectful of the past, Fū must be mindful of her future. This camera serves Fū faithfully throughout Tamayura, much as it had for her father, and in making new memories with her friends and this camera, Fū keeps the memories of her father alive. The other symbol is the oft-mentioned “ticket with no destination”, which Riho had given to Fū after their initial correspondence. Riho indicates that it represents how the lack of a destination means that Fū can go anywhere and become anything. Rather than setting her mind on a tangible, but rigidly-defined goal, Riho wishes for Fū to explore with complete freedom. Fū thus carries this ticket around to remind her of the fact that her path forwards has no exact set of steps, and a destination will present itself in due course, so at the present, she can (and should) live in the moment. By establishing these two elements, Tamayura states to viewers that Fū’s way will be full of new discoveries and an appreciation of the old: rather than being bound by grief and sorrow, Tamayura gives Fū a peaceful and serene environment in which to pick herself back up and rediscover the highlights in life anew. The energy present in the OVAs fully captures this, and while Tamayura is contemplative and introspective, things are also very lively, offering plenty of moment to smile about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Readers who’ve been with me since 2013 will have read my Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ posts, and when I watched Tamayura ~Hitotose~, this blog was more of a secondary resource that I didn’t make extensive use of. After realising that I’d not fully watched the Tamayura OVAs, I hastened to rectify that, and in the process, I learnt that this year will also mark the ten year anniversary to ~Hitotose~‘s airing. As such, I think the time is appropriate for me to revisit the whole of Tamayura, starting with the OVAs, which open with Fū wandering around town and imagining all of the awesome photos she’ll take once her camera’s repaired.

  • Fū and her longtime friend, Kaori, swing by the local photography store: it’s known as Hinomaru Photo Studio in real life and was originally built in 1945, after which it was designated as a building of historical and cultural significance. In a clever callout, the shop’s owner in Tamayura is named Hinomaru, after the shop, and for his skills, he’s affectionately known as Maestro. Because Fū’s camera is so old, she often takes it in for repairs, and seeing this in Tamayura‘s opening means that by the events of Graduation Photo, there is additional significance in Fū’s camera finally breaking down.

  • Shy and somewhat scatter-brained, Fū has trouble speaking with new people. The two ladies here are regulars at Hinomaru, and it suddenly strikes me that they’ll return in ~Hitotose~ after the lady in the red shirt suffers a catastrophic heartbreak. Tamayura is a series that covers a broad spectrum of emotions in a mature and relatable fashion, but it is also prone to flights of fancy; this combination brings to mind the likes of ARIA, which was revolutionary for being able to create excitement in the ordinary and similarly hinted at the presence of a benevolent supernatural force.

  • By the time of ~Hitotose~, Fū was already friends with Norie and Maon: they befriend Fū during the events of the OVA after walking by Hinomaru and take an interest in her photos. This meeting happened purely by chance, but it speaks to the power of how photography can bring people together. From here on out, besides Kaori, Fū also has Norie and Maon in her corner, setting the stage for their later adventures.

  • Tamayura is the anime that instilled in me a desire to eat okonomiyaki, and when I attended a local festival several years back, I would have a chance to try a smaller version of it. However, it wasn’t until my travels in Japan where I had authentic okonomiyaki: I was waiting for my flight from Kansai International Airport to Hong Kong from Osaka, and there’d been enough time to sit down for a proper lunch. I opted for okonomiyaki and was blown away by the flavours. This place is called Boteju-Yatai, if memory serves, and aside from okonomiyaki, they also serve a range of noodles.

  • It turns out that Hoboro’s is based on Horikawa: if I ever decide to visit Takehara, I am going to definitely swing by: locals indicate that their okonomiyaki is varied, and there’s even an English-language menu. Fū’s very quickly made friends with Norie and Maon: Norie has a love for all confectionaries and aspires to be a pâtisserie chef, while Maon doesn’t have any concrete goals as of yet. Similarly, while Kaori loves making creative potpourri, she hasn’t given much thought to her career as of yet.

