Tari Tari is currently available on Crunchyroll and HIDIVE.
Anime is in a bit of a production boom at the moment, with dozens of new shows coming out every three-month season on top of nearly as many continuing series.
So, as you might imagine (or perhaps have seen some of the sillier examples of), concepts can get really creative in an effort to stand out from the crowd.
Often enough, that can be some visually off-the-wall spectacle or abstract fantasy to take advantage of animation not having quite so many physical limitations as something filmed in the pesky “real world”. Take this season’s Cells at Work, a series set inside an Osmosis-Jones-like anthropomorphic representation of a human body, complete with alien-invader pathogens. I’d defy anyone to try construct all the sets, props, and costuming needed to make that look convincing week-by-week in live action.
But that’s why anime does these weird topics quite well; with the brighter, animated presentation, it can get away with much more in the way of concept and feel much more natural it generates drama.
And that applies in the opposite direction just as well, elevating and underscoring topics that would be mundane for most studios to consider building a show around.
Like extracurricular choir.
Granted, Glee partially proved this out years ago. But that was also a notably expensive show to produce and, to varying degrees at various times, spread its focus across a lot of timely social issues and wide-reaching archetypal issues across the teenage experience, attracting a much wider audience than just those with skin in the show choir game.
Mental note: “The Teenage Experience” would be a fine garage band name.
Tari Tari isn’t spreading its attention nearly as far.
Within its thirteen episodes, it’s pretty much narrowed down its focus to a few narrow threads flavored as Badminton, Equestrianism, and particularly Choir Music. Chances are that any given viewer has dabbled in maybe one of those as a serious hobby.
And they while the show does get into some broader ideas about work-health balance, finding inspiration, and collaboration, it’s almost always heavily colored by the particulars of one of those three things.
Sawa doesn’t just make sacrifices to get into an equestrian school; she physically starves herself to meet the strict weight requirements for riders.
Taichi isn’t just struggling to make something of himself in badminton; he’s contending with the very fact that nobody else in his school cares enough about his niche sport to support or play alongside him.
Konatsu isn’t just contending with her aimlessness, but that her interest in a chorus club is absolutely fruitless without all the requisite positions of a quartet (plus arranger/accompanist) filled.
And Taichi and Sawa’s joint issues…
…okay, everything’s bound to fall back on at least a few well-worn conventions.
But still, the show does a lot to lean into the genuine nuggets within the more narrow problems of its protagonists. The Power-Rangers-y bit that could easily play off as a joke? It’s a subject with a personal significance for new-kid Wien that nobody else seems to share, further alienating him from a class that only ever calls him by a nickname. And that thread of feeling alone in his interests is something that ties him back to Konatsu and Taichi, strengthening the bond between all three.
And the most tangible of all these elements is in the Tari Tari‘s soundtrack, with its multiple ending themes featuring the main cast in lead vocal roles (or otherwise pulling a convincing Disney-esque voice actor switch), which are then folded back into the show’s fiction as pieces that the characters perform together. It’s a sweet idea that really strengthens the show’s identity.
From beginning to end, Tari Tari is content to double down on details, sometimes at the expense of the full picture. The backgrounds are beautiful renderings of real-life scenery and environments, but the characters themselves can be hit-or-miss (even the picture above shows some inconsistency in body proportions). The cast’s conflicts against their individual barriers feel properly fleshed out, but the third-act threat bringing everything together is barely even related to any of the cast’s problems up until it’s introduced two episodes just before the series’ finale.
But if the script was flipped and Tari Tari was successful at the generic at the expense of the specific, I doubt I would remember it nearly as well. I can turn to a hundred other shows to see a club get together and succeed through friendship and gumption. Here we have five characters on five parallel tracks, each fighting a different fight that will resonate more or less with different members of the audience, from accepting the limitations of your own body to finding positive sources of creative inspiration.
And yeah, I wasn’t especially in tune with the particular arcs of either character spearheading the push for a choir club. I imagine the majority of viewers will feel the same way about most story threads in Tari Tari.
Still, I got a satisfaction out of the show being pushed toward a very specific type of performative music thanks to them, and I could see real parts of friends I’ve known in their struggles. I still could hardly tell you anything about horse-riding or badminton, but characters get down enough in the weeds with those subjects that I wouldn’t be at all surprised for someone to tell me that, yes, maintaining minimal club numbers is a real point of concern for high school badminton players.
Admittedly, Tari Tari wasn’t an exceptional show in most areas. But it chose to be very genuine – or go to great lengths for perceived authenticity – in just a few. And that’s enough; a passing mention of a subject will make some ears perk up, and a show can rotate through a dozen of those while still carrying a different torch. But some proper devoted time to an uncommon subject can get the undivided attention of an otherwise-under-served (if small) viewership.
It’s not a wide reach, but it is a deep one.
Author’s Note: The banner art for this article is actually the first bar of the theme song to the show, as arranged by one dinhosaurrx.