Although I’m reluctant to spoil a key plot point for Tari Tari, I do want to look at how episode 7 Spinning in Circles and Losing Sight seems to be tackling the issue of body image in girls. Unfortunately to discuss this I’m going to have to spoil it to some extent. There may also be mentions of triggering behaviours.
Tari Tari is, I think, attempting to tackle body image in a sympathetic and positive manner. This is good to see.
Unfortunately it is doing so by a plot mechanism that frankly strains the suspension of disbelief. That isn’t so good and I also wonder if the series will be risking a broken Aesop in the next episode.
The Situation – Spoilers Ahead !
Sawa Okita is an avid horserider with ambitions of becoming a professional jockey. Sawa dotes on her own horse Sabure, and has had him since she was very young.
Sawa has clearly been aiming towards this for a long time, and should therefore have been researching it. Certainly Sawa has researched it enough to apply to a riding school and/or for an apprenticeship.
Sawa is the young lady on the left of this promotional image for the show . As hinted at in this image, and also in the opening credits below, Sawa is the biggest of the female leads. Sawa isn’t fat by any means, but like about 90+% of the population is too large to be a professional racing jockey.
Yet Sawa is surprised, and devastated, by the weight limits  in the riding school’s application package.
Sawa then suddenly starts trying to lose massive amounts of weight quickly, and throughout the episode displays some of the classic behaviours of anorexia: self starvation and regurgitation (heavily implied) are the two that spring to mind.
The episode ends with Sawa collapsing from hunger during mounted archery practice, and falling from Sabure. The very last scene is her lying unconscious as people call for help.
What Doesn’t Work
I find the idea that Sawa wouldn’t have known about the weight limits well in advance to be nearly impossible to believe.
There has been no onscreen evidence of idiocy on Sawa’s part until this. On the contrary, there has been significant evidence that Sawa is actually a quite intelligent, and perceptive, young lady.
This had me struggling to maintain the willing suspension of disbelief throughout the episode.
It also makes me wonder why Sawa hasn’t already been aiming for other equestrian sports where the weight limits aren’t so crippling.
I’m probably going to show my ignorance here but I’d suspect that the mounted archery Sawa also practices calls for a fair amount of upper body strength, and hence muscle mass. Similarly I don’t think show jumping, dressage, or other equestrian sports are quite so limited.
What I’m afraid will happen
I won’t know this until at least the next episode, but I’m still worried that the message will be more centred on giving up unrealistic dreams than it will be on self acceptance.
A noble and negative suffering rather than an alternative and positive dream built on who Sawa is.
What I’m hoping will happen
Sawa has a good network of friends and family to rely on. Admittedly there is some tension with her father’s attitude to her ambitions, but that may be a mix of realism and worried love on his part.
The support from this network could result in a positive message of self acceptance. This may involve one of the alternatives discussed above.
I actually think that this is most likely given the superb resolution to the Wakana’s character arc in episode 6, and also the similar arcs in Hanasaku Iroha.
PA Works have form here, and it is form that I like.
I’ll leave it there for the moment, but please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on body image in anime (either in general or in this episode of Tari Tari).
- Summer Anime 2012: First Thoughts On Three Shows (piratesobg.wordpress.com)