  • Fū’s predisposition for capturing that special shot means that she puts herself in some dangerous positions throughout Tamayura: with her friends helping her, Fū is able to avoid disaster on many occasions, and such instances are always meant to be comedic. Here, Fū leans off a railing while trying to get a photo of her friends at Saihoji Temple: this was a commonly-visited spot throughout Tamayura, whose faithful reproduction of Takehara turns it into part cathartic anime, part travel show.

  • Over a decade ago, I was a part of my secondary school’s yearbook team, and early in the year, I attended a special workshop for making a yearbook successful: one of the sessions was about photography, and the staff running the session indicated that capturing dynamic shots would make for the best memories. I ended up becoming a part of the layout team, where my responsibilities had been to take photos from the photography team and then determine the best way to design a page such that everything was presented in an organised fashion. As a result, I never ended up needing to go out and fetch images for myself.

  • Upon meeting Fū’s younger brother for the first time, Norie is infatuated. In the Tamayura OVA, I found that all of the characters’ traits were exaggerated compared to how they were presented later on: this is probably a consequence the OVAs trying to define everyone’s personalities and give them a unique role, whereas in the television series, there would be more time to develop everyone out further. Thus, Norie is even more rambunctious, and Maon whistles more in response to things. Similarly, Fū is far more absent-minded about her surroundings while in pursuit of that perfect shot.

  • To her friends, Fū is affectionately known as Potte, a bit of onomatopoeia resulting from the noise Fū makes while nervously walking. This helps viewers separate out the different social circles that Fū is a part of. I refer to Fū as such rather than Potte simply because it’s a matter of consistency: I generally prefer to name characters by their original name rather than their nicknames. Here, Fū melts after becoming excited about meeting her role model, Riho, for the first time.

  • I’d long known that Riho’s a mentor of sorts for Fū, having heard the conversations within Tamayura, but it turns out the OVAs explore how this had come about. Even then, the full story is not shown to viewers; all that is shown is that Fū had sent some photos to Riho, and received the iconic train ticket with no destination in return. I imagine that for Fū, the simplicity in her photographs present a sort of sincerity about them that captures moments in ways that professionals do not consider as being important.

  • Tamayura is suggesting that Fū’s inexperience with professional techniques create images that convey a sense of rawness here that professionals might not consider for their work, and seeing Fū’s photos is actually what led Riho to continue working in photography despite it being a tough time for her. The exhibition is a success, and Fū also learns that her long-time role model is not to dissimilar to herself. From here on out, the two develop a deep friendship; Riho’s presence gives viewers the peace of mind that besides her friends, Fū also has someone to walk her through the more technical pieces of photography so she may hone her craft.

  • Having now seen ~Hitotose~,  ~More Aggressive~ and Graduation Photo, it is clear that the artwork, animation and character designs have subtly evolved over time, improving with every iteration. Environments are more detailed, the characters begin to look more life-like, and the beauty surrounding Fū’s everyday life becomes more apparent. However, here in the OVA, the spirit of Takehara is captured in full, and it becomes clear that subsequent works took the aesthetic the OVA established, and then expanded on it, exploring more of Takehara and its surroundings.

  • One detail that blew me out of the water in the Tamayura OVAs was the fact that the opening song is Maaya Sakamoto’s cover of Yumi Arai’s timeless hit from Kiki’s Delivery Service, Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara (Embraced in Tenderness). When the OVA began playing, I immediately found the song to be warm and comforting, but couldn’t put my finger on why I’d sounded so familiar. As it turns out, I’ve been listening to piano covers of Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara while working. I still need to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service: Miyazaki films are always a joy to watch.

