「さよならのフィッシング」 (Sayonara no Fishingu)
Endings. It’s maddeningly difficult to craft a pleasing one, but with Tsuritama I think this might’ve been the perfect note to end it on.
Much like the previous episode, there’re hardly any insights to be offered. What we have here is a vision that had been laid out to us from the start and has now been fully realized. Instead of revelations or answers, this ending encapsulates what much of the series has stood for: The characters. From start to end, the episode was a rollercoaster of emotions, from tension to relief, despair to hope, everything in between, and ultimately the warmth associated with the relationships these amazing characters share. It’s amazing how many times the show has done this over its final few episodes; I’ve said this once as the gang struggled to get back together, another time during their first attempt at fishing up the dragon, and I’ll say once again in this episode where they finally succeeded by a hair’s breadth: Tsuritama keeps delivering these amazing emotional pay-offs for the characters that are extremely gratifying to simply watch because of the emotional synergy involved.
And boy was that final fishing attempt spectacular. I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that when all else failed, they might actually use someone as the bait, but I never thought that they’ll actually go through with it. (I’d also have though Yuki to be the one to jump in, seeing as how he’s the one draped in RED.) It’s nonsensical, surrealistic, and yet completely Tsuritama. Somehow, what would otherwise become a facepalm moment (or maybe it still is) feels completely in line with the show’s tone, and watching Yuki’s proficient angling with Haru as the lure becomes an impressively epic scene, heightened by the evocative score that has so perfectly captured every moment in this series. Feels were most definitely had as I watched this final ENO. SHIMA. DO-N!
The icing on the cake is what comes immediately after, when the fish from the erupting baitball rained down from the sunset-dyed sky as the characters stand dazed at their success. It is a scene choke-full of the surrealism so omnipresent in the series, and at the same time a moment of catharsis for every character and viewer involved, as we finally reach the conclusion of this new legend, and indeed the story of Tsuritama that charted this journey of growth.
Should I say the aftermath was to be expected of Tsuritama? The huge threat to the Earth under the largest baitball ever turns out to be little more than the size of a guppy, with Yuki capturing what everyone had in their mind at the moment: “He’s that small!?” JFX, or as we come to learn, Urara (Sakurai Takahiro), completely defies the expectations I had, quite possibly the only time the show has ever done so. What was the rampaging rogue turns out to be a meek, polite-style speaking alien that constantly fidgets with his hair, and yet to this, I feel that I can only utter: “Well played, Tsuritama.” This show has kept up its whimsy sensibilities right to is very end, even as Haru, Coco and Urara returned to their planet in a feel-good farewell. And when our protagonists separate, it is on a truly positive note that the series ends as we see Natsuki chasing his bass-fishing dreams, Akira still fishing in his relocated area with Tapoica finding a lover, business coming in for the Natsuki restaurant, and even Ayumu finally getting the girl of his dreams. (Or have they become nightmares?)
Wait, what about the main two? Yes! Their separation was short-lived as both “THE ALIEN!” Haru and Urara are back at the school 6 months after as transfer students once again. I can think of no better result for both Yuki and Haru, the two who has helped each other’s growth along the most, and no better ending than those bright, infectious smiles on their faces.
I’ll end off with a rare moment of self-awareness from a show, when Yuki muses on whether he has changed since he came to Enoshima. Here’s a series where in 12 episodes I have seen some of the densest character development ever, and to succinctly close this question off is a simple invitation posed by Yuki himself, to the new transfer student Urara: “Do you want to go fishing sometime?”
If you’ve been going through the various (END) posts that’s been cropping up you’d probably find the phrase “Best _____ of the season” being tossed about with extreme frequency. And you’re probably thinking, “Oh no, here’s another one”, right? But then, why shouldn’t it be used to this extent? This spring season was a rare miracle, stuffed to the brim with quality series on a level I’ve never quite seen, and probably will never see for years to come. I’m gonna go on a stretch to say here that more than half of these masterpieces will most likely end up on my personal [Best of 2012], and if that doesn’t happen, well, I’d be pleasantly surprised by the increasing level of quality that awaits us in the upcoming seasons. (Fall is shaping up to be a beast of a season as well, from what I’ve heard.)
