玉響~Hitotose (Tamayura)

玉響~Hitotose (literally Sound of Jade~ One year?) has been an anticipated shin-ban anime for me since mid-year. For me, Tamayura’s main attraction is its fantastic cast including some of my favorite seiyuus: Taketatsu Ayana (who voiced Azusa in K-on!/!!), Asumi Kana, Fukui Yukari and Majima Junji. Talking about Majima Junji, for old fans of Memories Off series (originally created by the now bankrupt KID) like me, it is really nice to see him appearing in so many high-profile titles recently (Hidan no Aria and Hanasaku Iroha). Eventually, Memories Off 1 was his debut work as Minaho Shin, a character we MO fans all so dearly love and respect. Now back to Tamayura.

Here you have it, TAMAYURA!!

The Op immediately told me that Tamayura belongs to one of those “cure” animes. Though being somewhat mediocre in composition, both the Op and Ed songs are performed by high-profile J-pop artists: Op お帰りなさい (Welcome Home)by Sakamoto Maya, and Ed 神様のいたずら (The Trick of Fate) by Nakashima Ai. The story so far follows the life of Sawatari Fuu (nicknamed and called throughout the anime as ぼって Botte) on her moving back to the town of Takehara, where her deceased cameraman father used to run a photo shop (yes, a dying business along with Kodak in the digital age I guess). The first episode mainly covered Botte’s decision to move out from her mom’s, face up the death of her father, pack along the Rollei camera and return to Takehara where her childhood friends are waiting. Sounds somewhat familiar? Well we’ve all had our shares of Japanese drama don’t we… Story wise, the show sets “photography” as its main topic (like “music” in K-on!, per se). I would expect later episodes to dig a little on the techniques and insights on photography, as Botte retraces the photos her father took, which have documented the precious moments of her childhood. So far, the only thing about photography mentioned is “tamayura”, or the little circle of lights that represent “happiness”. Well, I thought we’d go to that bloody Star Trek film for a lens flare fes…

The group of four friends, who are not exactly camera-shy thanks to Botte-chan

The drawing of Tamayura mostly adopts a simple, straight-forward style, which works both ways. The characters are minimal and manga like, which fits quite well with the small-town, nostalgic feeling the show attempts to deliver. However, sometimes the drawing looks a little rougher than what would have been preferred, especially for close-up shots of characters. Based on real locations, the background drawing is good and detailed. You could almost imagine how much photo-shootings and Photoshopping have been going on : D… Don’t take me wrong though, to Photoshop pictures of real locations into manga/anime background still requires a ton of work, and could easily go wrong. The team behind Tamayura is doing quality work in this respect.

Voila, 100% realistic local scenery of Seto Inland Sea guaranteed. Beautiful place indeed

Let me expand a little bit on the point of background. Just like Hanasaku Iroha earlier this year, Tamayura’s story does have a location-a very specific one. The story unfolds in the municipality of Takehara, to the east of Hiroshima City in Hiroshima Prefecture. Even in the advertisement for the show, Takehara and “the scenery of Seto Inland Sea” have been labeled as sell-points. From the travel boost to Noto Peninsula triggered by Hanasaku Iroha, we can see a flourishing scene of anime acting as advertisements for locales around Japan. The Tamayura team definitely has the goal of promoting Hiroshima Prefecture in mind. In the first episode, when Botte took the Kure-line to Takehara, and saw the big word “Okaerinasai” printed on ground at the train station, I could almost feel the tear-inspiring power of the scene as a successful tourism ad. It is a good thing though, since both Noto and Hiroshima are most definitely awesome places to visit, despite the latter being nuked around 70 years ago (it is currently one of the largest metro in West Japan, so no worries of radiation). I would also like to mention that South of Hiroshima and West of Takehara lies the famous Kure port, and the famous Etajima Naval College. Why should I mention that? Well, setting up for a Zipang review… xD. Anyways, we’ll see how much attention Tamayura will attract.

Shocking 1: This is about 2 minutes into the first episode. Almost turned my browser off at that moment... Shocking 2: This thing (actually a cat) is voiced by Fukui Yukari... kay I give in

For me, a painfully felt weakness of Tamayura is its somehow lackluster script that lacks consistency and proper pacing expected in similar titles. Judging from the first two episodes, there are numerous gags/comedy moments acted out in chibi characters, which are critical elements of Botte’s “daily happy life” I guess. However in Tamayura, weight of the story line surrounding loss of family and childhood nostalgia are so heavy, that they entirely set the pace of story-telling. The gag moments, in comparison, are either too abrupt or too weak to carry the flow. The more “serious” lines are not that satisfactory either. At the end of the second episode, for instance, there is the sudden “re-conciliation” with the teacher character voiced by Majima Junji, which is hardly anything “touching” and feels rushed and unnecessary. For an overall beautiful anime, these out of place moments and weak lines are truly regrettable. My hope is that as the drama picks up (something that Tamayura might never do, being based on a 4-coma), there will be more consistency in the flow…

Gags! Oh gags...

Despite the above mentioned flaw, I would keep on watching Tamayura, even just for the sake of its great Seiyuu cast, and Seto Inland Sea of course.


One week to go…..

… till life returns to normal.

Being “abnormal” doesn’t mean an “anime deficit”, since dinner time is always the best excuse for an episode or two… Recent watching include a promising new release (“shinban”) Tamayura (玉響 or “the sound of jade”), classics Zipang and The Story of Saiunkoku.

Another thing worth mentioning is an exploit from a visit to local Japanese book store: a hundred-page color illustration book featuring Fujishima Kousuke interviewing 6 anime/manga creator on character design (among them Maeda Jun on Angel Beats!). It costs about a week’s grocery, but worth it anyways : P

The ancient China style character design of Saiunkoku is really inspiring, respect