Social Anxiety Through Comedy (A Tsuritama Rewatch Project Post)

Tsuritama doesn’t feature social anxiety as front and centre as other anime do, but the strange faces Yuki makes are window dressing for a bigger issue.

Meta context: This post originally was written in December 2020, around the Netflix “airing” of Komi Can’t Communicate. Originally the intro text above the cut referred to a Komi post on Otaku USA which has since become a broken link, so that doesn’t help matters.

Between Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, Komi Can’t Communicate, Tsuritama and other anime/manga, why is it that we have to highlight social anxiety through comedy? Isn’t it awkward and demeaning to people who have been diagnosed with such things?

Well, there are two potential arguments for this: one is that it’s all in the execution and if you don’t believe in it being too mean-spirited in portraying such things if you’re not personally affected (this is particularly pertinent for comedies framed around social anxiety, such as Hitoribocchi). If it works, then you have something relatable on your hands, regardless of your gender. If it doesn’t…well, the anime and manga worlds are big enough that someone can always try again. Social anxiety can be played for drama as well as comedy, so it’s rather versatile as a storytelling device.

The other is that works which feature characters with positive/negative portrayals of social anxiety will add towards the overall discourse of such topics, which, if you’re feeling positive, will lessen the stigma around these topics. For example, otaku used to be seen as loners who couldn’t socialise and so this is why Densha Otoko was so successful back in its day – it showed people of all extroversion/introversion levels otaku were normal people too.

The reason I bring this up in the context of Tsuritama is as that anime shows at the beginning, social anxiety can be a real stumbling block for people who are mainly introverts. Media in general, especially for Anglophone works, tends to prize individuals and groups that are more extroverted as protagonists, but in exchange, media tend to draw in introverts who want to vicariously live out these adventures…It’s almost like an upside-down triangle of extroversion/introversion! (<- channeling my best Irina impression)

I guess it’s interesting I’m discussing an anime about coming out of your shell in an age where we were, not too long ago, encouraged to connect via technology, rather than face-to-face. This means it’s more likely we’ll see extreme introverts and/or technology addicts become a new norm in media and beyond as young children grow up in the age of the pandemic.

Going back to this post was quite the throwback, after I wrote a series of more overtly radical and feminist anime-adjacent pieces (I don’t think this post won me any favours, haha). It was sitting in my drafts folder just as I was struggling to write something for Tsuritama and it fit perfectly, because Tsuritama has such a unique way of expressing its social anxiety (using drowning as a symbol of how suffocating his anxiety is)…and yet it disappears over the course of the anime.

So there you have it. The last anime on the rewatch project is Kekkai Sensen for the moment.

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