Tsuritama Ep. 1: I don’t get it

I hate to admit defeat, but I must confess that I don’t know what to make of this anime. As a result, this post will just be a collection of loosely-related thoughts on the first episode.

• So what’s the deal with that water gun? Really, it’s like tripping out on a psychedelic drug. I’ve heard about people overdosing on bizarre compounds sold on the internet. When they finally regain consciousness, they’ll have bought a new piano, broken a few ribs, and even lost their girlfriends all at the same time. The scary part? They have no recollection of any of the events during their blackout. At the very least, Haru’s water gun doesn’t quite screw over his victims, but the effects are similar. What if it was some form of therapy, then?

Yuki faces crippling social anxiety. It causes him to worry constantly about how others might view and think of him. In other words, he’s way too self-conscious for his own good. Well, what if you could temporarily allay a person’s self-consciousness by literally ridding them of consciousness? Just temporarily, though–we wouldn’t want to turn Yuki into an id-dominated shell of a human being.

So what about Natsuki? What does the water gun do for him? He’s a grumpy, taciturn fella. Basically, he’s got a stick up his butt. Drugs can lower one’s inhibitions. Maybe the water gun serves to free Natsuki from, uh, the stick up his butt. Don’t look at me–I’m just speculating. In any case, the water gun does allow Haru to drag Natsuki away to go fishing, which the latter was unlikely to agree to normally.

I’m not saying that there’s literally drugs in the water gun. I’m just saying that the water gun has drug-like effects, regardless of whether it’s alien technology or magical Japanese pixie water. More importantly, drugs aren’t necessarily bad, especially when you consider how modern society loves to regulate its own behavior by ramming a cocktail of mind-altering pills down its own throat. Some drugs just happen to be sanctioned by pharmaceutical corporations, and some aren’t. As a result, the “good” drugs get the privlege to be called medication. Oh well, this is getting off-topic.

• So why does the grandmother just allow a strange kid to move in with her and Yuki? It’s almost like the whole thing was planned. The show’s littered with similar plot-related questions that I assume future episodes will (hopefully) address:

(1) Is Haru really an alien?
(2) Why does he instantly recognize and pursue Yuki?
(3) Why are people spying on him?
(4) Why are said people talking to a goose?
(5) What’s with Haru’s triangular halo that appears from time to time?

…so on and so forth. But the most important question of all is how the show’s characters will somehow end up saving the world (from what?). Really, were it not for this last minute revelation, I probably would have written Tsuritama off as another random, wacky slice-of-life series. It’s still that, but at least I can now expect a plot to follow.

• Comparisons will be made to noitaminA’s other show, i.e. Sakamichi no Apollon. Like how this show is just the former on crack. Both anime even have a protagonist suffering from crippling society anxiety albeit with slight variations: Yuki feels as though he’s literally drowning while Kaoru suffers from nausea. In a lot of ways, though, Tsuritama resembles an amalgamation of previous anime.

The theme of play is one such example. The brief fishing excursion at the end of the first episode gets Yuki, Haru and Natsuki to bond. By having fun, Yuki and Natsuki can get over their own character flaws, which allows them become friends or at least begin the process of forging a friendship. Playing music essentially accomplishes the same thing in Sakamichi no Apollon. I want to bring up Arakawa Under the Bridge, too, an anime about an uptight Japanese guy who learns to loosen up by hanging out with the screwball residents under a bridge. By goofing around, Riku learns to stop worrying about success and perfection all the damn time.

Another way Tsuritama reminds me of anime besides Sakamichi no Apollon is Haru himself. He’s like a clown. He’s carnivalesque. He’s a fart. No, I don’t mean that insultingly. Let’s say you’re having a quiet but boring dinner with your family when someone suddenly lets loose some gas. Laughter’s gonna break out, right? I’d be kind of scared if it didn’t. And that seems to be Haru’s role so far. Yuki keeps freaking out whenever someone so much as looks at him. Natsuki sounds like a real jerk. In most anime, these two would be ostracized by their peers. You wouldn’t have to look far: in Sakamichi no Apollon, Kaoru’s social anxiety turns other students against him.

But before the same thing can happen to Yuki, Haru rolls up and makes everyone laugh. With his water gun, then, Haru is also like a trickster who challenges society’s view of the world. We’d normally mock “losers” like Yuki, but that doesn’t happen here. I’ve written about tricksters before, too. In Level E, a so-called prince plays that same trickster role. Hell, he even calls himself an alien like Haru. Haru doesn’t seem quite as malevolent as Level-E‘s Baka-oji, but I think the similarities are there.

• So what else can I say about the anime? Both visually and aurally, it’s really goddamn busy. I’d just like to contrast Tsuritama with Sakamichi no Apollon real quick. Color is so much more saturated in the former than the latter. More importantly, there’s almost always background music in Tsuritama. As I wrote in my previous post, background music plays a pivotal role in Sakamichi no Apollon. As a result, music only plays when something meaningful occurs onscreen. On the other hand, I wouldn’t really know if there’s any special reason why there’s always a music track playing in Tsuritama. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that there isn’t any. I just find it interesting how the two shows, while similar in a lot of respects, appear to be quite polar opposites in their presentation. Of course, each anime’s tone plays a large part in determining in how they’d both look and sound.

• Initially, I enjoyed Tsuritama more than the other noitaminA show. After rewatching both shows, however, I’ve flipped the two. It’s not as though they’re in competition or anything. Tsuritama does offer a nice change-up to Sakamichi no Apollon‘s more contemplative nature.

