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.
"When watching it, it didn't FEEL like great anime..."
I must agree to this. The music was lively, though (I *still* remember the opening theme song well from back when I watched) and the colors in the anime are vibrant throughout... Many visual effects (like the amazing thousands of swirling fish.. that's all I'll say) were very impressive too.
The frienship development was touching. But the aliens.. to me.. are what kinda... messed it up.
And the way that their particular plite took up the majority of the story (instead of making it even with the character developent of the humans) kinda brought things down to me.
I know folks really love those characters specifically.
My fondness rested on several of the earthings. They seemed to tie all the elements of this story together the most to me.
I absolutely hate Haru's voice. The characters all are super kawaii though. The opening is so funny and the theme song is upbeat and catchy. I'm not sure if ill be able to finish watching it because I'm already stalling.
I watched this quite a while ago-maybe a few months ago. I've been sorta stalling this though because I watched the first 2 episodes and I though the plot "Smelled" sorta weak. I might get back to watching it again because i thought the character design was pretty cool. >w>
I don't care about the pairings and stuff, I just loved the animation. I loved the animation and their various metaphorical descriptions of the characters emotions. I also enjoyed watching how the friendship between the characters played out. But maybe I;m just biased cause I think the characters are really cute and gave off this gentle kind of feeling.