The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Kaoru Hanawa

Memories of a Warm Breeze: Tamayura ~Hitotose~ OVA Review and Reflection

“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.

  • 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.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, A Thank You For the Past Year and Welcoming the Brand New Year

“A year full of new encounters and wonderful experiences has come to a close. In its place, a new one has begun. I’m sure more encounters and wonderful experiences await.” –Fū Sawatari

It’s been a year since Fū returned to Takehara, and while Fū reminisces about all of the wonderful things that had happened in the past year, she is encouraged to try something new after Chihiro sends her a message. Fū ends up creating a new Photography Club at her high school and meets Kanae Mitani, who had taken a picture of Fū which ended up being featured in a magazine. Although Kanae is nervous about the club, Fū welcomes her with open arms, and seeing the photos leads Kanae to join. The Photography Club thus go on a range of experiences together. Fū and Kanae strive to find photos for a festival presentation, participate in a cherry blossom photography contest and even participate in a photography exhibit featuring Riho’s works, all the while retreading the scenery Fū’s father had once known. Chihiro and Tomo later visit Takehara, and Fū encounters one of her father’s old friends, Nozomu Natsumu, during the Path of Longing Festival; despite his cold manner, Fū is grateful to have met him and hear him speak of their time together as high school students. Kanae has come to greatly treasure her time spent with Fū and her frineds in the Photography Club, and suggests a trip over to Mitarai, where Maon had been planning on going to attend a concert. With the end of year fast approaching, Kaoru decides to host another We Exhibition: this time, everything will be organised based on the seasons, and although the event is a complete success, Kanae is saddened at the thought of having to part ways with everyone. During a New Year’s sunrise viewing with Fū and the others, Kanae finally allows her emotions out into the open, admitting she didn’t wish to graduate because Fū had done so much for her. In the new year, Fū’s celebrates her father’s birthday and goes to get her camera repaired, but begins thinking about how she’ll have to part ways with Kanae, Norie, Maon and Kaoru someday. To take her mind off things, Fū’s mother takes Fū out to the spot where her father had proposed to her and reminds Fū of how far she’d come. On graduation day, Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon attend to congratulate Kanae, who’s been accepted into her first post-secondary institution of choice. Looking back on the past year, Fū is immensely grateful to her parents, who’ve made all of these experiences possible. Having spent ~Hitotose~ rediscovering her passions, Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ lives up to its title by having Fū take a bold step forwards and leading her school’s photography club. The phrase is derived from Chihiro’s encouragement for Fū: to be more confident, assertive and decisive. Although she’s quite pensive about things initially, being able to start the photography club and make new memories with Kanae helps Fū to become more confident with herself, and in the process, the pair create irreplaceable memories.

Owing to the plethora of pleasant memories that Fū and Kanae share together during their time in the Photography Club, Kanae comes to realise that thanks to Fū’s determination, she was able to do the sorts of things that she’d only once dreamt of doing. Prior to meeting Fū, Kanae had primarily focused in landscape photography, and since she uses a digital camera, she deletes images that don’t turn out well. Conversely, Fū is fond of photographing the people around her, and a film camera means the mistakes are retained alongside the successful shots. While Fū is Kanae’s junior, her approach to photography is inspiring enough to lead Kanae to try new forms of photography, and she ends up gaining new perspective as a photographer. At the same time, Kanae is also able to spend time with Fū and her friends: the excursions that Kaori, Norie and Maon bring Fū and Kanae on become worthwhile photography outings, as well as a chance to learn more about the girl whose silhouette changed her world. These idyllic and enjoyable days feel as though they’ve come out of someone’s dream, and having not really lived quite so fully previously, Kanae comes to wish that such moments could last forever. Tamayura similarly creates a sentimental nostalgia during its run, creating a warming sense of comfort that one can find difficult to turn away from. However, as important as having these memories are, ~More Aggressive~ aims to convey to viewers that it is necessary to also turn one’s eyes to the future. While Kanae would’ve been happy living in the present, Fū’s outlook suggests that the only reason why new memories and moments can be made is because one takes the initiative of creating them. It is with an eye turned towards the future that the present can be enjoyed and shape the memories that one looks fondly back on, so for Kanae, a part of her time spent with Fū also entails finding the strength to part ways and take ahold of the future. In the end, as Fū had managed to take her first steps forward, Kanae is able to do the same: she’s got support from Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon, and so, is able to graduate with a smile on her face, ready to embrace whatever lies ahead. ~More Aggressive~ indicates plainly that so long as one has an open mind, the future will always hold the possibility of creating new experiences that one can add to their memories. Moreover, while people might part ways, the memories will always be a part of people who share time together: farewells aren’t always final, but it does take a bit of courage to take this step forwards. Fortunately, with great company in one’s corner, anything is possible: Kanae and Fū are able to do precisely this, and while they only spent a year together, the learnings and memories help both to look towards the future with optimism.

Because ~More Aggressive~ has Fū seizing the initiative to be a leader, it becomes clear that since ~Hitotose~, Fū is no longer just a passenger in life; during ~Hitotose~, Fū had maintained an open mind and accepted opportunities to learn more about Takehara and her friends. However, these events are instigated by those around her. Conversely, the decision to start a photography club signifies how Fū has both made peace with the past and found new joy in her life, enough now to want to share her feelings and expressions with others through photography. Although Fū remains nervous, she also gradually becomes more confident in communicating her thoughts to others: at ~More Aggressive~‘s beginning, she is unable to articulate the Photography Club’s functions to others and botches her introduction at the club president meetings, but as she accepts opportunities to perform at festivals, participate in contests and even submit work for a professional exhibition, Fū finds her footing and is able to guide Kanae, too. Fū is no longer a mere passenger at the end of ~More Aggressive~, becoming a driver possessing a better sense of where she’s interested in going. It is though a combination of support from friends and family, as well as Fū’s own resilience and open-mindedness that allow her to reach this point: as Fū’s mother tearfully notes, Fū was able to do all of this of her own accord, welcoming people into her life and embracing all aspects of life, both the good and bad, as they come. This is consistent with how Fū approaches photography: she keeps all shots whether or not they turned out well, and this symbolises both the enjoyment of happier moments, as well as being mindful of learning moments. The sum of these learnings are valuable to Fū, but they also have a tangible impact for those around her: Kanae’s entry into the Photography Club is a turning point in her own life. While she’d been worried about having no drive or direction for the future, Fū and her friends, plus all of the people in their networks, help Kanae to spot something that hadn’t been obvious: people live life at their own pace, find inspiration at their own pace and cast off towards their future at their own pace. There isn’t any need to worry about what others are doing; so long as one can find their own footing, they’ll be fine. Meeting a more confident, capable and aggressive Fū ends up changing Kanae’s world for the better, as well, and in this way, ~More Aggressive~ absolutely does live up to its title, bringing into Tamayura a dash of confidence, knowledge transfer and exciting new opportunities that only result from a combination of friendship, family and an open mind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Unlike ~Hitotose~, I actively wrote about ~More Aggressive~ after its airing concluded. As the story goes, after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, I became melancholy as all of my friends were going their separate ways, and a one-in-a-hundred year flood ravaged my province, in turn removing my chance to hang out with friends and do a kokuhaku. I did receive an NSERC USRA and ended up building a peer-to-peer simulation, which allows different computers to focus on computing results for one area of the body, and then transmit this data to a peer on the network so that each machine could also see results from the other groups. However, this was punctuated by melancholy that seemed quite far removed from the beautiful weather we had following the flood, and I lost motivation to watch anime.

  • For no good reason other than for my amusement, I’ll showcase a moment with Kaoru and her shapely legs while she’s chatting on the phone with Chihiro: Kaoru, Norie and Maon had all noticed that Fū seemed off her game, even more so than usual. Having known Fū for so long, Chihiro reassures Kaoru it’s fine, and that this tends to happen when Fū is making a big decision. It speaks volumes to the support that Fū’s had from her friends over the past year, and that Fū is contemplating something big shows that she’s come very far since returning to Takehara.

  • Because my post on ~Hitotose~ didn’t once have a screenshot of Momoneko-sama, I’ve decided to include one here to compensate for that oversight. Fū’s tendency to get lost in the moment whilst search of a good photo creates comedy, although on this morning, her friends aren’t convinced that Fū’s her usual self. After some coaxing, Fū finally makes it known that she wanted to start a photography club at her high school, even though the path to kicking off such a club would require a bit of work. This decision shows that Fū’s now wanting to share her joys with others, the same way her father’s photos touched the hearts of many. In retrospect, I might’ve benefited from watching ~More Aggressive~ while it was airing: I finally started in September, when my open studies term began.

  • While ~More Aggressive~ did help me to relax, the melancholy I found myself amidst meant that I ended up missing the series’ main themes. The approach of winter, and thoughts of a wasted summer left me in a depression, and I found myself longing to be somewhere like Takehara whilst lamenting the shortening days and cold weather. I’ve always wished to revisit ~More Aggressive~ under happier circumstances, and as such, after I watched ~Hitotose~, I figured that, rather than waiting for September 2023 to do a ten-year anniversary reflection, I figured now would be a good time to go back through ~More Aggressive~. This time around, I feel that I got more out of ~More Aggressive~ than I did eight years earlier.

  • For Kaoru, Norie and Maon, concern turns to excitement as they cheer on Fū’s efforts to run her new club after Kazutarō pulls some strings and manages to secure approval for the Photography Club. However, it’s not easy-street just yet: besides needing to attend club president meetings and give an introduction in front of the entire school to explain her club’s functions, Fū must also recruit for new members. Things become more complicated after Mutsuko Shimokamiyama, a new instructor whom Kazutarō has asked to advise for the Photography Club, becomes excited about photography competitions and shows a magazine sporting a photo that Kanae Mitani, one of the seniors, had taken.

  • While Kaoru, Norie and Maon become worried that Kanae might show up to challenge Fū’s Photography Club, they decide to help Fū out in whatever way they can: during one club meeting, Kanae does show up, but promptly leaves. As it turns out, Kanae is very similar to Fū in disposition, and she’d simply been too nervous to ask about joining that day. These sorts of misunderstandings create the impression that Kanae is disapproving of the Photography Club where in reality, nothing of the sort holds true. I imagine that seeing Fū’s friends also would’ve left a lasting impression on Kanae: while they’re somewhat clumsy, they’re also well-meaning and kind.

  • Kazutarō had only a limited presence in ~Hitotose~ outside of the classroom, but his puns are supposed to be legendary in terms of how bad they are. While a bit hot-blooded, he also cares greatly for his students, and goes out of his way to assist them however he can. ~Hitotose~ had suggested that Kazutarō has a crush on Chimo, and he goes out of his way to impress her however he can. As a teacher, Kazutarō is also highly competent in spite of his bad puns. He ends up suggesting that she participate in a local festival to improve her confidence, and Fū accepts, feeling that it’s a fine chance to also get word out about the Photography Club.

