|Another rare and beautiful farewell tribute to a moving and touching franchise.||Once again, the last anime installment of the franchise. ;_;|
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. 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 Kemono no Souja Erin) is certainly one of them. Just as with the Aria franchise, however, speaking about the Tamayura franchise is a difficult undertaking for me. Where to begin?
For those unfamiliar with the story’s basic premise here is a summary to start from: “In a moment of pure warmth and happiness, it is said that children of the light, known as tamayura, will appear. Sawatari Fuu is a young girl who loves taking photographs the same way that her beloved father did while he was alive. Having recently moved to the town her family frequently visited when she was younger, Fuu enjoys her life to the fullest alongside her friends Kaoru, Norie and Maon. Whether the gang have a sleepover, chase a furry cat around town, or simply enjoy a delicious lunch, Fuu always has her camera in hand in the hopes of finally capturing the illusive tamayura on film.
Later, in her second year of high school Fuu surprises the other returning characters with her plan to form a photography club. She has trouble recruiting members from the incoming students, but then she encounters a girl named Kanae. Like Fuu, her hobby is photography, and she uses the Pentax Q camera. She tends to overthink things and ends up unable to take action. Yet in the final year of highschool for Fuu and her friends the seasons continue to fly by as the girls decide on what they want to do after graduation and prepare for those next steps in their lives. A year full of preparing, worrying and reminiscing, new beginnings, farewells and friendship.“
Perhaps the best to place to begin with just why this franchise speaks so deeply to me would be going into a little bit of detail about myself. The summary of the story above is there already, but the main theme of the Tamayura series is with the main character’s losing her father to an early and untimely death when she was still young. In the movies we re-visit Fuu’s reflections on recounting what has happened to her in relation to her father’s death in very forthright words. She says 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.”
Fortunately what begins to re-awaken her is stumbling across a book of photography by a professional photographer named Shihomi Riho followed by her little brother delivering the “coup de’ grace” when she came across his looking at old photographs her father had taken. The entire series slowly shows her step by step and inch by inch return to internal integrity and being able to move forward on her own, largely thanks to the support of her friends, her family, her acquaintances, and especially towards the end the presence of Shihomi Riho in her life, who she eventually follows to Tokyo and attends university there as well to follow in similar career paths her beloved father had followed.
Shortly before I came across the Tamayura series first installment (it was in the lovely four OVAs released in the winter of 2010) I had come to a crisis point in my own life associated with realizing that I had been fooled and deceived by someone who had had a pivotal and important place in my life for many years up until then. While I was still in a sort of shock and dull pain from the realization and beginning to see the ramifications thereof (it was as if that person had died, in a way) I watched the OVA episodes and something about it touched me, as if piercing straight through me like a thin laser.
I felt for a moment as if I had briefly been able to come up for air after being underwater and half conscious, in a way. As I was slowly coming to terms with results and consequences of my realization and slowly working through it over the years Fuu’s journey served as a breather and a reminder of sorts (as off as that may sound), and ironically the releasing of the movies coincided almost exactly with my finally being able to make the first steps of resolution with the struggles that had been eating at me for so long. In that sense the Tamayura series has been a sort of semi companion of sorts along those roads I walked on, and I am very grateful for it. ^^
Perhaps one of the strongest selling points of the Tamayura series as a whole it it’s setting. But it is not just the setting but the luxurious and beautiful, almost timeless skill continually exhibited in the artistic skill used in the drawings. It is set in Takehara, Hiroshima, which is located in the Seto Inland Sea. The drawings are just downright superb and the immersion factor is as strong as ever, especially as the narrative stretches not only across the seasons, but between several different islands (Maon and Fuu’s grandfather both live on different islands in the Seto Inland Sea), mountain tops (Norie’s older sister drags them along on many excursions to local points of great natural beauty) and even local festivals – probably the one that stands out the most in my memory in the series is the recurring October setting of the beautiful Takehara Bamboo Light Festival.
While we are touching on the extraordinary ability of the series’ immersive nature, one of the early motifs or themes with the main characters is associating them with one of the senses: Fuu with her love of photography represents sight, Kaoru with her love of creating and identifying ambiance and “reading the atmosphere” represents smell, Norie with her love of cooking and baking sweets represents taste while Maon with her love of whistling, music and storytelling represents sound. (Some have posited that Fuu’s childhood friend Chihiro with her love of handicraft style arts could represent touch as well.) With the main characters continually responding and reacting to the beautiful setting the viewers are also immersed in the same world pretty darn effectively.
Another strong selling point of this series, however, is undoubtedly its music – both the OST, Insert Songs, OPs and EDs were consistently lovely and touching, always appropriate and relevant for the events taking place in the story at the time. (To this day I can still hum along with many of the OPs and EDs from memory!) One of the best uses of the recurring OST uses, though, is how certain pieces were only used at particular times when common events were continuing to grow along their proper path in the characters. As the series and the story went on the OST pieces themselves also became enriched and continued to gather meaning as well, so that by the end of the series an individual piece reminded one of an extensive process rather than an individual moment. Brilliant work in my opinion.
And keeping with the praise of the OST of the franchise as a whole I will once again conclude this post with the lyrics of the movie’s ED, which still in so many ways perfectly sum up Fuu’s life, struggle and the path she went down with beautiful and telling, yet easy to understand artistic visuals and lovely lyrics – in other words, it is in my opinion a perfect continuation of one of the hallmarks of the franchise as a whole and an equally near perfect summary (at least up to now). The lyrics below are to my mind a symbol of Fuu’s life as shown in the Tamayura franchise up to its conclusion, when she finally is able to move on to the next stage in her life after discovering the answer mentioned in the last line. Her father would be happy and proud … perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say he already is. ^^
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.
At the end of the final movie’s credits the last words shown by the animating studio are “To all who have given Tamayura their love over the years – thank you.” I am both grateful and proud to consider myself among those who have done so and can reply with nothing else than to return their bow of gratitude wholeheartedly and say: “You are most welcome … and we all thank you from the bottom if our hearts as well.”
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