“Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.” –Dave Barry
Hina’s parents are surprised to learn that she’s joined the Breakwater Club, but her father mentions that the club’s been around since his time as a student. The next day, Hina is exhausted by PE class and barely makes it to the Breakwater Club’s clubroom. Here, they find Yūki lounging around: it turns out there’s a pile of reels that need untangling, and Hina demonstrates proficiency at untangling them. Natsumi then helps Hina clean up the reels’ interior and get them ready for use. Makoto arrives, reprimands Yūki for having delegated a task to Hina and Natsumi when she should’ve done it herself, and the girls then head out to practise casting. Hina inadvertently hits Natsumi a few times too many, but with the proper implements and some tips from Yūki, she manages to get the gist of casting. The girls later begin to fish for flathead: Hina learns how to set up soft lures on a hook and the technique for moving the lure to attract larger fish. Despite her fear of larger fish, and reeling in detritus from the ocean floor, Hina persists, eventually catching an impressive flathead. Yūki sets the task of killing and cleaning the flathead to Hina, saying that one must see the entire process through. Hina’s fear gets the better of her, so Makoto ends up preparing the fish for dinner. Hina finds freshly-caught fish doubly delicious for the fact that she’d caught it herself, although she still faints when Makoto offers her the flathead’s head to enjoy. This is about as far as we’re going into Houkago Teibou Nisshi for the present: on account of the current world health crisis, production has been indefinitely suspended and will resume once the outbreak is contained.
Continuing on in Hina’s journey into the Breakwater Club and fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi establishes that the series is going to be more than just having a line in the water: the entire process of fishing, from learning the right technique for casting and properly maintaining one’s equipment, to the duty of killing and preparing a fish for consumption, will be portrayed. Houkago Teibou Nisshi thus begins to show the importance of experiencing something in its entirety in order to appreciate the things around us, and now that an overview of fishing has been presented, with other members of the Breakwater Club stepping in to help Hina out and illustrate the processes at a coarse granularity, it follows that as Houkago Teibou Nisshi continues, Hina will be eased into things more gently to ensure she both understands what she’s doing, as well as acclimatise to things that she might consider frightening. Over time, these experiences will doubtlessly help Hina in several areas, most notably, her fear of insects and her comparatively poor physical condition. Of course, it is still early to be determining what themes and messages Houkago Teibour Nisshi has in store for viewers, but if the first quarter is indicative of what’s upcoming, then viewers can be reasonably assured of a series whose message is about the importance of the journey, with Hina’s experiences in fishing at its core.
Screenshots and Commentary
- So far, Houkago Teibou Nisshi has given the impression that every day is sunny and beautiful in Sashiki, but a glance at climate charts shows that it rains a bit here during the summer: on average, half the days are rainy in June and July, and a third of the days see rain in August. Before I continue, I note that I’ve opted to spell the series’ title out without a macron: while I typically use macrons for Hepburn romanisations, it also makes it more difficult for a search engine to index, and moreover, most romanisations of the series’ title gives things as -ou rather than -ō, so the former would make it easier for people to find my talks.
- Hina attends Kumamoto Kenritsu Ashikita High School, which is located 1.2 kilometres from Sashiki Station and a short six-minute walk from the Sashiki River. It’s the start of a new school year now, and in April, the Sashiki area gets around 10 days of rain: the Sashiki area is far wetter than anything I have back home, and their April remains wetter than the rainiest month where I am. Because Hina is starting a new year, I am aware that Houkago Teibou Nisshi opens in the spring, but the atmospherics in the anime feel more summer-like even now.
- After an exhausting PE class, Hina looks forwards to lunch, and swaps out one of her fried horse mackerel fry for one of Natsumi’s namero, a seafood dish made of fish pounded into a disk shape and marinated with a combination of ginger and vinegar, then seared over a pan with spices and miso. Its unique combination of ingredients combine natural antiseptics together to keep the dish safe for eating, since namero was a fisherman’s food. Natsumi is enjoying the sanga-yaki version here, which is deep fried and allows the namero to keep its shape better.
- After the days’ classes come to an end, Hina and Natsumi take a bit of a bike ride to reach the Breakwater Club’s building, a small shack located a ways from the school. They find Yūki lazing about without any inclination to do anything. As it turns out, she’s got a pile of tangled reels that are nigh-unusable. Demonstrating her talents for anything relate to strings, Hina wastes no time in getting things untangled. However, there are some reels that seem even beyond her skill.
