The Infinite Zenith

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Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Review and Reflections At The ¾ mark

“We have enough Pym particles for one journey each, plus two test runs…one test run.” –Scott Lang, The Avengers: Endgame

On a lazy day, while Yūki is dozing away in the clubroom, Makoto explains the concept of light rock fishing to Hina and Natsumi. Yūki overhears them and decides that this should be their activity for the day, as she’s yearning for some Scorpionfish, which is supposed go great with miso soup. Makoto lends Hina her life-jacket, and Hina manages to catch something shortly after starting out. However, the girls notice that Makoto’s been a little antsy all day. As it turns out, Makoto had fallen into the ocean and very nearly drowned on her first fishing trip, and since then, she’s preferred wearing a life-jacket for safety’s sake, being quite unable to swim. Later, when Hina forgets to study for the upcoming midterms, she swings by Natsumi’s place to study with her, before sharing with Natsumi her love for handicrafts. On a rainy day, club activities are postponed until Yūki and Makoto reveal they’ve been keeping small rods for prawn fishing in the school infirmary. They head to a nearby bridge to fish for freshwater prawns, promising to save some for Sayaka, and although Hina’s initial lack of experience means she’s unsuccessful, Yūki shows her how to properly fish for them. At the end of the day, they have a reasonable haul: Makoto fries them up, and the girls enjoy them under the cool, rainy weather. Later, Sayaka has the Breakwater Club practise floating to ensure survival in an emergency, but Makoto’s fear of the water makes it difficult for her to pick up the techniques. Sayaka ends up introducing an emergency self-inflating waist belt, which assuages Makoto’s fear, but when Hina, Natsumi and Yūki give it a whirl, an irate Sayaka charges the girls for the cost of the compressed air cans. While fishing, Hina notices a heron with a fishing wire stuck to its leg and feels guilty about fishing. Yūki has the Breakwater Club help clear litter around their fishing spot. The next day, Yūki and Hina announce a plan to help the heron out; they manage to capture it and remove the wire. The next day, the heron reappears, having come to expect Hina to give it free food.

While Houkago Teibou Nisshi had been focused on fishing and its processes thus far, the anime has also begun delving into ancillary activities and know-how: fishing, preparing catches and enjoying said catches is fun, but there is a great deal that goes on behind the scenes, from fishermen’s unions to look after local aquatic populations, to health and safety, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is open about each aspect behind the Breakwater Club’s activities. The decidedly duller details are no less important: from ensuring one is able to float and keep safe should they fall into a body of water, or making certain that one leaves no detritus or litter behind from their activities to avoid having an adverse impact on wildlife, Houkago Teibou Nisshi indicates that there is always more to something than meets the eye, and that each activity has an accompanying set of responsibilities participants must uphold. In its ninth episode, Houkago Teibou Nisshi presents a safety and wildlife awareness video elegantly rolled into Hina, Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto’s story. Having established how much fun the girls have had thus far, Houkago Teibou Nisshi gently, but also firmly, reminds viewers that there is more to their activities that must be accounted for, and that in being aware of emergency procedure, safety measures and being respectful to the environment are essentials to fishing. When all of these are factored into one’s activities, one can fully enjoy fishing in a safe and responsible manner, ensuring that they minimise disruption to the environment and also maximise the fruits of their effort.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The seventh episode opens with Makoto getting rather excited about light rock fishing, a form of fishing with its origins in Japan where fishers use a specialised kind of rod and small lures to target smaller species that make their homes in rocks underwater. As Makoto falls into a reverie and begins rambling about the technical aspects of light rock fishing, Natsumi and Hina become a little confused, prompting Makoto to stop in embarrassment. Makoto’s resemblance to Azumanga Daioh’s Yomi Mizuhara and Sakaki is more apparent than before: tall and shy like Sakaki, Makoto also has Yomi’s facial appearance and is very level-headed, keeping Yūki in check.

