To me, Tari Tari is not a finished experience. Some people who really enjoyed it might prefer to have it keep going and slowly savor it. Similarly, I can’t put it away until I rewatch the show from the beginning. There are a lot of little things, here and there, that I still haven’t made sense of. As I try to write this post I find myself lacking the language to express it, and I haven’t seen any other reviews or posts on Tari Tari that satisfies.
For example, fans early on already caught on the name well before the anime even aired. The name “Tari Tari,” in the promo shots, are spelled out using English alphabet. It’s kind of a play on True Tears (which was also spelled out similarly). The episode 1 homage to Reflectia makes it even a stronger case. I mention this, because, did you realize one of the five main characters also share the same T-T moniker? And what was his role in the story? If you think Anohana’s referential web is a trout, maybe TT’s “hidden dragon” approach might be more to your liking.
I hate to bang on this sort of thing but the typical review, picking on Fandompost for example, does that bat-for-averages impression. That’s a solid but fundamentally inadequate way to evaluate Tari Tari, because it doesn’t tease out any of the in-your-face aspects that makes the show attractive via its marketing. It’s like making red wine versus white wine. On the other hand I guess well-filtered opinion is exactly what people are looking for, but that’s not what I‘m looking for.
The funny thing is, I mostly agree with the consensus that Tari Tari is average for its appeal to the average anime viewer. Rather, this is an anime that is very targeted; it’s out with its calling card right from the beginning, and delivers a tactical payload that is proverbially hit or miss, because, well, it’s so targeted. At its core, Tari Tari is a kuuki-kei anime that, like True Tears, exploits using the virtues of emotional warmth. It’s iyashikei; the Manabi Straight-esqe plot towards the end is almost a no-brainer up-lifter, if at least in form. But it’s different in that Tari Tari does everything it does by being itself, and not by being some kind of messy emotional wank material. It, too, is somewhat of a self-contradiction where people would find things they don’t expect to see in there. To some extent, it’s the next step from Hanasaku Iroha–a story that walks the well-established path of dramatic pathos but with a few screws loose. For Tari Tari, it’s busting out the machetes and forging a new path entirely. It does not feel like live action acting; it feels closer to real life.
Tari Tari, like its name sake, is also all over the place. If you come into the show looking for drama along the lines of that Noe-Hiromi triangle, you won’t really find it. It’s not even really about freedom, rebelling, and standing up for yourself and what is right, even if that is a part of the story. In fact, who is the main character? Wakana, right? Just because Ayahime gets top billing? To use Dai Sato’s language again, it’s like a sekai-kei anime that isn’t exactly about relationships.
I think Tari Tari is very noteworthy on that alone: this is a show that defies a bunch of genre conventions. Perhaps that’s why it’s all over the place. The first two episode spanned almost as much time chronologically as the rest of the series. There is not much of a “rail” to guide viewers besides the chronology of Shirosai and the Choir Club & Sometimes Badminton Club’s activities. The characters came at us as they are, and introspection, like those cold lead-ins, hangs in the ether, contextualized only by the ongoing and concurrent dramatic focus. Despite the Power-Ranger-esque distribution of plot and screen time, Wien, Tanaka and Konatsu never get to really shine. Here you are–the leader of the club isn’t even the main character. The last time I enjoyed a show where the leader is not the main character was probably K-ON–if we can admit there is a main character (Yui?) at all. But Tari Tari is even more off-balanced than K-ON. I’m not sure if it is a bad thing, but it certainly seems confusing for some people.
Thankfully, that off-balance nature makes Tari Tari kind of fun to watch. It’s definitely a mood-lifting experience, both for its solid dramatic filling (namely, Wakana’s story) and its butt-slap-tastic antics. Do we really have anything to say in the face of this? Will anyone’s argument work?
The way the three girls made fun of their male club members is both endearing and amusing. It’s easily one of the best part of the show. Sawa’s plight was pretty amusing, once we get past the forced drama. The singing and dancing was a lot of fun in the meta sense in how they held back Ayahime completely until that moment of clarity in Wakana’s life.
TL;DR: It’s easy to call Tari Tari boring because it’s hard to get in to, but for some of us we were in since even before the series started. But even if you weren’t, you could do much worse in the high school drama anime category.
I like to think of Tari Tari, at least at this point, as a second-hand, expensive piece of audiophile equipment–full of plugs and holes and hooks and missing the manual. All this stuff probably fits somehow, but it’ll take at least another go-through to figure it out.
PS. Are we suppose to fault a show that is “all over the place” because it’s “tari tari”? Next time I try to thought dump on this topic I will probably talk about its formula for what I perceive as life-likedness.