  • The music in the Tamayura OVA are familiar: the same background pieces were used in the television series and for Graduation Photo, creating a sense of nostalgia and sense of comfort. Earlier this year, a complete soundtrack was released, featuring every vocal piece and instrumental track used in Tamayura. The vocal pieces all have a gentle and soft tone about them, making them superbly relaxing to listen to. In the end, Fū wraps up by taking a photo of Riho. Earlier, Fū had brought a gift of sorts for Riho, but in her excitement, left it on the train. One of the train station staff pick it up and returns it to Fū; presumably, Fū will be able to gift this to Riho at a later date.

  • Café Tamayura is one of my favourite places in Tamayura: it is home for Fū, and here, the girls experience a few menu item. From their reactions, this is something that will be available to customers. Revisiting Tamayura has led me to see that the use of fuzzy eyes to denote happiness is not new: Tamayura and K-On! have been doing this a decade earlier, although it was only really with Yuru Camp△ that I began noticing this trait.

  • Kaori’s sister, Sayomi, makes an appearance: she’s fond of adventure, and now that I think about it, she fulfils the same role as GochiUsa‘s Mocha. While ordinarily, the idea of adventure would be an enticing one, Sayomi’s sense of direction is questionable. Kaori thus dreads it whenever Sayomi shows up with an itch fore adventure, since it entails everyone getting lost for what seems like an inordinate amount of time.

  • What makes things about Sayomi’s adventures worthwhile is that, while everyone is lost, they still nonetheless have a good time. This is one of the recurring lessons that arise from Sayomi’s adventures with Fū and her friends: although the path to the destination is bumpy and crooked, the memories created are well worth it. The fact that Sayomi loves exploring obscure, local destinations was also inspiring to me. When my undergraduate degree ended, I was feeling a little left behind by the fact that I’d not travelled that summer. After watching ~More Aggressive~, I was reminded of the fact that there’s actually quite a bit of my home town I’d yet to explore.

  • This way of thinking impacted how I spent my days during the world health crisis: with the mountains trickier to access, and international travel off the table, I ended up taking long and pleasant walks in the parks and neighbourhoods nearby, and in doing so, discovered things that I would’ve missed otherwise. For Fū and her friends, after two hours of being lost, they decide to set down and have lunch in a quieter spot. Earlier today, I went out for a walk downtown (my first time returning in over a year), then spent the afternoon touring a condo unit of interest: at this point in time, I figured that it’d be nice to go and see what’s available on the market.

  • The evening concluded with a dinner from one of our favourite Cantonese joints in the city; besides the longtime favourite of sweet-and-sour pork, Chinese broccoli with stir-fry beef and seafood and fried tofu cooked in a clay pot (一品窩), we also mixed things up by ordering fried oysters with mushrooms. Food is definitely one of the things I remember best about a given day, so I make it a point to write about things where appropriate. Anime like Tamayura similarly feature mealtimes to accentuate that moments like these are an integral part of memorable moments; while Kaori and the others are doubtlessly exasperated by Sayomi’s inability to navigate, sharing a good meal with one another helps to lift the spirits and give everyone energy to finish their tour.

  • After one more hour, the group finally arrives at the location Sayomi had been thinking of. While this isn’t the same spot that Fū remembers, there is a sort of nostalgia around this spot, even though it’s likely everyone’s first time here. Tamayura‘s OVAs thus speak to the idea that there are many hidden treasures around one’s own home, and that time spent exploring the places one knows well can always yield unexpected surprises even if one’s been there before.

  • Tamayura suggests that getting lost and not finding what one was expecting is also a part of the adventure, a part of the process that timeless memories are created, and moreover, with the right mindset, all of this can happen right in one’s own backyard. This isn’t to say that travel isn’t important, but in the event where travel isn’t viable, one can nonetheless have a good time with a bit of open-mindedness. Unlike the people in my generation, I do not view travel as a large priority in my life; my priorities are to advance my career and build up my assets.