So in a very roundabout way, yes, I do believe Tsuritama also deserves the same label of “Best _____ of the season”, and for me it was the best surprise. What we have here is a rarity, a show which in retrospect displays uncommon consistency in its theme, tone and pacing across the span of its 12-episodes run. Sure, I’ve complained before of the perceived slow pacing in its early episodes, but these early moments are dense with the story fleshing out their characters and the world while giving some of the most brilliantly natural and organic character growth I’ve seen from an anime, especially from Yuki and Haru, the two who had arguably seen the most growth across the span of the show. What’s amazing is how this extremely chartable growth never actually seemed to stop until the very end of the series, and it’s because of the meticulous effort that went into building these characters that their idiosyncrasies becomes synonymous with the audience, forming an emotional connection which makes the pay off at the end that much stronger.
Thus when one looks at the series as a whole, what we have is a perfectly constructed story with a very distinct beginning, middle and end that build into each other without dragging things on or rushing to its conclusion, so as to fully realize the vision it had initially set out to achieve. A vision, I might add, without any fluff or excess to it, reflected not just in the story but the stylized yet minimalistic sense of aesthetics as well. The exposition at the beginning, as we come to connect with Yuki and the gang, along with the build-up towards the climax during the middle, as the situation with JFX grows increasingly tense, pays off in spectacular fashion during the show’s end-game. Tsuritama has become a shining beacon in how to properly do a build-up series, and other shows following the same storytelling format should honestly strive towards what Tsuritama has achieved. Kenji Nakamura san has directed a series while that ambling along at its own pace, ambled at this pace which was developed with its vision in mind, giving us a beautifully complete story on the nuances of friendship which displays an acute awareness of its single-cour length and also maintains such consistency throughout. And for a show to achieve this, Tsuritama already ranks high in my books when most series struggle to deliver such a complete experience, especially in this era of incomplete adaptations and sequel-itis. My message is thus simple: For the people who dropped it during its early episodes due to “the lack of anything happening”, do go back and try the series again as a whole this time without the week wait for each episode, and see just how dense of a story Tsuritama is by its conclusion.
It’s my opinion that this is arguably Tsuritama’s strongest point in what is a list of “things done right”, but really, there are so many other aspects I could also pick from as I try to pin down what exactly makes Tsuritama stand ahead in this spectacular season. I could go on about the brilliant characters who engaged me on a level few other shows had managed, or the amazing voice acting that carried the emotions and idiosyncrasies of the characters across to the audience. Characters, I might add, that see so much exposition to them that I am admittedly surprised by the amount of detail the writing team managed to stuff into a single cour. I could also talk endlessly on the extremely vivid and strikingly bright palette that drapes the show’s visuals as well as the wonderfully whimsical yet evocative score, both which served to give the show a wholly refreshing feel and a tone brimming with endless warmth and positivity that makes it so much fun to watch every single week. I could even rave about the sense of whimsy (DUC-KU!) that works incredibly well with the show’s dramatic moments.
In the end what matters the most is: “Was Tsuritama any fun to watch?” And to that, I give a resounding HELL YES along with a hearty ENO. SHIMA. DO-N! This was truly the surprise of the season, a show that I went in without a single clue nor expectation about, intrigued only by the quirky and original premise. Tsuritama has not only taken those middling expectations and made good on them but also exceeded them in every single aspect.
I’d like to close off my final impressions with something I’ve learned: During a Q&A session on twitter by the production staff, when asked how popular they expected the series to be, the answer was effectively “Pretty Much Nothing.” It is a startling admittance that the show was created without profit in mind, and yet even without their subsequent affirmation, it is blindingly obvious just how much love went into this crafting of this show. So from a consumer to a creator, I can affirm that they got through to me with this wonderful experience.
ED: 「空も飛べるはず」 (Sora mo Toberu Hazu) by さよならポニーテール (Sayonara Ponytail)