Tsuritama (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 281 minutes approx.
In the great and wonderful milieu that is anime we’ve followed a number fantastic adventures in which the fate of the world is in the hands of an unlikely source – from dimension travelling demons to giant robots, magical schoolgirls to killer notebooks, vampires to pop idols – but can a global catastrophe be averted by fishing? And especially by a socially awkward schoolboy who has never held a fishing rod in his life?
The lad in question is Yuki Sanada, whose inability to interact socially in even the simplest of situations triggers a debilitating panic attack. Living with just his grandmother, Yuki moves to the tiny island of Enoshima where on the same day, Haru, a cheerful if odd young lad with a fishbowl balanced on his head, also starts at the same school. Declaring himself an alien Haru gravitates towards Yuki, and even inveigles a room at Yuki’s home!
Haru then drags Yuki along to the pier and asks him to go fishing but either has a clue so they buddy up with the stern and studious Natsuki Usami, known as the Fishing Prince, and ask for lessons. Meanwhile the trio are being observed by an Indian named Akira Yamada (because anime) and his pet duck Tapioca on behalf of a secret organisation called DUCK (Defensive Universal Confidential Keepers) with a special interest in Haru – but why?
Tsuritama from Kenji Nakamura, the man who gave us C – Control The Money Of Soul And Possibility and the upcoming Gatchaman Crowds, sounds like a whole lot of nonsense and indeed the first few episodes don’t exactly allude to any real overarching storyline. They are more concerned with introducing the cast and setting the foundation for what we know will be a prized friendship by the time we reach the end. But don’t be misled here, these opening chapters are loaded with charm, esoteric humour and even tips for the neophyte fisherman out there (if they are watching). Once the story gets going we are, if you’ll forgive the painfully obvious pun, already hooked.
The tropes may seem familiar but Nakamura has exaggerated them in a move which makes them appear fresh. Yuki is he nervy kid whose panic at interacting with people manifests itself as him literally drowning while his face contorts into a hideous mask which terrorises the onlooker. Haru is perpetually cheery, skipping everywhere and speaks in a baby voice using simple language. Natsuki is the serious one whose reluctance to teach Haru and Yuki how to fish soon gives way when they gradually make progress. He has a younger sister Sakura of whom he is very protective while he is at odds with his father for finding love again after their mother’s passing.
Haru’s aforementioned fish bowl contains his sister Koko, an equally quirky lass with big round glasses, multi-coloured hair and a barely there outfit. Both squirt water at humans which compels them to perform the traditional Enoshima dance, an explanation for which comes later in the show. In fact this is just one of many answers you’ll need to stick around for as the story throws numerous quirks and plot elements which we are supposed to just accept at first.
There is a method to all this madness even if it is readily apparent at first but the central theme of friendship and the rewards of teamwork remains the most prevalent one. As expected everyone grows in some way and for the better, with Yuki naturally making the most progress, but Nakamura and writer Toshiya Ono take their time in charting this exponential growth, as to avoid the trap of having the zero to hero journey be achieved so hastily and without credibility.
Amid the zany comedy and fantasy adventure of the latter half we are afforded a basic education in sea fishing which is surprisingly enlightening, even for those with little to no interest such as yours truly. Rather pointedly the idea is to dispel the idea that fishing is a boring hobby for lonely old men by demonstrating the vigour and excitement of casting a properly tied line out into the moving open seas. And did you know there is a separate method for catching tuna? Me neither until Natsuki and exuberant boat captain Ayumi Inoue explained it to us!
If this all sounds atypical of what you would normally expect from anime then embrace it because it is this unconventional approach which lifts this show above the norm. As a product of the famed Noitamina (“animation” written backwards) late night time slot on Fuji TV in Japan, where shows with a more creative bent air to attract the older and more discerning anime fans, Tsuritama absolutely benefits from the lack of conventional restrictions and wider scope for experimentation.
Handling the production are A1 Pictures, whose loose artwork style and vibrant colours suitably define the psychedelic world that is Enoshima. The character designs are distinct with fluid movements in depicting the actual physical actions of the fishing procedure, as well as keen attention to detail to the equipment. It helps to keep your eye on the whole screen as it is often the little things that provide the anarchic humour, and yes I’m talking about Tapioca the duck!
I’ve deliberately avoided going to deeply into the plot as there is a lot that happens in these twelve episodes and it would be too easy to spoil things. Suffice to say that while the basic story is standard fare – a young lad with a failing comes good – this tale is a joyous and uplifting romp suffused with a subversive and energetic heart, laugh out loud humour and a visual treat to boot.
If Tsuritama offers anime fans anything it is that there is still hope for creativity and shows that not just think outside the box, they don’t even get into it! An immensely satisfying comic fantasy romp with nothing fishy about it all!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
Man In Black