Tsuritama – Series Review

[HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.45_[2012.04.12_15.47.13] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.01_[2012.04.19_13.55.12] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.36_[2012.04.26_16.18.58]

If you distilled pure happiness into 22 weekly minutes of sight and sound, you’d have something a lot like Tsuritama.

There was an interesting moment during a Twitter Q & A today where someone asked the Tsuritama staff if they had any belief that the show would be commercially successful.  The answer: “Pretty much nothing.”  But the conversation eventually turned to how much everyone involved with the show loves it, and how proud everyone involved is to be a part of it.  Quite revealing about the state of anime today, I think – and a ringing endorsement of NoitaminA as an institution that allows anime to be art for art’s sake, whether it’s going to be commercially successful or not.  You can see the love of the product in everything about Tsuritama, right down to the behind the scenes videos at the show’s website.  It’s obvious that everyone involved knew they were working on something special here, and they had a great time doing it.

I haven’t totally given up hope that Tsuritama could surprise and do pretty decently by NoitaminA’s meager standards – nothing huge, but maybe 3-4 K discs.  But in the end it really doesn’t matter, because as a series it speaks for itself and doesn’t need that kind of validation to prove its worth.  I’ve been singing the praises of the show for 12 weeks so there’s surely not all that much I can say now that I haven’t said already, so I’ll repeat the part that really matters: I love Tsuritama, and I don’t think there’s been a series that’s made me smile as consistently as this one has.  It’s one of the most joyous anime of all time.

Nakamura Kenji-san, I didn’t know you had it in you.  Nakamura is a big talent with some terrific stuff under his belt – most notably Mononoke.  But in taking in his career as a whole, two things make Tsuritama a surprising development.  The first is that Nakamura has tended to have trouble closing the deal with plot-driven series – they sometimes lose their drive and fall victim to too much ambition.  The second is that all of his work so far has been basically dark in tone, often moving but generally quite focused on the uglier side of existence (and human nature).  I’d also add that his greatest successes have come with more episodic material that doesn’t rely heavily on a plot that runs through the entire series.

Tsuritama is so different from all that – it’s a show that’s had a plan in mind from the start, and executed it almost flawlessly for 12 episodes.  Consistency is the hallmark – I can’t think of a single down episode in the entire series.  It took the brilliant approach of spending the first half with character development in overdrive, giving us only hints about the larger plot, and a result when the plot kicked into high gear we were so much more invested than we would be if we didn’t understand the characters so well.  It’s so simple, and it reflects my preferred approach – build around the characters, and let them drive the story.  And while there’s pain and danger here, fundamentally Tsuritama is all about the good we can do for each other if we let our defenses down and let others in. How much of that reflects a maturation of Nakamura’s vision and how much comes from series composer Oono Toshiya I can’t say for sure, but the two of them seem to make a fantastic team.

If you’ll bear with me to repeat myself, I think praise needs to be be heaped on many aspects of the series.  Starting with the cast, Miyu Irino delivers a risky and gutsy performance as Haru which is totally vindicated by the end of the series.  He’s The Little Prince, and he’s alien – and Miyu gets just enough of that otherness across without making Haru less sympathetic.  Ohsaka Ryouta takes a star turn here as Yuki, perfectly capturing his anxiety and vulnerability at the beginning, and the growing but fragile confidence that builds in him as he matures.  Sugita Tomokazu is hilarious as only he can be, and Uchiyama Kouki stamps himself as a name to remember with a subtle and intense performance as Natsuki.  The supporting cast is top-notch as well.  As are the looks of the series, which is always a hallmark of a Nakamura work.  Tsuritama is a storybook come to life, an animated pop-up book full of surrealistic seascapes and great visual humor.  And the soundtrack – OP, ED and perfectly in context BGM by Kuricorder Quartet – is in a close battle with Sakamichi no Apollon for the best of the season.

NoitaminA is going to struggle to top this season, I suspect – and whether it meets with commercial success or not, it’s definitely going to be remembered by anime fans as one of the finest – if not the very best – in NoitaminA’s history.  Tsuritama is certainly going to be in my top ten of 2012, and as of this moment it’s looking like a contender for one of the top spots.  It’s rare to see a full-length anime, even of a single cour, that never sets a foot wrong.  There will be shows that sell more Blu-rays in 2012, but I doubt there will be many that ring so emotionally true and bring so much joy to those who love them.  DUCK-U!

[HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.42_[2012.05.31_13.46.10] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.59_[2012.05.31_13.59.07] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 10 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.42_[2012.06.14_13.51.56]
[HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 10 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.43_[2012.06.14_13.58.38] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.42_[2012.06.21_14.34.42] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.59_[2012.06.21_14.39.20]
[HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.26_[2012.06.28_14.41.50] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.34_[2012.06.28_14.48.58] [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.39_[2012.06.28_14.49.03]


  1. o

    I’ve been singing the praises of the show for 12 weeks so there’s surely not all that much I can say now that I haven’t said already

    And you still manage to find stuff to talk about, nice lol. I'm also sad to see this show end and extremely happy to know that the production team is happy for their work as well (Hey A-1, when can we get Oofuri season 3? preferably 25 eps this time). Wonderful characters, wonderful character development and a rock solid story. This is the best portrayal of friendship in an anime series, period. I'm trying to write up my thoughts, but I've too been singing this show's praise for twelve weeks now.

  2. K

    Yes this series was fantastic and it ended up being my favorite of the spring season and most likely in my top 5 of the year.

    It's series like this that make me love anime.

  3. A

    This is my first time commenting on your blog, however I have been a fan since your coverage of Steins;Gate last year. I love your writing Enzo and your probably one of the most insightful and interesting bloggers out there. Anyway on to Tsuritama.

    I have to say that at first I didn't like Tsuritama, I didn't really like Haru and Yuki and the pacing was a little slow for my tastes. But as soon Yuki started coming out of his shell I started to feel an emotional connection to his character and as a result I started enjoying the show as a whole. And I think that is Tsuritama's greatest strength, the characters and their development. At first the characters start out as socially awkward and unable to socialize with people but through their friendship and their mutual love of fishing they develop into an interesting and likeable set of characters.

    The finale was everything I was hoping for and more, inspiring, epic and a look at how the characters had grown throughout the series. If I had any problem with the finale it's that we don't really learn why Urara was controlling people in the first place. But I'm guessing that his whole situation was a misunderstanding and he was just unable to properly communicate with other people like Yuki at the beginning of the series.

    At the beginning of this season I didn't expect to like this series better than its competitor in the Noitamina block but that's what ended up happening. My favorite Spring show is still Fate/Zero but Tsuritama is a close second. Definitely a great show.

  4. Thanks for jumping into the pool, Anon – welcome, and I hope we hear more from you!

  5. K

    I would be crying if the entire series didn't have me smiling from start to end.

    It's amazing how the main cast and the majority of the supporting cast can be so likeable in only 12 episodes. Everything flowed naturally and the scenes transitioned from one to another seamlessly.

    I didn't start watching Tsuritama at the beginning of the season. For some reason, I just decided to pick it up at episode 3, and I'm really glad that I did.

    Tsuritama is a shining example of how you don't need moe overload or excessive fanservice to create an excellent series. This is definitely a series for the ages.

  6. R

    This series was my love. If it were a physical being I would shower it with glomps and kisses I kid you not. Just, the whole ride from beginning to end was beautiful. I remember staying up until 3 AM rewatching parts of some episodes that were just so…..AR{PKGEOPK PERFECT T___T

    WHY IS IT OVER. Why are all these wonderful shows ending at the same time. It's like the anime season collaborated to break the hearts of fans worldwide.

    But there's the OVA and novel to look forwards to. I am going to buy those the moment they come up online *sobs*

    Do you plan on covering the OVA too Enzou?

  7. Tsuritama OVA? Did I miss something?

  8. K


  9. Sadly, I don't think so/ I've sure seen no mention of it, if so.

  10. I think that's more of a BD extra then a real OVA, but I'm not sure.

  11. M

    Tsuritama's overwhelming positivity was infectious. I loved it. Sometimes happy ending can be a good thing, and Tsuritama was a perfect example of this. Thanks for blogging it, Enzo!

    Definitely the best season of Noitamina since Tatami Galaxy and House of Five Leaves.

  12. R

    Yeah, for sure one of Noitamina's better seasons. My favorite is still spring 2010 (House of Five Leaves and The Tatami Galaxy), but this comes close.

    I'm really glad you covered Tsuritama, Enzo, even if it wasn't the easiest series to blog. I don't think I love the series as much you do (thought the early-middle stretch was a bit dull), but you put into words everything I love about it.

