Three words, with some variation depending on one’s inclination toward swearing for impact, should cross one’s mind by the end of the first episode of Tsuritama. If they don’t, either the viewer has seen some crazy shit in their time, or they take oddity with the stoic indifference that they would a gentle breeze to the face. To put it bluntly, if “That’s fucking weird” wasn’t thought or uttered at least once while watching this episode, something’s very wrong with you. Of course thankfully, Tsuritama isn’t just weirdness for the sake of it, or at least that’s not the impression that I got. And even if it were, it’s sure entertaining enough to get away with it.
In Tsuritama, a socially awkward boy named Yuki transfers to a school on Enoshima Island after moving in with his grandmother. During a floundering class introduction, he meets a fishing-obsessed boy named Haru who claims he’s an alien. Haru spends the entirety of the episode prancing around and hypnotizing Yuki to hang out with him, proving once and for all that friends lose out to the power of hypnotism every time. It’s a simple way to spend the episode, but by no means a bad one.
If three things are to be taken away from this introduction to the characters and plot, they’re that social anxiety can be aptly compared to drowning, fishing is pretty rad, and alien hypnotism by means of water gun is equally as rad. Unfortunately my hypnotism’s a bit rusty and I haven’t ever been on a fishing trip that hasn’t ended with me a drenched, sobbing, slightly inebriated wreck without a catch. So the social anxiety’s the only route left I can go to for discussion, unless talking about Akira and Tapioca’s minute of screen time is a thrilling prospect, which I can assure you it really isn’t.
So while Haru skipped around acting all psychotically happy and Akira… looked at stuff, Yuki was attempting not to make an idiot of himself in front of his class. Usually these characters are similar in behavior and actions; they try not to draw too much attention to themselves, but always end up doing so anyway because their curt introductions are so out of the ordinary that you have to wonder why not talking a lot hasn’t become more ordinary. Yuki falls out of this loose confederation of individuals by introducing himself as warmly as he possibly can. Of course that consists of nothing but stammering words that have absolutely no real meaning, before water rushes in to show that he’s figuratively drowning in his own panicked thoughts, but the fact that it’s the focus of part of the episode makes it one of the scenes that stand out the most.
Usually when you have characters like this, their anxiety is brought on by very specific situations that aren’t commonly used in the medium, making it a fairly uncommon character trait. The closest that I can think of to what Tsuritama accomplished is when Welcome to the NHK’s Satou Tatsuhiro sat in on a script writing class at his friend’s college. Except while that only revealed Satou to be unable to take criticism without letting his paranoid delusions get out of control, Yuki’s anxiety stems from even more ordinary things. Even just thoughts about whether to give up his train seat to an older gentleman send him into a panic, unable to settle on a proper response, paralyzed with indecision and fear; the sheer number of situations that screw with him hammer home the point that it’s a big problem, but one that he actively seeks to try to remedy. When compared to the more free-spirited, vaguely psychotic Haru, who acts as a great counterpoint, it only becomes more pronounced. It’s always nice to see a protagonist that’s flawed in a very real way, rather than “flawed” in that very special anime way of having no tangible faults.
Tsuritama has a lot going for it out of the starting gate, a “flawed” series if you will. Between the appropriate anxiety metaphors and the colorful cast obsessed with fishing, we’re looking at what could be a real winner for the season. And if it even decides to have a plot, well then more power to it. Hopefully I’ll enjoy blogging the shit out of this.