Tsuritama – 05

[HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.34_[2012.05.10_14.03.29] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.16_[2012.05.10_14.11.12] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.15_[2012.05.10_14.13.30]

How is it possible for an anime to make me smile so much in 22 minutes?

It occurs to me in watching Tsuritama that if the four main characters were girls, this series would likely be hugely popular.  It’s superb on so many levels and quite unique, and deserving of far more attention than it gets.  But that’s a reality of the way anime fandom has evolved – if a show is about four guys instead of four girls, it’s only going to find a niche audience, no matter how great is is.  And it is great, in this case – and it makes me glad that there are directors like Nakamura-san and an institution like NoitminA for whom such things as demographics aren’t the only factors in producing a show.  Great anime comes in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of casts, and variety is always better than homogeneity.

Frankly, this was a series I didn’t think Nakamura-sensei had in him – not in terms of quality, but tone.  Among the many great shows this Spring, Tsuritama has a remarkable air of pure, unbridled joy about it – there’s no show for which seeing the characters on-screen happy makes me feel so happy.  This was the most joyful episode yet and I think one of the most joyful of any anime I can recall.  A lot of that comes from Haru and his innocent enthusiasm, and I think the music (both OP/ED and BGM) suits the series and enhances it as well as any soundtrack I can remember.  But ultimately everything about Tsuritama comes back to Yuki, and the amazing performance Ohsaka Ryouta is delivering.  There’s something incredibly exuberant about watching someone who’s naturally anxious and neurotic slowly begin to overcome his fears and embrace life by connecting with other people.  He’s had an amazing character arc, and we’re only in the fifth episode.

I can’t escape the feeling that Nakamura is about to break my heart – there’s just no way any show can be such an expression of pure happiness for an entire run, and when Nakamura-san goes dark, it can get pretty grim.  You can guess easily enough what directions that sort of development might follow, but I think Tsuritama will ultimately be a life-affirming and redemptive show, and when the dark moments do come they’ll be that much more affecting because of joyous eps like this week’s – and the redemptive ones that much more exuberant because of those challenges. 

I wasn’t sure what to make of charter boat Captain Ayumi (Hosomi Dasikue) when we briefly met him at Misaki’s shop last week, but he looks to be a good guy on the whole and certainly proves an entertaining figure this week.  He seems to be filling a role that was previously missing from the series, that of an adult male role model, especially for Yuuki.  Natsuki says Ayumi is like a big-brother to him, and I can see it in the way he interacts with the boys when they sign on to his boat to help out for the summer.  To be honest I don’t really give a flip about fishing – no more than I did about Karuta when Chihayafuru started.  But even if that show was mostly about the characters and not the pastime, just like this one, it’s remarkable how something really well-written can get you hooked (I profoundly apologize) on a sport that nominally holds little interest for you.  The graphite rods, the “Madonna of the schoolyard” reel, the polarized glasses that let you see fish under the water (sugoi!) – I find myself getting swept up in all the excitement for that stuff. 

That excitement is what ultimately gets the guys working on Ayumi’s boat, as the age-old cycle repeats itself – teenaged boys getting summer jobs to earn money to pay for their hobby.  But ultimately of course this isn’t about how to hold the net and mahi-mahi, but about Yuuki the “stonefish” becoming passionate about something, allowing friends his own age to get close to him, overcoming his fears and even becoming comfortable (well, almost) with people staring at him.  His neuroses are so easy to empathize with because we all have them to a lesser (hopefully) extent, and that’s also why it’s so easy to thrill when he finally works up the nerve to stand on the boat, or call out “Cast away!” in his full voice when he’s hooked a fish, thus locating a good source for the paying customers to try their luck.  The fishing sequences on the boat were some of the most life-affirming of the season, and led to possibly my favorite single moment in any anime in a great Spring so far.

Increasingly, we’re seeing the first stirrings of the same journey Yuuki is making in Akira.  He’s certainly got his MIB gig (“Bermuda Syndrome” is indeed the Bermuda Triangle) and keeping an eye on Haru the reason he keeps paying to fish on Ayumi’s boat.  But Akira is slowly getting caught up in the same exuberance the boys (and the audience) are – he’s getting into fishing, and getting envious of the bond he sees forming between the boys.  I don’t know if he’s really 25 (he did drink beer earlier) but even if he is, it was easy to see by his reaction to Natsuki’s “You don’t have any friends, do you?” that whenever his teens were, they were a lonely time – and even when he tries to convince himself later that he doesn’t need friends, it’s already ringing hollow. 