- Fortunately, Natsumi is on hand: she knows that the reels can be opened to pull the spool out, and this allows Hina to untangle the remainder. Besides this, Natsumi also oils up the components to ensure the reels can play their wire out smoothly. Before long, the reels are in excellent condition, ready to be used for fishing, and here, Makoto shows up. It turns out that these reels actually all belong to Yūki, who was too lazy to sort out her own gear.
- As it turns out, Yūki is fond of abusing her seniority and in the previous year, had gulled Makoto into untangling and maintaining her gear. Despite her gentle disposition and voice, Makoto can be intimidating when the situation demands it. Houkago Teibou Nisshi seamlessly integrates comedic visual effects, such as Yūki taking on the features of a fox caught red-handed in the midst of wrong doing, which accentuates the sense that this anime is meant to be relaxing.
- Hina ends up with a fishing rod of her own, and the girls thus decide to go give Hina a crash-course in casting a line. A sign in the clubroom refrigerator reads “Eat what you catch”, which seems to be the core tenant of the Breakwater Club. Hina’s poor fitness leave her lacking the confidence to fish well, and so, one of the routes that Houkago Teibou Nisshi will take is the gradual changes to Hina’s physical ability as she spends more times doing outdoor activities.
- Makoto is an expert with fishing and knows the techniques well, but like Koisuru Asteroid‘s Ao, does not have the same ability to convey this knowledge in an accessible manner for beginners. Her instructions for Hina are highly complicated; they appear better suited for someone who’s got some experience with fishing, know the terminology and theory and are looking to improve her technique.
- The Breakwater Club’s facilities are located near the Tsurugiyamashuraku Community Centre: the building’s distinct red roof can be seen here, and looking around the area, it looks like the Breakwater Clubs’ club building is a derelict shack in real life with boarded-up windows. This is the closest I can bring readers using Google Street View, which shows the breakwater as it appears from the road, but a 360 photo allows readers to gain a sense of what standing on the breakwater feels like and shows the statue that Natsumi takes cover behind is, in fact, real. With the process I described in the opening post to Houkago Teibou Nisshi (which was, incidentally, taken from here and posted to a 4ch without credit), visitors should have a pretty straightforwards time in finding this spot.
- By a combination of bad luck and worse technique, Hina somehow manages to get the hook caught on Natsumi’s skirt, bringing to mind a hilarious, if cruel moment from Yama no Susume where Hinata pulls down Aoi’s skirt by mistake after tripping. While the comparisons to Yama no Susume make it sound like Houkago Teibou Nisshi is a retreating of Yama no Susume with fishing, the reality is that the dynamic between Hina and Natsumi are rather different compared to Aoi and Hinata.
- By comparison, Yūki’s explanation is much more accessible: dispensing with the specialised terminology, she takes a more direct route in explaining what Hina should be doing in her technique and introduces a shortcut for Hina to remember; since the fishing rod itself is flexible, a large arm motion is not needed to propel the line out far, and it’s more of a snapping motion. In this way, Yūki is Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Mira, able to take a technique and complex procedure and reduce it to simpler terms that Hina can get.
- Once Hina gets the technique down, it’s a matter of aiming properly: her casting still somehow manages to find Natsumi even when the latter takes cover behind a small statue on the breakwater. Yūki’s reaction mirrors that of the viewer’s, but eventually devises a solution. By using a float, she plans to give Hina something to aim towards and decides to draw Natsumi’s likeness on it to play on the fact that Hina’s uncannily accurate about hitting Natsumi.
- After Hina gets the hang of things, Natsumi decides to join in as well, and remarks that whenever fishing, she enjoys catching larger fish. By comparison, Hina is apprehensive about catching larger fish for fear of getting pulled into the water. Natsumi demonstrates her casting technique, and here, the Tsurugiyamashuraku Community Centre is visible in the background. A quick bit of Google-fu shows that Kumamoto Kenritsu Ashikita High School is about 5.6 kilometres from the Breakwater Club’s building, and I do not doubt that once the restrictions are lifted, fans of Houkago Teibou Nisshi will likely show up to the site, as they did for Yuru Camp△‘s Motosu High School, although whether or not this will convince the town turn the shack into a tourist attraction as Motosu High School did will remain to be seen.
