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Back in the end of January 2015 I wrote about the forthcoming four Tamayura movies, saying: “For every viewer and follower of any art form there are pieces or works that have spoken to them strongly and helped to solidify their interest in the medium, and anime is no exception. For me one of the most endearing and moving series that has done precisely this are the OVA’s and two seasons of the Tamayura franchise – for whatever reasons the series has spoken to me on a deep level and helped confirm my love of the anime art form proper. Therefore it should come as no surprise that any news of future seasons of the franchise should interest me greatly. Few series have ever been produced that could stand in the same room side by side with series like the Aria franchise, but the Tamayura series (and perhaps Skektchbook: Many Colors) is certainly one of them.

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Yes, I know it is tacky to begin a blog post by quoting myself, but after finishing the first of four slated Tamayura movies that will serve as a conclusion to the franchise proper the general principle rings all the more true for me. This first of these movies was incredibly beautiful and moving in every way, shape and form, and I only wish I could somehow convey to others the delight in relishing almost every second of this work drop by drop as I savored and rolled its “taste” under my palette – it was that wonderful. It seems the four movies will be generally themed around the four seasons one passes through during the school term in Japanese schools – starting with spring, then summer, fall and then winter. This episode was of course dedicated to spring. It was also probably the single work slated for the Spring 2015 season that I was most anticipating before the latter began, and it did not disappoint!

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One thing became very clear from the first few minutes of the first movie – this was a work that was consciously and deliberately made in reference to the OVAs and two seasons that came before it and yet was presented in such a way as to be accessible to those who had never seen the other parts of the franchise. In other words, I thought it exceedingly well written. For a diehard Tamayura fan like myself (and yes, when it comes to Tamayura I count myself among the diehards) there were so many little mentions, flashbacks and revisiting of scenes in a slightly different way that were done near perfectly. Probably the most effective was the opening scenes of the dandelion fluff floating through the sky, Fuu on her bicycle pursuing a photo subject (this time a butterfly), nearly falling off a bridge in an attempt to take “just the right photo” and her being saved at the last second.

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Yet there were also plenty of brand new elements to enrich the story as well. First off there are the two characters introduced as part of Fuu’s Photography Club in high school – a plucky, ambitious, very analytically-minded first year student who already has plans to be a Photography professional named Shindou Takume; and a gentle, highly emotional and sweet second year student named Maekawa Suzune who was a fan of the former third year student and photography club member Kanae who graduated from high school the year before and who was featured in season two. Secondly we are given many, many more details on Fuu’s past – in particular the events surrounding the photo of her father she took shortly before the latter’s death which has been on display so prominently up to now and has served as one of the catalysts in Fuu’s getting to know people and begin to emerge from her shell of grief at her father’s passing.

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Surprisingly we re-visit Fuu’s reflections on recounting what has happened to her in relation to her father’s death in very forthright words too. Things like “on that day, when he suddenly passed from this world to the next, I locked [all the happy and joyful memories of my father] away, out of sight, in the corner of my heart.” Later on she relates how after her father’s death “time stopped”, and she “was held down by the weight of my sadness, unable to budge.” Events in this first movie take place that bring these memories and reflections around full circle when she suddenly finds herself face to face (albeit on a smaller level) with being confronted by the potential “loss” of a loved one – someone who was, perhaps, the initial catalyst in helping Fuu find her way out of the grief that had encrusted her soul and numbed her heart and mind: the photographer Shihomi.

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In this movie the event centers around Fuu discovering that her beloved photography mentor Shihomi will soon be moving away from Takehara and living in Tokyo. One of Shihomi’s colleagues was involved in trying to open a photo gallery in Tokyo for some time and had long ago given Shimomi an standing invitation to come and contribute and take part in it if she was ever able to get it off the ground. Well, she was, and Shihomi agreed to go, and it happened to take place shortly after the beginning of Fuu’s last year of high school, when she was beginning to look at her future plans. Unfortunately Shihomi found it difficult to tell Fuu about her leaving and kept putting it off, and Fuu found out through rumors first when it was mentioned in passing by one of the new Photography Club members when they are out on an after-school club activity shoot.

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When Fuu hears of Shihomi moving to Tokyo out of the blue her first reaction is an inexplicable unease and agitation that eats at her persistently, so much so that most everyone around her that knows her fairly well immediately recognizes that something is out of sync with her and that the news of Shihomi leaving has hit her really hard. It was the collections of Shihomi’s photos that proved to be the first step in Fuu’s awakening from her state of numbness, and when Shihomi responded to a letter and photograph Fuu had taken shortly after that encouraged Fuu to set upon her present course. Later on when Shihomi met with Fuu and even moved temporarily to Takehara for a while she and Fuu began to get closer and closer, to where Fuu began to think of her almost as family and to assume, as she herself realized, that Shihomi would somehow “always be there” for her. Hearing Shihomi was leaving without any warning whatsoever reminded Fuu on a deep level somewhere of her father “leaving” her when he died. By the by – this moment when Fuu reveals this to Shihomi is an incredibly moving scene done with great delicacy and a brilliant use of visuals and background music … possibly the most powerful moment in the entire movie for me.

