Nagi no Asukara – 26 (Fin)

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Nagi no Asukara’s finale deals with a lot of big concepts and ideas—that love with all its good and bad facets is preferable to no love; that the belief in fate can mislead; that things can change, though they don’t necessarily have to—culminating in the show’s final line delivered by Hikari: “The world is filled with so many shining feelings.”

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Yet in the midst all this large-scale, lofty philosophizing, the characters remain sturdy, and aren’t lost in the rush. On the contrary, each and every character we’ve come to know and love shines as brightly here as those feelings Hikari described. This was a finale that efficiently tackles and largely resolves many of the conflicts that had built up, plucking an overall victory from the depths of despair, and richly rewarding us, the audience, for sticking around.

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At the end of my last review I made a partial list of questions I hoped the episode would answer…and it did! As I’m still a little overcome by the bittersweet emotions that always come when a great show comes to an end, I feel like the best way to organize this review is to answer those questions:

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Will Manaka’s feelings return? They do, thanks to Miuna and the Sea God himself, righting an ancient wrong. Not wanting the original Ojoshi-sama to follow her love from the surface into the depths of despair and death, the Sea God took away her feelings, not even knowing who they were directed at. In an impressive display of his and nature’s force, those feelings are released from the graveyard, and the sea starts to move again and eventually warms.

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Will Miuna really stay down there? Thankfully, no; Hikari can’t help himself and busts her out of her cocoon, just as he did Manaka. As he says, even if he wanted Manaka’s love more than anything, and finally has it, he didn’t want it that way. Miuna is also released, safe and sound, and while the reality that Hikari loves Manaka remains, her love for both of them and relief they’re okay is just as strong.

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Will the rest of Shioshishio wake up? With all that racket from the Sea God carrying on, you’d better believe it! Suitably, Hikari’s dad is the first to appear, and Hikari is shocked by the knowledge he possesses until Dad tells him he heard what Hikari told him when they first broke through to Shioshishio. Seeing him hold his grandson (and Akira tugging on his beard) was one of many tear-inducing high points of the episode.

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Will the global cooling cease? It sure looks that way, as Shioshishio is back to its bright, beautiful self (it was always beautiful, but it’s no longer a haunting, melancholy beauty). The saltflake snow has ceased, and the surface apocalypse, while not cancelled outright, has certainly been delayed for a good long while. Life returns to normal for the gang, only now they’ve sorted out their feelings.

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From Sayu trying to look pretty for Kaname, to Tsumugu and Chisaki acting like the loving couple are, to Miuna no longer being crushed by her own feelings, everyone seems so much more relaxed and happy; they really are shining. But perhaps none of them more than the original couple, Manaka and Hikari, who share an intimate walk on the beach in the parting shot.

She brings up how she intended to tell him something before she was lost in the last Ofunehiki five years ago, but now there’s no need for her to say it; Hikari knows she loves him. All’s well that ends well.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List

Second Cour Cumulative Average: 9.23
First Cour Cumulative Average: 7.69

Total Cumulative Average: 8.46
MyAnimeList Score: 8.52 

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Nagi no Asukara – 25

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When Akira of all people, drops Manaka’s pendant into the sea, Miuna dives in to get it, and she learns the truth: Manaka loves Hikari. It’s a truth Tsumugu already pretty much knew five years ago when Manaka told him, but swore him to secrecy. Learning Hikari’s love isn’t one-sided is a painful blow.

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It’s a blow she insists on bearing, and she wants to add to the pain, in a effort to make her feelings for him so painful, they come to a point where she can “throw them away”, which is a pretty awful thing to do to oneself, but I can’t really see an alternative, unless…

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Oh, right: unless the Ofunehiki follows the same pattern as the last one, the sea god sends storms that throw people from the boat, and one of those people happens to be Miuna. I knew from the updated OP (absent this episode—way too much ground to cover!) that she could end up the next sacrifice.

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That this possibility became a reality—for the moment, at least—it’s a hard pill to swallow, though I won’t argue that it was a pretty inevitable thing to happen. But the look on Hikari’s face as he bangs on the barrier that encases her, we get the feeling he’ll be just as restless with Miuna down there as he was when it was Manaka.