  13. That's definitely the other NoitaminA that comes close for me. But Tatami Galaxy wasn't on the level of the other three shows under discussion, IMHO – just quite good, not great. Saraiya Goyou, however, was a full-on masterpiece.

  14. d

    Is Saraiya Goyou any good? No, the correct question would be "would I like it?" Obviously you'd think it's good since you wrote it as a masterpiece. I don't know what you think of the review site, nihonreview.com , but it didn't get a good review there. Now I don't know how many different reviewers work at that site, but much of the reviews tend to match my taste/view, so I reference the site from time to time. More importantly, the show appears to be one of my great pet-peeve on anime: period drama/slice-of-life.

    I think I only watched a handful of shows from noitamina, after much reservation and put-offs due to style: namely Honeyclover and Nodame Cantabile. And later after I'm conditioned to watch regardless of style if it's good: Wandering Son, Anohana, Bunny Drop, Un-go, and Sakamichi. I did drop a few shows, though, like Moyashimon, Princess Jellyfish, NO 6, Guilty Crown, Tsuritama, either because I found them boring or they weren't for me.

  15. Nihonreview is like any other review site – some I agree with, some I don't. I had Sarai-ya Goyou as my top series of 2010, and I think most reviews of the show were very, very positve (for whatever you think that's worth).

    When you say "pet peeve" do you mean you dislike period dramas and slice of life? I don't consider it a slice of life, because it has a very distinct plot with very real consequences. For me, it's hard to find a comp for it – it's quiet, thoughtful, funny, dark and very beautifully drawn.

  16. S

    wo words, absolutely perfect! Would I miss my weekly dose of pure happiness, you betcha I would but the finale was so fucking amazing that I wouldn't have it any other way.
    Well done, Team Tsuritama! This is truly a work of art that I wouldn't mind marathoning over and over again. T

  17. I

    I hope there are lots of Misaki doujins. Kidding.

    I like Tsuritama but I have one problem. The first 8 epsiodes were much better for me than the final 4. It was at its best a happy go lucky slice of life about fishing. The final plot didn't add much to it in terms of themes or comedy or even happiness. I loved the beginning and rue the choice to try and be a bit serious. Some shows are meant to be silly and fun. Tsuritama was certainly one of them.

  18. J

    Yuki's character moves from being socially awkward, to being able to mingle, to being completely active in helping those around him.

    That shows through especially thanks to the final episodes. Apart from that it also gives Haru a reason to come there in the first place, as well as all of the characters to develop in their own ways.

    You need a bit of conflict to help bring people to a conclusion, and this one played it pretty well.

  19. w

    I remember when this was airing, I got as far as episode 3 and stopped watching. I have no idea why since I was really enjoying it, but I probably never would have finished it had you not sung its praises, Enzo. Well, I've (finally) got 'round to watching it all and all I can say is this: Thank you so much for inspiring me to finish this.

    It's been quite a while since an anime has made me giddy with delight the way this one did. When I finished the last episode I was caught between laughing with joy and crying with grief because it was over. So thank you very much!

  20. You're very welcome. It really is a fantastic show, and it does have the ability to communicate pure joy the way very few anime can.

  21. S

    Hi Enzo! So I was browsing your site (as usual) looking for another anime I could watch and Tsuritama getting the top spot on your best anime list in 2012 piqued my interest. To get straight to the point, I was also browsing through MAL reviews and I don't know if you post reviews on MAL as well but I saw this line "If you distilled pure happiness into 22 weekly minutes of sight and sound, you’d have something a lot like Tsuritama.". This immediately set off warning bells and if that isn't you on MAL then those words were definitely stolen from you. I don't know how much of the review was plagiarized, but I just felt like I needed to tell you.

  22. Thanks. Yeah, that line is stolen word for word from me, but I've been plagarized by a lot bigger fish than that – a for-profit E-zine, for example. It's a MAL review – I could make an issue of it, but is it really worth the trouble?

  23. S

    Sigh. I hope you took some actions against that plagiarizing E-zine. I always love coming here to read about your thoughts and it makes me sad and quite angry to see untalented hacks trying to pass off your work as theirs. I only waited for a confirmation from you so I can report the MAL review. I understand if you don't want to waste your time or go to any trouble but since time is something I have a lot of, I wouldn't mind reporting it myself.

  24. I certainly won't stop you, and I appreciate your standing up for me. But that's strictly your call.

    Yes, I did take up that case with the appropriate authorities. Plagarizing is one thing – doing it for profit takes the crime to another level.

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