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And here we are shown a beautiful image – the faded photo surrounded by the tamayura that Fuu took of her father shortly before the latter died has come to be almost a sort of “continually growing symbol” of Fuu’s present relationship with her father – tinged with many memories and joys, yes, but also with the “image” of her father becoming slightly faded and blurry as the years pass. But it is here that we see that Fuu has indeed changed – she realizes these things, yes, but she is also very happy that she is able to say her farewells and express her gratitude to Shihomi for all that she has done for her. (And being able to consciously do such an action is, I think, much more important for Fuu than many might think.) We see here a deliberate and necessary step for Fuu to take another step into not only her future on a particular, professional level, but also for her to further maturation and budding integrally as a human being.

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For Fuu the significance of the first time when the concept of the tamayura is driven home in an especially powerful way here. The idea of tamayura were first told to Fuu by her father after she took the famous picture that has been adorning the display of the Rising Sun Photo Gallery for so long. Fuu was disappointed when the photo was developed and seemed blurry, out of focus and filled with little white blotches – at that moment her father told her that the white blotches were “tamayura” and that were the feelings of joy of the photographer that can show up on the film and that they were not that easy to capture. Fuu later came to understand this as her Father teaching her to see the beauty and goodness in one’s failures or difficulties or even pain – if sought out and seen those failures or pain can eventually be seen as treasures, and days of worry or uncertainty can someday become treasured memories. This is precisely how Fuu has come to see the unexpected death of her father and the days that followed leading up to the present.

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Unsurprisingly we see the immediate results of such a conscious action and pattern of thinking and feeling – after talking with Shihomi the agitation dies down, yes. But something else happens that helps steer the direction Fuu should travel in following the goals and dreams she is just beginning to formulate, a sort of “parting gift” that Shihomi gives to Fuu. After hearing what Fuu feels Shihomi’s photos have done for her in the past and inspired her to do in the future (Fuu wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and combine a career involving travel and photography) Shihomi tells her that Fuu has become the next torch bearer in the chain – Shihomi received the torch of pursuing photography from her mentor and Fuu has received it from Shihomi. Now Fuu must carry on this torch. It is a beautiful image and one that imparts even more meaning and specific parameters to Fuu’s actions and aspirations, and in many ways an ideal “parting gift”.

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The main character of the movie, of course, is Fuu, but the other characters also have the directions they are heading to. Norie’s ideal is to become someone like Fuu’s grandmother (perhaps the chef in a cafe?), and she wishes to pursue the culinary arts in general. Maon continues to be torn between taking on the Inn her parents manage and pursuing something in literature (whether writing or reading aloud). The newly short-haired and quickly maturing Kaoru still does not know but is regularly being relied upon in matters of aesthetic presentation in the city’s festival events by her parents – is that a hint at a career in something like interior design or the like? Fuu’s younger brother Kou is now in middle school and is pursuing illustration. Chihiro and Tomo arrive for the Bamboo festival and announce that when they enter college next year they are both going to study abroad somewhere. Kanae is in college (the same college as Kaoru’s older sister Sayomi) and has begun to be interested in … astronomy of all things. Even Momoneko-sama seems to have stumbled across a feminine version of himself. Everyone is slowly inching and moving forward in either choosing their paths or along the ones they have chosen….

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Finally, after all this came the Ending Song. In so many ways this was the highlight of the film – it so perfectly summed up Fuu’s life and struggle and the path she went down with beautiful and telling, yet easy to understand artistic visuals and lovely lyrics – in other words, it was a perfect continuation of one of the hallmarks of the franchise as a whole and a near perfect summary (at least up to now). I can think of no better way than to begin bringing this post to its conclusion than by sharing the lyrics here as a symbol of Fuu’s life as shown in the Tamayura franchise up to the present:

Round the bend, ‘cross the creek, / through the gates of the shrine, / up the hill, I turn ’round and peek, // and see the ocean sparkle and shine.

In spring the smell of flowers, / in summer buzzing filled the day, / in fall, leaves colored copper, // in winter, stars guided my way.

On this path with no name // you were always together with me.

“No farewell is ever meaningless”, / such was the song somebody once sang. / I still don’t understand what that means. // Ah, now is when I’ll start searching for the answer.

“There’s more to love than just being by your side”, / such were the words I read somewhere. / But I still don’t understand what that means. // Ah, now is when I’ll start searching for the answer.

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To say I am eagerly awaiting the next three movies would be an understatement. This was simply and utterly wonderful to experience and I will definitely be blogging the other movies as well – but to talk about the things that strike very close to one’s heart and that one loves can be quite difficult. I wrestled with thinking about and attempting to compose this post in my off-time for much of the day (no exaggeration). However, if this is able to encourage even one other person to pick up and enjoy the episodes from the Tamayura franchise I will be more than satisfied. ^^

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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