“Tapioca, I don’t like such stifling relationships.”
-Akira Agarkar Yamada, Tsuritama Episode Three
Tsuritama is a wacky series with a serious amount of energy. With so much going on, I often feel that I’m missing interesting details as the flurry of colorful images wash over me under Kenji Nakamura’s confident direction. This, much like the film reel in Yuki’s head, is an attempt to organize said details by way of the series’ ability to develop nuanced and interesting relationships.
The Introvert and the Alien: Yuki Sanada and Haru
The primary relationship of Tsuritama is the developing friendship between socially-inept protagonist Yuki Sanada and supposed-alien Haru. The latter’s role as a catalyst for Yuki is established from Episode One when Yuki’s grandmother Keito agrees to take him in provided he fulfills a promise to her.
Where Yuki is shy and unable to express himself to an extreme, Haru is the exact opposite. The series pays close attention to who Yuki speaks with and when, giving us most of his thoughts through an inner monologue, keeping them a mystery to the characters who occupy the series with him. Haru, on the other hand, speaks with anyone and everyone. By Episode Four, Haru is best friends with everyone in town while Yuki is just beginning to speak directly to those he trusts without having a panic attack. This leads to Haru becoming Yuki’s translator to those who are unable to comprehend Yuki’s awkward silences and frenzied facial expressions.
While this benefits Yuki immediately, and paves the way for Yuki’s gradual transformation it also begins to stifle him. When first introduced, Yuki’s thoughts were 95% inaudible and 5% stuttering exclamations in the heat of a moment. By Episode Four, Yuki finally manages to express his thoughts to Natuski without awkwardness. His prior lack of voicing his opinion makes the words that he does choose to speak that much more meaningful. What is also significant is the fact that he is only able to voice his opinion to Natsuki in Haru’s absence.
Haru’s transformation is also interesting as he begins to consider the weight and meaning behind his words. His energetic but ultimately empty niceness born of good intentions gives way to actual feelings and emotional ties. In Episode Three we see him physically reject his sister’s plea to abandon Yuki, and choose to be by Yuki’s side through an emotional moment. This movement away from alien nicety to risk an actual friendship continues in Episode Four when Haru offers to throw away his prized mind-control water gun to make Yuki happy. The water gun itself becomes a metaphor for Haru’s alien nature, with notably less reliance on the object as the series, and Haru’s character, progresses. Haru still may not fully understand why the things he does are “bad” in Yuki’s eyes; however, the seeds have been sown for some real emotional growth on his part.
The Introvert and the Prince: Yuki Sanada and Natsuki Usami
Yuki and Natsuki have far more in common than either of them realize within the series. For as much as Natsuki is annoyed at Yuki’s inability to express himself, Natsuki rarely expresses his own emotions openly. It makes glimpses like his victory poster in the fishing shop or breaking into a smile while running that much more infectious and genuine. With Yuki on one end of the social spectrum and Haru light-years away at the other, the reserved Natsuki falls somewhere in between the two.
Natsuki’s methods of communication are also far more action-oriented than other characters in the series. Rather than fumbling with words, he expresses his emotions best through something he loves: fishing. When recognizing in Episode Four that Yuki was struggling to understand his friendship with Haru, Natsuki’s only words are, “Don’t you want to go fishing?”
As mentioned previously, Haru is also conspicuously absent from Yuki’s first catch. It’s necessary that Haru is absent for Yuki to finally be able to express his emotions both to Natsuki through words, and to himself through fishing.
The Prince and the Alien: Natsuki Usami and Haru
Natsuki and Haru’s relationship is a bit more difficult to discern due to the fact that much of their interaction occurs through Yuki. Haru works a bit of the same magic on Natsuki, although Natsuki, being far more aloof than openly awkward (like Yuki is) tends to treat Haru with a veneer of general annoyance.
It’s unclear as to how much involvement Natsuki suspects Haru of in forcing Natsuki and his father to fish together. What is apparent is that Natsuki, in spite of his emotional reactions to his father’s relationship developments, has the maturity and the insight to know that Haru did not mean any harm. He recognizes that Haru has helped Yuki exponentially, one of the results being Natsuki’s own friendship with Yuki.
Akira, the Observer:
Akira Agarkar Yamada, in spite of appearing as the fourth main character, has not formed a relationship with any of the other three leads. Instead, he takes the more distant role of being an informed observer. Acting almost like a Greek chorus at times, he appears to be privy to more information than we the audience are. Instead of interacting he offers tidbits of commentary, often at the end of the episode, that give insight to the relationships that are already developing within the series.
The initial quote at the beginning of this post touches upon how codependent Yuki and Haru’s relationship has the potential to become. Bookended with the quote below that remarks on Haru’s motive, I’m exceptionally curious to see how Akira ends up interacting with the rest of the crew.
“Tapioca, you don’t think he came to make friends, do you?”