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Her ending up down there just feels…wrong. She deserves the chance to live a normal life and find happiness with someone else, or to even try to win Hikari. Even if she’s in there thinking “this is what’s best for everyone”, I’m sure there’s an equal part of her that doesn’t want to be the sacrifice any more than we do.

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Meanwhile, perhaps bouyed by Sayu’s confession, Kaname is a much less pouty fellow these days, even going so far as to relay to Tsumugu Chisaki’s feelings for him. Tsumugu then tells Chisaki everything he’s learned, and like Sayu, may have finally gotten the in he needs. Chisaki is still averse to being “the only one who’s happy”, but she doesn’t pull away from Tsumugu’s embrace.

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But lets assume she finally stops lying to herself and lets herself love Tsumugu. That means four of our seven main characters are on the right track. All that leaves is Hikari, Manaka, and Miuna to sort out. Will Manaka’s feelings return? Will Miuna really stay down there? Will the global cooling cease? Will the rest of Shioshishio wake up? We’ll find out in the next episode; the final leg of an immensely moving journey I’ll dearly miss.

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Nagi no Asukara – 24

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We won’t know if we don’t try. I don’t think there’s a point unless we struggle. Tsumugu is brimming with words of wisdom that he seems committed to living by, starting with his very upfront discussion with Chisaki in Shioshishio. Maybe too upfront for Chisaki, who is still processing Hikari’s return.

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While Hikari was gone, Chisaki never allowed herself to fall for Tsumugu, so even if she really did develop feelings, she refused to fully acknowledge them; this went on for five years. Even if she’s an adult and Hikari is still a kid, he’s still there, and she still loves him, or at least a part of her does.

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Miuna takes a similar but not identical tack with Hikari. She won’t deny her feelings for him, but she won’t let Hikari know about them; not as long as he’s fighting to get Manaka’s ability to love back, even if she ends up not loving him that way. But for Hikari, better for Manaka to love someone than no one.

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At the end of the episode, at dawn, Hikari tells Manaka when she asks that it’s not easy to say who you love. He should know, he did it, she just doesn’t remember. Akira did it too, in the form of a lovingly-scrawled love letter. It’s the first time Manaka is faced with a confession since waking up, and she’s predictably confused.

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Having been in the sea and grown an ena, Tsumugu is convinced the sea is where Manaka’s feelings remain. The sacrifice left the sea god and returned to the surface, so a price was exacted. So what if they had another Ofunehiki—the first in five years—and send another wooden Ojoshi-sama to the deep, wearing her sea slug pendant?

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“Baseless and insane”, says Hikari. But they won’t know until they try. When Uroko agrees to help and everyone in his old class returns to help out (along with half of the town), Hikari starts to believe it could work; that an end to Manaka’s emotional purgatory could be nigh, and with it, the settling of a great many things.

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Chisaki shows a darker side of her selflessness in an austere scene with Tsumugu in which she contemplates becoming the next sacrifice, replacing Manaka to restore the balance; Tsumugu shuts her down at once. Though she could argue that they won’t know unless she tries, one has to draw the line somewhere, and sacrificing one’s conscious life for the potential happiness of another is well past that line.

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There’s a lot of gloom and angst in this episode, but also plenty of hope and optimism, most notably between Sayu and Kaname. After telling Sayu how lonely he felt after waking up, thinking no one was waiting for him, Sayu confesses to him, telling him she was. And for I think the first time on this show, someone isn’t rejected after confessing!

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Kaname doesn’t agree to go out with her right then and there, but he does promise to start looking at her that way rather than as a kid, which is silly since they’re the same age now. It’s a start—a start that wouldn’t have been granted had Sayu not struggled…and tried.

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Nagi no Asukara – 23

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Nagi no Asukara has done an exemplary job—far better than most—at keeping so many potential relationships in a state of limbo. Sure, it’s easy to critique the characters’ actions and words and determine a course of action that would have resulted in far less stress and strain, but just as not having the ability to love would be a temporary relief, so too would a scenario in which everyone finds someone too easily.

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In the last review we may have jumped to conclusions in assuming Manaka would never have the capacity to love someone again. Even Uroko-sama doesn’t know for sure if that’s the case; she could return to normal in time, or given the proper stimulation. But if ours was a jump, Hikari’s is a towering leap to “definite” conclusions, letting fear and jealousy fuel the notion that Manaka was in love with Tsumugu.

