ANIME & MANGA - Review
12:00 - 2nd May 2015, by David West


Yuki Sanada lives with his grandmother whose work requires her to relocate around Japan at regular intervals. As a result, Yuki is constantly the new kid in class and he has never made any lasting friendships. Yes, it’s that old favourite anime staple, but don’t tune out yet! There are some twists coming up.

As a result, Yuki is more than a little uptight. Whenever he feels like he’s under scrutiny or in the spotlight, he seizes up, breaks out in a sweat and grimaces uncontrollably – leading most people to back rapidly away, as he looks like a raving lunatic with his face contorted into an angry scowl. When grandma moves to the island of Enoshima, Yuki is resigned to his life of social awkwardness and outsider status, but instead finds that another newcomer to the school, Haru, is determined to be his friend. The exuberant Haru wants to go fishing with Yuki, and won’t take no for an answer. He even moves in with Yuki and his grandmother, and, to Yuki’s total mortification, announces to all and sundry that he is an alien.

Tsuritama is, in its own slightly odd way, quite an ambitious show. The first half is mainly about Yuki learning to overcome his own inhibitions and to make friends through learning to fish, aided by the irrepressible Haru. The second half focuses more on the science fiction elements of the series, which previously have been bubbling away in the background. As Yuki eventually learns what brought Haru to Enoshima, the fate of the island, if not the world, hangs precariously on Yuki’s newly acquired skills as a fisherman. In some respects, there are parallels to be found with the films of Yoshihiro Nakamura, like Fish Story in which a terribly obscure punk rock song saves the world. Tsuritama, directed by Kenji Nakamura, doesn’t weave quite such a convoluted tale as Fish Story but he still builds an engaging, eccentric adventure where a lot of small details are dropped into the story that turn out to have major significance much later.

Writer Toshiyo Ono has crafted a well rounded group of likeable characters whose flaws help to fill out their personalities. Yuki fits the archetype of the awkward new guy in class to a tee, but his struggle with anxiety is presented in a refreshing way as he imagines himself being swallowed up by waves that rise around him when he’s feeling under pressure. Haru is the class oddball with a childlike naivety, although his constant boisterousness often rubs Yuki the wrong way, so he’s not always presented as all sweetness and light. The third major character is Natsuki, a talented young fisherman and the winner of many local angling contests. However The Fishing Prince, as he’s nicknamed, is short tempered, and angry with his father who has started dating again two years after the death of Natsuki’s mother. Haru wants Natsuki to teach him and Yuki how to fish, but Natsuki’s lack of patience and frosty personality make him a prickly instructor. And then there’s Akira Yamada, who hails from India and seems awfully interested in Haru’s activities, spying on him wherever he goes. Oh, and Akira has a duck called Tapioca that accompanies him everywhere.

Natsuki and Akira neatly encapsulate the two sides to the series. Natsuki’s fraught relationship with his dad shows how well it deals with the coming-of-age, high school angle. Then Akira and his duck show the goofy sci-fi side, which could easily have fallen into forced wackiness, but is delivered with a wry humour that at times evokes the British heritage of absurd science fiction and fantasy epitomised by novelists like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Akira works for an organisation called DUCK that tracks alien activity on Earth, but they’re not exactly an intimidating bunch, with their cheery yellow paraphernalia and a flamboyant leader who looks rather like a glam rock-era David Bowie. The tone is primarily upbeat and playful, and the show doesn’t attempt to take itself too seriously, although when the stakes are at their highest, it leaves the laughs aside to focus squarely on the drama.

Produced by A-1 Pictures, Tsuritama is a lovely series to watch as it fills the screen full of colours and vitality. The animation quality is consistently high and the big set pieces, including when a typhoon hits Enoshima, are smoothly rendered. Equally, there is much to enjoy in the presentation of the lovingly detailed fishing equipment, with all the different rods, reels and lures, and Yuki’s struggle to get to grips with the intricacies of angling. The score is strong, conjuring up plenty of rousing energy as the show builds towards the climax over the last three episodes, when the heroes set out to save the world by going fishing.

The leads are all male, but there are some female characters of note in the supporting cast. In addition to Yuki’s grandmother, there is Natsuki’s younger sister Sakura, Misaki, who runs the fishing supplies shop, Yuki’s classmate Erika and Haru’s sister Koko. None of them have as much screen time as the four male leads, but they do contribute to the tale and add new dimensions to the emotional world of Yuki and his friends. Showing the quality of the scriptwriting, Misaki has her own subplot based around her relationship with local boat skipper Ayumi that plays out over the course of the series. It’s a reminder that life happens in the little details.

Angling and aliens are unlikely bedfellows for sure, but Tsuritama belongs in the same niche as series like Waiting In The Summer that mix science fiction with a coming of age, high school slice of life scenario. With a strong screenplay, high production values and a good cast of characters, Tsuritama is a charming show about friendship and fishing.
SCORE: 4/5
TAGS: Tsuritama, MVM
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