- After an afternoon spent practising casting, the sun begins to set, and it’s time to call it a day. Natsumi manages to catch a sea bass but promptly loses it after the fish slips off her hook: when Hina begins to express worry about large fish, Makoto’s mind goes into overdrive. She’s evidently fond of the Breakwater Club and desires for Hina to stay, so outside of her thoughts, she does her best to reassure Hina that it was probably a smaller, but energetic sea bass.
- The girls decide that their next target will be catching Platycephalidae, a family of fish better known by their common name, flathead. However, when asked to produce a picture of one, Natsumi shows an image of a frilled shark instead as retaliation for smashing her repeatedly with the lure earlier. While aquatic life can appear frightening, for me, the most intimidating are Eunice aphroditois and any jawless fish of the order Petromyzontiformes – everything else looks pretty cool.
- The next day, the Breakwater Club grabs all of the gear they need to go fishing for flathead. Flatheads broadly refer to a family of fish with distinct heads that spend most of their time on the seafloor in the sand, and while they can reach sizes of up to three metres, are more commonly 40-50 cm in length. Because of their preferred habitat, the Breakwater Club must go a ways away from their usual fishing spot to catch them: in order to transport their gear more easily, Yūki’s procured a pull-cart.
- It suddenly strikes me that Makoto looks a great deal like my character in The Division 2: until recently, I ran with a full riot police outfit, but thanks to unlocking new high-end cosmetics, a special Division ball cap and emergency services glasses, I can definitely rock the Makoto Ōno look. Like my The Division 2 character, Makoto is in excellent physical condition and operates the fully-loaded pull-cart with ease, as well as effortlessly picking up Hina and Natsumi for transport.
- With their gear loaded up properly, everyone is ready to roll and head towards their fishing site. The girls, save Natsumi, all wear hats to block out the sun: given how much time everyone spends outdoors, a good hat for providing shade is essential. One wonders if why Natsumi forgoes a hat might be covered in a later episode. As Houkago Teibou Nisshi progresses, the soundtrack continues to impress, and I’m more excited than ever to hear the wonderful music of this series. So far, there’s no news of the soundtrack, though.
- The site that Yūki’s chosen to go fishing for flatheads is Tsurugahama Beach, located 1.1 kilometres north of their usual fishing grounds: it’s just south of the Kumamoto Prefectural Ashikita Youth Centre, which can be seen on the upper left-hand-side of the screenshot, and there is indeed a breakwater here. Tsurugahama Beach is a popular spot amongst locals, who love the sights and sounds: some locals count it as the best beach in all of Kyushu, citing its crystal clear waters as one of the best aspects about this beach.
- Before she can begin fishing for flatheads, first, Hina must prepare her lures. This time, they’re using decoys as bait: these decoys are slid over the hook to mimic a real fish that will attract the flatheads. Like Koisuru Asteroid, Yuru Camp△ and Yama no Susume, Houkago Teibou Nisshi goes through the trouble of ensuring that the details are correct: just as any backyard astronomer will smile at the fact that Koisuru Asteroid knows its stuff about telescope setup, how Yuru Camp△ properly explains how to start a fire for campers and how Yama no Susume covers the proper technique for descending a trail, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is sufficiently well-researched so that for any viewer who fishes, they won’t be wincing in horror at missed details.
- With some tutelage from Yūki, Hina learns how to move her fishing rod in such a way as to replicate the movements of a live fish, and also “see” where her lure is at it skims the bottom. Her technique gradually improves over the course of the afternoon, and one might say that Hina does have a natural disposition towards fishing despite her outward appearance: when Hina begins to pout at collecting yet more driftwood and seaweed, Yūki observes that Hina’s the type of person who is results-oriented.
- After spending much of the afternoon pulling out seaweed and driftwood, Hina gets a bite on her line, and the prize is a lively one. Yūki immediately suggests that Hina pull the rod in and hold onto it firmly, then reel the flathead in at a steady pace. This is to mimic the movement of a smaller fish and ensure that the catch does not catch on to the fact it’s being pulled in (otherwise, it will let go of the line).
- From a combination of her low physical strength and the fact that her technique isn’t all there yet, Hina immediately loses sight of Yūki’s suggestions and finds herself pulled out into the water. This is probably the tensest it’s been in all of Houkao Teibou Nisshi, and even in the most calming slice-of-life series, excitement and suspense from watching the characters and hoping for their best is something that gives the genre additional life.
