Have you ever caught a fish? It could be at the goldfish scoop or on some badass party boat off in the Caribbean, whatever. I think the largest fish I caught was a striped bass off the Jersey shore. Close to that was probably some bluefish after my flounder bait. But the striper? About 26 inches. I’ve never fished Mahi-mahi but they’re about that size, and have much more of a fight. Can you imagine how it feels like pulling in a Mahi-mahi the way Natsuki and Yuki pull them in? It’s exhilarating.
I think there is something beautiful when we take something relatively mundane and turn it upside down, inside-out, and explode it into the scale of saving the world. Except fishing is even more than that. By itself it is already a time-honored sport and a way to get some delicious dinner. The thrill of it isn’t as sadistic as, say, hunting, but nonetheless a real trial of skill, luck and patience. It’s as refreshing as sea-sky pirates are refreshing. The ocean and the wide open skies clean the heart of men.
I think that is the undercurrent to Tsuritama. Ultimately the story is still a fairly straightforward youth-adventure plot. It’s easy to see how you can edit the 12-episode series into a 120-minute feature film, complete with multiple twists and climaxes. The plight of Haru and his quest to save the world is almost like how an alien dropped into a Summer to Remember, minus the glasses fetish, and instead of MIB you have Men In Space Channel 5 Cosplays.
Also, Tsuritama has an ensemble cast that surrounds the four main guys, each holding a vital role in the final operation. The narrative has long since foreshadowed this division of labor; perhaps as early as the very first scene of the very first episode. All of this isn’t really a boon or a minus, but for those of us who aren’t really into fishing but are into popular media, it’s a life preserver to keep us above water within the torrents of a Nakamura original. Well, torrent is not a fair description (at least before the typhoon comes in)–this is by far the most accessible Kenji Nakamura work ever.
What RP mistaken at first glance is probably what gives Tsuritama real credibility: it’s actually about fishing. You see Haru and Yuki learn to tight that knot. You see the tricks of surfcasting with a lure. You see how Natsuki rally a school of mahi-mahi. You learn how to drive the boat for those big game tuna hauls. It’s quite something to see the material in the anime; it’s even more seeing it animated. That lends the show a degree of authenticity that even summer blockbusters struggle to obtain. Just compare it to Summer Wars for example.
I think in this day and age, having that kind of authenticity is what really makes the story compelling. It’s easy to find an anime or manga about any subject under the sun. But will it just be another formulaic hash where the subject matter drops in like an interchangeable part of a Jump formula, or will it actually dictate the nature of the story? I guess in Tsuritama’s case, it’s something more in-between.