Review for Tsuritama Collection
One series that I long wished for in the UK, but never came in the end, was the Yoshitoshi ABe show, NieA_7. I wound up getting on import in the end, but to my eyes it seemed a very British show, certainly in terms of its humour and its character dynamics, it could very easily have been an eighties sitcom. Its socially awkward main character wound up living with an alien, and through no fault of her own got drawn into all sorts of bizarre adventures. And with the wacky alien came a host of other bizarre characters as well, and the overarching story had something to do with the titular character picking up transmissions from the crashed alien mothership that no other alien could hear... It was a great show that never came to the UK, a bit of an oversight for MVM given that they released the other Yoshitoshi ABe joints, Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei, and Texhnolyze.
To make up for that you might say, MVM now bring us Tsuritama, featuring a socially awkward lead, who through no fault of his own winds up living with an alien, and because of that he runs into all manner of strange characters. And all this alien wants to do is to go fishing. It may not be ABe’s NieA_7, but it’s the next best thing, and it could quite possibly even be better.
Yuki Sanada is the socially awkward one in Tsuritama. His grandmother Keito is something of a free spirit, which has resulted in Yuki constantly transferring from school to school, never staying long enough to make any friends or settle down. Much as he dotes on his grandmother, it does mean that he doesn’t communicate well, is introverted and over-analysing, and tends to freak out under pressure, feeling as if he’s drowning. They move again at the start of this series to the island of Enoshima, and while he starts off with the best of intentions, the desire to make a change in his personality, an awkward encounter on a bus on the way to school throws him off, and it looks like he’s going to be the freaky weird loner in class again.
And then another new transfer student walks into class, hits him in the face with a jet of water from a water pistol, and the next thing he knows, he’s just finished a duet with the kid, and he’s now half of the funny weird duo in class. Haru is the other transfer student, and he’s even transferred into Yuki’s life, moving in with him and Keito, and Haru’s an alien. Seriously, this otherworldly visitor wants to be friends with Yuki as he’s decided that Yuki is the one to help him catch a certain fish. Of course they’ve got to learn how to fish first, which is when Haru water-pistols Natsuki Usami into teaching them. Natsuki’s another standoffish loner student with a difficult home life, but who has a talent for fishing. And meanwhile from a distance, a mysterious Indian named Akira Agarkar Yamada and his pet duck Tapioca, members of a shadowy organisation observe this alien infiltration...
12 episodes of Tsuritama are presented across 2 DVDs from MVM. Unfortunately this is one series that misses out on Blu-ray in the UK.
1. Panicked Fishing
2. The Frustrating Uni Knot
3. Lonely Casting
4. Angry Landing
5. Discouraged Jerking
6. Horrified Splash
7. Painful Countdown
8. Joyous Fighting
9. Striking Underwater
10. Our Tackle
11. Legend of the Big Fish
12. Goodbye Fishing
Tsuritama gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen PAL transfer on these DVD discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout with strong colours. The animation is high quality and very appealing, with likeable character designs, nice attention to detail, and a whole lot of fishing. There is a bit more thought gone into the anime than usual, with Yuki’s freak out face offering a lot of variety and detail in its transformations. There are also nice touches such as showing the feeling of drowning that he gets when he’s socially overwhelmed, and the replay of recent events he sees when he’s trying to sort out his feelings. There’s also the Enoshima dance to appreciate, immortalised in the opening animation. Tsuritama really is a quality show that looks really good on DVD, let down only by the slightest compression that you get at the limits of the DVD format. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get the Blu-ray.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 English and Japanese stereo, both encoded at the full whack of 448kbps although the English track is a tad louder. You get optional English subtitles and a signs only track. The dialogue is clear throughout, the music is quirky and apt, with a couple of excellent theme songs for the show, and there’s sufficient stereo separation to offer ambience, and space for the show’s action sequences. The subtitles are timed accurately and free of typographical errors. And I love the tabla and bansuri music when the Duck organisation is in full flow. My preference as always was for the Japanese audio, but I gave the English dub a try, and to my surprise for a Sentai effort, at no point was I compelled to turn it off and run from the room screaming...
The discs present their contents with static menus, and jacket pictures. Each episode is followed by a translated English language credit scroll, but there are no next episode previews.
The only extras are on disc 2, and amount to the textless credit sequences, presented with 448kpps stereo audio to get the full whack of hi-fi quality. Otherwise you’ll find trailers for Anohana, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Daily Lives of High School Boys, shows which really ought to be licensed for the UK. Already available from MVM are Hakuoki: Dawn of the Shinsengumi and Kokoro Connect.