  • Without Norie, Kaoru and Maon around, Kanae is able to share a one-on-one conversation with Fū, clearing up the confusion that had arisen during their first meeting. Kanae is voiced by Ai Kayano, whose resume includes GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Saori Takebe from Girls und Panzer. It turns out that Kanae had long wanted to meet the wistful-looking girl from her photo; Kanae normally prefers shooting landscapes, but had always hesitated when it came to human subjects. Under the Path of Longing that night, Kanae was filled with a desire to take this moment, and this single photograph would set her on a course to meet Fū, showing how certain moments can bring people together in unforeseeable, but ultimately meaningful ways.

  • With Kanae now a member of the Photography Club, activities entail shooting photos around their school. Kanae is impressed that Fū is able to simply walk up to people and ask them for permission before taking a picture. Fū herself has never realised it, but when she’s in her element, she’s very composed and confident. Kanae herself begins ~More Aggressive~ more timid than Fū had been. Spending time with Fū helps her to mature and become, in the series’ words, “more aggressive”. This phrase sounds a little unusual in English, and I imagine that it’s a bit of wasei-eigo: in the context of Tamayura, it simply means “more confident and assertive”.

  • On the day of the festival, Kazutarō burns his hands while serving customers, leaving him unable to play the guitar. Chimo was originally set to sing for the presentation, but since she’s busy tending to Kazutarō, this leaves Fū and Kanae to go ahead with the show themselves. While they’re initially embarrassed to sing a modified version of MomonekoOndō, they soon find their rhythm and begin performing more earnestly, impressing the crowd with both the show and photo display. This moment shows that when it comes down to it, both Fū and Kanae can do what they set their hearts to. During this time, Fū also becomes curious about a photo of a blossoming cherry tree that her father had taken years ago.

  • Fū’s mother explained that their father had planted one for her, and one for Kō, when each had been born, then left the location a mystery so that he could one day take them to find them. While this would never happen, on the day of the performance, Kō and Komachi had ended up following Momoneko-sama to the trees. Overjoyed, Fū takes a photo of the moment, and finds the tamayura phenomenon in the resulting photo. That Fū and her friends end up finding these cherry trees on their own is a superb metaphor for Fū’s learning to support herself in the aftermath of her father’s passing, and this moment is a particularly momentous one, since the coveted tamayura make an appearance.

  • From a technical perspective, tamayura are better known as backscatter: this normally occurs when camera flash picks up airborne particles like dust or pollen, or matter on the camera lens, creating artefacts in the resulting image. While such artefacts are typically seen as undesirable, Tamayura changes this and supposes that what would normally be counted as a defect is in fact, a blessing in disguise. This particular interpretation of backscattering speaks strongly to the themes in Tamayura and reminds viewers that what’s unexpected, or even unwanted, can actually be beneficial, creating memories and experiences far exceeding one’s original expectations.

  • When Mutsuko asks if Fū and Kanae are interested in participating in a cherry blossom photography contest, both accept with enthusiasm, but are troubled by the fact that since it’s so late in the year, most of the cherry blossoms have fallen off the tree. Kanae is understandably disappointed, but Fū manages to turn the day into a chance for exploration. After the two swing by Café Tamayura, they run into Sayomi, who damaged her Mazda 5 and is working to earn enough to pay for the repairs. She agrees to take them to a special spot where the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

  • On the day of the excursion, while Sayomi’s banner causes Kaoru and Norie no small amount of embarrassment, the spot she brings everyone to is nothing short of breathtaking. Fū and Kanae take many wonderful photos here, and although Mutsuko is shocked to learn that the deadline for the competition had long passed, both Fū and Kanae ended up having a wonderful time anyways. A longstanding lesson from Tamayura that I still find myself in need of mastering is precisely this: things don’t always go according to plan, but sometimes, surprises end up creating something that far exceeds expectations.

  • During the summer vacation, Fū hits the beaches alongside Kanae, Kaoru, Norie and Maon. A quick look around finds that, while there aren’t any beaches within walking distance of Takehara, islands within the Seto Inland Sea host some pleasant beaches. During the summer, the Seto Inland Sea can become quite warm and reach temperatures of above 20°C, making it perfect for swimming. Fū is more interested in photographing the sights of the beach. If I had to guess, they’re at Ōkushi Beach on the western edge of Osaki-Kamizima Island owing to the presence of mountains.

  • Riho unexpectedly appears with one Harumi Kawai, who knows of Fū’s father through their work together. From what ~More Aggressive~ shows, Harumi was Fū’s father’s junior at work, and this reveals that Fū’s father was a travel agent. Much about Fū’s father remains unknown in Tamayura, and a part of the series’ joys was watching Fū slowly learn more about him through all of the people whose lives he’d touched in some way. It turns out that Harumi and Riho have a surprise planned out for Fū: back in Takehara, they invite her to join them on a trip to Onomichi, a town about 30 kilometres east of Takehara, where Harumi plans on looking around for spots that could be worth including on a tour of the area. While Harumi suggests that she wants Fū’s perspectives to help guide things, she and Riho actually do have another reason for suggesting this trip.

  • Par the course for any outing in Tamayura, ~More Aggressive~ shows how the smaller moments and the unexpected can prove more enjoyable than what was originally planned. Harumi conveys this to Fū: back when they’d worked together, Harumi had been quite the stickler for plans and during their first assignment together, Harumi had promptly shot down Fū’s father and his plans to wander off the beaten track. This part of Fū’s father is imparted in Fū: both share a love of wandering and exploring, and here, I note that I’m quite similar to Harumi in that I prefer following a plan, but if something crops up that causes me to go off-mission, I’m able to roll with it. This happens frequently when I go for strolls nearby, but I’ve also done something quite similar during a trip to Kelowna and Penticton with the family two years earlier.

  • We hadn’t planned on half of downtown Penticton being closed on the day we visited, and I only was able to find one restaurant that was open, Bellevue Café. We thus spent the morning exploring the SS Sicamous before enjoying a brunch here, where I ordered their huevos rancheros. On the same day, after I had planned out a trip to a honey farm in Kelowna, I was surprised to find the big farm had closed for the day. A bit of quick thinking allowed me to find another place to visit, and that particular vacation ended up being super relaxing. I still could improve on my adaptability to changing situations, but I do think that compared to the me of eight years earlier, I’m a ways better now. Tamayura is a love song to the Setouchi region and its immense beauty: the Seto Inland Sea’s regulating effect on temperatures means the whole area has a moderate climate and consistent temperatures year-round.

  • The climate of the area is, in short, perfectly suited for providing Fū with an unending stream of opportunities to discover and explore, although looking back, I would imagine that no matter where Fū had been in Japan, with the right people beside her, Tamayura would’ve conveyed its messages all the same. Between Harumi’s knowledge of destinations and Riho’s professional photography skills, the work gets finished on short order, and this in turn allows for Harumi to focus on what they’d come to Onomichi for beyond her work obligations. The day had been quite special, as Fū was able to learn a little more about the work her father had done, as well as check out some of Onomichi’s sights. However, there’s actually quite a pleasant surprise around the corner for Fū, as well.

  • Riho and Harumi bring Fū to a local bakery with some superbly fresh and delicious looking breads: while such breads are usually associated with breakfasts or lunch, I have picked up a few meat buns and pizza buns and calling it dinner during times where I couldn’t sit down to a standard dinner. In Tamayura, food plays a significant role – whether it be the okonomiyaki at Hoboro’s, or the sweets Norie creates, food adds another dimension to a memory; Fū will forever recall the bread she enjoys before heading over to their last destination for the day. For me, ~More Aggressive~ reminds me most of the poutines I had on campus while the food trucks were over during my time as a student. I still remember watching ~More Aggressive~‘s finale in 2013 with Waffle & Chix’s legendary Fried Chicken Poutine in hand, and since then, I’ve become somewhat of a poutine connoisseur.

  • It turns out that the big surprise that Harumi and Riho had planned for Fū was to take her to a Bed and Breakfast run by an older couple who’d known Fū’s father. Long ago, the couple’s children had moved out, and they’d wanted to start a Bed and Breakfast, but things had seemed quite difficult. While Fū’s father and Harumi were in Onomichi, they ended up visiting, and during a conversation, Fū’s father made was once a seemingly outlandish idea feel more and more like a reality. This moment is particularly touching, in showing the positive impact Fū’s father had on those around him – for Fū, it’s the surest sign that even though her father is gone from this world, the wonderful things he contributed to endure.

  • More so than even ~Hitotose~~More Aggressive~ is a celebration of Fū’s father’s life, and bringing Fū to this particular Bed and Breakfast was meant to show the owners Fū is doing well. It’s a bit of an emotional moment, and for Fū, the day ends up being memorable both because it shows how things like a positive spirit and photography can bring dreams to life in unforeseeable ways, as well as how kindness connects people together. Through Harumi, Fū also learns about what her father had done for a living, and in retrospect, being a travel agent is something that someone with a keen eye for creating memories would be suited for. In turn, Fū provides feedback to Harumi and suggests that the best tour experiences seem to come from allowing people to connect with one another through open-ended events: this outcome helps Harumi structure a more enjoyable tour, and ~More Aggressive~ indicates that one act of kindness always deserves another.

  • Once Fū’s back in Takehara, their next major adventure comes when Sayomi offers to drive Fū and her friends all the way over to Shioiri so that they can meet up with Chihiro and Tomo. This drive is not a joke: a quick glance finds that the fastest possible route has a road distance of 775 kilometres and requires around ten hours and eighteen minutes to complete. To put things in perspective, this would be equivalent of driving from my hometown to Regina, Saskatchewan, one province over. The main difference is that our highways have a much higher speed limit, and a distance that would take over ten hours in Japan is something we can cover in three quarters of the time.

  • This speaks to Sayomi’s incredible endurance, although folks wondering about whether or not her Mazda 5 can handle this shouldn’t worry: the Mazda 5 is a brilliant vehicle. Conversely, when Sayomi does arrive in Shioiri near Chihiro’s place, inattentiveness causes her to nearly hit a brick wall, and she manages to stop only just in time. Having driven now for over a decade, I appreciate that ~More Aggressive~ is exaggerating Sayomi’s poor driving habits for comedy’s sake, but this is the sort of thing I complain about vociferously whenever I encounter it. Fortunately for her, Kaoru and the others are on hand to, similarly vociferously, make it clear that they’re not happy about Sayomi’s driving. These funny faces are particularly funny, and Maon’s expression here actually brings to mind the likes of ARIA‘s Akari Mizunashi.

  • For Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon, it’s great to see Chihiro again. This time around, Chihiro brings Tomo, and while Tomo had been similarly shy, once she opened up to Chihiro, she chatted away like a tree full of birds. Like Norie, Tomo has a very boisterous personality, although both express themselves differently: Norie tends to squeal in joy, while Tomo asks a seemingly endless stream of questions. Although Tomo seems conscious of this, everyone around her is quite understanding of this and do their best to answer her questions where they can. It becomes clear that everyone gets along as well as peas in a pod might, and once the introductions are done, Tomo and Chihiro take everyone on a tour of Shioiri’s best spots that only locals might know about, including a burger joint that serves burgers worthy of Big Jud’s in Boise, Idaho.

