“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” –Henry David Thoreau
After moving to a small coastal town, Hina Tsurugi had looked forwards to the start of high school and planned to join a handcrafting club, which is her hobby. While out to pick up a few things, Hina notices a girl swaying about on the breakwater. She rushes off to help, fearing the girl has heatstroke, but trips in the process. The girl introduces herself as Yūki Kuroiwa and explains that she’d been looking for marine life underneath the waves. Her fishing reel had also been tangled, and she was struggling to untangle it; thanks to Hina’s experience with knots, she straightens things out. Impressed, Yūki invites Hina to try fishing out, and Hina ends up pulling an octopus out of the water. She agrees to join the Breakwater Club on condition that Yūki removes the octopus from her sight, and when school starts, she decides to rescind her application. However, when classes end, the Breakwater Club’s headquarters is empty, and only one other girl is seen: this is Natsumi Hodaka, whom Hina had once been neighbours with. Soon after, Yūki arrives with one other club member, Makoto Ōno. When they hear of Hina’s wish to join another club, they ask her to give fishing one more shot before making a decision. With Natsumi’s help, Hina begins fishing for Japanese Horse Mackerel fry, and learns that with their fishing rods, can catch several at a time. Makoto ends up using a portable stove to fry these fish, and Hina is amazed at how well it tastes, although when she makes to clean up and finds the container for bait filled with insects, she panics. This is Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“After-school Embankment Journal”, English title Diary of our days at the Breakwater) after one episode, which is this season’s easygoing slice-of-life series that follows Hina and her journey into the world of fishing.
In dealing with fishing, an activity that requires skill, equipment and patience to enjoy, and a profession that is demanding and dangerous on those who are employed in it, Houkago Teibou Nisshi approaches fishing from a completely different angle, being more of a laid-back activity that allows one to appreciate the oceans and its bounty. Thematic elements will present themselves as Houkago Teibou Nisshi continues, but immediately, the anime wastes no time in establishing its intentions through its settings and atmosphere. Hina’s new home in the seaside town is a quiet, relaxing place with a beautiful view of the ocean and endless skies that invite exploration. The incidental music captures the languid, peaceful tenour of the town; in spite of Hina’s entomophobia, the seaside town is ultimately a peaceful place that will allow Hina to grow and make discoveries at her own pace. The slow pacing Houkago Teibou Nisshi conveys means that for viewers, the intricacies and nuances of fishing will also be presented in a way as to ensure viewers can follow along; Hina is the stand-in for the viewer, and the explanations of different techniques and equipment will help viewers to follow along as Hina learns more about the activity that she’s compelled to pick up now. Unlike last season’s Koisuru Asteroid, where I had prior background in both astronomy and geology to follow along, fishing is something that I am not versed in, and so, it will be interesting to see how Houkago Teibou Nisshi presents fishing to viewers.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Houkago Teibou Nisshi wastes no time in establishing Hina as being someone who is kind-hearted, but who is initially in love with handicrafts. Yama no Susume‘s Aoi Yukimura is similar to Hina in almost every way: both love crafts and knitting, are soft-spoken and not particularly good with speaking their minds, have a phobia and a childhood friend who’s energetic and would love nothing more than to get them into a new activity. Shortly after arriving in town, Hina runs into Yūki, who speaks with a rural dialect and is quite experienced at fishing.
- One thing leads to another, and Hina ends up picking up the reel to give things ago, at Yūki’s encouragement. Hina is able to pull an octopus from the water, sending her into hysterics, and I am reminded of Survivorman, where Les Stroud found a squid on the beaches of Tiburón island and after some consideration, cooks it as a survival food. Octopus is popular in Japan, being used in a variety of dishes (takoyaki is one of the better known ones), although to the best of my knowledge, octopus is not as common in Cantonese cuisine: while we have steamed squid with curry as dim sum, and calamari is a delicious when deep-fried with salt and pepper or in a stir-fry, I’m not too familiar with any dishes with octopus.
- That Hina is able to catch something within a few minutes of picking up the reel shows that whether she likes it or not, she does seem to have a bit of affinity for fishing: the only time I’ve ever fished was during a class trip to the Pacific coast during middle school. I remember filling out a fishing license that was good for a few years and then spent a few hours with classmates out on the inside passage on a boat. While I wasn’t able to catch anything, one of my classmates caught something, and that was cleaned and fried for everyone to enjoy. We also had a pile of Dungeness Crab; some of my classmates had been a bit squeamish in helping to prepare the crabs for eating, but having grown up watching the preparation of live crab, I remember enjoying that experience and participated with gusto.
- Capitalising the moment, Yūki agrees to pull the octopus off Hina provided she joins the Breakwater Club. Elsewhere, I’ve heard people call Yūki out for taking advantage of Hina’s phobia to coerce her into joining their club and use this as the basis for why the Breakwater Club is so short on members, but this is a rather pessimistic way of thinking, and generally speaking, is not a method that is particularly applicable towards slife-of-life series, which are oriented around friendship and discovery. Yūki’s actions are to be taken as nothing more than done for the sake of comedy, and does not speak poorly to her character.
