Most anime is some form of coming of age story. Heck, a large chunk of literature is about growing up. From Journey to The West (Dragon Ball those in the know) to Guilty Crown to Catcher in the Rye, it’s all about how a boy (or a girl. Anime likes to tell this story about girls a bit, too) learns to accept himself and then change the world.
Tsuritama, surprisingly, manages to highlight both intimate, personal growth and a world-saving adventure in a way few anime pull off. For the most part, a show focuses on its action portion as a catalyst for the main character to grow (see: Yuuko in Denno Coil or Alice's growth in Tweeny Witches) or keep itself close-hewed to interpersonal stories and stay mainly in the realms of the mundane (like Toradora! or Kimi ni Todoke which both concern themselves with high school romance). Here, on the Island of Enoshima, we meet a bunch of boys who can save the world because of the lessons they learned about friendship and themselves. Not since Stellvia have we seen a show get this right.
In three acts neatly bundled into twelve episodes Tsuritama tells the story of how a lonely boy starts making his first best friends in high school, and then how he eventually saves the world with their help. Precisely how this "goes down" is of little relevance (and would spoil), but suffice it to say that the show revolves around fishing and aliens. In the first act, Yuki works through his introversion, getting close to the island’s “Fishing Prince” Natsuki in order to comply withHaru's (who claims to be an alien) desire for Yuki to learn how to cast and reel. Here, we see a pretty typical story of a boy learning how to open himself to friends and what it means to move from letting life pass you by to actively living it. But things brew in the background. Natsuki has problems. Haru is hiding the truth. And the show manages to both deal with these issues in the foreground while hinting at what’s to come in the corners of establishing shots or during incidental moments of character building.
The result of such careful shepherding of the story is that we as viewers get to see both Yuki’s development and how he uses his personal growth to help his friends out. That the show does it in defined steps both heads off the “sudden change” trap that many shows fall into and also gives provides massive payoff when a confident Yuki steps up to help his friends save the day. We believe in his growth because the series made us watch it. In the end, it helps us cheer wholeheartedly for the teen loser in the final episodes.
What Tsuritama lacks in beautiful vistas and mind-melting action sequences, it makes up for in solid character design. While adhering to a consistent aesthetic, each character’s personality can be read from his or her appearance, from the fanciful pastels of Haru and Koko to the weathered joviality of Tamotsu. This extends into body language as well, as Yuki oozes awkward insecurity in comparison to Akira’s confident remove. Given that most of the show hinges on the interactions between its expressive cast, that the show focus on realizing its characters over giving a memorable portrayal of Enoshima shows that the anime has its priorities set correctly.
So, it depends on how much you like Haru’s voice. Longtime readers should know that I have an affection for characters with borderline annoying voices in the name of extra-fun. Haru is one such character. Miyo Irino’s portrayal of his vivacity and the complex nuance of learning emotion helps sell the oddball alien and stands out as the best performance in the cast. Beyond him, Yamada and Akira's dad, Tamotsu, were probably most memorable. Like the character designs, each person’s speech pattern and mannerisms help further the ensembles development and camaraderie.
On a scale of “this guy probably goes to your school” to “only in anime”, the cast ranks Natsuki, Yuki, Yamada, Haru. As the series straddles the realm between the mundane and the fantastic, having a smattering of believable personalities to go with the outlandish ones helps keep the series grounded, even when crazy alien antics dominate in the show's back half. The series' protagonist, Yuki, serves as the viewer's entry point as a generic introverted teen. He manages the correct mix of sullen, easygoing, and insecure that accompanies adolescence and has plenty of room to slowly but surely develop a shy confidence without becoming a different person--no small feat for a “lonely teenager” type. Natsuki, a surly fishing prodigy, spends most of the anime sullen due to family issues, placing him in the role of reluctant mentor to the group. During the course of the early episodes, he shows just enough compassion and warmth that his eventual blossoming seems like him returning to himself, not a change into another person, which helps make his eventual reconciliation with his father feel more seamless and natural.