  • Equipped with special fishing poles and tiny lures, Yūki has the girls fishing for Scorpaenidae (commonly known as scorpionfish), which are a family of marine fishes with many highly venomous species: coming into contact with the spines on a venomous species will be extremely painful, and care must be taken to handle them to prevent injury. To render the meat from a scorpionfish safe for consumption, venomous or not, the spines must be removed, and then the fish is cooked all the way through. Properly prepared, the flesh from a scorpionfish is said to be quite delicious, being said to resemble a cross between the flaky meat of a halibut and crab in texture, as well as a similar taste to Monkfish.

  • For Hina, the scorpionfish’s fear factor lies not in the fact that it is venomous or spiny, but because it has a highly frightening appearance. Seven episodes in, Hina’s fears still remain: this is to juxtapose the fact that while she’s acclimatising to fishing, there are still things she’s not quite ready for. It also serves one more purpose – watching Hina squeal in horror and be reduced to a trembling wreck is immensely adorable, adding a bit of comedy to Houkago Teibou Nisshi.

  • Because light rock fishing has Hina stand close to the breakwater’s edge, Makoto decides to lend Hina her life-jacket, and she also is seen frequently reminding Hina to not get so close. It is uncharacteristic for Makoto to be this jumpy, but this does foreshadow a bit of exposition for her later on in the episode. As the girls begin fishing, some of their lures become caught on the bottom, and in a moment reminiscent of The Avengers: Endgame, when Scott Lang is concerned about how the limited supply of Pym Particles limits everyone to one round trip each (plus two test runs), Yūki reminds both Natsumi and Hina that their supply of lures are limited, hence the need to be careful.

  • Hina once again demonstrates her uncommon talent for catching something once she gets the hang of the technique as she reels up a scorpionfish. Hina wonders how to unhook it, and the girls immediately show her the way owing to the presence of spines. The episode doesn’t go into how the Breakwater Club prepares their catch: given the fact that anime like these usually offer a reasonable picture of things, the fact that it was omitted is a sign to users that preparing a freshly-caught scorpionfish requires advanced skill. Consequently, I imagine that the task in Houkago Teibou Nisshi would fall to either Makoto or Yūki.

  • The seventh episode’s choice to explore Makoto’s background gives viewers a strong understanding of her personality and also reminds viewers that for her talents in fishing, she’s also got weaknesses of her own: after nearly drowning, Makoto became quite fearful of falling into water and as a result, isn’t a good swimmer. This is why she’s seen with a life-jacket whenever fishing, and why she’s so pensive during the course of the episode’s events. The girls make plans to get their own life-jackets for safety’s sake, but this looks like it’ll be a task for another time.

  • In excitement about fishing and her own handicrafts, Hina’s forgotten to study for the upcoming exams. Fortunately, Natsumi is on station to help her, and she suggests a study party at her place. Like Hinata, Natsumi might be energetic and carefree, but contrary to their appearances, both girls also surprisingly responsible and focused. Seeing these depths in a character is what makes slice-of-life series so enjoyable; rarely are people one-dimensional, and having an unexpected side to individuals both serves to remind viewers that the characters are complex beings, as well as drive humour where appropriate.

  • It turns out that Natsumi’s parents run a café of sorts – the model for their café is the Grill Kakashi, which is located about seven minutes southeast of the Nishi-Hitoyoshi Station on foot and sports a distinct pyramidal appearance. Locals compliment the restaurant on its ambience, solid menu and large portions, although their staff aren’t fluent in English, and service can be a bit slow. Hitoyoshi itself is twenty-four kilometres east southeast of Sakishi, so folks looking around that area won’t have any luck locating Natsumi’s home: given the path the girls take, one would imagine that Natsumi lives along the Yunoura River, and a search for Neapolitan restaurants in Sashiki finds that the Bistro Pazapa would be the nearest candidate as the location for where Natsumi’s house is.

  • After a morning’s worth of studying, Natsumi’s mother has the girls break for lunch, where they enjoy a Spaghetti Neapolitan. This dish is, like omurice, Japanese in origin, being a spaghetti pan-fried with onion, bell pepper and ketchup. From here, it can be topped with sausage, beef and cheese. The dish is a great option when tomato sauces with herbs and spices are not available: while ketchup and spaghetti don’t initially sound like they’d go well together, pan-frying causes the ketchup to take on a different texture and character. One of my variations of the dish is to add small beef meatballs and pineapple to the pasta.