- Hina eventually faints from the stress, and comes to in the Breakwater Club’s headquarters, a small but well-appointed shack by the seaside. She finds Yūki gutting the octopus and preparing it for cooking: upon seeing the octopus’ entrails, she faints again. The nonchalant way that Yūki prepares the octopus shows her experience, and I am again, reminded of Les Stroud during Survivorman, where he often shows the preparation of freshly caught fish on camera: he shows some of the cleaning on screen with fish, such as during his Arctic Tundra episode, although for animals like rabbit and squirrel, he does most of the preparations off screen for sensibility’s sake.
- Houkago Teibou Nisshi is made by Doga Kobo, which handled last season’s Koisuru Asteroid, but there is a bit of a gap in visual quality between the two: Koisuru Asteroid was passable in its visuals, but never particularly impressed with its landscapes, whereas here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the scope and scale of environments is more impressive. Here, a view of Sashiki, Kumamoto is shown: like numerous slice-of-life series before it, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is based off a real-world location, and the town itself is located along the Hisatsu Orange Railway. With a warm and rainy clmate, Sashiki is known for its farmer’s market, as well as the ruins of Sashiki Castle and the Shiroyama Skydome.
- Upon hearing some classmates disparage the Breakwater Club, Hina’s resolve to rescind her application increases: Yūki had seemed intimidating enough, and fishing wasn’t something that Hina felt herself to be too interested in. In any other situation outside of anime, the likelihood of Hina standing down would mean she would end up joining the handicrafts club, and then there’d be no anime: like MythBusters, fiction stacks the deck in order to accommodate a story and its intended message.
- For international visitors interested in visiting Sashiki, the easiest way to do so would be to take a flight to Fukuoka Airport, and then hit Hakata Station. One will need two sets of tickets: the first is to go from Mizuho to Kumamoto via bullet train (2860 Yen, a 32 minute journey), and then from Kumamoto to Yatsushiro (a 29 minute journey). Upon reaching Yatsushiro, one will need to buy a two-way ticket for Sashiki: this will cost 770 Yen one-way, but it is recommended one gets the two-way ticket, since the station in Sashiki won’t sell tickets. This final leg of the journey is around 39 minutes in length, and leads one to Sashiki Station, the destination. All in all, the journey will cover about 129 kilometres and take about three hours and twenty minutes in total.
- Like Aoi and Hinata, whose reuninion had been marked by a moment of awkward silence as Aoi tried to remember who Hinata was, Hina and Natsumi’s reunion begins with Hina struggling to remember who Natsumi is. However, Hina does remember after all, having played with Natsumi when they were younger. If Hina is Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Aoi, then Natsumi is Hinata: boisterous, energetic and with a love of fishing, Natsumi is overjoyed to have Hina back in town.
- It turns out that Natsumi had also forgotten about Hina, but Yūki mentioned her to Natsumi. Because the two are close, Natsumi is fond of calling Yūki her older sister even if the two are not related, much to Yūki’s annoyance. I’m not too familiar with Kanon Takao, who voices Hina, but Yūki is voiced by Yū Sasahara, who previously voiced Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ very own Rin Namiki. Sasahara hails from Kumamoto and therefore, is able to performs Yūki with her native Kumamoto dialect (Kumamoto-ben) in Houkago Teibou Nisshi.
- Makoto Ōno is a second year student who is a member of the Breakwater club, and despite her appearance, is actually kind and gentle in manner. She resembles an amalgamation of Azumanga Daioh‘s Yomi Mizuhara and Sakaki: the former for her glasses and temperament, and the latter in appearance. Satomi Akesaka plays Makoto: I know of her as Lucky Star‘s Matsuri Hiiragi and Reina Suzuki from Wake Up, Girls!.
- While Hina intends to join the handicraft club, Yūki and Natsumi have one final request for her: they are intending to fish again today, and invite Hina to join them again so that she can make her decision after a proper experience. Being of a rural background, some translations have elected to render Yūki as speaking a very accented form of Japanese, and while I can hear subtle differences in her dialogue compared to someone like Hina’s, it’s not as apparent as a Midwestern or Appalachian English accent compared to standard English.
- Hina is introduced to the members of the Breakwater Club. I’ve heard unsubstantiated claims that the reason why the Breakwater Club is short on members is because of her personality, and I disagree on this because such characters would create conflicts that impede the ability for a series to make its message known. However, because we are only one episode in, I can take this theory to school after all of the episodes have aired: it’s a bit early for that sort of thing, and one episode usually is not enough for one to take an accurate measure of a character’s traits.