  • For me, if I don’t take any vacation time in a given year to go abroad, that’s completely fine, as I’m happy to spend a long weekend in the mountains or driving the freeway under an open prairie sky. This way of thinking comes from how my parents do things: they found that doing something simple like a walk by the river downtown could be very joyful, and Tamayura certainly seems to suggest this to viewers. Fū and her friends have remarkable adventures all around town, exploring places that possess a hidden beauty to them.

  • When Riho decides to visit Fū in person, the two end up taking some private time together to share their thoughts. The streets of Takehara’s warehouse district have a beautiful, watercolour-like feel to them, and for the longest time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to run a gentle café here. It suddenly hits me that I’ve not written anything about Momoneko-sama, a fluffy, pink cat that roams Takehara. Despite Fū’s best efforts to photograph him, he always manages to escape before she can press the button, leaving behind a blurry mess.

  • Fortunately for Fū, when two students ask her to take their photo, they stay still and allow for Fū to get an excellent picture. Fū is seen using their digital camera here: by 2010, digital cameras were commonplace, and smartphones hadn’t quite displaced them. Compared to a film camera, digital cameras are more forgiving when it comes to mistakes, so by having Fū run with the S35, Tamayura speaks to the idea that a film photograph is a permanent record of a given memory, for better or worse.

  • The next weekend, Sayomi follows through on her promise to find the spot from Fū’s photograph: Kaori had been dreading this moment, especially since Sayomi has offered to drive everyone to this destination. Her driving rivals Azumanga Daioh‘s Yukari Tanizaki in terms of aggression and recklessness: Kaori, Fū, Norie and Maon are left in terror as Sayomi speeds along the narrow mountain switchbacks in her Mazda 5: having now rocked a Mazda 5 for about a decade, I recognise the vehicle’s design from anywhere, and I can say with confidence that it is actually possible to drive like this with the Mazda 5.

  • Once Sayomi’s harrowing ride comes to an end, Fū and the others take a moment to catch their breath before taking in the sights from Asahiyama Park, located high above Takehara. This is one of Takehara’s power spots, places in Japan of spiritual significance, and while Fū doesn’t initially believe this was where her photo was taken, she ends up spraining her ankle, and just in time, Maestro appears to give her a hand. Fū suddenly realises that her younger brother’s drawing portrayed his getting a pigg-back ride while up here, and so, this is precisely where Fū had gone.

  • With Tamayura‘s OVAs definitively in the books, I am going to return and write about ~Hitotose~ once I’ve had a chance to watch all of the episodes anew: the last time I did so would’ve been a decade earlier, and I confess that I’ve pretty much forgotten everything about this series; the anime had aired during the autumn of 2011, a time when I’d just finished a full summer of undergraduate research and was reinvigorated, ready to stare down another year of university. This term was quite eventful: although I stumbled yet again in the third and final data structures course, I maintained a satisfactory GPA that term, giving me the confidence to finish my degree strong.

  • On the topic of ten year anniversaries, September 2011 also marked the conclusion of Hanasaku Iroha; this would’ve been P.A. Works’ first major production since 2010’s Angel Beats!, and the elements of Hanasaku Iroha would go on to shape the sort of anime P.A. Works later produced. I’ve recently begun a rewatch, and I am impressed at the level of quality in the story, animation and direction in this series. Finally, I am a boss fight away from beating DOOM Eternal, and my copy of ARIA The Crepuscolo has arrived: I will be looking to finish and write about both during the September long weekend.

  • This is the iconic photo that Fū had taken: there is a sense of nostalgia and familiarity about it that impresses those who gaze upon it, and the eponymous Tamayura can be seen: it refers to small specks of light that appear in photos, and is said to manifest in photos portraying happiness. One of Fū’s objectives is to see if she can reproduce the phenomenon with consistency, and since the mechanism behind their appearance is unexplained, they simply become a metaphor for Fū pursuing new experiences and making new memories with those who are in her life.