  • That Fū is able to share her thoughts so candidly is another not-so-subtle sign that she’s recovered much of her original spirits. When Tomo asks Fū, Fū is able to be truthful about things, and in this way, Fū is able to help Tomo connect better to her, as well. This sort of sincerity is one of the details that made ~More Aggressive~ so enjoyable to watch. During my first experience of the series some eight years earlier, I commented on how I found the atmospherics to be highly relaxing, but otherwise, didn’t really touch on the themes and small details that really added to Tamayura. I’ll take a bit of time to reflect on my younger self and note that this was because back then, I was a ways more immature and less attuned for these details.

  • According to those older posts, I was in the middle of applying for medical school at the time (I didn’t outright say so, but back then, I held aspirations for a career in medicine). In these posts, my younger self gives every impression that having Tamayura around was simultaneously helpful in allowing me to unwind and, for the duration of an episode, not worry about what the applications’ outcomes would be, but at the same time, it also reminded me of how much I had missed out on during the summer after I graduated. I write at length lamenting how I wasn’t able to travel. Looking back, I was being very ungrateful. That summer, I did end up heading out over to Jasper and Edmonton during late August for a short, but still relaxing and enjoyable trip, during which I picked up the fourth volume of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan while waiting for a table to open up at The Keg.

  • The me of today knows better, and this is one of the reasons why during the past two years, the inability to go places hasn’t really affected me anywhere as strongly: rather than lament what I can’t do, I’ve focused all of my efforts towards bettering my own situation. This time around, I’m happy to say that my efforts are purely for myself, and in this way, I feel that I was able to apply the lessons from Tamayura to my life more wholly than I had eight years earlier. As it was, being able to go back and rewatch ~Hitotose~~More Aggressive~ has given me the chance to enjoy both series anew: especially in the case of ~More Aggressive~, I feel that I’ve gotten a great deal more out of Tamayura this time around. Going through ~More Aggressive~ again also means that at present, I feel like I’m really able to say I made peace with some of the things I regretted in the past.

  • I suppose this is appropriate: this is, after all, a New Year’s post, and entering 2022, there is much to be grateful for, and much to look forwards to. Back in ~More Aggressive~, during a sparkler competition during the summer festival, Fū is able to experience anew the feelings she had when her father had photographed her during said competition. This side of Fū was one I never expected to see, and as such, knowing that Fū also has a talent for remaining so perfectly still that her movement is imperceptible, adds new dimensionality to her character. In the end, Fū only reaches the quarter finals, but she still has a wonderful time and shows her friends that past memories are a source of inspiration for her now, rather than a cause for grief.

  • Chihiro accompanies Fū back home to Takehara, where she meets Kanae and Mitsuko for the first time. The fireworks photos that Fū had taken turned out quite blurry, and while both Kanae and Fū are discouraged, Fū ultimately picks up a few tips from Riho (use a low ISO, a small to mid-range focal length and turn the flash off), and Riho invites Fū to participate in a photography exhibit she’s presenting in. Fū feels that she has to earn her place at something of this calibre and promises that, if she can shoot good fireworks photos, then she would submit something for the exhibit.

  • When she and Chihiro recall a promise they’d made as children, where they’d try to find a secret spot Fū’s father once brought them to, they express an interest in taking another stab at finding it. However, Kanae had accepted one of Sayomi’s invitations for a random adventure, and Sayomi ends up pulling everyone aside to a spot far from the festival, from which to watch the fireworks. Despite the show being much smaller, Chihiro feels that this is the spot Fū’s father had been thinking of. The two shed tears at the thought of having been fortunate enough to fulfil a long-standing promise, and ultimately, both Fū and Kanae end up with good fireworks photos.

  • Ever since Fū started the Photography Club, her second year back in Takehara has progressed at a breakneck pace, and even in a series as laid-back as Tamayura, time is flying. Autumn soon arrives, bringing with it the Path of Longing festival, and as yet another reminder of how Fū is more proactive now, she and her friends are active participants now, helping to set the event up so that others may enjoy it. Here, Fū and Kanae make one of the bamboo shoots festival ready by drilling their patterns into it, and the choice of art they provide mirror on their being thankful about all of the people in their lives.

  • At Hinomaru’s shop, Fū gets her latest batch of developed photos back. The focus on showing how Fū and her friends spend appreciating ordinary moments like these exemplify how Tamayura places a great deal of worth on everyday occurrences that we take for granted, acting as a reminder to treasure them because nothing can last forever. Even the act of going to a shop in order to get film developed is now something from a bygone era: I vividly remember that in the early 2000s, digital cameras were just coming onto the scene, and in their excitement, my parents bought one, but never bought a proper memory card for it, so said digital camera could only hold around 32 photos in its internal memory. The image quality was also eclipsed by regular film, so the digital camera became more of a novelty. A few years later, digital cameras with an acceptable 4 MP resolution began appearing, and that was when we finally switched over.

  • Nowadays, the average smartphone sports a 12-16 MP back camera, and using onboard algorithms, can take stunning photos. The world has changed dramatically, and the act of sharing photos has now gone from going to a print shop and ordering prints to mail to friends, to throwing them up onto WhatsApp or FaceTime. In this way, the world shown in Tamayura is also a bit of a love letter to an older time, when things were slower and people could really enjoy being in the moment. Upon returning to Café Tamayura, Fū and her friends run into Nozomu Natsume, a severe-looking man who was friends with Fū’s father and Hinomaru back when they were high school students. He’d come to Tamayura to meet Fū, but his blunt manner swiftly angers Kanae: when he critiques the composition of Fū’s photos, Kanae can no longer hold back and counters that there’s a joy in Fū’s photos.

  • However, Fū’s mother points out (likely for out benefit) that Nozomu’s always found it tricky to properly express how he feels about things. To take their mind off things, Fū and Kanae spend the day photographing the Path of Longing, and here, they run into Riho, who’s attempting to capture an image of Momoneko-sama. However, even with her professional experience, a DSLR camera and remote shutter release, Momoneko-sama eludes her best efforts at a photograph. It’s something that further ties Fū together with Riho, being a reminder that there are some subjects that can elude one’s desire to capture, regardless of their skill level, and but this isn’t something to lament.

  • Fū and Kanae head back over to Hoboro with Riho, where they run into Nozomu. When Chimo overhears Nozomu commenting he’ll probably go somewhere else for dinner because the taste of the okonomiyaki he once knew might have changed, she storms out and dares him to at least try the classic okonomiyaki before commenting. In the end, Nozomu finds himself eating his words; Chimo’s creation perfectly matches the okonomiyaki he once remembered. With dinner over, Nozomu offers to cover everyone’s bills, before everyone heads out to take in the gently-lit streets of Takehara’s old town during the Path of Longing festival.

  • As it turns out, Nozomu still fondly recalls his time as a student, indicating that back in those days, he, Hinomaru and Fū’s father had done some pretty bone-headed things together. He apologises to Fū for not being able to offer anything more substantial, but for her, being able to hear about how her father had always been free-spirited and lived his love to the fullest extent possible. It turns out that Nozomu had been glad to finally meet Fū in person, and he asks that she keep on photographing the way she does now. Although people count me as being quite personable, I sometimes do find it hard to express myself, as Nozomu does, and while this does appear to be a shortcoming, Fū’s mother comments on how the harsher Nozomu sounds, the more he’s struggling to put his feelings into words.

  • From what we’ve seen, then, it’s easy to spot that Nozomu greatly misses Fū’s father, and likely refers to him in a distant manner to avoid recalling the grief from his passing, as well. Seeing that his spirit lives on in Fū gives Nozomu something to smile about. Nozomu is yet another example of how patience is vital towards understanding someone: whereas Kanae and Norie struggle owing to outward appearances, Fū’s gentle and patient disposition means that she is able to speak openly with Nozomu, allowing him to open up, as well. Admittedly, this is a skill that I am always in the middle of learning; it’s all too easy to make assumptions about others without making an effort to understand their own circumstance and thoughts, but as I am shown, both in reality and through works like Tamayura, there is always a story behind people worth listening to, and that, upon listening, one may find that people can be more similar, than different, to oneself.

  • When Kanae realises that there is a finite amount of time between the present and her graduation, she is seized with a desire to do a photography trip. Towards ~More Aggressive~‘s final acts, the focus shifts over to Kanae, who has come to cherish the time she’d spent with Fū and the others. Having seen the level of passion and sincerity that each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon pursue their interests, Kanae begins to feel a little left behind, as well. The photography trip ultimately becomes a larger experience when Kaoru determines they’ll be hosting another We Exhibition, and Maon’s parents invite everyone to Mitarai for a concert.

  • Kanae’s feelings are something that I’m sure everyone has experienced at some point in their lives; there are days where it can seem like everyone around one has a concrete, well-defined game plan for their future, where as one does not, and for Kanae, she’s also envious of the fact that everyone had a pivotal moment that encouraged them to start on things. However, ~Hitotose~ did indicate that while people pursue their own goals, they may also lose sight of the progress they’ve made, especially if they’ve not reached that goal yet. A major part of things as the New Year approaches is Kanae coming to terms with the fact that graduation is inevitable.

  • I certainly felt as lost as Kanae did eight years earlier; being in open studies was my gap year, and in the moment, it did feel as though I was spinning my tires. In retrospect, that particular gap year ended up setting the stage for my graduate studies work. During the winter term, I enrolled in an iOS class after speaking to my supervisor about my unsuccessful medical school applications, and in that class, I worked on creating a navigation system for a mobile version of the lab’s game engine. This project was quite unrelated to what I would work on in graduate school, but my supervisor ended up using it as a demo for Jay Ingram to show how we could do 3D fly-throughs of anatomical structures. Jay subsequently asked, could the same be done for the brain using a newer, more efficient game engine?

  • I was tasked with finding the answer using Unity, and within a week, I had not only found the answer was “yes”, but I’d also put a prototype together. This laid the groundwork for the Giant Walkthrough Brain, which itself would form the basis for my thesis work. From a career standpoint, this was the turning point, the milestone that Kanae had been seeking out. She ends up speaking with Kaoru and Norie, as well as Maon’s parents, and from the latter, she gets an answer chock-full of wisdom: people hit their milestones when they hit them, and there’s no need to rush things, because everyone’s different. Maon’s father compares it to waiting for the tides; everyone will set sail eventually, but different people set sail at different times. Kanae is encouraged, and comes to realise her magic moment was when she decided to take the plunge and join Fū’s Photography Club.

  • While out and about with Fū earlier, Kanae had encountered a beautiful girl with raven hair singing a song. When this girl spots Kanae, she greets her with a smile before continuing on with her song. Later at the concert, Kanae is surprised to learn that the girl she encountered is actually the performer. As far as I can tell, she’s never named in Tamayura, but the credits lists her as being voiced as Micco, a member of the two-person band Marble. Micco provides the vocals, and on stage, Tatsuya Kikuchi provides the acoustic guitar. I would imagine that the singer’s likeness is to Micco.