- For this round of fishing, the girls use a custom bait composed of breadcrumbs, krill and saltwater: the krill has a very distinct smell, and is a common food for marine life. Hina initially fears to touch it for its strong odour, and inwardly wonders what sort of things rural people do, while Natsumi thinks to herself that urban life has rendered Hina weak. I imagine that in upcoming episodes, the disparities between Hina’s urban background and Natsumi’s rural background will be something that will be addressed as a part of the story.
- The page quote was chosen for this opening talk to Houkago Teibou Nisshi because while the anime is going to use fishing as its core activity, what Hina will get out of things will be much more than delicious fresh-caught fish. Slice-of-life series tread very well-worn paths in this regard, delivering similar messages of exploration and friendship, but what make them uniquely worth watching is the presentation of a world that viewers might otherwise take for granted or skate over. As such, while people may fish, there is more that they can gain from fishing beyond the fish itself.
- Unlike the incident with the octopus, Hina’s first fish caught on a rod spells joy and excitement for her. While the Breakwater Club’s activities seem foreign even in a coastal town, it is not lost on me that fishing is a very relevant and applicable skill: at an individual scale, it ranges from being an enjoyable pastime to being a critical element of survival, and at scale, it is a perilous profession. Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be the first anime I’ve watched that deals with fishing in a relaxed and carefree manner – I’ve watched the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch on a few occasions, as well as Les Stroud fish in Survivorman, and both series portray things as being rather more serious, so Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be a nice change of pace.
- One thing Houkago Teibou Nisshi excels at out of the gates is its soundtrack: it’s not often that I notice the incidental music to a series after one episode, but Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s done a strong job with its music to augment its atmosphere. The use of woodwinds is reminiscent of the music from Yuyushiki, which acted to create a picture of a peaceful sunny day in the mind’s eye, and here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the soundtrack has a very similar feel. Having said this, the soundtrack’s release date is not known at this time, and the only music for this series with a known release date is the opening theme, “Sea Horizon”: it was originally slated to be released on April 29, but the current world health crisis has pushed things back to July 22.
- After Natsumi suggests to Hina that she hold the line for longer to attract more fish, she manages to get a killtacular: four fishes on one line. Hina is all smiles here, and one could easily imagine that she’s starting to come around: they’re catching Japanese Horse Mackerel (Trachurus japonicus) fry here. At maturity, the Japanese Horse Mackerel can reach up to 50 cm in length, and lengths of 35 cm are not uncommon. Japanese cuisine typically sees these fish deep-fried, and in Korea, the Japanese Horse Mackerel is also grilled or fried. Curiously enough, the Japanese Horse Mackerel isn’t a true mackerel, only being given that common name owing to its physical resemblance to a mackerel.
- I admit that I was procrastinating on Houkago Teibou Nisshi more than I should have: we’re actually just under a half-day from the second episode’s airing, and it was in part thanks to the Easter long weekend where I had an opening to check the first episode out. Because we had turkey, it means that today, we also got to make turkey congee and youtaio with the remaining turkey bones for lunch. This fusion dish combines the North American turkey roast with Chinese rice porridge: because the turkey fat and juices from the bones infuse with the congee, it’s absolutely delicious, and gives the bones one more utility before they are discarded. Making the most of food is something I believe in, and this is something that we could see in Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Les Stroud eats the heart and liver of the fish, using the intestines and other entrails for bait, so we could see Hina and the others get creative with their fishing as well to minimise waste.
- Houkago Teibou Nisshi is off to a good start, and I am rather looking forwards to the second episode. I know I’ve put a reduced emphasis on Hina’s entomophobia here, but that’s because it is a smaller part of her character for the time being, and I expect that this is one of those things that will be addressed as the anime continues. For now, I have plans to write about this series at a quarterly interval (i.e. every three episodes), and it is here that I note that I will not be writing about Tamayomi for the season: even though it is a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, I don’t have enough functional knowledge of baseball to do anything meaningful, even compared to fishing. As such, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be the only series I will be actively writing about, for the current anime season, in the foreseeable future.
While I possess no background in fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is immediately captivating owing to a combination of its atmospherics and characters: with a beautifully-depicted town that has a warm, summer feeling to it that stands in stark contrast with the miserable remnants of winter still periodically afflicting this side of the world, Houkago Teibou Nisshi conveys a sense of warmth and vibrance. In conjunction with a lively cast of characters, each with their own unique traits and likeable in their own fashion, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is off to the right foot – I am excited to see what experiences and new discoveries await the indoors-oriented Hina, who admittedly resembles Yama no Susume’s Aoi Yukimura. In Yama no Susume, Aoi reunites with the energetic and outdoors-oriented Hinata Kuraue, and here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Natsumi fulfils that role, being the loud and boisterous friend who enjoys the outdoors. With familiar characters given a new setting, Houkago Teibou Nisshi has the opportunity to portray the joys of fishing to folks like myself, who’ve never caught a fish previously, much less picked up a fishing rod, and with this in mind, I am looking forwards to seeing how this series plays out.