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Even so, Hikari is determined to get her ability to love back, even if the one she loves isn’t him. Ironically, it was Miuna’s ability to love Akari, leading to such a happy, loving family, gave Hikari the hope and strength to do whatever he can to help Manaka. When Miuna senses Manaka’s loss and the pain it’s causing within her, she commits to doing whatever she can. In both cases, they’re putting their own feelings aside for the sake of Manaka not just being happy, but being whole.

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Getting back to Nagi’s penchant for keeping things up in the air, we’re in the home stretch now, meaning truths are starting to out between the right pairs of people, whether accidentally or not. After the debate about Manaka’s condition, Sayu damns the torpedoes and decides she’s going to ask Kaname out. And when Hikari picks a fight with a much larger Tsumugu, Chisaki happens to spot them arrives to break it up just in time to hear Tsumugu say he’s in love with her.

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That could have been a decent bombshell to end the episode, but in typical Nagi fashion, it had another surprise up its sleeve: Tsumugu growing an ena when he dives in to follow a fleeing Chisaki. Because he dove in, the fish swims out of his arm, and he gains the ability to follow Chisaki back to Shishio. There he delivers one hell of a line to elaborate his feelings:

You’re always so quiet and calm, and yet sometimes you become so fierce that I can’t handle you. At that time, I thought you were like the sea.

Chisaki can’t very well turn that down, now can she!

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Nagi no Asukara – 22

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When Hikari held Manaka and confessed to her, she was confused and frightened: it was too much to take in at the time; she didn’t understand. Once she returned, I thought she was remaining quiet and evasive on the subject because by her reckoning it only happened a few days ago, and she’d gotten no closer to processing it. But when Uroko is finally found loitering around the surface, he tells Hikari the truth: Manaka lost far more than her ena; she lost the ability to love anyone.

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This is clearly the worst case scenario for Hikari, arguably worse than if she’d never woken up. Manaka had, during the Ofunehiki, either by accident or destiny, become the latest sacrifice to the sea god. Not only was the ritual real, but it worked: calm returned to the seas and the destruction of the surface world under a carpet of saltflake snow was arrested. But a part of Manaka didn’t want to be the Ojoshi-sama. Like the woman in the legend, she could never forget what she left on the surface.

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That caused her ena to crackle and create a current: a current Miuna found when she heard the crackling. With me so far? Good. When Hikari and the others pulled her out of the Ojoshi graveyard, she lost the rest of her ena, along with whatever part of one’s heart falls in love. Hikari himself thought she was acting the way she was because she loved Tsumugu, but in truth she simply doesn’t remember anything about loving Tsumugu, nor anything related to Hikari loving her.

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So…Score one for Team Miuna, right? Well…while this techincally puts her in a stronger position, Manaka’s condition could well spread to Hikari—his heart closing in response to the closing of hers. Meanwhile, Tsumugu stays behind, not for the research, but for Chisaki. The fish curse on his arm could just as well been a punishment for trying to run away. I like how honest he is with Kaname, and tossing him a “Zero Sweetness, Bitter and Black” can of coffee to wash down the bitter pill is a nice touch. Tsumugu and Kaname both want a straight answer from Chisaki, even if it isn’t yes.

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The many connections the show has made betweeen Manaka and Miuna are not lost on us, and for anyone still not sure about them, the newly-amended OP not only features Manaka catching the umbrella Miuna loses to a gust of wind, but the two of them in the ocean, dressed like priestesses and carrying eternal flames. Hard as he may try, Hikari probably won’t be able to fix Manaka any more than he can fix the deteriorating global climate. But these two girls may be the key to fixing both. I smell more sacrifice ahead…It’s a womanly scent.

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Nagi no Asukara – 21

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I really liked how Manaka’s awakening was handled so casually; both the randomness of the moment it happened, and her adorable, almost ridiculously chipper attitude right afterwards. They even teased the fact that she might have Amnesia, but it’s just because she doesn’t recognize a five-years-older Miuna at first glance. All, it would seem, is well.

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With the group of sea kids finally united, Miuna retreats. Her rivalry with Manaka had been an abstract thing in her head for so long, now that Manaka is up and about, she’s unsure of how to interact with Manaka; saying she “has no right” to hang out with that circle. Sayu snaps her out of her funk with some strategic water-splashing.

