Tsuritama, as usual, proves pretty adept at jerking my emotions around. It has an interesting habit of giving you massive amounts of exposition and plot development in short bursts, and spending the rest of the time squarely focused on developing the character interactions at a leisurely pace. What you end up with is a show that gets where it’s going, but does so in a highly unusual way. This is something quite far removed from what “slice-of-life” has come to mean in anime – lots of things happen, and the characters are always in motion, moving from one conflict to another. But Nakamura-san has magically found a way to do that while capturing the idyll of a wasted summer with those we love. It’s the best of both worlds, really, and I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.
The way this series handles conflict reminds me a lot of the way Ano Natsu de Matteru handled romantic development. We often get a big buildup in the B part, finishing the episode with a flourish, but it’s quickly dealt with when the next episode starts and we move on. Rather than the cheap device of milking cliffhangers – which promotes stagnation – the show focuses on the much more interesting aspect of how people react to what happens, which promotes growth. And so it was with Sakura’s disappearance, which certainly had everyone on edge. Certain things were inevitable: Natsuki was always going to apologize to her, and he and Yuki were always going to make up – nothing else would have been in character. So it happened early in the episode, thanks in part to another development that seemed likely – Akira fully committing himself to helping his friend, ordering his mind the “Find the girl!” as their #1 priority.
As ever, it was the aftermath that brought the big dramatic payoff. He and Sakura had what might have been the most direct conversation they’ve ever had about their mother. Natsuki and Tamotsu had no tearful reconciliation, but came to a sort of understanding – each of them had a right to try and do what they wanted without feeling guilty about it. And of course we had a NatsuYuki Rendezvous where what was essentially a heat-of-the-moment disagreement was quickly put behind them. There’s a deeper issue at play here, and it’s a common one – Yuki still resents Natsu for not appreciating something that Yuki himself has never had – but of such things are relationships built in life. No two friends see the world in exactly the same way.
There seems to be a “wax and wane” quality to Tsuritama, where the existential fortunes of some characters ascend while others encounter rough seas, and so it seems here. Natsuki and his family have finally gotten things out in the open, but for Yuki the feelings the incident brought forth won’t be so easily tucked away. His scene with Keito once again had the scent of benediction to it – as if she’s trying to prepare him to face the world without her (and prepare Haru, too). It’s refreshingly rare in anime for parental figures and children to openly express their love, but rarely a good sign for the parent involved. I’ve feared for Keito for a long time, and I still do. I think both she and Haru know far more about the other’s situation than either is letting on.
Haru, too, is in a painful place – and like Keito, I think, is preparing to leave this world behind. For the first time we really saw Haru become reflective, so much so that even Coco pointed it out. With the truth out there – the dragon is a rogue member of their species, and they’ve come to drag it from the water and return it home – I think Haru has accepted that he’s going to have to say goodbye to Enoshima. He’s also decided that he’s going to do whatever he can to save it (and the rest of the planet) because he’s come to love it. What Haru’s sacrifice will be isn’t clear yet, but he’s certainly preparing to make one – as Yuki quite clearly picked up on, even if he didn’t pursue the point at the time.
And then, finally, Akira – now revealed to be a member of an “Alien Investigation and Apprehension Agency”. He’s cast aside pretense and dedicated himself to trying to see things to a peaceful conclusion, but his colleagues at DUCK have had their eye on his increasing closeness to JF1 and his friends, and they don’t like it one bit. Despite his best efforts DUCK has sent a combat unit to Enoshima to deal with Haru and Coco, and seemingly taken Akira prisoner. He’s now a full-fledged ally of Team Yuki, though there was never really any doubt that was going to happen. Once you’ve devised punishment games for someone, you’re linked for life.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, starting with Yuki. I think there’s much we still don’t know about him, and I can’t help but think he has a still-undisclosed connection to Haru’s dragon. I was also intrigued to hear his statement that he “doesn’t think his parents will ever come back.” Why did they leave – and where did they go (there are no pictures of them anywhere – only Keito and Yuki)? With ships running ashore left and right things are bad enough, but the twin revelations that the dragon can control minds via water and that a typhoon is approaching, sucking up psychotropic seawater and spitting it out everywhere, mean things are going to be reaching the crisis point in a big hurry. So far Nakamura has shown us the sea as a kind of gorgeous living storybook, slowly moving across the background as if seen in a pleasant dream. Now he’ll be turning his unique eye towards presenting it as an angry, roiling enemy bent on destruction. That storm will surely pass, and Tsuritama has built far too strong a foundation of good feeling for it to be swept away – but I do think the landscape of the story is going to look very different in the aftermath.