  • Thanks to Natsumi, Hina’s feeling more confident about the maths exam, and the two decide to take a break. Here, Hina has a chance to share with Natsumi her hobby of handicrafts; she’s made a fish plushie that can open up to expose the plushie’s “entrails”, impressing Natsumi and inspiring her to give it a whirl, although she admits that what Hina’s made might be too complex for her to pick up out of the gates. It’s a gentle moment that allows the two to interact in an ordinary setting, and also shows that for their sparring, like Hinata and Aoi, Hina and Natsumi genuinely do care for one another, getting along like peas in a pod.

  • On a rainy day, the Breakwater Club decides to visit a clubroom closer to their school: Yūki had managed to convince Sayaka to allow them to store small fishing rods in the infirmary, as well as make use of the space as a meeting spot should weather make it difficult to travel to their usual clubroom. Although Sayaka objects to use of school facilities for such a purpose, Yūki is able to placate Sayaka with the promise of freshly-caught freshwater prawns.

  • As the girls set off for their prawn fishing spot, the typically-blue skies of Sashiki are overcast, moody and grey. The girls stop briefly by a 7-Eleven in Ashikita along Route 27, to pick up their fishing license so they can legally fish in the river. There are two 7-Elevens in Sashiki, and this particular 7-Eleven is located just down the way from Ashikita High School. While the skies and colour palette suggests a cooler day, experience indicates that even when overcast, it can still be pretty muggy and humid in Japan.

  • I believe this is the first time in Houkago Teibou Nisshi that the weather’s been rainy: up until now, the weather in Sashiki has been shown to be extremely pleasant, with blue skies and warm days. Kumamoto has a humid subtropical climate, and in May, averages around eleven rainy days. June and July are far rainer: despite only averaging fourteen rainy days, the area can receive up to 400 millimetres of rainfall during each month. As the girls walk along the roadside en route to their fishing spot, the rain begins to fall.

  • Under a bridge crossing the river, the Breakwater Club is reasonably well-protected from the elements, and here, they begin fishing for the freshwater prawns, specifically, the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii). These are one of the biggest freshwater prawns in the world, capable of reaching thirty centimetres in length and half a kilogram in weight. Native to the Indo-Pacific area, they were introduced to Japan, and the local fisherman’s union manages their population. The fishing license that Hina and the others purchase is a means of supporting the union and their duties in preserving the local aquatic populations, as well as maintain sustainable practises.

  • As the day wears on, the rainfall and misty weather brings back memories of my vacation to Taiwan some six-and-a-half years earlier. After arriving in the Taitung area, we stopped at a jade shop located in the Huadong Valley. It had been a cool and grey day, and a part of the tour included a visit to a warehouse where the jade blocks were stored. Rain began falling as the guide explained how jade was processed and carved, and even though it was only four in the afternoon, it was quite dark. Back home, rainy days are hardly ever this moody, and here, two girls from the same high school as Hina and the others hear a piteous scream emanating from the river below as they cross the bridge that the Breakwater Club is fishing under.

  • It turns out that Hina’s having absolutely no luck with catching anything: the prawns let go of the line after taking the bait, leaving Hina with nothing. Frustration mounts, and Hina throws a small, adorable tantrum. Each of Yūki, Natsumi and Makoto have their own measures for how long to keep the line in after a prawn’s grabbed on, giving Hina a bit of trouble as she struggles to strike a balance between pulling the line in and leaving it to entice the prawns.

  • Fortunately, with guidance from Yūki, Hina soon manages to reel a prawn in. However, when she taunts it, the prawn slips off back into the river. Yūki might be a lazy individual, but her knowledge of fishing and conveying this knowledge is unparalleled – it is with Yūki’s encouragement that Hina’s managed to pick up fishing so quickly which is no mean feat. Soon after, Hina manages to help catch several of the freshwater prawns, returns a prawn with a full clutch of eggs to keep the populations healthy, and Yūki calls it in, asking Sayaka for a ride back so they may prepare the prawns for enjoyment.

