Tsuritama continues to be emotionally heartwarming as ever, as it finally finishes off the last of sole character development and starts entering the story aspect of the plot.
These past two episodes were more of a focus on Natsuki rather than Yuki and Haru and Akira, but each one got their respective share of development as well, which is something I love when this show has been mainly character-driven. Excellent script is put to use when Natsuki is forced to confront his family matters and celebrates his birthday on a boat ride with his family and friends. While Natsuki has really loosened up over the past episodes, just like Yuki and Haru, he’s still very uncomfortable and stiff with the idea that his father is dating a younger woman after the tragedy that befell Natsuki’s mom. Sakura-chan is much more optimistic with the idea of bringing everyone together and makes bracelets for his family, but Natsuki isn’t so happy with the idea and in a shocking confrontation, slaps Sakura in anger and bitterness. Yuki goes and chides his for his actions but Natsume is stubborn to the point that he brushes even his best friend aside, and runs off. The episode concludes with Sakura disappearing and the family trying to find her.
What I loved most about this episode was that it presented Natsuki in not the most good-natured light. Tsuritama so far has been a show about facing expectations and running away from those expectations. The show started with Yuki running from what society expected him to be, but soon opening himself up to friendship and becoming more confident. Haru runs from what humans expect from him, but he at least does his best to understand human expectations as he tries to adapt to the culture. Akira struggles with what he expects of himself and what Duck expects from him. Natsuki’s story then, ties with his family, and how he struggles to deal with their expectations as he also tries to hold onto his past and repressed emotions. Unlike the others however, Natsuki has to become worse to become better- that’s just the sort of stubborn kid he is, and as seen in this episode, he fights so hard against change. Against his father’ idea of changing the shop, of getting a new companion, of the idea that they could ever be a happy family again- all of these changes scare Natsuki as much as they anger him and the same resolve that allows him to be the Prince of fishing is the same stubbornness that makes him slap his own sister. It’s still wrong however- all Sakura wanted to do was reunite her family.
This all gets wrapped up in the next episode where Sakura disappears, and it’s only then does Natsuki understand the meaning of family. Desperately searching for her with his family till he realizes what it’s like to empathize, Natsuki finds Sakura at the spot where their mom used to take them to eat. Now closed, rusty and abandoned, the shop is no more. But the memories are very much alive. Natsuki needed a brutal slap to the face- in a more dramatic way than how he treated Sakura- to understand the importance of what it means to have a family. Does this mean he accepts his father’s change? Not necessarily. But the best part is that he accepts that there are going to be things that you can change and he can only do whatever he can to the best of his ability. It’s a sweet reunion but also a closing chapter to Natsuki’s arc.
The best part of these two episodes however, was when Yuki stood up to Natsuki and called him out on his actions. It just goes to show how far Yuki has progressed in this show. The fact that Yuki first and goes and buys his own equpiment with his own money. That doesn’t just show a financial responsibility- that Yuki has become independent not just through emotional hard work but physical as well. Yuki then catches a fish on his gut instinct after being taught all there can be taught on fishing and succeeds. He makes the calls, he makes the decisions and when he makes a mistake, he understands it and adjusts to it. He then stops Natsuki- the same Natsuki who he has been so dependent on not just for fishing lessons but for emotional support and for friendship and expressing himself- and demands that Natsuki apologize to his sister. Yuki, the same boy who seven episodes ago couldn’t even say a word in front of a classroom, now fully independent but not cocky, caring but not too afraid to speak. And then in the next episode, he goes and confronts his grandmother telling her that despite never having parents, he was glad to have her as his mom and dad. And that he was lonely and scared before meeting friends, but he acknowledged his weakness and wanted to move on, with his grandmother. Forget sappy (Yeah, I teared up a bit). This? This is the sort of character development I adore. It’s subtle and you don’t realize it till it slaps you in the face and it’s wonderful.
Haru and Akira get their own character development, too. Akira for the first time calls Haru by his name and confronts him directly about the Bermuda situation and why Haru and his sister are really here. It’s around this time you realize that the show is slowly delving into the plot part, and that’s just fine, with such great pacing on character development. Haru realizes that he doesn’t want to endanger anyone like he did before, and while he doesn’t say it directly, he definitely says a sort of “goodbye” to Keito and an unknowing Yuki. It’s an equal change from the annoying, unaware Haru to an emotionally heartfelt one who knows how to take things seriously now. Akira finally gets the guts to take Haru’s side after realizing that he’s not dangerous after all- and pays the price dearly, being stripped of his Duck duty and getting trapped. All the while the storm is brewing as more residents become mind controlled to perform the dance.
Whereas seven episodes ago we would have never imagined these weird dorks fishing together and smiling, here, it’s totally possible- and does. Natsuki exclaims that he wish that this friendship- this way of fishing and way of life could last forever. While it’s touching and also heartbreaking because of the things to come, it signals the true bonds of these friends. Not just through fishing, or through cutting Natsuki’s hair, but through interaction. Through confession. Each one has opened up something new and confident in the other, something heartfelt and open and raw, and that’s what this show is about. As we see our heroes fish in the distance, it’s like we’re proud of them- like we’ve come to know them as good friends too. They’re emotionally accessible and lasting. Now that is well written, dynamic characterization.
But nothing good ever lasts. All in all, it’s a great setup for a climax that’s surely to really deliver, more on terms of emotions than anything else, because this show has done such a great job of building relationships and characters so far. With flags over everyone’s heads at this point- even the flowers called Keito- it makes me wonder if Tsuritama will go there to that edge and still come out resonating brightly and cheerfully as ever. We can only hope to find out!
Enjoyment Level: 9/10