As the best series of the best season in the last few years winds down, I find I want to say less and less about it. Or rather, I need to say less, because Tsuritama leaves so little to chance and interpretation. Dramatically speaking this series is as tight as a drum (even if there are rumors that the production schedule isn’t). I don’t think I need to sell Tsuritama to myself or anyone else – it just stands on its own terms telling its story in a crystal clear and focused way, combining absurdity and true to life emotion as well as any series for a long, long time. It’s not that the waters here don’t run deep – any series with as much character development and authenticity as this one has depth to spare – it’s simply that they aren’t muddled as most shows are. Everything is easily visible not because there isn’t a lot of it, but because there’s nothing clouding it lake bad pacing, muddled exposition or inconsistent characterization. Most series are Lake Erie – Tsuritama is Crater Lake.
You may have heard that the production of this series seemed to be getting a letting frenzied. The evidence being that episode 10 had 11 animation directors (one or two is normal) and the early screening at the NoitaminA Shop was didn’t take place. Apparently this ep had 13 A.D.s, so there’s no evidence that the crunch has eased – but all I have to say is, if this is what a show looks like with 13 animation directors, I want 15 next week. Hell, make it 20 – because there’s no sign of any problems in the finished product. Even the little details like “Tenchou” neatly landing on his feet after Kisaki drops him are executed with the usual wit and style.
As usual, it’s very clear exactly what’s happening so rather than do a lot of laborious analysis, let’s just indulge ourselves and talk a little about some stuff that I especially loved this week. For starters Tapioca proving once and for all that whatever she is she’s not a normal duck, by starting the boat herself. And Akira saying “Shitsureshimasu!” as he pushes his boss into the ocean (anyone who’s been in a Japanese class or business meeting will know that word well – it comes off as “excuse me” but literally means something like “I’m about to be rude”). And the way the minors, Yuki and Natsuki, had their identities “hidden” while the others were identified in the TV news report. The attention to minute visual detail in Tsuritama has paid dividends again and again.
I could go on for a while, but I think my favorite element is the way the show is elegantly tying everything back to the themes it laid out early on. Of course things had to come down to a final fishing trip with just the four guys in the end – Ayumi was indeed alive, but suffered a broken arm. And ultimately, it has to come down to Yuki and Haru for as great as Natsuki and Akira are, they’re supporting characters. I still think there’s more to the bond between these two than we’ve been told so far – why is Haru the Princess, and not Coco? And why does Haru like red so much? We’ve explored their relationship in purely emotional terms quite deeply, but I wonder if there’s something else binding their fates, something older than either of them.
Tsuritama slowly unfolded like a tapestry, revealing more and more plot and a great cast, and now it’s returning to its core for the final run – from the huge cast down to the main four, and ultimately two. And the plot is returning to fishing, where it all started to take shape all those weeks ago. Best of all, the almost-forgotten conceit of Yuki’s Scopophobia, the driver of the big moments in the very first episode, is tied back into the main plot. Why? Because as Akira tells him, the “eyes of the world” are on the four of them. Can you imagine anything more terrifying for a boy terrified of being stared at? Yet Tsuritama is largely about overcoming our fears and not allowing them to isolate us, and for Yuki to complete his arc, he has to overcome this fear as he’s overcome the others – and as all the main cast have had to overcome their own. Even Haru has his fears – failing the others, endangering Enoshima and even Earth. The one thing all the characters’ fears have in common is that they were compelled to face them alone, and it was only by accepting the help of the others that they were able to surmount them.
As many things as are happening at the moment – Yuki’s lure broken, the Seishunmaru in the typhoon’s path, DUCK threatening to blow up their own ships to prevent further catastrophe, JFX growing stronger and stronger – the one thing I’m really worried about is Haru. Tsuritama has to much invested in the redemptive qualities of human nature to betray them with a tragic ending. JFX will be subdued somehow, Enoshima will survive – but what happens to Haru is still the great variable of the series. He keeps reiterating how he has to go home, and now he’s ready to sacrifice himself to lure JFX away. I don’t think we’ll lose him altogether but he may well leave in the end (and so might Akira and Tapioca, for that matter). It seems like a lot to cover in one more episode, but the first eleven have gotten the pacing just right and I expect the last to follow suit.