  • Makoto takes on the preparation and walks viewers through her favourite recipe. After rinsing the prawns in fresh water to remove any grit and sediment, she drops them into bowl of sake, which intoxicates them and calms them down. Subsequently, the prawns are placed in a bag with starch and shaken to thoroughly coat them. From here, they can be fried in oil (Makoto recommends 170ºC) to cook them, and then salt or lemon juice is added for taste. One thing I noticed is that Makoto is cooking the prawns directly, which results in the freshest experience possible, but I’ve always learnt to devein shrimp and prawns before cooking them.

  • This large “vein” is actually the intestinal tract, and for peace of mind, I prefer taking them out. With this being said, the vein can be left in a shrimp or prawn and consumed, having no adverse impact when eaten. Once everything is good to go, the girls sit down to enjoy fresh prawns, which is easily one of my favourite seafoods to eat. Hina is shown to be eating one, shells and all – deep-frying a prawn will render the shell crunchy and palatable. However, when boiled, they are much tougher to chew and usually are discarded: I typically suck on them to get the flavour out before setting them aside.

  • Sayaka objects to the idea of getting the Breakwater Club members annual licenses to fish in the river, since it’d be quite costly: Yūki attempts to persuade her otherwise, suggesting that with the licenses, Sayaka would be able to more or less have as much prawn as she’d like. Sayaka’s counter-proposal, that Yūki allow her to drink, leaves Yūki reconsidering. While this moment might be simply seen as Sayaka falling to her old habit of drinking, from another angle, this is Sayaka firmly saying no to the licenses in a very indirect, but effective manner. Although she might have an unhealthy fondness for alcohol, Sayaka is still the school nurse and has a responsibility to her students. Being able to decline the club’s request for annual licenses in this way, therefore, shows that Sayaka is rather clever and capable of dealing with her role as the Breakwater Club’s advisor.

  • Nowhere is Makoto’s fear of open water more apparent than when she’s asked to swim – she appears to have mild aquaphobia. Despite sporting a physique that suggests athleticism, Makoto is unable to swim, and the thought of being immersed in water without any flotation device terrifies her. However, since falling into the water is a real risk during fishing, it is imperative that the girls know basic water safety, and Sayaka is on hand to teach everyone the basics, having been a lifeguard during her university days.

  • Makoto’s aquaphobia brings to mind a training exercise that all Navy SEALS must take: rescuing a panicking individual who may very well drag them down, as well – the key to survival is to keep the distressed individual’s head above the water, and also find a way to restrict their limb motion, otherwise, one risks being dragged down. It goes without saying that using force to restrain the individual is out of the question. For folks unaccustomed to open water, the fear of drowning is very real, and water safety classes will always teach the back float, the most basic and important of skills. By going onto one’s back, one keeps their head above the water and can breathe. Coupled with the body’s natural tendency to float, one can therefore be assured of some safety as they await rescue.

  • When I was much younger, I took swimming lessons, and although I’ve not swam in quite some time, I still retain enough knowledge of the basics to hopefully survive should I fall into open water. However, even with basic water safety knowledge, it can be quite dangerous to fall into a body of water; lower temperatures can cause hypothermia. Because Makoto’s phobia limits what she can do, Sayaka decides to showcase another apparatus designed for emergency use – the self-inflating emergency waist belt, which uses a can of compressed carbon dioxide and automatically inflates on contact with water.

  • These low-profile devices are compact and effective: Makoto decides to give it a test after worrying that she’ll only be a burden to the others should anything happen, and upon hitting the pool, the device inflates, keeping her above the water. Typically, there’s a small seal that keeps the compressed air in its cylinder, and on contact with water, the seal dissolves, releasing the air into the chamber. More sophisticated self-inflating life-jackets may have a pressure gauge that monitors external pressure and will engage after a certain threshold. While Houkago Teibou Nisshi does not mention this, self-inflating life-jackets will also have valves for manual inflation in the event that the automatic inflation fails.

  • In excitement, the other girls hop into the water, as well, forgetting about Sayaka’s explicit request for them not to do so: each compressed air cylinder costs a hefty two thousand yen, so having Hina, Natsumi and Yūki discharging theirs means the Breakwater Club has now expended a total of eight thousand yen, six thousand of which were unnecessary. The girls end up remunerating Sayaka for the cost of the materials, and I admit that this was a little uncharacteristic of everyone to forget instructions given to them. The unnecessary expenditure of compressed air tanks, combined with Hina and Natsumi burning through fishing lures earlier, motivates the page quote.