If you care to speculate on the meaning of such things, Ayumi’s boat is called “Seishun Maru” (Maru being a common suffix in boat names), and can be roughly translated as “Circle of Youth”.  Haru can mean “Spring”, “Natsuki” Summer, Aki “Autumn”, and Yuuki “snow”.  Perhaps it’s nothing more than an affectionate play on words, or perhaps there’s a deeper meaning somewhere in there.  For me I like to think Nakamura and writer Oono Toshiya are commenting on friendship, and how we’re each incomplete when alone, but that we’re all a natural part of a larger circle – and that if we allow ourselves to be connected to that circle, our lives will be more fulfilled and happy.  It’s a nice thought – and as such, fits in perfectly with the general tone of Tsuritama, which seems imbued through and through with a joyous embracing of the universe.

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  1. A

    Tsuritama is also one of my top favorite shows this season (the other one being Eureka Seven Ao). Despite some underlying conflicts or problems such as Natsuki's relationship with his father and Yuki's grandmother's sickness, this anime is indeed so colorful (literally) and full of joy.
    I am infinitely grateful that the main characters are boys and not girls. I won't completely discredit shows that feature only girls as the protagonists, since I enjoyed K-ON!, but I am really beginning to get sick of those shows that, for example, make famous Japanese historical figures into girls, etc. I tried picturing this anime with all the characters' gender reversed, and I really don't think an anime like this can pull off as amazing a story of friendship if the main characters were girls.
    Also, I like your observation on the names of the main characters and your interpretation of it–I wish I had noticed it sooner.

  2. r

    agreed :O this anime wouldnt be the same at all if the main characters were females, perhaps the era of 4-male protagonists have begun? xD

  3. When Tsuritama sells 10K Blu-rays per volume, I'll believe it. I'll also be seeing pigs fly.

    I have no problem with good shows having big sales, no matter the genre or cast. What depresses me is that otaku today will buy mediocre shows about girls before great shows about guys.

  4. A

    I'm fine with this show not being popular now. Years down the line, this will be much fondly remembered and loved than most series out there. This level of positivity and optimism is everlasting!

    This show, alongside Apollon, are the two shows I rather watch and really comment (or speculate) on where they will be going. Part of the reason is that I feel it's more of a once in a life time journey, and I should just sit back and see where the flow takes me.

  5. S

    Heh, that’s very true Enzo. I’ve been trying hard to persuade some of my buds to watch Tsuritama but immediately got shot down once I mentioned an all-male cast. To each his own, I guess =3
    Tsuritama’s stylistic touches never fail to impress me (Ayumi <3 Misaki) and makes the show all the more special. The sight gags continue to be really fun, Haru mimicking Ayumi and Tapioca vs Neko (Part II) were full of lulz! Ayumi’s a great addition to the cast. It’s not very often we get to see a very cool aniki who oozes machismo while rocking a blond hair and pink shirt combo 😉

  6. s

    Indeed, seeing Yuki getting over his anxiety is very therapeutic. I don't feel yet that Akira is also going to get close to them before the end of the series, he is too out there. Also the background plots with aliens and families still have a lot to offer. This is now favorite Noitamina show since 2011 next to Un-Go. At least it's free of love quintogons, which now bore me to death. Not that Apollon has nothing else going for it, but this is better, so much more captivating.

  7. S

    I think this is the first time I've ever seen a scene where the character could have said "Duck, don't look down on me" and be accurate to the mood. I almost lost it laughing at that.

    But, I'm still concerned we'll get a dark turn to end this one. Not that I don't expect serious elements (they've death flagged Keito so much, it's kind of a given), but I'm worried they'll end up dwelling on it. I hope not, as this is great series. This one would look nice on BluRay.

  8. R

    I didn't think it was possible for me to smile as much as I did during this episode. And when Yuki broke into that real, childish, grin filled with joy I just…I'm pretty sure my heart stopped from the sheer ADORABLE. I'm not sure if I should be worried about that or not @_@

    If this were a show about 4 girls, somehow I don't think it would be as effective on me. Girls are expected, more than guys (at least due in part of social media pressure and whatnot) to behave a certain way. For them being shy, childish, cute, whatever just doesn't have as much of an impact as watching a socially awkward boy (who has it a lot harder. I can say from experience in school that the quiet boy gets teased or bullied more than the shy girl, which annoyed me to no end and resulted in me getting called to the principal's office for violence once BUT I DIGRESS) open up and find a group of friends, however small, that he can open up to.

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