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Dated 5 August 2012: Added Tari Tari to summer 2012 watchlist

Konatsu
Those are some headphones.

The Ayako Doctrine strikes again. Pre-season information about Tari Tari suggested it was inoffensive light fare that sounded all right, but didn't interest me especially. But due to the relatively low number of shows I was following this season, I started looking for other shows that received positive first impressions from other viewers. I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as a positive impression, but apparently a lot of people were taken by Wakana's "I DON'T MONEY" Engrish in an early episode. Further investigation inspired by that discovery led to learning Kawasumi Ayako is in the cast. Well, consider the Ayako Doctrine fully invoked. (Discovering Noto Mamiko on the cast was a pleasant surprise as well.)

Sawa
As far as I know, Sawa is not a zombie.

Through five episodes, Tari Tari is whimsical when it needs to be, serious at appropriate times, and charming with its medley of characters. Taken as a whole, I'm not sure I can call Tari Tari a legitimately good show, although it has passed Humanity Has Declined as my current favorite show. I'm not entire sure why that is, but there are a lot of individual parts of Tari Tari that I enjoy quite a good deal, and together they create the impression that the show is good, even if the jury is still out on that verdict.

Wakana
Those are some glasses.

That is, if I like enough different parts of a show, does that mean I like the show itself? I like that Sawa seems to be better than everyone else at everything she sets her mind to. I like that Wakana still struggles with the regrets she carries about her mother's death, but makes real efforts at moving on. I like that Wakana's ridiculous flibbertigibbet mom died early in Wakana's life instead of turning into another one of those "cool" but hopeless, worthless mothers who force their anime children to become precociously dependable and mature. (Mamiko-type "cool" mom gets a pass because her extracurricular activities do not appear to interfere with her traditional gender-typed role and responsibilities as a mother.) I like that Wien is an expatriate who has become a stranger in his native land forced to rely on his Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook, and I like that Daichi is an almost pathologically driven athlete dedicated to a sport nobody else at his school cares about. And I like that Konatsu choked so hard she became a Nico Video celebrity. And I like that the choir director is a real cunt. I'm still waiting for Wakana to break out her secret Sphere powers, though.

Dated 1 October 2012: Tari Tari > Hyouka because of the characters

Wakana and Naoko
Oh God. The doujinshi.

Perhaps I haven't been particularly forthcoming about this, but the most important aspect of a show to me often tends to be its characters, or rather, how well I like its characters. I'll forgive lousy animation, stupid plots, and poor contrivances as long as I like the characters. This is not to say either Tari Tari or Hyouka necessarily suffer from any of these flaws, but it may explain what some people consider inexplicable and inconsistent tolerances on my part when it comes to these sorts of shortcomings.

Sawa
LISTEN TO MY SONG!

However, I did considerably like Tari Tari more than Hyouka because none of the characters in Hyouka resonated with me. I can respect that Kyoto Animation flexed its muscles a bit with Hyouka and genuinely committed itself to making a standout series over the past two cours, but all the layered depth and unspoken motivations, and developing relationships in that "SHAFT series with money" could not compete with Konatsu's dork rays, Sawa's unwitting-sex-bomb powers, and the refreshingly unstarchy comedy stylings of Wien and Taichi. Wakana deserves special mention as the sometimes emotional, sometimes dead inside, frequently mortified sweet kid cornerstone of an admittedly oftentimes conventional cast.

Wakana
SPHERE POWERS UNLEASHED!

This is rather qualified praise for Tari Tari, and I concede Hyouka will likely be remembered better (and longer) in the years to come, but Tari Tari succeeds because it is basically is a P.A. Works layup of the sort J.C. Staff used to be able to accomplish reliably. Tari Tari is less ambitious, but it combines (harmonizes?) its different parts well (like a chorus?) with just a touch of quirkiness (and sometimes badminton) to keep things lively. It worked for me. I liked basically every character, even the foppish principal and the assortment of comically evil antagonists such as bitter Big C, the former best friend of Wakana's dead flibbertigibbet mom. I can't quite make the same claim for Hyouka. At the end of the day, I don't really care what happens to Mayaka and Satoshi, or whether Chitanda succeeds in ruining Houtarou's life.

Houtarou and Chitanda
At least Hyouka fans seemed satisfied by its non-ending ending.

What if it turns out I like the characters better because I like the show better, and not the other way around like I've been saying? I guess there's not really a conclusive way of knowing. I admit Hyouka's overt attempts at adding stylized animation for the sake of "look at me!" visual flair's sake annoyed me because I found it so intrusive, whereas Tari Tari is chock-full of audible cues in the form of sudden small cries and startled noises that I found endearing because I get the feeling I was not supposed to notice them. Perhaps I would have liked the characters in Hyouka had they been, say, more conventional J.C. Staff properties. It's a mystery.

Dated 16 October 2012: Summer 2012 season summary

Asuna triple-monitor desktop
This was a proof of concept that I will never use
again (because I bought a fourth monitor).

I get the sense I wasn't exposed to a large portion of the shows that aired this season—an obvious consequence of not watching all that much compared to past seasons. Nevertheless, I'm not convinced I actually missed anything, although I do admit a curious fascination with Sword Art Online (despite the profoundly negative reactions to its cour-ending climax). I haven't yet watched a single minute of it, but I have read the first four volumes of the light novels (which I'm expecting the first two cours to cover). Learning that Kajiura Yuki is providing the music has put the show over the top, and I'll probably marathon the summer 2012 segment to catch up with the autumn 2012 episodes. Naturally, this will change my summer 2012 anime summary rankings, but it is late enough already and I can always reflect the addition with an update, so here goes:

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