“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?”
8 responses to “Hold the Line With Me: Chronicling Relationships in Tsuritama”
ah I thought of going into each and every relationship of Tsuritama’s character in episode 4 until I’ve decided not to write any episodic anymore coz it take a lot of my time to do so. This is pretty much what I had in mine anyway, although mine would probably has BL inserted somewhere :P
I find myself attracted to (not in BL way) Natsuki and Yuki’s interaction the most. It really bothers Natsuki that Yuki doesn’t say much and he seemed to always encouraging Yuki to say what’s on his mind. In episode 3, he purposely ordered Yuki to count the release of the cast out loud of which Yuki found that doing that (at first) was harder than casting the line perfectly. I lol’d at that.
Yeah…I’m not really writing this episodically (rather, I don’t want to commit to an episodic in spite of the fact that I’ve written three posts for the series already ^ ^) so I totally understand, hehe.
In the past two episodes, it’s beginning to stand out that Natsuki is a really good guy in spite of his initial standoffish presentation. He may be reserved due to family issues that he’d rather not talk about, but he is, so to speak, “a true bro.” Where Haru occasionally hurts Yuki as much as he helps him, Natsuki seemingly will be there to glue the pieces back together.
It’s a fantastic relationship dynamic, really.
Thanks for the comment!
The different relationships in this series feel like they’re getting a lot stronger as time goes on. Back in episode 1, Haru just felt like that weird guy Yuki knew, but in this short amount of time they’ve gotten noticeably friendlier and I would almost say they understand each other a little now.
Oh definitely. I would hazard a guess that, prior to Haru and subsequently Natsuki, Yuki had never actually had a friendship/meaningful relationship outside of the one with his grandmother. The Haru/Yuki dynamic is certainly interesting since it borders on codependency. Haru needs Yuki in order to understand how human relationships work, and Yuki needs Haru in order for others to begin to understand him. What was so amazing about Episode Four was that, just when their relationship was beginning to stifle both of them, they had a disagreement and pushed past it, making their friendship that much stronger.
Thanks for the comment!
For some reason I feel Yuki/Natsuki is the primary relationship in the story. Well it’s not that I think Yuki/Haru isn’t important but I almost get the feeling that Haru won’t be around forever, so the fact that Haru might be bringing Yuki & Natsuki together might be a long lasting benefit to both boys.
I would tend to agree with you in that regard. As much as I appreciate Haru and Yuki’s dynamic (see the comment above ^ ^) I think you’re right by saying that Haru won’t be around for much longer. Haru, as I said in this article, is more of a catalyst than anything else. His character has a great deal of potential for emotional growth; however, his main role is still to continuously push Yuki past his social anxiety and into meaningful relationships with others.
Haru may be the first relationship that Yuki has had outside of his grandmother (again, see the above comment) but the fact remains that he is still an alien without the more reserved barriers that nearly every human being puts up naturally. Being completely without filters, it’s much easier for Yuki to befriend Haru first, and use that relationship as a stepping stone for getting closer to actual humans, like Natsuki.
I love the way Tsuritama has this wonderful relationship web between all of the characters. The budding friendships over the past few episodes have felt incredibly endearing and natural. Seeing it all laid out in one post reminds me just how far everyone has come at this point. Well, the main trio, at least.
I’m more attached to Natsuki and his interactions with everyone (including his family. I love the silent treatment he gives his dad – it ironically speaks volumes about how he feels) compared to the other characters. Like you said, he’s a nice bridge between Yuki and Haru, and he’s actually quite sympathetic. Asking Yuki to fish is his way of comforting him without being overly intrusive and affectionate.
Do you think Akira will remain in the observer role for long, or will he jump in with the gang in time? I find it hard to picture him ever being buddy-buddy, though.
Natsuki is by far the most relateable character in this series. I’m not saying that some won’t relate to Yuki’s awkwardness, but in terms of being a character that the audience can easily identify with, Natsuki is it. I agree with the previous commenter who said that Yuki’s relationship with Natsuki is most likely the crucial relationship in the series (somewhat due to the fact that Yuki identifies Natsuki as “human” while Haru is “alien.” but I elaborate above).
You hit the nail on the head in regards to Natsuki’s character and the silent treatment that he gives his father. More to that point, I love how nuanced Natsuki’s emotions are in those scenes. He’s obviously upset with his father, but isn’t overly angsty or melodramatic about it. These scenes are almost always coupled with showing a softer side of Natsuki as well (usually a conversation with his sister).
Regarding Akira, one thing that stands out to me is his relationship with his superiors. He’s obviously thirsty to prove himself, and doesn’t appreciate being stuck in Enoshima researching Haru’s motives for visiting. He also doesn’t appear to be close to anyone other than Tapioca (who, although may understand him in some bizarre fashion, is no substitute for a friend, alien or human). His interactions with others are distant, as he is moderately friendly but also aloof and not emotional in any way.
In addition to this, there are the two quotes I chose for this article. Thanks to some commentary on this article, I recently learned that “stifling” in the first quote can also mean “sweaty” or “hot.” In other words, Akira could also not appreciate the “hotness” or passionate nature of Yuki and Haru’s relationship. This would tie in to Akira constantly keeping himself at a distance from others; he doesn’t want to bother with the messiness of emotions, especially the hot-blooded nature of male youth. ^ ^ This is why it’s hard to picture him as being especially buddy-buddy with anyone. He’s fairly stoic, even in the high-energy OP.
That being said, this makes him the toughest nut for Tsuritama to crack. Haru seemingly came to earth to make friends; Natsuki shows his friendship through actions and is a warm person in spite of his initial standoffish nature; Yuki always wanted to make friends, but couldn’t thanks to his social anxiety; then there’s Akira…