Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Tari Tari

SUMMARY: Wakana Sakai was involved in music, but gave it up one day. Konatsu Miyamoto loves singing and can't be torn from it. Sawa Okita would do anything for her closest friends. They laugh, they fight, they worry, they love... Through their very ordinary lives, little by little the girls learn to move forward. Sometimes they feel as if they can't go on alone, but as long as they have their friends, they believe they'll make it someday. Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, and the music they make in their ensemble weave a tiny but dazzling story of the power of music. (summary taken from Crunchyroll)

Tari Tari is a wonderful underdog story (there I go again) of the little choir club that could. Despite obstacles (a hostile school administrator and equally hostile classmates) and little support (the school principal who seems more absentee parent than involved advisor), Konatsu and Company brave the odds and prove themselves to everyone.

Of the FeelsKicker Anime I've seen thus far, this one is definitely a contender for the top spots on my list. Six episodes in and I'd already shed tears 3 times, flaat out bawled twice, and had my feels kicked at least 7 times.

That's damn impressive in my book.

Wakana's story was the main draw for me here. That it conincided with the choir club's story was a bonus and, I felt, made it all the more richer. And that's where the majority of the emotional punches come from. In ep 6, even though Wakana was adamant about it, I knew--I just knew down deep in my bones--that piano wasn't going anywhere. And when Wakana asks and her father responds:

I totally lost it.

Thank the gods for the pause button.

(Even now as I'm writing this and recalling the sequence, it's taking all my energy not to start tearing up.)

Music. Let's talk music now.

The song that did it for me was “Kokoro no sumitsu,” originally written by Wakana's mom, Mahiru, and her friend, Naoko. It's a poignant piece and when Konatsu and Sawa perform the song in public at the end of episode 2 their voices lend it a sense of longing (much like Asuka's lone playing in Sound! Euphonium) and a sound that evokes a vast field of gently swaying tall grass beneath a sunny yet hazy sky. Sawa's airy soprano floats above Konatsu's mezzo in a pairing that gave me goosebumps.

When we hear all five members sing at the end of episode 6, we first get Wakana on the opening lines over a recording of her mom and other ladies. This is followed by all five members in unison, then into two parts, then three, and then a briefly soaring harmony as they all slide into four parts. The men's voices nicely complement the women's; it's a young tenor quality without the deeper baritone/bass sound but which works extremely well here to keep the overall tone light and airy, and almost hymn-like. A joy to hear.

And now, I pick nits.

Konatsu's and Sawa's duet at the end of episode 2 gave me goosebumps, as noted above. And the quintet singing the same was a joy, also noted above. But the quintet version felt anticlimactic, especially since they only sing in a classroom. Why didn't all five of them perform in public? Why was it only Kontsu and Sawa?

The final performance felt a bit underwhelming. Nothing wrong with it per se, but for a “musical”, even a short one, I expected at least a Les Miz “One Day More.” Instead, I got a lackluster, half-hearted Lloyd Webber. I really expected a mindblowing final performance and was a bit dismayed at the result. A definite 180 from the evocative “Kokoro no sumitsu.” 

The fun banter I often expect in a series like this was sadly missing. Another nit to pick. Wien's ethusiasm for the tokusatsu/super sentai-style series Nettou Hero Ganbaraigers, while charming and makes for a cute homage, didn't quite fill the gap.

Much to my dismay.

In the kawaii department, however, Tari Tari delivers. The end credit sequence in the majority of the episodes is one of the cutest I've seen. An energetic, bouncy closing theme song paired with Konatsu and Sawa seated, swaying in time to the music, and Konatsu's little legs swinging rhythmically to the beat made me clap and squee every single time.

Despite these few nits, I enjoyed the show. While it doesn't quite land on my Rewatch List, I will recommend it to anyone interested.