  • Maon is overcome with emotion: it turns out this singer is who had inspired her to one day perform at Otome-za, and it can only be described as fate that she’s able to see this singer perform again. To be able to see such a show in the presence of those most important to her is greatly inspiring for Maon, and in this moment, I couldn’t help but feel the warmth, too, attesting to how well Tamayura is able to convey emotions to viewers. Curiously enough, the song she sings here, 希望のカタチ (Hepburn Kibō no katachi, literally “The Shape of Hope”), is Kaoru’s image song. The Tamayura OST is filled to the brim with warm, sentimental and nostalgic songs that have brightened up my day.

  • Having taken several photographs they’re both proud of, Fū and Kanae end up submitting several to Riho’s exhibition. It is clear that Fū and Kanae’s craft have both improved enough so that they feel confident enough to accept an invitation to showcase their work alongside that of a professional. Towards the end of ~More Aggressive~, the pacing accelerates greatly, and afterwards, the We Exhibition is hosted. Something I failed to notice previously was the fact that Kaoru had done a theming this time around: the showcases are all designed around the seasons of Takehara, with sights, scents and tastes surrounding each of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Kaoru has evidently upped her game with this second We Exhibition; it’s more organised and bolder than the first.

  • This time around, Kanae and Komachi are both present to help out, and even Chihiro sends over a special tapestry that she’d made with Tomo, depicting each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon in their element. Reflecting the girls’ confidence, this second We Exhibition sees a full house from the very moment it opens, and ~More Aggressive~ spends less time on things, showing how once everyone’s gotten things down, the event proceeds very smoothly. Fū and Kanae are both able to speak of their photographs, Kaoru feels more at home in talking about her potpourri techniques, Norie’s more confident in showcasing her sweets, and Maon’s story is something attendees look forward to.

  • The second We Exhibition feels almost like a side note, secondary to the growth each of Fū, Kanae, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have had: whereas the path to the first We Exhibition had its share of challenges, this time around, things proceed more smoothly, and Fū is able to even include Komachi and Kō’s participation right from the start to create a more cohesive experience for attendees. The second We Exhibition thus feels bigger, more polished and reflect a year’s worth of progress, but at the same time, viewers see a little less of things, too, to show that at this point in time, everyone’s grown enough so putting on an event like this is straightforward.

  • For me, the We Exhibitions have always represented the act of seizing the initiative to do something memorable, and in doing so, came to serve as the culmination of a year’s worth of experiences for Fū and her friends. However, by definition, the nature of the We Exhibition means that Fū has not only made these personal discoveries, but on top of this, is sharing her experiences with the community. By giving back to Takehara, the We Exhibition is the ultimate way of saying thank you to Takehara and its residents for having been an essential part of their journey.

  • This year, Kanae joins Fū and her friends on their New Year’s Eve Shrine visit while Fū’s mother and grandmother speak with Maon’s parents about how far everyone’s come, and how in supporting one another, everyone’s been able to elevate one another to new heights. After praying for another wonderful new year, the girls return to Café Tamayura for some rest. Fū and Kanae spend some time reflecting on the past year, bringing tears to Kaoru, Norie and Maon’s eyes: that Fū was able to shape someone else’s life so profoundly was the surest sign that she’s able to fully stand on her own, and her friends are filled with indescribable joy at this. However, the moment’s calm is shattered when Sayomi shows up with another adventure in mind.

  • Unlike the previous year, where her lethal driving sent her Mazda 5 over a ditch, this time around, Sayomi’s decided to go for an ocean sunrise instead. Compared to the screenshot I had in my original discussion for ~More Aggressive~, this sunrise is far sharper, far richer in colour. My old screenshots look positively drab and faded by comparison. This comes as a result of my using the BDs as a source for my images, but the improved image quality can also be a metaphor for the fact that I return to ~More Aggressive~ with a much different outlook on life, and for this, my resulting experience was far more colourful.

  • The prospect of a new year fills everyone with joy, but it is here that Kanae realises that now that the We Exhibition is in the books, she must turn her eyes towards her own future. Not wanting the year to arrive, Kanae bursts into tears and admits that she’d wanted these joy-filled days with Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon to last forever. Tamayura had held the viewers’ hands throughout its run and made it feel as though we were there alongside everyone, every step of the way. The tears Kanae shed here feel correspondingly tangible, and I was gripped with a wish that Tamayura wouldn’t end, either. Such a moment is befitting of a finale, but ~More Aggressive~ chose to show this as yet another moment to remember: the finale is set during the spring, around Kanae’s graduation.

  • Three months later, Fū and her friends celebrate Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Day), a religious festival in which ornate dolls are laid out to celebrate marriage and family. Fū’s camera has malfunctioned, and she’s taken it in for repairs, so on this Hinamatsuri, there’s no chance to capture photos. This leaves Fū to enjoy the day through her own eyes, a befitting message for ~More Aggressive~‘s finale. Here, Kō and Komachi show up, much to Norie’s chagrin. Kanae appears shortly after with her trademark Pentax Q, intent on photographing everything in sight.

  • As it turns out, Kanae’s made it into her first choice of post secondary and is now awaiting graduation. She’s all smiles now, and the others are happy to hear that Kanae is doing well. The girls subsequently swing by Hoboro, where they learn that Chimo and Riho are going on an all-Japan tour to find the best okonomiyaki places around and gain the inspiration to help Chimo up her okonomiyaki game. This does sound like a wonderful idea, and looking back, okonomiyaki does feel like poutine in the sense that once the basics are present (a wheat-flour pancake with a special sauce and mayonnaise for okonomiyaki, and fries, gravey and cheese curds for poutine), the sky’s the limit. It might be fair to say that besides lighting my desire to visit Japan and eat okonomiyakiTamayura ~More Aggressive~ also made me into a poutine connoisseur.

  • It therefore should not be too surprising that when I hear ~More Aggressive~‘s opening song, Maaya Sakamoto’s Hajimari no Umi, my mind immediately goes to thoughts of enjoying a good poutine and watching a lone motorbike travel along a highway along the Seto Inland Sea. The imagery from the latter comes from Fū’s mother taking her on a short day trip as a means of giving Fū some time to enjoy the world even without camera in hand. They end up visiting Ōkunoshima (more commonly, Bunny Island), a place that was once a chemical weapons development site, but in the present day, it’s become a tourist attraction, famous for its large rabbit population. Even without her camera, Fū greatly enjoys the moment, and it suddenly strikes me that I’d completely forgotten that Fū and her mother visited Ōkunoshima together.

  • The final stop for the day is a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the Seto Inland Sea: Fū’s mother explains this is where her father had proposed to her, and remarks that Fū had done something momentous, of not only being able to pick her self up after his passing, but also move forward. and seize the future. ~More Aggressive~ ultimately presents the idea that recovery is an ongoing process, and in some cases, being given the right encouragement will allow people to pick themselves back up. Going through Tamayura again has renewed my interests in visiting Japan, and now, on top of an onsen trip, I’d be interested in planning a trip to Takehara and its surroundings, too.

  • This is something I’ll look at in the future; for the present, all eyes are on getting my new place up and running. Back in ~More Aggressive~, Fū’s camera is brought back to an operational state just in time for Kanae’s graduation, and Kanae is now in fine spirits; no matter what happens, they’ll always have their memories of one another. Kanae will always think of Fū as President Potte, and several classmates, upon overhearing this, applaud appreciatively. Fū later returns to the Photography Club’s room and promises that she’ll do her best for the club in the new year, before expressing thanks to everyone who’d made the past year such a memorable one.

  • With this, my time in ~More Aggressive~ draws to a close. I will note that I have previously written about all four parts of ~Graduation Photo~, and reading through my old posts for each of Signs, Echoes, Longing and Tomorrow, I am happy to say that in graduate school, I found my path anew, and moreover, it was through ~Graduation Photo~ that I determined on the career that I would work towards. Altogether, Tamayura is a series that accompanied me through some tougher, uncertain times, and for having been a constant source of encouragement, positivity and inspiration, I count Tamayura a masterpiece for having tangibly improved my life and shaping my world views.

  • With 2021 in the rear-view mirror, I can say that the past year had been unexpected, full of surprises. There were some low points, but there were also highs, as well. I believe that I have succeeded in meeting the resolutions that I had set for myself, and exiting 2021, I take with me several new memories and experiences I am immensely grateful for. The only reason that I was able to accomplish my goals was because of consistent support from family and friends, as well as my peers in the anime community. For this, I’d like to thank my readers for accompanying me through the previous year.

  • To all of my readers, old and new, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! 2022 is a brand-new slate, just waiting to be explored, and while there are circumstances now that can make some things challenging, readers should be familiar with the fact that I am an optimist and a pragmatist through and through. Irrespective of what challenges lie ahead, it is my responsibility to handle things in a professional and measured manner. As such, I welcome 2022 warmly: no one will know what 2022 will entail, but the constant is that I whatever I get out of this new year is going to be determined how much I put in, and I look forwards to yet another year with both the people around me, and you, the reader.

Here I now stand, at the beginning of a new year. When I began 2021, I made the resolution to be “open to whatever opportunities arise that require my skills” from a professional growth standpoint, while my personal goal had been “maintain strong relationships with those who matter to me, such as keeping in touch with old friends”. I believe I’ve succeeded on both counts: I’ve become somewhat familiar with Java server and Android development as a result of having taken up a new developer position back in April, and spent some time catching up with friends as able while forging new connections. 2021 was also surprising in that I became a homeowner; between a new job and a new home, the past year has definitely been full of surprises, surprises that I certainly hadn’t foreseen coming into 2021. It is hard to say for sure what the future entails, but as Tamayura suggests, the future is friendly to those with the resolve to take those first steps forward, and a willingness to let others into their lives. As such, my 2022 resolutions are simply to be my best self. That is to say, I will strive to work hard and do right by those around me to build the best possible future, all the while enjoying the most of the present. The themes and learnings from Tamayura have had a nontrivial impact on my life, having found relevance from the time I was a student, right through to the present. ~More Aggressive~ had helped me to take a step back and count my blessings at a time when my future seemed uncertain. At the time, I had graduated from the Health Sciences programme with an Honours Degree, but at the time, I was not sure whether or not I’d be pursuing a career in medicine or software development. Between this, all of my friends parting ways and a failed kokuhaku resulting from a flood that ravaged the province, I’d been feeling very down to the point of sitting out all anime that summer. I ended up learning about ~More Aggressive~ once my gap year started (during which I was taking courses to satisfy medical school requirements and for an eventual entry into computer science), and while watching the anime, I found myself appreciating the sort of experience that Fū went through whilst leading the Photography Club. The cathartic, gentle atmosphere helped to take my mind off the fact that I’d just lost an entire summer, and although things wouldn’t truly recover until the next spring, when I was offered admissions to graduate school and accepted an invitation to work on the Giant Walkthrough Brain, the relaxing and moving story within ~More Aggressive~ did help to get me through a difficult winter. Having the chance to rewatch ~More Aggressive~ under dramatically different circumstances has only resulted in increasing my appreciation of this second season, and this time around, I was able to pick up on nuances that I missed out on eight years earlier: while things were quite tough back then, accepting an opportunity to better my situation via graduate studies set me on a course to where I presently am, similarly to how Fū was able to create new joys and memories with Kanae as a result of her decision to start up a Photography Club.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Tamayura ~Hitotose~, On Rediscovering Newfound Happiness in the Ordinary and A Ten Year Anniversary Reflection