Note to Hanabee who authored the discs. I know you have to author in PAL format for the best visual quality, and the best you can hope for is the pitch shift of a 4% speed-up in audio, better than trying to pitch correct, but don’t draw attention to the change by putting the audio in the menu screens at the original NTSC pace.
Tsuritama could have been one of the all time classic anime, at least when it comes to my personal tastes. I love the offbeat, I love oddball humour, and I always make time for the trivial. It’s why I have an appreciation for slice of life shows, and I love those anime that can step away from a storyline just to indulge in some inconsequential fun for a minute or three. That is one reason why I love Niea_7, and it was exactly that style of anime that drew me to Tsuritama, which starts off in much the same vein, albeit replacing the characters stuck in the doldrums of a recession with characters obsessed with fishing. Tsuritama even has a turbaned Indian in a key role as well. The trouble with Tsuritama is that I feel that it’s hampered by a storyline that it didn’t need, and by its conclusion it becomes a show that it didn’t need to be. It is still fun and enjoyable, but it’s become more mundane, and that’s disappointing.
You see it’s like Last of the Summer Wine, which maybe the last thing that you’d expect me to compare an anime to. But Last of the Summer Wine was never about the narrative, it was about the misadventures of three friends, who spent much of their time careering down hills in bathtubs. You’d watch the show for the character interactions and the comic situations; you wouldn’t be concerned with an overarching storyline.
It’s exactly the same with Tsuritama. The real interest lies in the characters and the way that they interact. It’s about relishing the comic moments, the odd silliness, the gradual development and appreciation of comradeship and friendship. The really important narrative comes down to the character arcs, which in this show are Yuki’s gradual overcoming of his social awkwardness, learning to make friends, and Natsuki sorting out his troubled home life. Haru is the bizarre alien catalyst that comes in like a breath of fresh air, a whirlwind that transforms all around him for the better. Akira on the other hand is the slight force for negativity, the representative of the secret organisation, Duck, who’s investigating odd occurrences, and who first focuses on the trio of Natsuki, Yuki and Haru from afar, and then gradually becomes part of the group.
The one thing they all have in common is fishing. Haru’s come to Earth to catch a special fish, and decides that Yuki is the one that will catch it. Since Yuki doesn’t know the first thing about fishing, Natsuki is the one to learn from, and Akira loves fishing too. It’s easy to get lost in the terminology and intricacies of the noble art of angling, and take a vicarious pleasure as they slowly succeed in their goals. There’s also a richness of supporting characters in the show, I particularly love Yuki’s grandmother Keito, a delightful, whimsical and wise character, and in a medium where youth is usually emphasised, it’s great to see such an appealing older character. The local boat captain who takes our foursome out fishing has a crush on the owner of the local fishing supplies shop which is played out to comic effect. Natsuki’s family too is delightful, even if father and son don’t see eye to eye.
There’s a whole lot of comic value in the Duck organisation, while the main character has some interesting traits too, all of them expressed visually. Yuki’s freak face is a sight to behold, and the way his sense of pressure is displayed is very inventive. He also does his best thinking when he’s on the verge of falling asleep, and he replays the day’s events in his mind. Tsuritama unfolds in a very natural and appealing way, little vignettes of amity and growing bonds of friendship over the fishing rods, and we watch the character journeys as they go through their ups and downs. It’s just the kind of show I love... for eight episodes.
For then comes part 2 of episode eight with its infodump, and Haru spells the plot out for everyone. From this point on, Tsuritama follows a more conventional narrative, with the world in peril as the underwater menace keeps compelling people to drop everything else and just do the Enoshima dance. If our four heroes can’t fish the ‘villain’ from the water, soon the whole world will be eternally dancing. They’ve figured out the right way to do it, but unfortunately the Duck organisation would rather use the traditional means of dealing with aliens, great big missiles and a naval attack.
Tsuritama has the momentum from its first two thirds to continue to the end in an entertaining way, and it’s built up the goodwill and enjoyment of the characters to make it a fulfilling ride to the end. But I do feel the switch to the conventional ‘save the world’ storyline makes the show conclude on a mundane and average note, whereas if it had stuck to its small scale, character based guns, or rather water pistols, it would have been a far more fulfilling and memorable anime.
Tsuritama is still great fun though, and if we’re not going to get Niea_7, it is the next best thing. And let’s face it; there aren’t a lot of wacky slice of life comedies about weird aliens and fishing out there. If you want to try a little something different, then Tsuritama is the show to watch. I only wish that I could have watched it on a UK Blu-ray instead.