For something as delightfully obtuse as Tsuritama, I really should have expected its version of MIB to turn out the way it did. Why did the leaders of Duck have to dress so flamboyantly? Why is their salute so goofy? Why are they discussing potentially significant intel in a hilariously intricate moniter station in back of a whitebait curry stand? Why does Akira’s division have to be all Indian? And where can I get a bitchin’ Duck organization card? Turns out, they just did it for the lulz. Well actually, I suppose it was to emphasize just how different Akira is in comparison to the rest of the Scooby gang. To put this into perspective, I think Tsuritama is a bit shallow in its storytelling not only because it’s half dominated by fishing jargon but also because there’s very little left to the imagination, especially when it came to developing Yuki and Natsuki. While the same thing sort of happened with Akira in the events leading up to the finale, his transformation from an aloof, distrusting Duck agent into a loyal friend with a penchant for fishing is handled a lot better in comparison to the other characters.
His main assignment in Enoshima is to moniter JF1 and JF2, namely Haru and his sister who are aliens. He is trained and conditioned by the Duck organization to practice zero tolerance towards aliens and to never trust them. He’s mainly introduced as the kind of person who is suspicious of friendship and making bonds that are, to him, “stifling”. He looks at Yuki’s attempts to perfect his casting as futile because it’s entirely hinged upon maintaining his friendship with Natsuki and Haru. He might even feel superior to him because of both their age difference (he’s 25) and his spot in a secret organization. At first glance, he’s kind of an asshole for going out of his way to discourage Yuki like that. Obviously, the story was going to turn that frown upside-down. Pardon the immature figure of speech, I just felt like saying it.
Make no mistake, Akira is still a cool if slightly awkward dude. It’s really only because he’s Indian, but that and his Duck agent status cements his role in the story as an observer. At least, that’s what his role was supposed to be. If you paid attention to his debut in the first episode, his obsession with fishing comes along waaaay before the story even starts, enough to spew fishing jargon almost as confidently as Ayumi and Natsuki. Additionally, the organizational hierarchy proves frustrating for Akira because the higher-ups refuse to take his reports seriously even though there’s some interesting connections between the events at Enoshima and strange events like the Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps he ended up joining the fishing crew because it’s in his job to closely monitor his target (which is Haru, or JF1), but there’s also the motivation of finally getting to fish on the job and a desire to prove his superiors wrong with a big find.
Turns out, he is enjoying himself and he’s also enjoying the company of Haru, Yuki, and Natsuki. There may be an obvious age and ethnic difference, but the one thing that brings them all together is their collective passion for fishing. He’s as invested in finding out what happened out in the ocean as he is in helping his friends catch a tuna for one of their grandmothers. Not necessarily because he cares about Yuki’s grandmother, but because he’s participating in something as difficult as catching a tuna. He becomes further entrenched in their lives by helping them in times of struggle and participating in seemingly meaningless punishment games. It helps him develop into a more rounded person, but more importantly it changes his opinion about Haru. He is no longer the dangerous JF1 that he first labeled him as, he’s just a friend. He cites this as a Duck Investigator’s objective opinion rather than an individual’s sentiment, in order to further establish his personal bond with the crew.
When shit starts to hit the fan, Akira is already past contemplating where his loyalties lie. He defends Haru, a lifeform he is not supposed to negotiate or side with, in spite of his superior. He makes an active effort of getting his friends, a concept he once had not known as well as he did now, together for a grand fishing bout that would shake the fate of the world. He has, quite effectively, transformed into the caring friend you see in the moments up to the finale. I still think the transition was a bit rushed, especially when it came to dismantling months, perhaps years of Duck propaganda surrounding aliens, but there’s this raw appeal to Akira’s development: the tale of a man who feels so compelled to help the ones he cares about that he steps out of the shadows to take a piece of the action.
To make a slight comparison, in The Lives of Others secret police agent Wiesler assigns himself to the full monitering of a playwright’s and an actress’s apartment in suspicion that they might not be loyal to East Germany’s communist regime. Amidst the voyeurism and the secret meddling of their private lives, the officer becomes so compelled by their circumstances that he eventually becomes disillusioned by his own government and does his part in helping the playwright expose a deep injustice to the free world. Loving this movie is probably the reason why I ended up liking Akira.
Also maybe because he knows kung-fu. You don’t mess with a kung-fu master who manages to keep his turban on the entire time he’s somersaulting and roundhouse kicking his way to awesomeness.