In the space of four episodes, Tamayura‘s OVAs succinctly summarises the magic in this tale of self-discovery, acceptance and embracing the future after a loss. At this point in Tamayura, Fū is back in Takehara, a peaceful town of around twenty-six thousand in Hiroshima, known for its old warehouse district: she’s completely engrossed in photography, and while a sense of longing is never really too far away, it becomes clear that she’s in good company. Kaori is always there to support Fū, and similarly, having Norie and Maon around means there’s never a dull moment. Between the inspiration from Riho, and the adventures that Sayomi hauls Fū and her friends on, Fū’s life in Takehara is simultaneously tranquil and eventful. By keeping busy with her photography hobby and sharing experiences with her friends that transform into lifelong memories, Fū is able to, bit by bit, move forwards and embrace her future, one that would eventually see her start a photography club and even mentor juniors, before walking the stage during graduation and setting her sights for the next milestone in her life. However, every journey has a beginning, and it is here in quiet Takehara that Fū’s story begins: things continue in ~Hitotose~ (2011) and ~More Aggressive~ (2013), before wrapping up with Graduation Photo (2016). I had followed Tamayura from the very beginning, and we are now nearing the ten-year anniversary to when ~Hitotose~ aired: this is a series that provided an exceptionally cathartic experience for me, one that walked me through some difficult times in university and would ultimately give me the push I needed to transition away from academia into industry. However, in my haste to start ~Hitotose~, I skipped over the OVAs in the process; while Tamayura is written in such a way so viewers are always reminded of what’s important, and I therefore had no trouble with following ~Hitotose~‘s direction, I did feel that the time had come to wrap things up properly and finish the series’ very beginning, which sets the tone for the remainder of the series: from 2011 to 2016, Tamayura would accompany me along my journey through university. The time is appropriate to return and revisit one of the most iconic healing anime of all time now, and now that I’ve wrapped up Tamayura‘s OVAs, I’m quite ready to see how my thoughts of Tamayura have changed in the ten years since I first watched things.

Tomorrow: Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ (Graduation Photo) Movie, Finale Review and Reflection

“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.

Longing: Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ (Graduation Photo) Movie, Part Three Review and Reflection

“I think it’s like when you lose something so close to you, it’s like losing yourself.” ―Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead

It’s been another five months since I’ve done a Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ review, and this time, the episode steps things up with respect to poignancy: it goes without saying that the remainder of this post is a spoiler-filled minefield, so if one does not wish to be spoiled, this is the best time to mash the “back” button. The second instalment featured Norie and Kaoru’s efforts to find their path into the future, and in this third episode, “Longing”, the episode is again divided into two halves. The first deals with Maon after she learns that her father is opposed to her taking over the family inn on top of her other aspirations. Deciding that she wants to talk things through properly and convince him otherwise, Maon and the others travel back to the inn. She overhears a conversation between her parents and fears that their inn is closing down owing to debt, setting her sights on an economics degree to help save the inn. However, it turns out that the inn is financially secure, but Maon nonetheless resolves to pursue economics on top of her other interests. Later, Fū considers her future while her camera is undergoing repairs. She runs into Natsume, who states that it is necessary for one to be supported by others whilst pursuing one’s dreams, and the subtle differences in Fū’s actions do not go unnoticed by her friends. At the Path of Longing festival, Kaoru and the others learn the truth: that Fū is worried about losing the things precious to her as everyone is preparing to move onwards into the future.