- The ferocity of the flathead is such that Hina is nearly pulled off the breakwater and into the water. Swift action from Makoto prevents this from happening, and in the aftermath, the flathead is reeled in. As Yūki mentions, Hina does seem to have a bit of luck in catching fish: Makoto, Natsumi and Yūki were not able to catch anything. Whereas Yūki prefers to stay in one spot, Natsumi and Makoto try moving around. According to fishing guides, whether one should move or stay put is dependent on several factors, such as tidal movement and fish feeding patterns.
- Upon reeling the fish in, Hina bursts into tears while the others look on, and the sight of a crying Hina is so endearing that Yūki and Natsumi cannot help but laugh. In my last post on Houkago Teibou Nisshi, a reader wondered if I felt the series had any of the moé aesthetic common to the shows that I watch, and it looks like here, I’ve gotten my answer for them – Houkago Teibou Nisshi is definitely of the same category as something like Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△, and Hina evokes the same feeling as does Yama no Susume‘s Aoi Yukimura.
- Yūki raises the point that since Hina caught the fish, she must see things through to the end and kill the fish, as well. This moment, and Hina’s reluctance, lends itself to the chosen page quote. The Japanese have a technique, ikejime (活け締め), that minimises pain for the fish and preserves the quality of the meat: by inserting a knife blade into the hindbrain, behind and above the eye, severs the brain and connection to the spinal cord, preventing the fish from reflexively convulsing, which produces lactic acid and ammonia. This technique has since become more widespread, since it is both more humane for the fish and ensures the fish’s quality: as Yūki mentions, a swift and decisive cut is needed, and the fish will continue to suffer until the deed is done.
- After the initial shock of killing the fish wears off, Hina enjoys the freshly-prepared flathead: Makoto’s prepared it both as sashimi and fried it. There really is nothing like fresh fish, but for folks like myself, who reside a thousand kilometres from the nearest ocean, I’ll do with the fish that one can pick up from the supermarket. Even then, with the proper preparation, fish is delicious, and one of my favourite dishes is the crab-topped salmon bake, which requires crab meat, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Most recipes recommend imitation crab meat, but real crab meat results in a tastier final result. After mixing together the latter and then evenly spreading it on top of the salmon, the entire thing is baked at 350ºF for around 25-30 minutes. The resultant dish is delicious, being hearty and zesty at the same time.
- As a reward for catching the fish, Makoto offers Hina the fish head, which was made into a flavourful soup, but at the sight of the head, Hina faints. While it’s easy to pass this off as comedic, the scene also shows just how green Hina is to aquatic life, and there remains a considerable distance before she’ll be more comfortable with fishing as a whole. This is going to be the remainder of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which I am looking greatly forwards to once the series continues airing. With this post in the books, I have a special topics post on Koisuru Asteroid upcoming as the one-month mark passes on the finale’s airing, as well as one final talk on KonoSuba: I will be dealing with the second OVA before finally advancing into the movie.
A quarter of the way into Houkago Teibou Nisshi, it becomes apparent that this the season’s premiere anime for relaxing: with its laid-back portrayal of the nuances of fishing, beautiful scenery and a wonderful soundtrack, Houkago Teibou Nisshi excels in helping viewers to slow down and smell the roses: it’s a story of self-discovery and also helps viewers to appreciate the sort of work that professional fishermen do. While fishing is a pastime for some, for most, our seafood is caught at a commercial scale by professionals, and for the most part, all that we need to do is prepare the fish in a manner of our choosing. As such, Houkago Teibou Nisshi reminds viewers that behind every fish is a story, where appreciation of this story helps us to become closer with the foods that we enjoy. This is about as far as I can go with Houkago Teibou Nisshi for the present – the series is on hiatus until the current pandemic begins to recede, and for now, it’ll be a waiting game. The delay of anime is the latest instance of just how far-reaching and damaging the coronavirus outbreak has been, and in times like these, adhering to recommendations from health experts and maintaining physical distance is advised if one seeks a swifter return to normalcy. I will be returning to talk about Houkago Teibou Nisshi in all my usual fervour once the time is appropriate to do so, and in the meantime, I hope that my readers are keeping healthy and safe.