011: Tamayura

Aired: Summer 2010, Fall 2011, Summer 2013, Apr 2015, Aug 2015, Nov 2015, Apr 2016
Genres: Slice of Life, Iyashikei, Coming of Age, Comedy, Drama, School, CGDCT
Date watched: Dec 05 2018 – Dec 08 2018
Series watched: Tamayura (4 ep x 18 min), Tamayura: Hitotose (13 ep x 24 min), Tamayura: More Aggressive (13 ep x 24 min), Tamayura: Sotsugyou Shashin (4 ep x 53 min)
Links: MAL

Why I started watching: I decided to watch this hot on the heels of finishing Yama no Susume, because I was still exploring the world of Slice of Life/CGDCT, and wanted more. Similarly to the last one, I also recognized a lot of the cast in it – Yuka Iguchi and Kana Asumi from the last show were main characters here again, Ayana Taketatsu (Azusa from K-On!) was here too in the lead role, and Yuko Gibu, who had a nice side character from the last show, was the final main character here.

This iyashikei/healing anime is an interesting coming-of-age tale where Fuu, the central character and budding photographer, has just picked up the camera to resume her hobby, after putting it down due to her father’s death some time before the show’s timeline. Instead of focusing on dealing with overcoming grief, Tamayura focuses instead on the stage after that, where people have come to terms with their grief and are ready to move on and embrace the wonders in the world once again.

“Tamayura” are defined in the show as the faint, speckled balls of light that can sometimes be seen in photographs that are taken, and they represent the happiness or “glow” of the occasion or the people in the picture. A good amount of the show is focused on making good memories and capturing them on film, so even when the arc is focusing on one of the other girls, you can often find Fuu in the backdrop, snapping away. All throughout the show, the audience is treated to a heap of symbolism and insights regarding cameras, photographs, and how they create memories that connect the past and the present.

All four main girls experience significant character growth over the course of basically three TV seasons, with soul-searching arcs as they mature through high school and overcome their issues, and abundant bonding time over sweets and tea thrown in for good measure. However, one major negative thing about the show for me was that several of the supporting adult characters were over-exaggerated and obnoxious, and I would always wince whenever they flaunted their antics. Another minor negative point I had in the show revolved around a flashback episode, where it is revealed to the audience that some incredible coincidence had happened in the past to cause a minor plot point in the present. And the present-day characters have all the clues to figure out what exactly happened, but they never realize it, so they simply move on, never bringing it up again. I dislike that. However, that episode also had my favourite coincidence of the show, so perhaps we’re even!

In that first scene pictured below, we have a 4 year old Norie (Yuka Iguchi), pulling along Kaoru (Kana Asumi), by the hand. That greatly amused me because I had just finished watching Yama no Susume, and the second scene is from THAT show, with Hinata (Kana Asumi), pulling along Aoi (Yuka Iguchi), by the hand. I liked that they got to trade roles and pull each other along in shows that I happened to watch back-to-back.

Norie pulling Kaoru (Tamayura: Hitotose)
Hinata pulling Aoi (Yama no Susume)

Now for the somewhat personal bit, and I’m not really sure how to write this, as Tamayura doesn’t really seem to be known as one of the anime that hits people right in the feels. Although the show generally carries a positive message, it was tinged with so much melancholy around the edges for me. The ED of the last season, Arigatou by Megumi Nakajima, kept making me cry, especially once I found the English lyrics of the song (from the linked video).

Assuming the translation is correct, the song is sung from two points of view – first from Fuu’s deceased father to her, telling her how proud he was of her, and then from Fuu back to her father, thanking him for his love. The ED video (similar to but not exactly the linked one) reflects this – part of the video is bright and happy, with a young Fuu in the company of her father and his camera. The other part is dark and somber, with an older Fuu sitting alone, clutching the camera, her only remaining link to her father, before she finally smiles. Ugh. I know the show is supposed to be about finding joy after closure, but this song.. it’s so painful. It’s been well over a month since I’ve finished watching it, but watching the video with lyrics is still enough to bring me to tears.

Because of the spread-out format of the show, the song structure was weird – there were only 3 different OPs, but there were 13 different EDs, with most of them only appearing once each! But good songs always find a way to rise to the top, and besides Arigatou, I also ended up really liking Okaerinasai by Maaya Sakamoto (English lyrics), the OP for Tamayura: Hitotose. This one is another poignant song seemingly sung to Fuu from her friends, welcoming her back to the city and offering her a shoulder to cry on. Both are beautiful, bittersweet songs that match the mood of the show. In addition, though the song didn’t make it to my stash, an honourable mention should be given to the Tamayura main instrumental theme that plays many times through the series – although is it just me, or does it borrow a bunch of chords from the start of Ralph McTell’s Streets of London??

I was torn up when I initially finished Tamayura. Even though Tamayura was supposed to be an iyashikei, the series felt really emotionally heavy, since its theme of moving forward after getting closure also, by definition, meant that the events that required closure also constantly hung over the show like the Sword of Damocles. The entire final movie was like a long goodbye sequence, full of wistful symbolism about cutting ties and moving on to the future. That, plus the fact that I watched Tamayura during a particularly rough period at work where I really didn’t want to work or be there anymore, led me to just lose it during the finale. Then I got angry at the flaws in the show, and so frustrated at the sheer pressure of the emotional burden, so I initially refused to listen to the music or think about the show anymore and gave it a 7/10.

It was a couple more weeks until I could finally digest Tamayura, really appreciate how much I actually liked it, and long to see more of the characters. Tamayura is the only anime series to date that makes me still breathlessly clench my throat whenever I think about how it ended. Not even really out of sadness or happiness, but longing. It’s not even one of my top 10 favourite anime, but it is one that I now do not regret having watched at all. And, next to KareKano, it is one of the most important shows I’ve watched, because it left a small, indelible print on my soul where it touched me.

  • Base: 9
  • Mood: +1
  • Plot: -1
  • Music: +1
  • Misc: +0

Final Score: 10/10