“As you pursue your dreams, your worries and cares may prevent you from realising it, but others can see how brilliantly you are shining.” –Sayomi Hanawa

Towards the end of her time in middle school, Fū is surprised when her younger brother finds old albums of their late father. Seeing the joy in these old photographs prompts Fū to take up photography again, and she ends up sending photographs to the professional photographer, Riho. Riho’s reply eventually prompts Fū, her brother and mother to move back to Takehara, her father’s hometown. Here, Fū is reunited with her childhood friend, Kaoru Hanawa, and during their peaceful days together with Norie and Maon, Fū comes to rediscover the beauty in the town that her father grew up in, reconnecting with him and rediscovering the joys that photography had brought them, from visiting Maon’s family over in Mitarai, to watching Norie have a cook-off with Komachi, and going along with Sayomi’s adventures. Kaoru also manages to fulfil Fū’s wish of attending the Path of Longing festival together, and as the year draws to a close, she also organises the We Exhibition to celebrate everyone’s own unique talents before celebrating the arrival of a new year together with everyone. Tamayura ~Hitotose~ (~Hitotose~ from here on out for brevity) is the first full-length Tamayura presentation that aired a year after the OVAs were released, detailing Fū’s return to Takehara and the wonderful adventures she has here while retreading the paths her father once did, and in doing so, Fū is able to connect with her father through photography, a hobby that he’d been fond of precisely because every photograph provides a permanent and visceral means of recalling of emotions and feelings in a given moment. During its run, ~Hitotose~ conveyed the idea that even in death, people are not truly gone from one’s life; by taking up photography again, Fū demonstrates the sort of courage needed to take that difficult step forwards with her life. In doing so, Fū finds that embracing her father’s old hobby means a part of him will live in on her, and at the same time, Fū is also able to create new memories that her father would’ve been proud of – as she explores Takehara and its surroundings, Fū is able to take the sort of photos that bring people together, much as her father had with his photographs, and moreover, for this particular adventure, Fū isn’t alone; she’s surrounded by people who love her dearly and are always happy to share time with her.

Taking that first step forwards to bring oneself, and others joy, is a recurring theme in ~Hitotose~; each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie, Maon and Chihiro undergo this process during the series run. For Fū, it’s photographing memorable moments. Norie takes up baking sweets because she’d seen how it can brighten up someone’s day, and ends up befriending Maon after the latter hears her out about sweets after Norie had suffered a rejection from someone she had a crush on. Maon herself is very fond of starting new hobbies, but is also an introvert who finds it tricky to express herself until meeting Norie. Chihiro had befriended Fū back when they were classmates, but like Fū, she struggles to make friends. After Fū leaves, Chihiro resolves to be more forward, and ends up coming to know another classmate, Tomo, better. Kaoru has a fondness for scents and enjoys experimenting with potpourri, but otherwise wonders what her future will entail. In the end, her desire to do something special for those around her leads to the creation of the We Exhibition, a culmination of the journey in ~Hitotose~: by taking the time to explore their interests, at their own pace, each of Fū, Norie and Maon further their craft to the point where they are confident in presenting at the We Exhibition. For Kaoru, the We Exhibition is also a glimpse into her own future. While she greatly enjoys making pleasant-smelling scents, Kaoru wonders if her interests could yield a career, and seeing how devoted each of Norie, Fū and Maon are initially leaves Kaoru feeling left behind. These feelings actually form the basis for Kaoru’s own career progression, and so, in planning out the We Exhibition, from securing the venue, to determining how the space should be used and scheduling things out, hints of Kaoru’s future career are shown here: much as how preparing potpourri requires precision and an eye for detail, organising events requires a similar level of finesse. Thus, while Kaoru herself might feel down that she has no passion equivalent to Maon’s interest in the fine arts Fū’s photography or Norie’s love for making sweets, the skills and mindset she has cultivated from making scents, as well as a lifetime of being subject to Sayomi’s out-of-the-blue adventures leave her with a distinct skillset of her own, and although she has yet to be aware of this, Kaoru’s decision to put the We Exhibition together is a showcase of where her talents lie: making the arrangements for the sort of events that help others to celebrate their own successes.

As one progresses, the progress they’re making might not be immediately visible to oneself. Kaoru’s planning of the We Exhibition was a success, although she counts it a success in that it was a fantastic way to showcase Fū’s photographs, Norie’s sweets, Maon’s recital and her own potpourri, rather than her ability to organise and set up events of this scale. For Fū, her photographs in the moment are things she’s doing to capture joy in a moment for the sake of being in that moment. Norie’s only concern is making the best possible sweets so she can see the smiles on the faces of those who enjoy them. However, from another perspective, by pursuing their goals so earnestly, and with such passion, each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon grow from their experiences. No one else puts this better than Sayomi: Kaoru’s older sister might be viewed as a disturber-of-the-peace with her frequent unexpected adventures that somehow always are more strenuous than they should be, but being older than the others, Sayomi also has more life experience, and correspondingly, wisdom. After her attempts at taking everyone to see New Year’s sunrise from the mountaintop fails when she backs her vehicle into a ditch, Sayomi mentions that down here in the valley, the mountains must remain unaware of how majestic it is when those first rays of light illuminate it. In a similar way, while Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have grown over the year since Fū returns, they are so focused on their goals and one another that they don’t spot how far they’ve come, as well. This is a beautiful thing in and of itself, but Sayomi’s observation is also is contingent on one important thing – being together with people one cares most about. The mountain cannot see its own majesty, but observers in the valley below can, and in this way, ~Hitotose~ suggests that it is ultimately companionship that allows people to put their best foot forward: having others around to celebrate successes together, offer feedback when one is stuck, or provide support to get past more difficult times is what allows individuals to ultimately grow. While Fū’s journey was always going to be a challenging one, being together with Kaoru, Norie and Maon allows everyone to share in their adventures: each individual offers a unique perspective on things that end up helping to encourage then others on their own journeys.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Back in August, I wrote about the Tamayura OVAs after realising that despite greatly enjoying ~Hitotose~ and all of the subsequent works, I’d never actually gotten around to actually viewing the original OVAs, where everything began. In retrospect, the OVAs were surprisingly well-written, featuring many of the details that would become central plot elements to the remainder of Tamayura. With this in mind, Tamayura is slowly-paced enough such that folks who didn’t watch the OVAs will still have a good idea of what’s going on in ~Hitotose~: in 2011, I started ~Hitotose~ without having first watched the OVAs, and I had no trouble following along.

  • The first episode opens back in Shioiri, Fū’s old town, when she was still a middle school student. Back then, Fū wore her hair a bit longer, but after Kō manages to find their father’s old Rollei 35S, Fū suddenly takes up photography anew, feeling that her father would’ve wanted her to continue to find new happiness in life. Here, Fū hangs out with her best friend, Chihiro – while resembling The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Tsuruya, Chihiro is actually quite sensitive and is quick to tears. It is Chihiro who comes up with Fū’s motto, to be more “aggressive”, and before Fū is set to return to Takehara, Chihiro gifts Fū a special hand-made holder for the ticket with no destination that Riho had given her.

  • Thus begins Fū’s journey to Takehara from Shioiri: to symbolise a new chapter in her life, Fū cuts her hair short, and prepares to set off. This scene of Fū was prominently featured as key art prior to ~Hitotose~‘s release, and the moment is meant to accentuate that while her journey may be a bit of a lonely one, the destination will be anything but lonely. Before we delve further into ~Hitotose~, it is worth mentioning the meaning of hitotose (ひととせ): for the longest time, I’d never given any thought as to what it meant. However, in this context, hitotose simply means “a year” (一年); there’s nothing particularly deep or meaningful about the title, which simply refers to the fact that this is Fū’s first year back in Takehara.

  • Once Fū returns to Takehara, Kaoru greets her, starting the year off. The events of the Tamayura OVAs are set after Fū’s return, and presumably, before the first episode; by ~Hitotose~‘s first episode, Kaoru, Norie and Maon are all familiar with Fū. here, the girls greet Fū on their way to classes; the warehouse district can plainly be seen, and this historic section of town is prominently featured throughout Tamayaura in general, being the home of Café Tamayura, Hoboro and Maestro’s Sunrise Photography store. Amidst these gentle streets, Fū gradually comes to rediscover the joys of this town, and because every day brings something new to the table, Fū rarely is seen without her father’s Rollei 35S.

  • Maestro is an old friend of the Sawataris, having known Fū’s father since their time as high school students. While he’s a bit of a womaniser, Maestro is also an expert with cameras and is the first person Fū counts on to get it repaired. On more ordinary days, Fū takes her film here to be developed. One of the big joys about Tamayura was an appreciation of the mundane; even something as simple as receiving prints for the photos one has developed can become exciting, since with a film camera, one can never be too sure how a picture turned out until it is developed. For Fū and her friends, this anticipation becomes something to look forwards to: successful photos bring joy, and even the botched photos can create memories.

  • When I first watched ~Hitotose~, I remembered Norie best for being rambunctious and noisy to an excessive degree, while Maon was always quiet and preferred to communicate through whistling. All of the characters in Tamayura are adorable and admirable in their own way; while Norie might be overly energetic, she’s got a talent for making sweets and is always enthusiastic about learning from those more experienced than herself. On the other hand, while Maon might be taciturn and shy, she does open up around her friends and demonstrates a plethora of interests. Here, the girls are trying Fū’s grandmother’s latest creation at the Café Tamayura; after moving back to Takehara, Fū’s mother began working at the family’s café, citing it to be a lifelong dream.

  • In the warehouse district, Chimo “Hoboro” Yakusa’s okonomiyaki shop is the definitive pig-out spot: Chimo serves the best okonomiyaki anywhere in Takehara, and the girls often swing by for a bite if they’re looking for something hearty: Chimo is always experimenting with new recipes, and one of the most enticing okonomiyaki on the menu features prawns. Moreover, the portions here are enormous, worthy of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. It suddenly hits me that when I watched ~Hitotose~ ten years earlier, I’d not even seen Man v. Food yet; I’m not able to remember how the show caught my attention, but I would come to enjoy it greatly, since the food challenges always acted as a hilarious metaphors for what I was going through at the time, from assignments and projects, right up to the MCAT. I still remember thinking to myself when watching ~Hitotose~ back then, that I’d like to try out okonomiyaki; that particular dream was realised a few summers ago while I’d been in Osaka.

  • When I was watching ~Hitotose~ ten years ago, I would’ve been enrolled in Data Structures III, Japanese, scientific inquiry, a special topics course for research and for kicks, a course on primates. Back then, my days consisted of going through my classes, keeping up with assignments, and in any extra time I had, working on the agent-based model of a sodium-potassium pump using game engines. Life was pretty routine, and the main thing I looked forwards to each month was grabbing lunch at a Korean BBQ joint on campus. Armed with the life experience I had up to that point, I concluded that ~Hitotose~ was about pursuit of one’s dreams even if the future was not fully certain. The me of a decade earlier would earn partial credit for this, and I remark that the only thing that’s really changed is that I articulate my thoughts a little differently now than I did ten years earlier.