Genre: Music, Slice of Life
Length: TV series, 13 episodes
Version Viewed: Digital streaming on Crunchyroll (also available on HIDIVE)
Review Status: Full season (13/13)

Note: All images are used only for purposes of review/critique/commentary. No infringement is intended. All images copyright their respective creators.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Best Girl (With Weapons) Wednesday: Karen Aijō

Karen Aijō  - Shōjo Kageki Revue Starlight

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Sound! Euphonium (2 seasons)

SUMMARY: Spring in the first year of high school. Kumiko, a member of the brass band in junior high school, visits the high school brass band club with classmates Hazuki and Sapphire. There, she comes across Reina, her former classmate from junior high. Hazuki and Sapphire decide to join the club, but Kumiko can’t make up her mind. She recollects her experience with Reina at a competition in junior high school. (summary taken from Crunchyroll)

Let's go from a girl band to a band band. A concert band, that is. The Kitauji High School Concert Band to be precise.

Where BanG Dream spoke to my inner performer, Sound! Euphonium spoke to my inner choir geek (and music appreciator in general). Yes, I know band geeks and choir geeks are somewhat different and yes, I know about Tari Tari (more in a future review), but the interactions between the characters reminded me of my choir experiences. That plus the story and characters caught my attention here.

In particular the characters.

And the music.

Initially, I was looking forward to accompanying Kumiko on her journey with the concert band but was dismayed at her passivity in the first couple of episodes. Reserved. Indecisive. Unassuming. But it became readily apparent to me Kumiko's "passivity" was really a catalyst for events around her. As situations rose up, it's Kumiko's presence at those moments that moves the story forward. 

Hazuki and Midori were charming companions. Midori's eternally optimistic, cute, and bubbly personality was endearing, as was Hazuki's perky attitude. That and her joy at playing Tubacabura slapped a smile on my face every single time.

Third-year fellow euphonist Asuka provided a breath of fresh air over the proceedings. She's my favorite character. Off-beat and slightly mysterious, we finally get a glimpse of her inner life in Season Two. And boy-howdy, that glimpse speaks volumes about her and about where the band eventually ends up. The exchange between Asuka and Taki-sensei following their concert in Episode 2.12 punctuates that with a nice kick in the feels. And the meeting between Asuka and Kumiko after the graduation ceremony at that final episode (2.13) is another feels kicker, especially at Asuka's gesture toward Kumiko.

The writing kept a nice balance between charmingly silly and serious and also hit the right emotional notes. While the show centered on the band as a whole, I think the core story was about the relationship between Kumiko and Reina and the bookmarking sequences from both seasons (beginnings of episodes 1.1 and 2.1 and endings of episodes 1.13. and 2.13) perfectly captures that.

I enjoyed watching the band's progression from seemingly ragtag group of instrumentalists to polished performers and their music grew along with them.

And the music.

Oh, the music.

Glorious. Sweeping. Exhilarating. Reina's trumpet solo gave me goosebumps: arresting and powerful, a sound that made me literally sit up and take notice. Same for Asuka's lone song, an ethereal and haunting peace that conjured up images of longing and grabbed me in the center of the chest and squeezed.

And the title of that song?

Wait for it.

I mean it. Wait for it.

You'll see.

Now I have a feeling some CG work came into play here, particularly with the instrument depictions. But it was seamlessly done and didn't visually interfere with the animation experience. I will applaud those animators and won't pick nits here.

Even though Sound! didn't sear itself into my consciousness like BanG Dream did, it was still an enjoyable show and one that makes it onto my Rewatch List. Asuka will also take her place on the list of my favorite characters.

Heartily heartily recommended.

Genre: Drama, Slice of Life
Length: TV series, 27 episodes
Version Viewed: Digital streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full season (27/27)

Note: All images are used only for purposes of review/critique/commentary. No infringement is intended. All images copyright their respective creators.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Best Girl (With Weapons) Wednesday: Mirielle and Kirika

Another two-fer: Mirielle and Kirika from Noir.