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In their latest effort to enter the circle, Miuna and Sayu quickly find they have nothing to worry about, just as Hikari, Kaname, and Chisaki find Manaka to be almost unnervingly happy, despite the fact she’s lost five years and her ena is gone. Manaka is seemingly able to do effortlessly what Miuna and the others struggle to do: be present and happy in the moment.

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It’s great to see the gang back together, but Chisaki now finds herself singularly isolated by the age gap. In a lovely, heartbreaking little moment after excusing herself from the school, she turns back briefly, perhaps resigned to the new reality: by not hibernating, she passed her friends by. The only one who grew with her was Tsumugu, but while they come so close time and again they just…can’t…quite…come together. ARRGH…they’re both doomed, aren’t they?

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Then, finally, there is something weighing on Hikari’s mind throughout his time with the reawakened Manaka: he really would like to know what she was going to tell him after the Ofunehiki, but either he’s throwing her off by not asking the right questions, ir her memory is genuinely foggy. Like Hikari, I really want to know. With Tsumugu apparently cursed by Uroko, they may get some answers soon, but they may not be the ones they—or I—necessarily want.

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Stray Observation: The OP has been tweaked somewhat; rather than depicting Manaka sleeping at the bottom of the sea, she and Miuna are both down there dressed somewhat Ojoshi-sama-y, which seems to confirm the fact both of them will play a part in appeasing the sea god. Meanwhile, in the episode, Manaka seems to be sporting boots very similar to Uggs.

 

 

Nagi no Asukara – 20

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As the days went on and Manaka simply wouldn’t wake up, it was interesting how remarkably calm and upbeat Hikari remained. Perhaps it was because he really was optimistic Manaka would wake up any minute, and if she didn’t, that catching Lord Uroko and making him wake her up would be a piece of cake.

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But it doesn’t take long for Hikari to become a man obsessed, repeating patterns from early last season when he was a fiery ball of bad-tempered energy fueled by many factors, including his feelings for Manaka and the future of their village. Even as the sea grows colder and he grows more exhausted, he can’t just sit still; he suddenly can’t soldier on with normal life until she’s awake.

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In other words, things pretty much the same as they was when Miuna and Tsumugu first found the awakened Hikari, only amplified: before, he thought of little else but finding Manaka, and now that they’ve found her, now he thinks of little else than waking her up. In the midst of this wild intensity, Miuna no doubt feels more left out than ever. Manaka is the Sleeping Beauty that has invaded her home and monopolizes the thoughts and time of the boy she loves.

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It’s a very cruel situation for Miuna, in my opinion, and I can’t hold it against her if she happens to voice her frustration in a moment of weakness. She starts to wonder if a part of her doesn’t want Manaka to wake up. But her desperation for Hikari’s attention is butting up against his desperation to wake Manaka, and something has to give. It does, when after mistaking Miuna for Manaka (with her hair down, a rare sight), Hikari collapses into a feverish heap.

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Miuna learns again that she’s not alone; Tsumugu is having similar complications in his relationship with Chisaki, and the two have a very interesting little chat on a pier. Tsumugu admits he too pondered a simpler world without anyone ever waking up, but he can’t deny he was and continues to be happy they’re back too. Miunta wants to be happy too; Tsumugu says it will happen, but it’ll take time.

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He’s not suggesting she surrender, but it is important not to get sucked into a vortex of despair from persistent lack of success. Life is too precious to waste inordinate amounts of time on self-pity and navel-gazing. In life, circumstances and fortunes can change in an instant. To whit: Manaka quite suddenly waking up, not because Hikari kissed her, but to scold him for yelling at Miuna for suggesting he kiss her.

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Nagi no Asukara – 19

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The big adventures and discoveries in the last episode give way to a quieter, more introspective episode focusing primarily on Chisaki, who was mostly absent from all that. The episode explores her thoughts and her heart as thoroughly as the others explored Shioshishio.This leads to some beautiful, touching, and often hilarious scenes with her alternating between the childhood and adulthood.

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By all appearances, she the nurse and Tsumgu the researcher are a married couple, and Kaname is like their sour-faced kid who bristles when Tsumugu explains the pragmatic approach to everything that’s happened. Chisaki the Adult takes Tsumugu’s side, and Kaname excuses himself, making a snide comment about how much she’s grown up. This leads to her breaking out her old school uniform  (once cute, now sexy) and pouring herself into it, a deeply funny private moment that both guys invade when they hear her slip and fall.