  • That Tamayura‘s themes have remained consistent over time speaks to the series’ strengths in being able to clearly convey its intended messages. One evening, the girls end up doing a sleepover, and Sayomi,  Kaoru’s older sister, drops in unannounced to disturb the peace. With her gentle aura, love for adventure and doting personality, I have previously stated that Sayomi greatly resembles GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto. Kaoru is utterly embarrassed by Sayomi’s antics, and everyone generally fears her adventures, which can be quite lengthy and exhausting because Sayomi has a tendency to underestimate how long they’d take. There’s something a bit old-fashioned about Sayomi that I’m particularly fond of: she reminds me of the girls that old, nostalgic love songs often mention for reasons that, despite my otherwise firm command of language would suggest, I cannot find the words to describe.

  • However, for the trouble Sayomi causes, she’s also quite wise and offers Fū advice, as well as encourages her. Here, Fū decides to snap a moment of her friends during their sleepover together. For Fū, no moment is too trivial to photograph – photographs in Tamayura represent a physical, tangible memory perfectly preserved on something permanent, and moreover, Fū’s use of a film camera means that moments can be captured precisely as they were. If Fū messes up a photo, the results remain with her, but these photos end up being cherished just as much as the ones that turn out well; each of Fū’s photos evoke the feelings that were in that moment when they were taken.

  • Throughout ~Hitotose~, Fū offers monologues that describe how she’s feeling in a given moment, and more importantly, what she got out of an experience. ~Hitotose~ shows how the unexpected should be taken in stride and embraced. Here, Norie, Maon and Kaoru swing by Café Tamayura for lunch. When Fū’s younger brother, Kō, shows up, Norie loses her shit and immediately begins fawning over him, while Fū begins to wonder how to best capture the taste of the food. While Fū struggles to find an angle that lets her to take a picture that describes how the food taste to a viewer, the animators clearly do not have any trouble. For me, a good photo of a given dish should capture the textures and colours. A good macro lens makes a massive difference, but lighting is also important.

  • Earlier on Friday, I swung by a newly-opened OEB Breakfast near home to enjoy their A-Lott A-Laks breakfast poutine, and a combination of good lighting, coupled with a good camera in the iPhone Xʀ, allowed me to take photos of this dish that will remind me of how tasty it was well into the future. Photos offer different challenges compared to anime scenes, but I find that, despite being flatter than reality, anime can nonetheless do an excellent job of conveying tastiness to viewers. This still captures the level of detail paid to closeups of the food in Tamayura: it’s a lunch set with fried fish, soup and rice, plus a light dessert perfect for a hot summer’s day. During such moments, ~Hitotose~ is fond of using chibi versions of the characters to express their emotions while admiring the food, and this was something that I ended up doing when writing about my trip to Japan back in 2017. I used this approach so I could watermark the images that I’d uploaded, and use of chibi characters allowed me to still leave enough of the food visible for readers to check out.

  • The Tamayura OVAs were produced by HAL Productions, but from ~Hitotose~ onward, TYO Animations would handle production: Yumeta absorbed HAL Productions in 2009 to become TYO Animation, but in 2017, Memory Tech Holdings acquired TYO Animation and renamed them back to Yumeta. Aside from Tamayura, the only other production I’m familiar with is YuruYuri: San Hai!. With this being said, if Tamayura is any indicator, Yumeta’s work should be of a solid quality: while Tamayura‘s visuals are comparatively simple, they are still rich with details that bring Fū’s world to life. The garden at Café Tamayura is one such example, and just from looking at this screenshot, one could almost feel the warmth of a summer’s day.

  • After lunch, Norie and Maon prepare to do some shopping, but along the way, they run into Komachi, a young girl who’s the same age as Kō and vyes for his attention. This frustrates Norie to no end, and it is actually quite hilarious to see Norie on the losing end of things in a battle of wits with someone much younger than herself (I’m also guilty of these tendencies from time to time). When I first watched ~Hitotose~, the Oculus Rift was still about a year from being introduced, and Google Street View wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it is today, precluding me from easily finding all of the locations seen in the series. Ten years later, things have changed considerably, so I am now able to trivially identify spots using the Oculus Quest, such as Tobacho street, which Norie and Maon walk along en route to the Café Tamayura.

  • When Norie brings ingredients to Café Tamayura with the hopes of learning a new peach recipe from Fū’s grandmother, Komachi also shows up. Tensions between Norie and Komachi over who’s more worthy of Kō’s heart is employed as a comedic device, and here, the two decide to duel over whose cooking is better. While Norie may be immature, her philosophy on cooking is inspiring, and she puts in every effort to ensure that her sweets taste good, so that the joy she derives from making sweets is shared by the recipient who is enjoying what she’s made. Komachi initially has no grasp of this, and burns her pancakes, but once Fū’s grandmother asks Komachi to slow down the process and be mindful of why she wants to make something, Komachi’s technique improves.

  • In the end, Kō judges both Komachi and Norie’s food to be the winner: indeed, everyone here is a winner for being able to savour something tasty, and Norie reveals her love of sweets comes from her brother trying to make her feel better after she’d missed a family trip when she’d fallen ill. Since then, Norie’s wanted to capture happiness through sweets, and in the moment, Fū determines that capturing the joy of someone enjoying the food seems to be the best way for her to convey taste. On my end, I’ve been photographing food at a very rudimentary level for the past seven years: my intention is to produce images that remind me of how tasty something was that day, and while I certainly don’t put in the same thought to my photos as Fū would, the photos I take do jog my memories well enough.

  • During a break, Fū, Kō, Kaoru and Norie swing by Mitarai, a nearby island where Maon’s family runs a ryōkan. After greeting their guests, Maon takes her friends on a tour of the island and plan to meet up with Fū and Kō’s grandfather. The group stop briefly at the Otome-za, a local theatre that Maon’s longed to perform in; she explains that after seeing a concert here long ago, she became inspired to take up the performing arts. ~Hitotose~ has the performers singing Enveloped by Tenderness (やさしさに包まれたなら, Hepburn Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta): I’d originally thought the song was performed for Kiki’s Delivery Service, but this song actually dates back to Yumi Arai’s 1974 single – it is through her performance in Kiki’s Delivery that the song became well known, and Maaya Sakamoto’s cover is downright beautiful, easily my favourite version of this timeless classic.

  • ~Hitotose~ makes a compelling case for why when visiting Japan, one should consider destinations beyond iconic locations like Tokyo’s Shinjuku or Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine: some of the most beautiful locations are found well off the beaten track. Takehara and its surroundings alone are gorgeous; even more so than the Tamayura OVAs, ~Hitotose~ really showcases what’s available in Takehara and its surroundings. For instance, Mitarai Island is home to a small village and possesses a collection of well-preserved historical buildings called shotoen (松濤園).

  • Maon ends up leaving the others so she can help guide some visitors around, but the group reunite during the evening. After a scrumptious meal featuring fresh, local seafood, Fū and the others learn from Maon’s parents that she’s got a myriad of interests: besides the performing arts, Maon’s also expressed an interest in being a manga artist. Maon is utterly embarrassed by this revelation, and her expression is adorable. I will note that a part of the challenged I faced at their age was precisely this: many things were interesting to me, and I had trouble picking just one. Over time, however, I ended up narrowing down a path I would be happy walking, and this is something that Tamayura ~Gradutation Photo~ would show. For ~Hitotose~, Maon remains open to pursing whatever interests her.

  • A ways into ~Hitotose~, Chihiro shows up for a visit to check up on Fū, but a misstep causes Chihiro to get off one stop early. With the train schedules being quite sporadic, Fū’s mother borrows a friend’s motorcycle and heads off to pick Chihiro up herself. Until now, this particular aspect of Fū’s mother was not known; the moment is meant to highlight that everyone’s got their own stories, and admittedly, while I’d forgotten about it, this is actually similar to Rin’s mother in Yuru Camp△, who had been an avid biker in her youth. While Rin’s mother is a bit embarrassed by this, Fū’s mother is still quite fond of her old memories and has no trouble sharing these recollections with the others. Here, Chihiro sits down to dinner and greatly enjoys the moment, before sleeping over with Fū.

  • Fū introduces Chihiro to Kaoru, Norie and Maon, and they take Chihiro on a tour of Takehara’s best spots. ~Hitotose~ might be an anime about healing, self-discovery, picking one self up and finding the courage to walk a path to the future, but the faithfulness that the series demonstrates in its portrayal of Takehara means that the series is only a few steps from being a full-fledged travel show: besides bringing Chihiro over to the old town for okonomiyaki at Hoboro’s, they also stop by Saihoji Fumeikaku Temple, with its distinct red-framed construction and an unparalleled view of the Takehara skyline.

  • While Tamayura already excels at capturing emotions, facial expressions are used in order to really accentuate what individuals are feeling in the moment. Moments such as Chihiro being overjoyed by Takehara’s skyline do much to emphasise that there is never such a thing as a moment that is too mundane or unremarkable. This is something that I’ve come to look for in most everything I do; a lot of folks out there value spontaneity and living in the moment, but they choose to go about this by expending prodigious sums of money for travel or nights out. I argue that living in the moment isn’t about creating grandiose memories that are ‘grammable, but rather, about learning how to appreciate common, everyday miracles. For me, something as simple as a beautiful blue sky and calm days are as every bit as memorable as a full-scale trip to Japan.

  • Having said this, Tamayura is special to me because it is the anime that really initiated my desire to visit Japan; when I watched ~Hitotose~ ten years earlier, I was still a relative novice to anime. Series like Gundam 00 or Sora no Woto don’t exactly inspire a trip to Japan, but Tamayura and its highly faithful reproduction of Takehara and its surroundings changed that. While Fū stretches out on a path overlooking the Seto Inland Sea here, I’ll remark that my dream vacation in Takehara would consist of spending a week exploring the town and its surroundings. I’d probably visit in October and stay at the Nipponia Hotel, which is situated at the heart of Takehara’s old town. After spending the mornings and early afternoons visiting the spots Sayomi suggests to Fū and her friends, I’d spend the late afternoons and evenings exploring the old town itself.

  • Such a trip remains a hypothetical for the present, but I would definitely like to realise this trip someday and fulfil something I’ve always wanted to do since I first watched ~Hitotose~. While Chihiro had only befriended Fū because both had been introverted and shy, ever since Fū returned to Takehara and found friends in Kaoru, Norie and Maon, she’s become more outgoing and spirited. Unsurprisingly, Chihiro also gets along well with Fū’s friends in Takehara, even if she has a bit of trouble understanding what Maon is saying through her whistling.

  • In the end, Maon, Kaoru and Norie gratefully accept the phone charms Chihiro had made for them, and they agree that anyone who’s friends with Fū can easily be friends with them, too. These sorts of things are always so heartwarming to behold, and while Chihiro does have to head home, she now returns knowing that Fū’s doing very well, that she’s got people supporting her in Takehara, and that there’s now three more people she can chat with should the need arise. Indeed, Kaoru and the others do call upon Chihiro when something is bothering Fū during the second season, but I’ll cover that in full once I get to writing about ~More Aggressive~.

