Tsuritama is a show about fishing in the port town of Enoshima, Japan…
No wait, that’s not entirely right. Er, let’s go with this:
Tsuritama is about a young boy named Yuki who suffers from severe social anxiety and learns to open up with the help of an eclectic group of friends through fishing in Enoshima, Japan…
Well, that’s not necessarily the whole story either. Let’s try one more time!
Tsuritama is about how a young boy with social anxiety, named Yuki, saves the world with his friends from an alien and a secret organization called DUCK, by fishing in Enoshima, Japan. There we go!
In a previous article, I believe I mentioned that anime can be very weird. Japanese animation can have a bizarre range of genres and topics covered going from ninjas in orange to heavy slice of life dramas to focusing on the board game “go”. Tsuritama is certainly no exception to these rules. And it was its weirdness and its oddly specific topic of fishing that made me nearly turn away from watching the series. I remember watching the first couple episodes and found the seemingly random occurrences rather jarring. From our main character making an extremely bizarre face whenever he gets nervous to the quirky boy Haru claiming he is an alien and somehow controlling people with water to a mysterious Indian man who owns a duck with whom he talks to, I very nearly refused to finish watching the series. I thought I had finally found an anime that was literally just too strange to watch. But the same friend who made me watch the first two episodes insisted that it was a good show, and recommended that I finish it. Since the series was only 12 episodes long, I figured it wouldn’t be that much of a waste of my time if it continued to disinterest me. The result of me watching it? Tsuritama became one of my favorite anime ever.
So how did this happen? Tsuritama is indeed a strange show, and at first many things are left largely unexplained. But as the series goes on, the dots begin to connect, and emotions are stirred. The series begins with Yuki moving with his grandmother, and sole guardian, to the island of Enoshima. There he meets Haru, an enthusiastic and kind boy, who also claims to be an alien. After an initially rocky friendship, Haru helps Yuki begin to communicate better with other people. He also tries to convince Yuki to begin fishing. This allows them to meet two other fellow anglers, Natsuki, the “fishing prince”, and Akira, a mysterious young Indian man. The four become friends throughout the series, and Yuki begins to gain confidence and open up more. It’s the relationship between these four and the growth in all of their characters that really made me love the series. It also hits some surprisingly heavy topics throughout. Yuki’s social anxiety is a major thing that he must cope with throughout the show. Then there’s his grandmother, who’s failing health at times in the series really hits home with anyone who’s ever worried about the health of their own family members. Natsuki has an entire side-story dedicated to his relationship with his father, who is finally looking for a new partner after Natsuki’s mother passed away two years ago. Then there’s Haru, who feels like everything bad that happens is his fault and often carries the weight of both his own and his friend’s problems on his shoulders. All of these are very real emotions and worries that people have, shown amidst a series that has a seemingly random plot at first glance. The show continues with its strangeness, so some of it is certainly hard to take seriously (like the DUCK suits that literally sound like they include clown shoes), but the series manages to stay grounded by having these powerful character moments that are very relatable to the audience.
Though not as much of a draw for me as the actual characters and story, the animation is also quite a bit of a marvel. The style is somewhat generic, but very colorful. With the inclusion of shots of the sea and the sky, there are so many beautiful blues, allowing our red-haired protagonist to stand out. Color is often used symbolically in the series, with Yuki’s hair color becoming an important plot point. Color is also important in the case of the bracelets that Natsuki’s little sister makes.
When it comes to visually representing Yuki’s social anxiety, the animators make some interesting choices. One choice that I’m not as much of a fan of is the demonic face that Yuki makes when he gets upset. I understand that it represents the fact that his lack of communication and violently quiet demeanor can push others away, further alienating him from others – which is poetic, but still hard to take seriously when your main character makes a face that is so off-putting. A visual effect that I do like involves Yuki feeling like he is being engulfed in a slowly rising sea of water. The show literally animates the situation as Yuki sees it – as if he really is drowning in a pool of water. In the first moment that Yuki is fishing, he gets nervous and the water again begins to surround him, but as soon as he snags his first fish, it is as if he is pulled out of that sea of water and his anxiety flows away. Another visual effect that works well is when Yuki is sitting alone with his thoughts. He closes his eyes and the previous events of that day or of the series as a whole play like a film reel in his mind. This shows us the things that are foremost in Yuki’s thoughts, and further drives home some of his fears and worries. As a whole, the show does an excellent job at representing, visually, what it may be like to deal with anxiety. And if a series wants to place this important representation within a plot involving fishing and aliens, then more power to it!
The last part of the animation that really just amazes me is how well the show represents the area of Enoshima. Enoshima is a real place in Japan – I’ve been there myself. I probably wouldn’t have known about this coastal town if it weren’t for the series, but because I became enough of a fan of the show, I decided to visit the area while I have been living in Japan. What is amazing is that the show pretty much exactly depicts the area as it is. I took pictures. Exact shots from the show line up with actual beaches, statues, and streets from real life Enoshima. Visiting Enoshima was really bizarre for me, because it felt like I had actually walked into this anime. That amount of detail and effort to flawlessly represent a real area is astounding.
So that’s Tsuritama – a show with a bizarre premise, but real feelings. I’m not going to get into the part about aliens and saving the world and the DUCK organization because those parts have to be experienced to be understood, and I also want to leave a little bit of mystery to those who may want to check this anime out. And I really hope you do, because it is quite excellent and packed with unexpected emotion and beautiful artwork. Anime is weird, but it is good.