As with the second movie, the two acts in “Longing” is superbly executed. The narrative deals predominantly with topics that viewers will find relevant in their lives, either as something they’ve experienced or will soon experience. For Maon, her indecisiveness regarding what she would like to do with her life is one that’s familiar, and it’s shown that she’s adept with a wide variety of things. As such, she’s not sure which one of these is her calling. I see traces of myself mirrored in Maon in this regard: I had chosen the bioinformatics major of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program when applying for university precisely because at the time, I did not know whether I enjoyed biological sciences and medicine more, or computer sciences. Even after I finished my undergraduate degree, it took an extra year along a winding path to discover that my passions include simulation, UX, mobile development, client/customer specifications and project management, and since then, I’ve been in pursuit of a Master’s degree to cement my path as a developer (of some sort). It’s not always easy to pick the one thing that one would wish to pursue and make a career out of it, although once this is discovered, it becomes a matter of putting one’s all into turning this dream into a reality. So, when Maon finally has the chance to have a proper discussion with her parents, her own future becomes better illuminated, and they consent to support her as best they can. The second act in “Longing” is equally relatable, dealing with Fū’s fear of loss as everyone is preparing to step forwards. That her camera is undergoing repairs at this point in time is deliberate: Fū is always carrying the camera around, and being unable to photograph the events surrounding the Path of Longing festival reminds her that things can be lost to time. Without her camera, Fū suddenly realises that she most wishes to learn more about photography by being with Riho and also, that she treasures her friends above all else, fearing that they’ll be separated. This is mirrored quite early on, when Fū’s wish is to visit next year’s Path of Longing with everyone else. As people prepare to transition from one stage of their lives to their next, separation is a very natural aspect. I myself are experiencing just this at present; most of my friends have already become full-fledged members of societies, and it feels as though I’m left behind because I’d taken a little longer to find my calling and push towards pursuing it. Separation is immensely difficult: I miss not having people to talk to and hang out with. With that in mind, it was not unexpected to see Fū finally open up and admit her fear of losing those close to her: these feelings can be overwhelming.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas the previous post was meant to be a light-hearted joke, this 667th post returns to my usual style. We open the discussion with an image of Takumi and Suzune capturing the Photography Club’s senior members deep in thought as Kaoru struggles with the prospects of going to the same university as Sayomi. As is typical of a Tamayura post, this discussion will feature the usual twenty images and their associated figure captions.

  • The prospects of careers is a decidedly challenging one, and this is one of the instances where we see Maon take a more determined stance concerning the capacity to choose her own future. After an open disagreement with her father while discussing career options with Dougou, Maon confides in her friends to see whether or not it would be possible to have another talk and sort things out.

  • Being the ever-faithful friends, Fū and the others accompany her back home. The girls are riding along the Takehara/Ōchō (Mitarai) ferry here, crossing over the Seto Inland Sea to reach Mitarai on Osaki-Shimojima Island.

  • Shortly after arriving at the Sakurada Inn, the girls settle in and decide to lend the Sakuradas a hand in helping with work in and around said inn. While Maon’s looking to speak with her father most, it turns out he’s fallen and injured his leg; moreover, he’s still unwilling to yield on his stance earlier, leaving Maon to wonder how to best initiate the discussions.

  • I’ve heard some comments that the animation and artwork quality in the third movie is somewhat below average, but for the most part, it’s still consistently good. The colours in Tamayura are far gentler than I am wont to see in other anime, but taken together, contribute substantially to the atmospherics and general notion that Tamayura is supposed to be calming rather than bold.

  • Par the course for how things in Tamayura roll, Maon’s friends convince her to have an open conversation with her parents. One of the main themes in Tamayura is the significance of having support from others during difficult times, and for everyone, whether it’s Norie, Kaoru, Maon or Fū, their support and compassion for one another means that they’re always there whenever one of them is feeling down. This support network is what helped Fū eventually accept Takehara and what’s happened.

  • While things were building up, the final revelation is somewhat anti-climatic: it turns out that the Sakurada Inn is in fact, booming and completely over-capacity this weekend, hence Maon’s parents considering asking for help to keep up with the influx of customers. Maon settles on economics on the wish to help her parents out, reflecting on her tendency to pick things up on the spur of a moment, but as they have always done, Maon’s parents will whole-heartedly support her in her endeavours.

