Considering that was everything I like about Tari Tari and none of the things I hate, not to mention some long-overdue developments, it’s hardly surprising that this was my favorite episode of the series.
Jan, the one he’s left his Gambaraijer Red (serious bonus points for getting Hiyama Nobuyuki to voice the TV version) action figure with. A friendship was formed over Gambaraijer DVDs sent from Japan, and Wien has carried through on his promise to write after moving away – only to have all his letters returned to sender, with news that Jan no longer lives at his old address.
None of that would matter if Wien didn’t work as a character, but he does. He’s very funny and quite unlike anyone else in the cast, both for his skewed view of Japanese life and his unqualified idealism. It was indeed strange seeing Wien depressed, given that it’s so contrary to his normal genki nature. Still, he remember his Gambaraijer promise to “never give up hope”, and this comes into play when Shiho-san recruits the Choir Club to act as heroes (Konatsu is a natural, naturally) to help promote the shopping district. Yes, it’s convenient – a gig that helps the club raise money for the musical play Konatsu has promised to stage for the culture festival, and gives Wien a chance to be in his element. But it’s all part of that “Hey, Kids – let’s put on a show!” vibe that’s so much a part of the TT genetic code, so I’m happy to overlook that.
In fact, writer/director Masakazu-san even manages to loop Wakana’s dilemma into this plot as well. She’s struggling to write a song (as a way to connect with her mother, mainly) and of course, Konatsu plows ahead under the assumption that she’ll happily write the centerpiece of the musical for the club. It’s her father who initially suggests that she talk to Shiho-san (who’s now extended her ass-slapping fetish to every female club member), but I figured sooner or later the trail would lead Wakana to Takakura-san, the Vice-Principal – and indeed, that’s where Shiho sends her – as she was the one who seemed closest to Wakana’s mother and certainly the one most connected to the song the Choir Club performed in the first arc. As of that weren’t enough, the thread surrounding whatever nasty surprise the Chairman shoved down the Principal’s throat is connected as well, and I suspect Wakana will end up helping her with that even as she helps Wakana understand the songwriting process, and her mother.
I think as much as anything what made this episode successful was that it was refreshingly free of the angst that hung over the last two like a Fairy’s gloom cloud. Tari Tari is at its best when it’s just serious enough but not too much – a sense of silliness and whimsy is a coat it wears much better than melodrama. There’s plot, but it’s treated like an adventure and there’s always the feeling that things will work out OK. Wien is a good fit for that mode with his sunny disposition and innate kindness coupled with a childlike lack of guile, and actually making him a part of the group rather than an appendage opens up considerable possibilities for the last four episodes – if they’re pursued. I would have preferred to see some of that explored before the final act, but if we get a final act that’s similar in tone to this episode that’ll be a very nice consolation prize.