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Chisaki also see that Miuna likes Hikari too, from the look in her eyes as she eavesdrops on Hikari talking to the still-slumbering Manaka, the bomb that will restart time if and when she awakens. Chisaki can’t not see her past self in Miuna, feel the futility and pain of not being the one. Between that and the result of trying on her old uni, she decides to pivot back to adulthood, insisting Tsumugu ply her with plum wine. Things get loose but never amorous, and she dozes off before Tsumugu and state an important truth.

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That truth is that he has filled the space left by Manaka for five years with Chisaki, which is what people do when they lose things in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Because he was able to do it, he’s sure she can too, if she takes the next step. Part of her back-and-forth this week is due to her realizing she’s the age Akari was when she had to decided between the sea and her love, mirroring the continuation of the Ofunehiki she hears from Tsumugu’s gramps.

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The rest of the story is that the sea god and surface girl are happy for a time, but she grows depressed and restless because her true love is still on the surface. The sea god finally allowed her to return, but in exchange for something—likely her ena—and sure enough, Manaka’s shattered. But when Hikari saves Chisaki from getting lost like he did years ago, she also realizes she still likes him. Nothing harder than growing up when the gaps you’re expected to fill with new things are still occupied by the old.

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Nagi no Asukara – 18

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It occurs to us at this venture that if Kaname went out with Sayu, Chisaki went out with Tsumugu, and Hikari went out with Miuna (her step-niece!), everyone would be paired off rather nicely. Manaka is the odd-girl-out; the seventh wheel keeping the 6-wheeled car from moving forward.

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Well, its actually not that simple, even if Manaka were permanently out of the picture. By the end of this episode, she’s back in the center of it, and it’s all thanks to Miuna, who is able to hear the specific sound (a sound that those who get ASMR will enjoy) that leads them into Shioshishio. But it’s not the town Hikari and Kaname remember, nor the one Miuna dreamed of all her life.

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On the one hand, I’m reminded of Tintin’s description of the moonscape at first sight: “a nightmare land, a place of death, horrifying in its desolation.” On the other hand, it’s also otherworldly beautiful, and nobody is actually dead, they’re just hibernating, as the town itself seems to be doing. In any case, it’s a fantastic sight, and watching Hikari, Kaname, and Miuna explore it feels a lot like exploring the moon…or some kind great ancient tomb.

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The look on Miuna’s face as they encounter hibernating townsfolk suggests to Hikari she’s thinking the same thing, and we get our first post-hibernation bout of Hikari Getting Pissed Off Over Nothing…only he’s not really lashing out at Miuna, but the fact Miuna’s reactions mirror his own sense of foreboding…is everything really okay here?

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His anger is the catalyst for Hikari and Kaname to go to their respective homes, essentially ditching Miuna, the person who got them therein the first place. Kinda a dick move, but it does allow Miuna to explore on her own, soaking in the place where Hikari and his friends grew up, and literally making her mark on their height chart. From the look of the place now, it feels like it’s been abandoned for centuries.

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Still, for the entire duration Miuna was alone, I felt tense, an apprehension that was amplified by the sudden appearance of Lord Uroko, awake and well despite the sad state of his shrine. She tries to convince him that she came to find Manaka, but Uroko can see through her lies. When they finally find Manaka in a graveyard of Ojoshi-samas, he also warns that for everything taken, something is given.

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With that in mind, at this point I was sure Miuna would be the price for breaking Manaka out of her slumber and taking her to the surface. But everyone seems to get out safe and sound. But once again the one-sided romances at stake on the surface start to diminish in scale beside the potential implications of what Hikari, Kaname, and Miuna may have done: stolen a sacrifice from the Sea God.

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Nagi no Asukara – 17

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Kaname returns (also naked like the Terminator), and through him we get a fresh look of what has changed and what hasn’t since he went into hibernation. His situation’s a little different from Hikari’s, in that his true love isn’t still somewhere under the sea; instead, his true love is now five years his senior and living with Tsumugu, the two acting like an domestic couple on the same wavelength, what with their well-practiced kitchen maneuvers.

