Ryan commented here last week that the premiere reminded him of Wes Anderson, and I think that was an excellent call. There’s a very definite “Rushmore” feel to Tsuritama – from the focus on the perverse side of adolescent life to the absurdism to the whimsical soundtrack, now that the connection has been made I can’t get it out of my head. And that’s a good thing for me, as that happens to be an excellent film. Speaking of that soundtrack, it’s quickly establishing itself (along with NoitaminA stable-mate Sakamichi no Apollon) as my favorite of the season. Both the OP and ED are great and suit the material perfectly, but it’s the BGM by Kuricorder Quarter that’s my favorite musical element here.
I’m not going to pretend that I know everything that’s happening in this show, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and that’s for a few reasons. First, this is Nakamura-sensei and a healthy does of mystery and surrealism is par for the course. Second, what Tsuritama is superb at is creating atmosphere – world-building has always been something Nakamura is profoundly brilliant at – and as long as I enjoy being swept up in that I can wait on specifics. Enoshima has never looked quite like this colorful, fanciful version that Nakamura has created and it truly feels as if the animation and the music are two sides of the same coin. And I still feel as if the series as a whole is more or less a light-hearted look at social anxiety disorder as exhibited by the adolescent male of the species, and the show makes a lot of sense if you look at it through that lens.
Mind you, we are finding things out, slowly. We actually see (through Yuki’s eyes) Haru’s water pistol at work, as it’s used to force Natsuki to tie an “uni knot” in Haru’s line. There may or may not teleportation as well as hypnosis involved, as an earlier use by Haru’s sister Coco finds Yuki on top of Enoshima Tower (and not in the glassed-in skydeck, either). About Natsuki we find out that he has a younger sister, Sakura (Ogura Yui) of whom he feels very protective – at least in part because their mother apparently died two years earlier. Natsuki seems to resent that his father, an amiable blue-collar sort, has started dating again. We also discover that duck-wielding turban wearing Akira is 25 years old – or so he says – despite transferring into Yuki, Haru and Natsuki’s class. And most disturbingly, Yuki’s beloved Grandma Keito is apparently sick – though she seems to be either hiding it from him or at the very least trying to shield him from worrying about it.
The title “Tsuritama” can be interpreted in several ways, one of which is “Fishing for the Soul”, and fishing certainly plays a part in the story. The attention to detail when it comes to things like lures and the art of tying knots would seem to indicate a profound affection for the subject on Nakamura-sensei’s part, and we learn from Coco that she and Haru are trying to catch a very special fish that will both allow them to return to their home planet and save Earth from destruction (perhaps there are hints in the pre-OP animation from the premiere). But I still feel as if the fishing is here mostly as a metaphor for something else, the details of which will reveal themselves over the course of the series.
It’s the small touches that light the touch paper and really make Tsuritama sparkle for me, like Yuki’s reflexive reliance on his smartphone for life’s mysteries and his “Y” pajamas, and the countless little details Nakamura adds to the visual feast. I think the performances here are terrific too, though I can see where Miyu Irino’s highly mannered and bombastic take on Haru is going to divide the audience sharply. For me it works, and though Ohsaka Ryouta’s Yuki is the most important performance in the series (and its heart) Miyu’s performance is vital in humanizing Nakamura’s creation. Nakamura has always been able to fascinate and surprise me, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt this emotionally connected to one of his series. The warmth of the color scheme is part of it, as is the BGM and Miyu’s performance. Tsuritama is a weird and disparate combination of elements, but so far it’s totally working for me, and establishing itself as one of the most likable and interesting magical realism shows in many a season.