Despite this being the highest rating I've given a Tora-san film, it is admittedly difficult to argue that it's the best. I think what might make it perhaps my favourite is the unintended power it has as the final one. I still have the rerelease of #25 and the 2019 Tora-san: Wish You Were Here to go, but as this is the last film Atsumi himself was in (and I assume only a handful of cast members were still alive in 2019),it felt like a finale of sorts, and as such, really got to me emotionally.
Now... how much of that finality was intended is the main question. It might not really matter, but if it does, I'd have to argue some of it must have been. They brought back Lily, who's certainly the one love interest who Tora has had the most history with, and came closest to marrying, thanks to actually asking her (whether sincere or not) for her to marry him in #25. There's also a great deal of reflecting on Tora's past through dialogue, which I anticipate is something that will also be found in 2019's Tora-san #50.
There's also a conclusion of sorts to Mitsuo and Izumi's storyline which was wonderful, as her presence had been missed in the last couple of instalments, with no other love interests for Mitsuo really working as well as her.
I loved the scene on the beach (at the end of the second act). I loved that shot of Mitsuo pulling the boat as the sun set in the background. I loved the opening with Tora's missing ad in the paper. I loved seeing how platonic Tora and Lily's relationship had become. I loved Mitsuo's Graduate-esque attempts to call off Izumi's wedding arrangements.
I just really loved this, and after spending 48 films with this series, and its characters, music, humour, emotion, and visuals, having it conclude, in many ways, was emotional. It's not the very end, but this might end up being the last true Tora-san movie ever made, owing to Atsumi's passing. That all but ensures it packs a hefty emotional punch, with the icing on the cake being all the aforementioned stuff, as well as two of the most well-developed and beloved love interests returning.
Also, that final shot is perfect. It was beautifully bittersweet, for sure. Tora has slowly become less and less selfish throughout the series, and even though he never became perfect, and still had his flaws, even in this very film, I think there was a surprisingly amount of slow, steady, and subtle growth to his character. You could argue it culminates in that final scene and that final shot, and if so, it really is just perfect.
After tomorrow's over, I will be finished with the Tora-san series. I anticipate Wish You Were Here may not be as good a conclusion as this, too. But while it's sad, I'm also thankful I've gotten this far.
Yamada, Atsumi, and everyone else involved with this series made something truly special over the course of 1/4 of a decade. There's nothing else out there like these 48 films, and I can't recommend the series highly enough.