But Haru’s progression towards humanity probably traces the most interesting character arc in Tsuritama. His playfulness and insecurity serve as a pretty good proxy for how an alien might come to make friends with humans. Moreover, his extraterrestrial nature allows us to hand-wave away his slowness, while also providing a the show’s actual plot. Of course, he only works as a character because he’s compared to his buddies who the series takes care to make consistent. Akira, by comparison holds the most obvious character arc (from suspicious antagonist to earnest conspirator), and he lines up well with Haru, since he is a stand-in for the series' other bad guy. However, his underlying motivations don't get the excellent treatment of the other boys.
I have problems scoring Tsuritama. When watching it, it didn't FEEL like great anime, but when I think about it... Here's the thing: The show nails its pacing, character development, and design. It has a sense of drama when it needs to, and can be exciting and intimate in turns. While the show didn't cause me to breathlessly marathon it, I enjoyed each episode. In short, if you even remotely like slice of life anime, watch Tsuritama. You'll be glad you did.
Tsuritama feels like something studio SHAFT would make, as it has weird artsy animation and characters that are or act like they are aliens.
- And yet it is not made by SHAFT but rather by A-1 Works, which translates to good production values.
- It is also part of the NoitanimA timeslot, so it is bound to have lots of artistic makeup and josei overtones.
- And it’s by Nakamura Kenji, the director of Mononoke, Kuuchu Buranko, and C, so expect some really crazy stuff in it.
My impressions about the plot were just one big MEH as there was literally no real hook in the story. It is supposed to be about making friends and fishing being the key to the salvation of the Earth but it is not motivational or educational or exciting or whatever. It is easy going right away and doesn’t try to have peaks of tension just to flavour the whole thing. Even the finale that is supposed to be one big major event is presented in a most easy going way. Just imagine that instead of panicking because of a major catastrophe, the people are dancing happily in the middle of the street.
I didn’t find the characters to be very funny or inspiring. The “earth people” felt and acted like they were bored half the time and kept their distance from you like they were afraid of something. There wasn’t any specific reason for not wanting to open up, they were just bored or anti-social. And this is where the “alien people” come up and motivate them to learn fishing, as means to make friends, be more social … and save the world in some ludicrous way. They are supposed to be a complete antithesis with the earthlings but because of the easy going nature of the show they didn’t manage to polarize their attitudes that much. Everybody’s personality was quite basic and simple and the whole “I’m an alien” thing that was supposed to keep things interesting, got old years ago.
A notice must be given to Yuki, the protagonist, who is anti-social and gets these panic attacks when pressed to do something. He is supposed to be your average blunt closet teenager we are to identify with. Although it is kinda funny to see him acting like he is drowning or about to blow up, I eventually disliked how everything seems to revolve around him, and happening just for him. The aliens are constantly pressing him to learn fishing because he is the chosen one or something, and he catches fish with no real talent. It gets quickly annoying if you don’t like anti-social people and convenient events.
Another notice must be given to the alien Haru’s water pistol. Yes, his pistol, not him, whom I want to strangle for acting like a coo-coo all the time . It brainwashes people to do anything he tells them to. This alone trashes all sense of free will and the whole bonding and friendship part turns to nothing but puppets controlled by Haru’s strings. So much for motivation.
As for the rest of the characters, they don’t matter much to the main plot. I mean there is this Hindu dude and his duck partner, and they are supposed to be part of a shady organization but the whole thing is there just for kicks. There is also Haru’s sister who is there just for fan service; she otherwise behaves exactly like him. And some other denizens of the island, like relatives and other schoolmates who are there to flesh out the setting and give it a fluffy atmosphere between slice of life and romantic comedy. The show focuses on them nicely, so they are not cardboards.
I fancied the artwork for its uncommon and stylish looks. A weird blend of paperwork and water paints, with simplistic caricatures and vivid colours to make everything look like you are high on drugs. It keeps the eye occupied all the time with all the trippy things in it.
