Back in 2016 (the 2016-17 period has been a theme this year), I started (and eventually dropped) a manga by the name of Hakumei to Mikochi. Something about its tranquil nature, amplified by the characters being surrounded by nature, spoke to me. Its distinct chibi aesthetic was also a pleasant appeal. Alas, it would only last six chapters read before I dropped it, though I left no evidence as to why I did so.
Then it received an anime adaptation, and I was actually tempted to watch it while it was airing. That did not happen, so this series has been off of my radar for many years. A nice, carefree watch seemed deserving enough after this month of relatively dramatic and/or energetic titles. I gave it another shot, then promptly remembered why I dropped the manga in the first place.
What I expected was Girlfriend (Kari). What I got was closer in quality to Kamichu!. There’s a certain serenity to slice-of-life titles that don’t incorporate a lot of comedy to distill the lethargic blissfulness of everyday nature. Titles such as Aria, Sora no Woto, and Tsuki ga Kirei are good examples outside the aforementioned two that keep a level balance of slice-of-life and other genres to keep its interest afloat (except Girlfriend). Some prove successful while others are more or less trapped within their own creative constipation, trying to find that line between relaxed boredom and actual boredom.
Tamayura Hitotose, or just Tamayura, is an exemplary example of doing too much of everything to really accustom itself to something great. There’s no subtlety to make the emotional moments sweeter, no real fixation on comedy, romance, or drama to keep the boredom at bay, and characters develop in a rather standard formula. These girls are cute teens who look like preteens living out their life in a manner in which they see fit, participating in as many meaningful events as possible. One can’t help but think the “YOLO” context of the events is influential, but after each and every episode of being told exactly how to feel with overt dialogue, it comes off as a little naive. This also ties in to another issue that plagues not just this series, but many “true” slice-of-life’s.
It’s too happy. It’s too optimistic. Everyone is nothing short of altruistic, even if their outer persona shows otherwise. Its glossiness paints an idealistic society of togetherness that simply doesn’t happen. Just once, just once, I’d like to see a series like this employ a dick for a character who isn’t treated like a bad guy that will eventually learn their lesson by the end of the episode and remain a dick all throughout. Such that the characters can learn to accept that not everything in life is rosy and kind. Believe it or not, there are people who exist that are apathetic of people’s situations and resolve. Not necessarily implying they’re all dicks, but some apathy could really spur some intrigue from the vapid attempt at creating a perfect society that will motivate every kawaii teenager to pursue a degree in taking pretty photos and reading stories in front of audiences.
This optimism also seeps into many of the integral plots of each episode by making conflicts simply inborn hesitation and doubt. A character wants to do something. She tries to do it. She fails. She gets upset. Her friends cheer her up. She either tries again and succeeds or promises herself to never give up in the future. The end. Many episodes roll along in this fashion, with a lot of them feeling bloated from such a simple line of thinking. Do we really need to dedicate twenty-something minutes to a girl being nervous about a recital? Is that not already predictable enough?
A lot of these issues wouldn’t necessarily be that major if the characters were anything but one-note personalities. Fortunately, it is just barely not the case here, as despite the fact that I can only remember three characters’ names a day after finishing it (and one only because it’s really easy to remember), their exuberance makes the show worth it to fans of the genre. In particular, Norie and Maon are the stars of the show, both in terms of overall personality and development of character. Norie is the character you’d typically see in a more comedy-based slice-of-life. Her eccentric persona is one that is more than welcome in a show as plainfully dull as this one. Full of overexaggerated faces and actions, she’s likable based on the merit of explosive personality. Also, she’s a good cook and loves making people happy with her cooking. D’aww. Maon is, by all accounts, the most adorable thing on the planet. All that’s necessary to describe her is to show this gif, which this series made possible.
Pessimistic view of society and overall distaste for many brands of pseudo-emotional garbage everywhere, I can’t help but find the series cute. Bland as it may be and formulaic in its structure, there’s something very Aria-esque about the series that makes its naivety seem graceful. It’s possible that having the same director front both anime had a say in this, but he couldn’t save Tamayura from a script that tends to run on longer than it should. Not to mention, there’s not a lot of things here that haven’t already been shown in other shows, specifically in slice-of-life. Whether the characters, the optimistic view of society, or something in-between, Tamayura has a spark of tranquility that leaves a mark.
On the animation front, it’s a mixed bag. Within the genre, animators can get away with a lot of not-so-fluid movement as long as it looks realistic within the setting. Not to mention, Tamayura has a somewhat keen focus on photography, which means some scenes are simply shot in stand-still. There’s not too much of a focus on backgrounds, nature, or an overall worldly aesthetic that one may have expected going into this. Fluidity is decent, with not many issues in static movement or strange mannerisms. I suppose aside from some memorably adorable moments (see above), it’s a serviceable series. Nothing jumps out, but it won’t disappoint, either.
I can only feel a tinge of excitement with a series that I initially wrote off as bland garbage being something a little more than meets the eye. It’s a particularly exciting feeling when something subverts your expectations in a positive way. And for me, a slice-of-life title, no less! Any longtime reader knows I’m not huge on the genre, but here and there I find something worth coming back to. Then again, slice-of-life is as varied as any other genre could be, be it drama, romance, or comedy. It’s all subjective preference in the end. And I, Kopo-kun, will graciously accept this anime within the positive notes of this year’s Summer.
Personal Score: C+
Critical Score: C+
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.