First Impressions: Tari Tari

Straight out of a campy musical. Delicious.

Arbeid macht frei! I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that last year’s Hanasaku Iroha had been sponsored by a plethora of political and economical organs. Though aside from a working-class ode to enthusiasm, Hanasaku Iroha was especially a divisive, often even schizophrenic anime that cooked up an occasionally incoherent message about family, ambition and tradition. P.A. Works’ most ambitious project to date was like one of these bowls of mixed nuts you sometimes get when you order drinks at a restaurant: There is at least one kind of nut that you like, but there is hardly anyone who loves everything getting scrambled up in it. Nevertheless, you will always keep digging and grubbing through that miniscule bowl just to fish out that very last delicious peanut you like. It is worth it, and that is how Hanasaku Iroha managed to remain on my watch list for a whole two seasons, despite its flaws.

Just like me though, P.A. Works must have felt that Hanasaku Iroha did not exactly come up to scratch with what they had intended it to be. With a second season out of the question, a spiritual successor seemed the best option for a second chance. Hence, Tari Tari is the Big Order to Hanasaku Iroha’s Future Diary, the Shadow of the Colossus to its Ico, or the Bayonetta to its Devil May Cry. If anything, Tari Tari seems to be a step in the right direction.

I suspect P.A. Works of moonlighting as a government organization promoting tourism to Japan.

This ambiguous relationship between Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha is almost impossible not to talk about. Just like its predecessor, Tari Tari is absolutely gorgeous, living and breathing the same nostalgic sense of love for living that characterized the misadventures at the Kissuiso Inn. However, Tari Tari’s strength lies in how much better it works out the elements it carried over from Hanasaku Iroha. This first episode seemed to be a showcase of the beautiful town that will serve as the backdrop for following episodes. Where P.A. Works’ talent and dedication were usually wasted on the repetitive wooden interior of the Kissuiso Inn in Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari shows one of Japan’s most ambitious studios squeezing out one marvellous landscape after another.

Tari Tari’s main cast can be almost entirely traced back to the characters from Hanasaku Iroha. Just like the atmosphere, however, characterization is simply much better done in Tari Tari. With drama queen Mari Okada out of the picture, some of the more nerve-wrecking quirks of the Kissuiso’s staff have been fine-tuned, resulting in a more likeable cast headed by a less obnoxious Ohana, a Minko with less of hair-trigger temper and a Nako who actually does something. Contrary to what the promotional images might have made you believe, Tari Tari also features two males with top billing, and their characterization is just as nuanced as that of their female colleagues.

Sawa rides a horse to school. Best character? Best character.

The biggest ace Tari Tari has up its sleeve is the interaction between its characters. While the dialogue is far from memorable, the delivery and timing of the lines and the little animation quips that come with them are extraordinarily enthralling. The entire class teasingly calling out a guy who has to sing the school’s anthem, a girl’s whining being interrupted by her friend stealing some of her food, and a lack of characters talking to themselves make Tari Tari feel distinctly natural and fresh, as opposed to the usual slightly stilted delivery in anime, focused more on uttering lines as cutely as possible and often disregarding the pacing or flow of real conversation.

I was surprised that I ended up liking Tari Tari this much. While it is still very much a slice-of-life anime — don’t even come near it if things like K-ON! make you want to slit your wrists — its engaging pacing, nostalgic vibe and inclination towards likeable characters make it something definitely worthy of festing up your lazy summer days.

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