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But like Hikari, he both pines and is pined for: Sayu enters the vortex of one-sided loves. Honestly, I’d forgotten she’d taken a liking to him, and remembered there was a surface girl who also liked him, but there’s no sign of her still being in town. But Kaname made his feelings plain for Chisaki, and lets her know that he—and those feelings—haven’t changed. The ball is in Chisaki’s court, though she has two other balls to juggle.

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Kaname’s return also makes things tricky for Miuna in her quest for Hikari’s heart. That Kaname returned has increased the chances that everyone else will wake up soon; Hikari’s beloved Manaka included. Tsumugu’s research is also adding fuel to that fire. With Manaka increasingly on Hikari’s mind, Miuna’s chances are as slender as ever.

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But when she overhears Hikari and Kaname having a chat by the pool their schoolmates maintained in their absesnse, she’s reminded she’s not alone in liking someone who likes someone else. Just as Kaname’s flame for Chisaki continues, so does Hikari’s for Manakas. Initially this deflates Miuna, but I think it inspires her to stay true to her feelings.

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Sayu is similarly deflated. After Kaname left, she vowed to remain alone forever, but when he returns and doesn’t immediately remember her name, she sinks into despair, saying the proper thing to do is to give up on her childhood crush, and either wait to fall for someone else, or settle for someone just to avoid lonliness. Horrified by Sayu’s words, Miuna shouts it out for anyone to hear:

“I don’t care if I’m sick. I don’t care if it’s a manga. Even if it’s gross or pathetic, I’m not changing!”

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When Sayu crosses paths with Kaname again, and he calls her by name and treats her affectionately, Sayu admits to herself that she’s “sick” too, and doesn’t want to change either. The ones they love may still be far away, but they won’t stop trying to get closer. To that end, Miuna makes use of her newly-formed ena to lead Hikari to Shioshishio, his home she’s never seen, even if they end up finding Manaka.

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Nagi no Asukara – 16

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This episode focuses in on the growing item that is Hikari and Miuna. Hikari may not see her as a love interest, but this episode gives Miuna ample opportunities to, if not overtly express her feelings, to at least spend some time close to him. When he bristles at the prospect of just the two of them going into town to order him a school uniform (he’s also in her class now), Miuna invites Sayu as a sort of chaperone.

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Little does she know by doing so, she turns Sayu, who has probably seen little of her friend Miuna since Hikari arrived, into an unwitting, awkward third wheel, as well as a captive audience for Miuna and Hikari’s near-constant flirtation. I personally reveled in their interactions—even though Hikari and Miuna have very different ideas about what such actions mean—but I can totally understand how it would irritate Sayu, until she can’t hold her tongue anymore.

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Hikari may not know what’s going on yet, but he does know Miuna well enough to be able to locate her at the abandoned shipyard where they bonded five years ago. Little does he know by going after her, he makes it that much worse for Miuna to let go of the possibility of being with him. When a rusty crane collapses and she’s thrown into the icy drink, half of me feared for the very worst and the other half knew Hikari would rescue her, possibly leading to a confession.

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Hikari does dive in after her, but surprisingly (as much to her as us), she doesn’t need rescuing: she grows an Ena, enabling her to breathe and swim like Hikari. Sayu is only half-right when she yells at Miuna (in their fight that ends as quickly as it starts): quite a few good things have happened to Miuna, but they’re tempered by a couple significant things that are, from her perspective, decidedly not good, namely the fact the guy she loves is her step-uncle, and isn’t interested in her in that way.

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The episode ends with a naked Kaname wandering through the town, not dead after all. That will certainly complicate matters for Chisaki (see org chart), but also means that at some point Manaka may return as well. These last three episode have me rooting for Miuna to the point where I’m dreading the date of Manaka’s return almost as much as she must be, for that could be the day all hope of Hikari ever coming around on Miuna dries up.

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Nagi no Asukara – 15

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Not surprisingly, the episode after Hikari returns is an episode all about change. Tsumugu tells Chisaki Hikari “hasn’t changed at all” in five years, but that’s not entirely true: even if he didn’t age, the shock of waking up five years into the future defintiely changes him. He puts up a brave front at first, but the sheer weight of it all overwhelms him. All the change, and not knowing what has become of Manaka, Kaname, and his Dad, has left him lost.