  • While I’m writing about ~Hitotose~ in full knowledge of what happens next in ~More Aggressive~ and ~Graduation Photo~, the fact is that I’ve not watched ~Hitotose~ for ten years. Similarly, it’s been seven years since ~More Aggressive~, and five years since ~Graduation Photo~. With this much time having passed since then and now, revisiting ~Hitotose~ means it does feel like I’m watching Tamayura fresh, and I’m finding myself falling in love with the series, its characters and events all over again.

  • ~Hitotose~ presents Takehara’s Shokei-no-michi Festival in vivid detail; this festival occurs in October, and for two nights, the streets of Takehara’s old town are alit with bamboo candles between 1700 and 2100. The event is free to attend, sets the old town under a magical, gentle light and Tamayura suggests that it’s a festival to guide people’s wishes to the deities in the skies above. On her last visit, Fū and her father had missed the festival, called the Path of Longing, and since then, Kaoru had longed to show Fū the festival’s beauty. However, this year, a rainfall has enveloped Takehara, frustrating Kaoru, who had really been looking forwards to having Fū see the Path of Longing.

  • The rain shows no sign of abating, but the girls do meet one of Kaoru’s old friends, Shōko Hirono, during the festival. She’d moved from Takehara long ago and swings by to greet the others before taking off. Here, Fū, Norie, Maon and Kaoru speak to Riho; it turns out that after learning about Fū’s return, she became interested in moving to Takehara, as well. Being a mentor figure for Fū, Riho’s always willing to share wisdom about photography with Fū, and surprises Fū with the suggestion that Fū’s approach to photography had inspired her own. After writing their wishes down, Fū and the others return to Café Tamayura, where she falls asleep.

  • In the end, the rain finally stops, and the Path of Longing kicks off, illuminating the streets of Takehara’s old town in the soft glow of candlelight. A year ago, I’d remarked that GochiUsa BLOOM‘s Halloween Episode employed very similar lighting on an evening that had been filled with reminiscence. It was there I realised that GochiUsa BLOOM had ventured into a topic that had prima facie seemed out of scope for a series of its genre, and not only this, but had done so exceedingly well. Like Tamayura‘s Path of Longing, which sees Fū fulfil a promise to her late father and connect closer with him, GochiUsa BLOOM saw Chino become closer to Cocoa as a result of the evening’s magic.

  • The Path of Longing is absolutely beautiful, and Fū is able to take some stunning pictures here. During the course of this evening, another girl manages to take a picture of Fū and submits it to a photography competition. This girl becomes important in ~More Aggressive~, but for now, I’ll keep the focus on ~Hitotose~: while the evening of the festival is filled with happy memories as people take in the sights, for some, it is also one of sadness. Shōko is seen openly crying her eyes out among the gentle glow of candles, and a lady named Shimako is seen giving a kokuhaku to a fellow she’s long had feelings for.

  • Halfway through ~Hitotose~, Riho surprises Fū with the announcement that she’s moved to Takehara full-time and moreover, has taken up lodgings with Chimo. This allows Riho to really mentor Fū and spend more time with her, and consequently, Riho becomes a regular as ~Hitotose~ continues. Having older characters meant Tamayura was really able to give Fū a full spectrum of people to interact with. Her friends help her live in the moment, but the adults in her life provide wisdom and gentle guidance that lets Fū to also begin considering the future, as well.

  • It turns out that Riho and Chimo hit it off when they’d met, so Chimo decided to let Riho live at her place. News of Riho’s move to Takehara surprises Fū’s friends, and during a quiet afternoon, the group spends some time discussing this turn of events. Maon’s mind begins to wander, and she starts speculating on what could’ve happened. This is, of course, untrue, and the reality is that Fū’s now got someone to talk to frequently. Thus, when Fū learns that Riho had stopped photographing the sky, she grows worried about Riho: sky photography had been her specialty.

  • After seeing the sort of impact Fū’s photographs have, Komachi begins to develop an interest in photography herself, and like Fū, regularly visits Hinomaru to get her photos developed. Upon meeting, Komachi and Norie clash almost immediately, and it is hilarious how Norie always allows Komachi to get the better of her. This conflict is all in good fun, and now that I think about it, Komachi resembles Arthur‘s D.W.: mischievous but also well-intentioned. That Fū’s love for photography has inspired someone else speaks to the power that a sincere interest in something can have on others, and now, Komachi is able to begin thinking about how to capture feelings, too.

  • After swinging by Hoboro, Riho and Chimo invite Fū to come with them to Kure so they can visit Chimo’s old senior, Misano Fuji. They learn that she’s now running a café of sorts; both she and Chimo been illustrators and excelled in their craft, but set it down to enter the restaurant business after desiring to lay down roots and enjoy the changing scenery in their towns. One of Misano’s regulars had inspired her; he’s more than happy to try her experimental menu out, and is mentioned as being fond of taking photos of the same spot to show how differently one place can look. This is something that I often do; while hiking the same trails and passing by familiar places, I always take a photo, as well. I’d completely forgotten about this moment in ~Hitotose~, but seeing the moment again reminded me of why I’m fond of doing this.

  • Speaking to how close Fū and Riho have become, they reach for their cameras to capture a moment of Chimo and Misano together. Upon returning to Takehara, Riho explains that she’d been concerned about Fū, but while some things may change, others will remain constant; it turns out Riho had simply wanted to explore different forms of photography. In a monologue, Fū feels that there is great beauty in being able to choose one’s path even when other things are held constant in life, because even then, the possibilities that await are endless.

  • When I’d watched the story of Shimako Tobita ten years earlier, I found her situation hilarious and quite difficult to relate to. In the present day, I completely empathise with her: one evening, she arrived at Hoboro and starts an eating contest with Kazutarō, the girls’ homeroom teacher. The next day, Shimako continues on with her eating spree at Café Tamayura until her best friend, Manami Hoshi, shows up. It turns out that Shimako’s kokuhaku at the Path of Longing festival had failed. While Maon speculates something wild’s happening, Sayomi shows up and decides to take Shimako for a ride. The drive up to a peaceful viewpoint is violent, but up here, Shimako is able to be truthful about how she feels.

  • In the end, with support from Minami, Shimako is able to cry her heart out over this unsuccessful kokuhaku and is able to take a step forward, too. The reason why I say I empathise with Shimako is because I’ve now been where she’s been, although I’ve never cried out my feelings before. Instead, I ended up channeling all of that anger and negativity towards The Giant Walkthrough Brain project; the reason why I reminisce so often and speak so fondly of this project is because my determination to plow forwards, away from heartbreak, led me to build something wonderful. However, in retrospect, my approach didn’t allow me to fully heal, either, and since then, I’ve busied myself with my work and hobbies to avoid the issue.

  • With this in mind, this isn’t exactly the smartest thing in the world to do, so one of my goals in the upcoming year will be to stop thinking so poorly of relationships in my context. I’m not going to say with confidence that additional years of life experience will help me in this area, but a part of me is now curious to know whether or not I am better equipped to deal with what follows now, versus the me of a decade earlier. Here, Fū, Norie and Maon wonder if something’s off about Kaoru; it turns out that Kaoru’s been wondering about her own future and feels a little left behind upon hearing about everyone’s plans for the weekend; of everyone, she feels like her future is the least certain, and is envious that everyone else can follow their pursuits with such passion.

  • Everyone in Tamayura is immensely likeable in their own regard, but for me, my favourite of the characters is Kaoru; sensible and caring, but also the most serious of everyone, Kaoru bears a great deal of similarity to myself in that both of us had been uncertain about our futures, and similarly attempt to tend to our problems independently rather than confide in those around us. Kaoru’s got a mildly tsundere personality in that she’s not always truthful about how she feels, and therefore bounces off Norie the most; Norie is fond of calling Kaoru Kao-tan, an adorable-sounding nickname that Kaoru isn’t too fond of, and as Norie note, the fastest way to see if Kaoru is alright or not, is to try calling her Kao-tan and seeing if she reacts in her usual manner.

  • Kaoru is generally pretty cold about Sayomi’s constant want for adventures, while Norie and Maon are outright terrified of them. However, I’ve found that despite their reputation and the impending dread that comes prior to Sayomi’s adventures, everyone’s always had a memorable time nonetheless, fitting right in with Fū’s mindset of enjoying things as they happen. This is something that I’ve come to accept about life: I’m very fond of peace and quiet, and while a part of me always dreads events, whether they be parties or panels, I typically come in with the intention to make the most of things and in the end, always find them much more enjoyable than expected. The me of a decade earlier probably would’ve missed this part of Tamayura. Here, Kaoru insists that things are fine and pushes Sayomi out of her room.

  • Things finally reach a limit of sorts when Kaoru lies to Norie and the others about having agreed to come with Sayomi on an adventure, only for Norie to have actually asked ahead of time and learning that Kaoru had actually declined. In the end, Norie decides to create a bit of a pick-me-up for Kaoru at Café Tamayura and asks Sayomi to take Kaoru there. Because Kaoru can be quite stubborn, Sayomi ends up filling a water pistol full of bamboo vinegar and threatens to drench Kaoru should she resist. Because the bamboo vinegar contains some 200 different organic compounds, many of which are volatile, it has a very distinct smell, hence Kaoru’s compliance. In more mundane applications, bamboo vinegar is primarily used in gardening and agriculture, where it is used to discourage insect infestations. It also has applications in footcare and odor removal.

  • In the end, after Norie takes Kaoru to the woodshed, Kaoru explains that she’d been feeling left behind after seeing how earnestly everyone had been pursuing their interests. However, she also was moved by the fact everyone had sent her messages wishing she could be there, and seeing how varied, but capable her friends are, Kaoru suddenly has a stroke of inspiration – she decides to organise an exhibition showcasing everyone’s talents before the year is out. While Kaoru’s interests lies in scents, she’s never really considered this to be a long-term career, and as such, wonders about what her future will entail.

  • After outlining the logistics for this event, which becomes known as the We Exhibition, Kaoru speaks to her father and manages to secure a location to host the We Exhibition: the former Kasai House (旧笠井邸, Hepburn Kyū Kasai-tei). Built in 1872 as a home, the former Kasai House has a distinct tiled roof and as ~Hitotose~ portrays, the second floor is beautiful and open. The building is indeed used as an event venue in reality, making it particularly suited for the We Exhibition: Norie immediately begins to imagine what the different areas can be used for, and excitement for the We Exhibition begins mounting as each of the girls have something tangible to strive for to cap off Fū’s first year back in Takehara.

  • The We Exhibition is a fantastic example of how people can seize the initiative to do something meaningful for others; for me, my equivalent would have been participating in the various research symposiums and hosting lab tours for the media, as well as when I organised a group of my fellow undergraduate researchers into finishing a publication for the province’s undergraduate journal during the summer after we’d started back during January but forgot about the project. Shows like Tamayura encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone at my own pace, and in ~Hitotose~, after Maon reveals she’s looking to do a live play recital for the We Exhibition, the others support her fully: she wants to put on a trial run at her family’s ryōkan.