I disliked the animation. Not only there wasn’t much motion, but also because everything felt dumb. The way they keep shaking their hands and head felt half-dead compared to how extreme they are supposed to behave. It doesn’t feel exaggerated enough and that tends to make it dull to keep looking after awhile. And seriously, when one guy is talking or thinking, everybody else just freezes and waits for him to finish instead of doing anything else. It made it look very staged and artificial. Especially when the lead male is looking at his Pokedex … I’m sorry, I mean his amazing cell phone that has a whole wikipedia in it. Every time a new fishing-related word is spoken, he picks up his phone and looks for the explanation. This is quite a dull way of explaining things since all we see is letters and an internal monologue. Where is the interest in a still image where he reads and thinks about it, while every other character present patiently awaits for him to finish as if they await the approval of the king in order to move to the next scene. BOOORING!
Voice acting and dialogues were fine but because of the lack of proper bodily motions, they too weren’t as passionate as they could have been. Other than that, everybody talks in a comical way and especially Haru is so cheerful you just want to shoot him.
The background music was crap. They just threw a soft tune in the background and left the characters talking however they liked. There was very little effort given to make the music be in tune with whatever is going on in the foreground.
The music themes were soft lullabies full of flute tunes. Although fitting to the show’s mood they are not something memorable or good enough to not skip when they appear.
So what do I think of this show as a whole?
- It’s TOO DAMN TAMED! Completely easy going compared to what the same director has produced in the past. With such a bizarre premise and quirky artwork, you would expect it to be far more exciting that this lukewarm slice of life. It’s one of those shows you watch to ease your mind by not thinking much, instead of sleeping, watching commercials on television, or looking at the cars crossing the road outside your house. BOOORING! I don’t watch anime to fall asleep but to get my blood pumping and my brain working. Tsuritama felt to me like a dull variant of Sayonara Zetsubo or FLCL.
- Even the whole premise of making friends through fishing is not working out. FISHING IS A BORING HOBBY! All you do is shake a rod, keep quiet, and hope for a dumb fish to bite the lure. Even Bayblade felt more interesting to this and it was just about spinning tops.
- And even if it was trying to be about opening up and making friends, it is still boring compared to NHK, Princess Jellyfish, or even Boku wa Tomodachi. And brainwashing people to do your biding on top of everything else? Well thanks for trashing your own premise just like that.
Aliens: Arakawa under the Bridge, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Level E
Anti-socials: NHK, Princess Jellyfish, Boku wa Tomodachi
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (artsy)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (artsy)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 0/2 (stupid)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (funny)
Personality 2/2 (silly but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 3/4 (weird enough to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 1/1 (looks artsy)
Sound 0/2 (sounds boring)
Story 0/3 (feels stupid)
Characters 2/4 (cute but nothing much)
I give this animation a big heart-felt perfect note! It was fun. A simple story, but the kind of story that makes your heart sing. Highly recommanded!
Tsuritama's story is truly absurd. Absurd in all the right ways, that is. We are presented with Yuki, a student who transfers school consistently where he eventually lands on Enoshima. Here he meets Haru who claims he is an alien. But there is some credit to his story. Haru holds in his possession a little plastic water gun that, when fired, has the ability to control whomever the water hits. That's not all. There's a fish in the ocean that is so powerful that it can control human beings and force them to dance. Why the fish wants them to dance is beyond me but I find it cute and adorable. The only way to stop this fish? Fish him out of the water and that is the ultimate goal of the main characters Yuki, Haru, Natsuki and Akira along with the rest of the supporting cast. I thought that this story was excellent. Consider me a sucker for the absurd but I was truly impressed with how well the story was executed. From the heartwarming relationship between the characters to the recurring theme of fishing. Fishing is what brings all of the characters together and is a prominent theme in the anime from the very first episode. An anime about fishing? Absurd. And that is why I love it.
The animation in Tsuritama is excellent. Tsuritama features bright, popping colors that is truly a sight to behold. The landscaping is very well done as well and I truly felt as though I was visiting Enoshima and viewing all of its beauty. Everything down to how the characters moved and danced was done exceptionally. In short, the animation was beautiful.
How could anyone not be in love with the music in Tsuritama? I found myself dancing the "Enoshima dance" several times as the opening credits rolled. The opening theme was called Tsurezure Monochrome by Fujifabric. If you have not heard it I strongly suggest a Youtube search. The music that played during the anime was apt as well. Everything felt put together smoothly and I was never distracted by it.
