My father first pressed a fishing rod into my hands in the summer before I started first grade.
It wasn’t out of romance or passing on something to his daughter; in spite of being a nature-lover he hadn’t fished much in his life. No, I had begged for this fishing rod and reaching the age of six meant that my parents had considered the hazards of an accidental hook-through-body-part injury and had weighed in favor of my increasing common sense.
I received a beginner rod. One with the reel attached to the rod, encased in plastic so you couldn’t see the spool of the reel at all. In a brown paper bag my father handed me a tiny box filled with tiny hooks, tiny metal sinkers, and a tiny plastic bobber that was a poor mimicry of a red and white mooring buoy. As soon as he handed it to me, I ran out to our backyard and practiced casting. We were to leave for Maine the next day, and I wanted to impress my friend Robb who, in spite of us being the same age, had the advantage of an older brother to steal fishing equipment from.
Upon arriving in Maine, I risked the inevitable scolding from my parents, skipped helping them unpack the car, and ran down to my friend’s cabin. His was situated down by the dock where a large pine tree loomed over the lake, creating the perfect hideaway for fish. Ignoring the fact that it was two in the afternoon, brilliantly sunny, and probably around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I plopped myself down on that dock, grabbed a squirming nightcrawler from the dirty styrofoam container that I had begged my parents to pick up at the general store on the way, and began to fish.
After about an hour, Lisa Sweet, the pretty teenage daughter of another family friend, stopped by to say hello. I was nice, but spoke quietly as to not scare the fish away. After another hour and a half, Robb stopped by to politely tell me that I should probably wait until later and suggested baseball instead. I politely refused.
My memory is hazy on how long I resolutely sat on that dock, determined to catch a fish. (I know I went through several waterlogged worms and narrowly avoided a sunburn thanks to my mother’s forcibly rubbing suntan lotion on me as I sat.) Following what seemed like an eternity, it happened. My first fish. A tiny perch to go with my tiny rod, reel, and paper-bag tackle box.
After that, and please pardon the pun, I was hooked. Fishing became a way of relaxing. I could focus on the “whirr-click-plop” of the lure hitting the water and pause life to organize and channel my racing mind. In Tsuritama fishing is used the same way, literally pulling protagonist Yuki out from drowning in his own social anxiety. As soon as the fish tugs on his line he is forced to focus on the task at hand instead of being consumed by his own fears of inadequacy.
Tsuritama‘s debut episode also shows how alluring fishing can be due to its unpredictable and often (when framed within the context of our own minds) whimsical nature. In spite of the local “Prince of Fishing” Natsuki telling Yuki that he’s using his lure wrong, against the odds much like my six year-old self, Yuki gets a bite immediately. Further proof that, whether you have a boat with multiple downriggers or a bamboo pole with a day-old worm cemented on the hook, there’s an aspect to fishing that will always be out of one’s control.
Lack of control is something that both of the respective protagonists in noitaminA’s two offerings this season struggle to come to grips with in their restless lives. Both jazz and fishing encapsulate those off-beat pieces of life that confound us as much as they fascinate. Now that Yuki has been forcibly jerked from his panic attacks I’m curious to see what fishing has in store for him.