  • Economics, finance and commerce are an excellent field for numerous reasons, and it is a field that I greatly respect: finance, business and marketing people are just as essential as anyone in STEM. After Maon decides to pursue a degree in economics, she wonders if she’ll be able to do on top of that psychology, philosophy, geography and even astronomy. Truly interested in everything, I share Maon’s sense of curiosity, and it was this reason why my own path has been somewhat crooked; it shows no sign of straightening out any time soon, if things play out the way I think they will. Thus, the first act comes to a happy conclusion, and Maon is set to pursue her future.

  • The third episode’s second act, on the other hand, is perhaps the most moving of all the Tamayura movies yet. Opening with Fū speaking with Maestro about her broken camera, Fū tries to remain strong as she is parted from something precious to her amidst the Path of Longing festival. Because of how solid the writing’s been, the second act is the most emotional section in Tamayura bar none.

  • As such, when Fū returns to speak with her friends later, they immediately notice that something’s off, and further to this, Fū begins spacing out: her friends seemingly grow distant, foreshadowing the precise nature of what is troubling her. Similarly, Fū’s simple wish to be with everyone again accentuates the doubt that’s in her heart. However, while what’s troubling Fū becomes clear even early on, how Fū expresses it keeps the audiences guessing.

  • Fū and Riho share a conversation about photography, where Riho and her photography instructor were caught trespassing, resulting in police involvement. Her story brings to mind a story that was recounted during the Mythbusters‘ “Reunion” episode” during the 2004 season, where police were called in while the crew was shooting out helium balloons with a BB gun, and the safety director had run up to the police with said BB gun, shouting that it was such. Riho’s story is not quite so dramatic, and was meant to provide an example of how powerful photography can be.

  • Kanae’s friends accompany her to Tamayura Café, along with Takumi and Suzune. It seems that Kanae’s joined Sayomi’s exploration club and, contrasting Kaoru and the others, seem unbothered by Sayomi’s antics. One of the running jokes throughout Tamayura involves the reactions of Fū and the others to Sayomi’s proposed adventures; while seemingly back-breaking, I’ve noted that each adventure has resulted in the characters maturing as a result of the experience, and more often than not, the memories far outweigh negative elements.

  • Just prior to sundown and the start of the Path of Longing festival, the preparations are very nearly complete, Kaoru suggests that Fū check on her camera’s status. The lighting is muted, and there’s a bit of desaturation in the lighting prior to the festival’s start. I note that a lot of my Tamayura posts tend to have an associated food story, and this one does not deviate from that pattern: dinner tonight was at a Chinese bistro, where we ordered a spaghetti on Russian-style beef flank, cheese-baked seafood rice, Hunan-style chicken noodles and lemon-grass wings.

  • Daylight saving also comes into effect later tonight: last time Natsume was around, I was feeling quite discontented that summer had ended so quickly. I think that my Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ post did not feature any screenshots of Natsume, so here we are. Returning to Takehara for the Path of Longing Festival, Natsume runs into Fū, and the two share a conversation. Despite his seemingly strict and gruff appearance, he cares for Fū; his years means he’s able to pick up on what’s bothering Fū and so, he suggests to her that it’s okay to rely on other people: even university students remain inexperienced for the challenges that lie ahead in life, so it’s important to have people’s support while pursuing one’s goals.

  • After Fū is late for a meetup, her friends grow concerned and call Chihiro, who knows Fū best of anyone. Chihiro’s remarks mirror that of Aragorn’s when Gandalf asks about whether or not Frodo and Sam are still making their way towards Mordor: she ultimately tells Kaoru to follow her instincts, and so, Kaoru decides to call Fū to see what’s happening. However, Fū arrives shortly thereafter, and it turns out she was merely wondering about while contemplating a few things, hence her delay.

