Tamayura ~Hitotose~ is a simple, somewhat forgettable anime—forgettable, however, only in terms of the specific events. Much like the earlier-released Tamayura OVA, this series has very little plot worth mentioning or remembering. Most synopses would simply describe Tamayura as “an anime about a girl who likes taking pictures,” and that would not be too little or simple at all.
However, the lack of an intense plot is not a bad thing. Far from it. If anything, it strips the series down to its bare essences, and accentuates its best elements to remarkable effects. As unimpressionable as the story may be, the anime leaves this incredible lingering feeling—the kind that brings warm smiles to my face even as I write these words—the feeling that is reminiscent of that one hazy summer, years ago, when I spent a slow lazy month in a quiet rural town. No, I did not do anything spectacular. I simply had a fun, relaxing time with myself, with my siblings, with the beautiful, friendly town and its surroundings. Eat, sleep, explore, smile… That was all. Yet the experience stuck with me even years later. The vibe of that lifestyle had been imprinted in me (and possibly may be the source of my love for iyashikei today as I constantly try to regain those feelings in these busy days… But I digress). In this familiar, subtle way, Tamayura has quietly left in the audience an incredible impression of its nostalgic vibe.
Much of the charm of that nostalgia comes from the gorgeous scenery Tamayura offers. As expected of an anime tangentially about photography, every scene is brilliantly animated. From the architecture to nature, from cakes to clothes, everything is sublime. Rustic and elegant, but with the smallest dash of luxuriousness—I love all those restaurants and food—Tamayura is a picturesque tour of Seto Inland Sea. Moreover, much like every other detail, even the characters’ clothes are treated with a personalized, fashionable, quiet touch. All these come together to create a serene atmosphere for a soft-spoken story.
That atmosphere—that relaxing, heartwarming feeling—of an intimate rural town in Seto Inland Sea, where the pace of life is slow and the kindness and closeness are sincere… In this age characterized by social networking, quantity, efficiency, mobility, and the lack of genuine interactions beyond texts and status updates, this anime is a very refreshing call for a simpler and perhaps also more meaningful lifestyle. For the characters—Fu, Maon, Norie, Kaoru—exchanging phone numbers actually hold some significance. In one adorable episode, the phone numbers are used as a way to reassure the girls’ friendship with another of Fu’s friends, who has been having a difficult time reaching out to others. By contrast, when I look at my own contact lists, more than half of them are strangers I have met once at some event here. I could use more true friends like these cute girls.
Further, wallowed in a slow calming atmosphere, the series is driven almost solely by the characters. And, they do a marvelous job. Tamayura takes extreme care to develop each of the main characters. The anime details all her personality, goals, worries, backgrounds, and motivations. Fu is not just a girl who likes taking pictures. Photography is not only a connection to her father, but her way of approaching the world. And in her exploration of the world, she also learns—from friends like the professional photographer Riho—about little ways in which people, goals, and identities may change. Even her photography is not a constant. Likewise, the cutest Maon is not just whistler. She has an immense repertoire of fascinations and dreams. Her shy, quiet, odd personality is just as deep as the diversity of her interests past and present, explored and passionate. On the other hand, Norie is super enthusiastic about baking, and is totally focused on that goal. Her foil, Kaoru, is unsure about what exactly she wants to do, what makes her tick, and whether fragrances are really something she is passionate about, but that is all perfectly fine for now.
These various little developments, growths, and motivations all culminate into one final arc when they put on a gallery and performance of sorts for the entire small town. The girls are so inspired and so excited about this project among friends that I found myself falling in love with that determination.
Moreover, this ending is especially poignant when it is juxtaposed next to a flashbacks of a vague childhood memory. (I shed a few warm tears when I realized the reason Maon loves whistling so much.) The girls may not remember any of the details from so long ago, but they have been friends for way longer than they know.
- A review of Tamayura OVA, which is very similar in tone with this series.
- More musings about the details Tamayura offers.
- The fashion in this show is especially worth noting. The casual, relaxed styles are personally catered to each personality. It is totally chic. (And probably entails its own post in the future.)
- Maon easily steals the show. And funny faces are still a thing.
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