  • For Maon, the biggest challenge is actually coming up with a story, and with anticipation mounting, it turns out that the Sakurada ryōkan won’t actually have enough space: Maon’s parents have rented out the Otome-za, the theatre that Maon had always dreamt of performing at. Pressure suddenly mounts, and Maon is unable to write her story out – this aspect of being a creative is probably the most challenging, and those involved will find that, on a good day, inspiration allows one to seemingly churn out masterpieces, but on bad days, no idea ever sticks. Even at the casual level, this holds true: as a blogger, there are some times where I’ll struggle to write even a few sentences for a post, and at other times, I have to willfully reign myself back lest a post become too lengthy.

  • In this post, I’m actually tending towards the latter because there are actually quite a few memories I have associated with ~Hitotose~, and re-watching the series was a nostalgic experience. The feeling of nostalgia is greatly augmented by the incidental music in the series, which has a gentle and warming feel to them. Tamaura‘s composition is such that the series is timeless despite being firmly set in the early 2010s: Fū and her friends still use feature phones to communicate, social media is absent, and the world’s pacing is much slower than what most viewers would be used to. In the decade that passed since ~Hitotose~ aired, technology and society has changed considerably, so seeing the laid-back pacing in Tamayura did indeed feel nostalgic.

  • As the day of the recital draws nearer, Maon’s nerves grow because she’s still unable to come up with an ending to her story. In the end, Maon does not actually complete the story in time for her stage play, but decides that she’d like to go ahead and continue with the performance anyways, especially after seeing how engaged everyone is. For Fū, Norie and Kaoru, they’re about as nervous as she is, but once Maon settles into her groove, things actually end up progressing quite smoothly; it turns out Maon’s story was based off her own experiences, and consequently, said story conveys sincerity with every word she reads out.

  • Maon’s story speaks of a bird who leaves her home island and explores the nearby islands, finding them to be inhabited by friendly neighbours, and in the end, she befriends them after recalling the courage her parents had imparted on her, mirroring how Maon had met Fū and the others. The recital is a success by all counts and shows that Maon does indeed have a range of talents, as well as how inspiration can come from the bottom of the heart at the most unexpected moments. In this way, Maon is able to put on a memorable performance at Otome-za and fulfil a longstanding childhood dream of hers.

  • In the aftermath, Maon, Norie, Kaoru and Fū visit a viewpoint to celebrate a successful showing. Years earlier, all four had met here as children; Fū had gone exploring and found Maon reading to herself, while Norie and Kaoru wound up in a minor fight of sorts and end up in tears. While Maon had become too embarrassed to continue when Fū showed up, she ends up taking inspiration from the book she’d been reading and whistles out a song, impressing Norie and Kaoru long enough for the pair to pull together and apologise to one another. That this happened at all is Tamayura‘s way of showing how some friendships were simply meant to be.

  • On the day of the We Exhibition, all of the displays are fully ready, and while everyone is excited to get started, there’s also a bit of nervousness surrounding everyone. Komachi soon arrives and wonders if it’s too late to participate, but Fū and the others welcome her, helping to get her set up besides Kō’s displays. While early on, the streets of Takehara are quiet, Momoneko-sama pops in, admires some of Kō’s drawings and then takes off, satisfied. In this recollection, I’ve not mentioned Momoneko-sama at all: he’s a fluffy pink cat who wanders Takehara as a guardian of sorts, and while he’s well-known around town, Momoneko-sama resists all of Fū’s attempts to photograph him. His actions suggest a level of sentience similar to the cats seen in ARIA.

  • However, if Fū and her friends were worried about a low turnout, things quickly turn around: it feels like the entire town has shown up, and every visitor is engaged by what they see. Some of Kaoru’s classmates find it adorable to see Kaoru presenting her work with such confidence, and here, both Sayomi and her father show up to check things out. It is with the We Exhibition that I found ~Hitotose~‘s themes to really come together: as a result of everyone’s learnings throughout ~Hitotose~, they are able to convey the joys they’ve experienced to others in a tangible way.

  • Much as how Kaoru’s potpourri presentation has drawn quite a crowd, Norie’s sweets corner acts as an oasis of refreshment for those looking to unwind in between checking out the different exhibits. Because Norie’s not served such a large number of people before, she sets up her sweets and then offers visitors a chance to tailor the experience just the way they’d like. Despite being infatuated with Kō to an unhealthy extent, sporting a very boisterous and energetic presence and talking more than she should, Norie is also quite mature when the moment calls for it.

  • To punctuate the day and give others a chance to rest up in between their presentations, the We Exhibition is structured so that Maon is able to perform her play in chapters. By now, Maon’s upped her game, and her latest story is highly captivating, leaving viewers to yearn to hear more. Subtle details in the We Exhibition show just how committed the girls are to doing a good job, and more so than I did ten years earlier, the We Exhibition is a particularly impressive show of what youth are capable of when given the right encouragement and opportunities.

  • This is why I’m so fond of volunteering with the local science fairs; seeing what young minds are up to out there is always so inspiring, reminding me that there are people out there with a genuine interest and passion for the sciences, and the drive to learn enough so they can apply that knowledge and make a tangible, positive contribution to the world. I imagine that Riho is at least as happy when she sees Fū presenting her photos to others with confidence; this shows her that someone new has taken an interest in photography and has something she can pursue whole-heartedly. For Riho and those around her, that Fū’s become so passionate about photography also means that she’s slowly beginning to embrace what her father had taught her, moving on from the pain of loss into recovering and making the most of things.

  • As the evening sun sets, the We Exhibition draws to a close, and the girls review feedback they’d gotten. While some of it is of questionable value (one fellow remarks he’d like to see more hot peppers all around), much of the feedback is encouraging and useful. The We Exhibition clearly touched the hearts of those who visited, and while its success is the result of each of Fū, Norie, Maon and Kaoru’s efforts, I feel that Kaoru’s decision to plan and organise such an event also speaks to the merit of her character. While Kaoru may not feel it, that she was able to manage the We Exhibition shows that she’s also grown greatly. The We Exhibition was set on the 31st of December, and after they clean up the venue, it’s time to go and welcome the new year.

  • Whereas hatsuhinode (viewing the first sunrise of the year) is a commonplace tradition and the one that is typically portrayed in anime, ~Hitotose~ chooses to have Fū and her friends attend a countdown at the local shrine. Everyone makes a wish prior to ringing a bell, and moments later, the new year is upon them. How each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon ring the bell speaks volumes to their own personalities, and once the new year arrives, everyone returns to Café Tamayura to catch some shut-eye. Looking back, 2011 was a bit of an interesting year for me: it saw some of my lowest of lows, but I also managed to recover and get my game back together.

  • As 2011 drew to a close for me, I steeled myself for the new year: I had wrapped up that term on a much better note, but the elephant in the room was the fact that I was set to write the MCAT in 2012. This loomed over my head, but entering the new year, I resolved to simply take things one step at a time. For Fū and her friends, their sleep is broken up when Sayomi shows up with plans to take everyone out to check out the first sunrise of the year, and here, she invites everyone to board her Mazda 5. The Mazda 5 model I drove dated back to 2006, and it appears Sayomi is rocking the 2008 model, characterised by the shift from circular brake lights to a vertical strip of brake lights.

  • While Sayomi’s driving sends them off-course and very nearly into a ditch, Fū and the others end up embracing this change of plans: instead of viewing the sunrise from a mountain top, they end up viewing it from the valley floor. It is here that Sayomi demonstrates her wisdom, by remarking that each and every one of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have grown up without even realising it, much as how the mountain can never really be aware of how majestic it looks. This moment particularly stood out to me, hence my choice for the page quote. Thoughts like these are what make Tamayura particularly special, and while the sorts of life lessons in Tamayura may appear to be common sense, it is actually surprising as to how quickly they are forgotten amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

  • From ~Hitotose~ onwards, the idea of seeming inconveniences and unforeseen change of plans are presented as something to enjoy, and that they also bring something new to the table if one’s mind is open to it. Fū’s father was of the mindset that what happens, happens, and this is something that Fū herself discovers throughout the course of ~Hitotose~ as she spends more time in Takehara, treading the paths and photographing the things that her father had known so well. In this way, a full year passes in Takehara, and Fū exits the first season with a newfound perspective on life.

  • ~Hitotose~ ends with half the neighbourhood gathering to hang out while Sayomi and the others await the towing company to show up and extricate her Mazda 5, creating yet another warm memory as Fū gets to converse with the locals. The whole of Tamayura is a masterpiece: Graduation Photo was the series that set me on the path to becoming an iOS developer (and we recall that series I consider to be masterpieces must have impacted my life in a tangible, positive manner), but ~Hitotose~ welcomed me to the series and acted as a reminder to always keep an open mind about me. At present, I will note that I will be returning shortly to write about the second season, ~More Aggressive~: the announcement of a second season some three months after ~Hitotose~ ended came as a pleasant surprise for many, although ~More Aggressive~ itself would not broadcast until the summer of 2013.

At its heart, Tamayura ~Hitotose~ is a story of rediscovery at one’s own pace, of taking steps forwards in the presence of people precious to one, and of making the most of the present. It is meant to be a gentle, cathartic portrayal of how people come to understand themselves, make peace with the past and push themselves into the future. In keeping with the aesthetic such themes require, ~Hitotose~ possesses soothing visuals and music. The artwork and animation in ~Hitotose~ possesses the same gentle style seen in the Tamayura OVAs, using soft colours and lower saturation in conjunction with high visual detail in order to simultaneously bring Fū’s world to life without overwhelming viewers. Through the visual style, ~Hitotose~ shows Fū’s world as being a vivid one, filled with possibility and the potential for adventure around every corner. However, it never strives to displace the characters as the main star of the show, either. Similarly, Nobuyuki Nakajima and Yumi Matsutoya lend a nostalgic, wistful and occasionally, whimsical tone to ~Hitotose~‘s incidental music. The songs are slow, creating a feeling of warmth that surrounds Fū and her friends as they explore Takehara together. There are a few songs here and there that are used to set up more comedic moments or create tension, but even these remain faithful to the aesthetic in ~Hitotose~. In conjunction with one another, the visuals and music of ~Hitotose~ complement one another flawlessly such that, along with the characters and their experiences, ~Hitotose~ acts as a proper first season to Tamayura that greatly extends the messages the OVAs originally began exploring. By the end of Tamayura ~Hitotose~, viewers are left with the distinct impression that Fū’s father is no longer something that saddens her, but instead, acts as a source of inspiration for her, and moreover, by pursing photography, she’s experiencing the same joys that he once did (alongside making new memories of her own). Together with Kaoru, Norie and Maon, it is clear that Fū is no longer weighted down by her past, and instead, has found new joys in the present to look forward to. In a world where time passes by in the blink of an eye, and where there hardly seems to be a moment to take a step back to live in the moment, Tamayura ~Hitotose~ encourages viewers to be mindful of the smaller things in life, and that joys can come from most anywhere so long as one takes the time to savour them.

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.