  • With Fū back, the girls begin their evening at the festival. A short update on my end as this post draws to a close: I’m not sure if it was previously mentioned, but the first of my conference papers was accepted, and I’ll be attending this conference in France in nine days. I’ve been putting my nose to the grindstone to ensure that none of my research and coursework fall behind: since the Tom Clancy’s The Division beta ended, my full efforts have been directed at a term project that is relevant to my thesis work (two birds with one stone). Said project is very nearly done now (save a handful of optimisations that still need to be applied), and it would appear that managed to I compact a two-month term project into the space of three weeks.

  • The ever-welcome and familiar lighting accompanying the Path of Longing festival make a return, with a gentle candlelight illuminating the town while the sky takes on a blue hue. This mood evokes memories of Tamayura ~More Aggressive~‘s Path of Longing festival, during which Fū meetings Natsume for the first time, and he is challenged to find a criticism about Chimo’s okonomiyaki. On that note, Chimo’s voice actor, Miyu Matsuki, who passed away from complications arising from a Epstein-Barr virus infection in November 2015; it was a loss for the voice acting community, and the impacts were felt throughout the anime community.

  • Under the soft glow of the bamboo lanterns, Fū finally becomes overwhelmed with emotions and allows herself to cry into Kaoru’s shoulder after the latter asks about whether it’s true or not that Fū’s been missing Riho. The tears are as clear of an affirmation as any words, and the second act’s theme becomes profoundly clear after carefully building up to this moment. The last Path of Longing festival episode dates back to August 2013, and I crossed the finish line for Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ a few months later. Since then, so much has changed, although one thing that’s remained relatively consistent are the quality of the readers that come across this blog. Thanks, readers, for constantly motivating and inspiring me to put out posts even when I don’t wish to.

  • Thus, it is immensely reassuring to see Fū’s friends by her side during this time, attesting to the strength of their friendship. Feelings about leaving things behind to pursue the future is always on the minds of those making that transition, and in my experiences, the thing to do mid-transition is to never lose sight of one’s goal, while simultaneously maintaining contact with friends and mentors and making new friends in the process.

  • Thus, the third movie draws to a close to a beautiful song, Kore Kara (これから, lit. “From now on”, which I would translate, given the context, as “From here on out”) that Maaya Sakamoto performed. A ballad that speaks of parting ways, it fits perfectly with the atmospherics. As for the review to Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~‘s finale, I definitely will be returning to write that: it will have anywhere from 30 to 50 screenshots, given that it’ll be a sendoff for Tamayura. Finally, if and when I’m asked, as to whether or not I shed tears during this last scene, how’s “affirmative” for an answer?

Fū’s expressing these fears to her friends closes off “Longing”, and the next episode is set to air next month in Japanese cinemas: originally scheduled for release on February 20, it’s been pushed back to April 2 because the studio wished to better polish the finale and ensure that it was the proper send-off for the series. “Longing” ultimately serves as yet another solid installment to Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~, and by curious turn of fate, it appears that the events that occurring in each movie mirrors how I presently feel. With “Echoes”, I resolved to work towards becoming a more competitive iOS developer: since then, I’ve been working on my own app, and reading on some of the common core technologies that iOS apps use. Other opportunities are also appearing, and merit serious consideration, as well, so my background in simulation and modelling could become important. “Longing”, on the other hand, presents the prospects of the uncertainty associated with moving forwards: I’m within a quarter-year of finishing my Master’s program, and speaking freely, I’m downright terrified about what happens after I defend my thesis (but also excited, too). In being able to capture these feelings and present them in such moving manner, Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ clearly demonstrates that the writers have put plenty of thought and honesty into crafting stories for each character. The situations that Norie, Kaoru, Maon and Fū encounter are immediately relatable, being fluidly presented to feel as real as though one were experiencing it themselves. The finale is on the horizon: titled “Tomorrow”, it will follow the events after this episode as the girls finally walk across the stage and graduate from high school, ending one journey to begin the next, and from the looks of things, after the girls have graduate from high school, it will be time for me to move on, as well.

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.

Signs: Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ (Graduation Photo) Movie, Part One Review and Reflection

“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.