  • While fishing, a heron ends up eating the fish that Hina had caught but was planning on releasing. Hina is initially angry, until she notices a bit of fishing wire, hook and missing toes on the heron. She is subsequently distraught, and the Breakwater Club spends the remainder of the day cleaning up the area, removing litter and detritus around the breakwater. However, the thought of the heron hurting keeps her awake into the night, and she finally phones Yūki, who has an idea on how to proceed.

  • With permission from the municipal government, the Breakwater Club decide to capture the heron and attempt to remove the fishing wire. While Hina may dislike animals and see them as opponents, she does care about their well-being, as well: Yūki and Makoto are on board with the plan, since the heron could be in a great deal of pain. Such a task is ordinarily reserved for municipal wildlife specialists, who have both the know-how and equipment for properly freeing wildlife from difficult situations: my go-to in the case of anything unusual surrounding wildlife, from injured large birds to encountering entire deer carcasses on the road, is to call the local government and have them handle things.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi chooses to have the girls do it themselves; doing things this way is not typically exactly recommended, since there’s always the risk of biological contamination when handling wildlife. This is why municipalities will recommend people contact them, as opposed to doing things themselves. With this being said, we can assume that Yūki, Natsumi and Makoto are somewhat familiar with handling these situations on account of them being accustomed to rural life, and it is easier from an animation perspective to have them do it, as opposed to designing new characters and having separate voice actors and actresses in the corresponding roles.

  • With a bit of luck on their side, the Breakwater Club succeeds in trapping the heron after Hina distracts it, and with her skill, Hina swiftly removes the wire, allowing the heron to finally fly freely without being encumbered by the fishing wire. She hopes that it’ll fly to better grounds, expecting to never see it again, but the next day, it returns, clearly expecting Hina to give her more fish. In a cruel twist, in helping the heron to remove the fishing wires, the girls may have also habituated the heron to humans, which presents a different set of problems – habituated wildlife are less likely to keep their distance with humans, resulting in increased confrontations and decreased survival.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi chooses to portray this as comedy, but for readers and viewers alike, I think it should go without saying that leaving the wildlife alone (and letting professionals handle major situations) is the best way to go. While I may have rattled off a list of things this final story portrays as being detrimental, this is in no way a strike against Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which remains excellent. Small details like these aren’t anywhere nearly sufficient to detract from the things that Houkago Teibou Nisshi does well, and having said this, my first post for September comes to a close.

Having now passed Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s three-quarters mark, I find that the series has consistently delivered a solid experience in each of its episodes, striking a balance between educating viewers on different aspects of fishing, as well as advancing Hina’s growth and increasing familiarity with fishing. However, while Hina’s come to love fishing with her friends, fishing has by no means displaced her existing interests; Hina still loves the handicrafts, and her skills here have come in handy more than once for the Breakwater Club. Joining the Breakwater Club has simply allowed Hina to expand her horizons and also develop a very practical skill in fishing, showing how new experiences do not necessarily change a person completely, but rather, adds to one’s repertoire of existing skills and interests. The key here is to keep an open mind, and being in the company of skilled, like-minded individuals can do wonders in helping one maintain and cultivate their interest in new experiences. Entering the final quarter of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, it is clear that this anime will not disappoint, having firmly established that the series can strike a balance between exploring fishing, Hina’s growth and acclimatisation into the Breakwater Club’s activities and also creating an immensely cathartic atmosphere in each of its episodes. I am greatly looking forwards to seeing where Houkago Teibou Nisshi wraps up, as well as writing about this series once it has completed: this is an anime that has done everything right, having been immensely helpful in helping me to relax and find perspective each and every week.

2 responses to “Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Review and Reflections At The ¾ mark

  1. Sharon September 20, 2020 at 11:26

    I’m enjoying this show, and enjoyed reading your post too! Thanks for the info, it was fun finding out about Grill Kakashi and the Tenguya Fishing Tackle shop.

    Liked by 1 person

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