This is where this anime shines. The characters. The relationship between the main characters and supporting cast is excellent. The four main characters band together to learn and teach each other the ways of fishing. While it took a while for Akira to really shine I could understand why he was portrayed as a main character although at first I was extremely confused as to why he was portrayed as a main character in the opening credits. But Haru is the real champion here. He may be an alien but he learns to be as much of a human as any of the rest of the characters.
This anime was excellent. Everything was done, in my sense of the word, damn near perfectly. I would strongly suggest this anime to anyone who has a heart as Tsuritama will be sure to melt it.
The first episode of this anime set my expectations of this anime way too high. I was really amazed at the animation, vibrant colors and detailed backrounds of this anime. It was like nothing I had seen before and so it really effected my viewing experience of this. Maybe if I just expected a typical bishie, fanservicy anime with no real plot ,my score would have been higher, but yeah what came after this was just a complete mess.
Story- The story is about these four guys who fish... yeah >_> Oh and one of them is an alien and his ancestor is in the sea and causing ships to steer off course and they can mind control people with water. So yeah its a slice of life so they just do slice of life things and learn about fishing. Most of the episodes are just episodic and don't really add much to the main "plot" the last few episodes are just filled with plot holes. Like just for an example it goes something like first Haru is an alien and then hes actually a magical fish lure and this organization that worships ducks(parody of Hinduism? Really Japan? I infer this because we can assume that all the characters are indian/middle eastern because they wear turbans, but the main reason for wearing a turban would be if your part of the sikh religion and they would know this if they did even a little bit of researth >_> gah I don't really want to get into this) The dragon alien ancestor thing just turns out to be this giant blob of black cg and then he turns into another bishie and everyone becomes his best friend and yeah...
Animation- The one redeeming thing about this anime. The backrounds especially are very detailed and vibrant colors are used to really bring it to life. This design was really unique to this anime and it was nice to look at. What wasn't nice to look at however was the CG used in the latter episodes, in the water and with the fish and the alien dude. Also the char designs are very simple and kind of boring. Apparantly pink is a really popular color for guys to wear in Enoshima.
Sound- Haru's voice.... yeah, if you've seen this you know what I'm talking about. A lot of the time it got so annoying I just muted the vidoe and listened to other music. The op and end themes are pretty generic J-pop stuff and the OST didn't really stand out for me.
Characters- Haru is so frikin annoying. I was constantly wishing someone would brutally murder this character whenever he was on-screen. His sister is not much better, she pretty much does nothing throughout the seris and is just there for fanservice, since she doesn't seem to have any other clothes besides a bikini. Yuki is another one of the main characters. I liked him at first but as the series progresses I feel like he turns more into the stereotype shounen/bishie anime guy thats just really positive and all "YEAH HELP MY FRIENDS!". Prince is another one of the mains and he just plays the stereotype of the "cool guy" he has some problems with his dad because he remarried, but I feel like they never really developed that well, instead he just learns to get a long with his sister again. Then theres Yamada... oh Yamada.
This is actually favourite character in the series so its such a shame that he has to be portrayed as such a stereotype of Indian/Middle eastern culture due to a few things like the turban, which makes little sense. Hes shown eating curry more than a few times throughout the series and for some reason he likes to use engrish. The Duck organization is just one big joke, but my most hated character is this tan, blonde pink shirt guy that all the MC's in the show respect for no reason and he keeps calling Yamada, Indian like its some sort of insult. Honestly he acts like a jerk and hes supposed to be good at fishing but we never even see him fish and at the end of the series he gets married to one of the shop keepers and everyone is happy, but I don't understand why anyone even cares about this guy.Also its alluded to in some episodes that Yuki's grandmother may have some sort of illness and pass away, but that never happens and shes just as healthy as ever at the end of the series. Also we are led to believe this blonde guy who dresses in drag is the leader of Duck but then this old guy with a beard comes out of nowhere in the last ep and hes the actual leader... which I felt was completely pointless.
Overall- I know this review is biased, because I had my expectations high, but I really felt let down with this series. I'm sure theres an audience for this sort of anime, however it really wasn't for me. I guess my advice would be don't get your hopes too high for this anime.