8 thoughts on “Tsuritama Ep. 1: I don’t get it

  1. Knowitall

    This episode left me wondering whether the show’s producers were at all influenced by Mawaru Penguindrum. They both have quite a similar feel: the surrealism, the bright colours, the theatricality, the plain but dynamic character designs, the presence of an eccentric alien-like being, the style of humour, the invocation of mythology, and of course the anthropomorphized aquatic animals.
    But I don’t really know what to make of the similarities… Plot-wise at least they seem to be distinct.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Maybe. Mawaru Penguindrum did captivate a lot of minds, didn’t it? Wouldn’t hurt, then, to at least emulate it aesthetically. But a lot of Japanese films, in fact, also share the same qualities. Especially the quirkiness, the “surreal” factor, and the theatricality. So I hesitate to really compare the two unless they have more thematic similarities.

  2. Mira

    At the very least, Haru’s water gun doesn’t quite screw over his victims, but the effects are similar. What if it was some form of therapy, then?

    Funny you should mention this, because design wise and personality wise Haru reminds me a lot of Dr.Irabu from Trapeze.

    I also saw how you compared Haru and Ouji. While they’re both obvious goofs, I can also see how both share similarities to the concept of gods in Shinto as well as in Greek mythology. Haru is certainly less malevolent, but its apparent that he does not represent either good or evil but is something more of a ‘force’. Perhaps the water gun is actually a blessing?

    I’ve been reading up on the mythology surrounding Enoshima Island and I have a feeling that Haru is at least somewhat related to the goddess and the reason why the Indian Akira is spying on him is because something *might* be up. Eventhough Tapioca tells him that Haru might be just another tourist.

    The goddess in Enoshima is called Benzaiten which is the Japanese name for the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Apparently, Enoshima island and the Sarasvati River share a lot of similarities regarding the myth we saw in the prologue.

    All these aside though, I’m just as stumped as you are when it comes to the ‘plot’ of this series. It could be both a challenging yet entertaining watch. As the commenter above me said, it reminds me a bit of Mawaru Penguindrum but with 12 episodes I’m just hoping it doesn’t lose sight of what it’s supposed to be.

    1. E Minor Post author

      because design wise and personality wise Haru reminds me a lot of Dr.Irabu from Trapeze.

      One of the people I watched the anime with made the Trapeze comment. I hated that show though so I guess I shoved the idea into the far corner of my mind.

      but its apparent that he does not represent either good or evil but is something more of a ‘force’.

      Well, I dunno. He’s had a beneficial effects on his “friends” so far. He also wants to save the world. So far, at least, he seems like a good guy.

      myth stuff

      Neat stuff.

      Mawaru Penguindrum comparison

      I’m cool if Tsuritama wants to resemble it aesthetically, but I’d prefer it if the show just continued its light-hearted tone. Like, maybe, Arakawa Under the Bridge-esque but with an actual plot.

  3. appropriant

    The thing that strikes me about Haru is that he’s rather attuned to the ocean. He carries around a telepathic fish in a bowl, conducts the aquarium wildlife like it’s nobody’s business, is able to hypnotize people with a gun full of water, and rather comically doesn’t like cats.

    When he sees Yuki pass by there’s the shadow of a fish reflected on Haru’s eyes that also passes by, which then prompts Haru to “fish” him out of his rather literal drowning sequences, with an equally literal fishing pole. Later the act of fishing does pull Yuki out of his distress.

    There’s quite a bit to interpret with all the imagery this show has. I think it will still go for the Friendship Anime thing that people like nowadays although with the weight of the world thing also existing as an undercurrent. noitaminA certainly has some interesting stuff this season.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I thought his fish powers were weird, but for some reason, it didn’t register to me that he also hated cats. Still, I find it strange that someone so attuned to the sea would be willing to take his new friends fishing. Fishing is going to destroy the ocean, but maybe I’m just going too far with the idea.

      1. appropriant

        Maybe Haru is more of a deity of the sea rather than an aspect of it, one that has dominion over that part of nature rather than a connection with it. If that’s the case, fishing wouldn’t be so out of place. Besides, I think the more destructive aspects of fishing are restricted to boats and large nets and those kinds of inefficient methods.

        Then again, there’s other things that Tsuritama isn’t telling us either, like Yuki’s supposition that he was going to forget everything that happened that day (complete with images of film negatives being displaced). That part confused me the most.

  4. thoughtcannon

    They’re clearly trying to draw a comparison between Haru and the smiling goddess chick from the cold opening. So my guess is they will save the world from some five headed dragon or something representing it. Haru’s particular character will most likely be the “healing” character or w/e it is that makes Yuki and the stick-up-his-ass become friends and respected members of society. Perhaps the water gun removes whatever mental blocks there are that prevent the character from behaving as they want to. Stick-up-his-ass maybe really did want to go fishing but whereas social anxiety makes Yuki panic, it turns stick-up-his-ass into his pseudonym.

    I also agree with the Trapeze comparison and it would be par for the course considering, guess what, same director. Also same director as C and Mononoke. I don’t think he really took inspiration from Penguin Drum though, this has always been his style but hold on a sec, Nakamura’s style comes from Mamoru Hosoda whose own style is derived from- you guessed it- Kunihiko Ikuhara. Fun stuff. This actually reminded me more of Summer Wars than it did Penguindrum. It has a similar rustic aesthetic and a (sort of) similar badass grandma.


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