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When Hikari finally breaks down to Tsumugu, Miuna is also listening in, and realizes that she was so happy he was back, she never stopped to grasp the sheer burden of lost time weighing on him. I’m loving how Miuna is now being treated like a main character, and five years have clearly turned what had been puppy love into a more serious longing. Yet as small as her chances with Hikari (who is technically her step-uncle), I can’t help but root for her.

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But here’s the thing: one doesn’t have to choose sides or pick winners and losers among all the romantic scenarios in play (or on hold due to hibernation); in fact it’s probably best not to dwell on who’s going to end up with whom. The show has never been interested in people pairing off and living happily ever after. The drama in all the yearning and waiting and wrestling with emotions, the journey that matters here, and it’s a rough, unyielding sea. One that Akari and Itaru have already crossed, and now dwell in calm, stable waters.

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In addition to having to deal with the new world where everyone he knows is five years old, Hikari also has to live in a world without his love Manaka, much like Chisaki had to live without him. Chisaki hesitates seeing Hikari because she doesn’t want him to see how much she’s changed, while Hikari is afraid of the same thing. When they do finally meet, it’s by chance; brought together a loudspeaker playing a song for Shioshishio.

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The sight of each other puts them both at ease; Chisaki may be older (and prettier, as Tsumugu boldly remarked earlier), but the fact she apologized to him for changing was enough for him to realize she’s the same old Chisaki in there. And that’s precisely the problem for poor Tsumugu: his feelings for Chisaki may have grown in the last five years, but her feelings for Hikari never changed. Like Miuna, being the same age and living in the same house isn’t enough.

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This makes two straight fantastic episodes for Nagi’s second season; right now it’s the best thing I’m watching. That shouldn’t be interpreted as a knock against the Spring season, but as an affirmation of the immense quality these last two episodes have delivered. The show has really stepped up its game with its sublime visuals and an atmosphere so absorbing the twenty-odd minutes of the episode felt much larger in scope. And lest I forget, it also packed in a few genuinely funny comedic moments.

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Nagi no Asukara – 14

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It’s been three and a half months since I temporarily closed the book on Nagi no Asukara to focus on a very full Winter season, but after watching this first installment of the second half, re-opening that book, my first reaction was “Wow…Was it always this damn good?” The Big Board indicates the answer is: “Yes, at times,” and this episode excelled in the same way the best episodes of the first half excelled: by simply touching my heart, and sometimes grabbing it at giving it a good tug.

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We never see Shioshishio in this episode; it’s inaccessible and covered in ice. Furthermore, five whole years have passed since the harrowing, life-changing events of the last episode, and a lot has gone on since then. Stranded on the surface, Chisaki, now a nursing student, moved in with Tsumugu and his granddad. Pops took ill and is hospitalized, so Chisaki and Tsumugu live alone together. Meanwhile, Miuna has a new brother, the baby she convinced her new mother Akari to keep, and along with Sayu, attends the same high school as Chisaki and Tsumugu.

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Both Chisaki and Miuna have moved on in some respects, but a part of them remains in the past, unable to love anyone other than Hikari. In the here and now, Tsumugu and Chisaki would make a great couple, if only she wasn’t still in love with someone she may never see again. Similarly, Miuna rejects the confession of a classmate. Both of them are always wistfully looking out to the frozen sea, hoping against hope that they’ll see Hikari again. Yet even if he is back, one or both of them could very well have their hearts broken, especially if Manaka returns with him.

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It can be argued whether Hikari is deserving of all this worship, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. While he could fly off the handle, he was a decent, caring lad. When the atmospheric phenomenon known as the Tomoebi occurs, what do you know, Hikari returns, Terminator-style. Tsumugu and Miuna are there for his arrival, and Miuna wastes no time expressing her feelings by administering mouth-to-mouth. The twist is, Hikari hasn’t physically aged in the five years he’s been gone.

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I loved the structure of this episode, how it dropped us five years into the future, slowly, gracefully filling in the blanks as it progressed. Yet even showing how much life had gone one, the enduring pain of Chisaki and Miuna was palpable throughout. While I’m sure they’ll be elated he’s back, and the non-aging works in Miuna’s favor, the complication of the two of them loving the same guy, who isn’t in love with either of them, remains. I’m guessing he’ll pine for Manaka just as they pined for him, putting them in the position of Tsumugu and that classmate: being present and eligible, yet undesired.

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