Uroko and Hikari’s dad inform Hikari and Manaka the saltflake snow will continue to fall above and below the see, causing a cold period during which all those with ena must hibernate to survive. As preparations for a final feast and ena-thickening fasting commence, Hikari convinces Uroko to let him and the others keep going to school until its time to sleep. Hikari vows to have the Ofunehiki no matter what. After avoiding him for some time, Manaka’s feelings for Hikari deepen, while Kaname confesses to Chisaki.
Trials continue continue to mount for our quartet of burdened middle schoolers, who wrestle with their hearts as the gentle but unrelenting snow threatens to snuff out their existence. The apparent solution to hibernate was straight out of left field, and the global implications of the snow were unexpected, but the poor state of the village up to this point justifies such desperate measures. Humans above and below the sea have enjoyed a pleasant world up until this point, but by abandoning the sea god, he has enough power to adversely affect that world, and the surface dwellers are apparently SOL. At this point, Hikari’s wish to proceed with the Ofunehiki seems like too little too late, but there’s no harm in trying.
Meanwhile, all of this is a bit too much for Manaka, who reverts to crybaby mode in the face of all of this drastic change and looming uncertainty. When she’s alone with her thoughts and a red-bellied sea slug, she seems to be somewhat possibly coming around to Hikari…maybe. Chisaki copes by making sushi. Kaname not only takes things in relative stride, but also decides at this point he’s done watching and waiting for his friends to sort how who likes whom; he likes Chisaki and makes sure she knows it. Even if nothing about the world is certain, his feeling for her are. Will his bold action inspire the others to follow suit? The time for sleep draws near.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
Lord Uroko calls all of the adults to a secret meeting, sending the kids to the surface until further notice. Hikari and the others decide to do the Ofunehiki on their own. They set to work repairing the Ojoushi-sama and procure a boat from Tsumugu’s Grandpa. Manaka cooks dinner, but when Chisaki and Kaname return to town early and Hikari ducks out, she returns home too, to find the adults waiting for her. When Hikari comes to class to find the others absent, he races home to find heavy saltflake snow falling. Manaka tells him the adults have banned further visits the surface. When his father comes to get him, he grabs Manaka and runs off to their old school, where they have an awkward, confused exchange.
“Poor Hikari”…early in the season we’d never thought we’d ever be telling ourselves that, but here we are. After some ups and downs he’s become a genuinely likable, sympathetic character, and at the moment nothing seems to be going his way. For one thing, every attempt to resurrect the Ofunehiki is met with unwelcome intervention, either by vandals, then elders, or fate. Shioshihio isn’t doing too hot either; it occurs to us that the only kids of their age left in the village are our four friends. That’s a pretty dire situation, and Uroko-sama has decided that to have any hope of preserving the village, surface visits must end. It seems like far too little too late; the town bleak, dreary, foreboding ghost of its former lush, inviting self. The visuals of Hikari’s return reminded us of the ruined towns in Nausicaa; hauntingly beautiful stuff.
Also beautifully heartbreaking is every exchange Hikari has with Manaka this week. Like Chisaki, he’s tried to “be an adult” and put Manaka’s wants before his own, but this week it seems like he just can’t do it anymore. He loves Manaka too much to just be a friend, but just can’t say that to her. Tsumugu sees Chisaki’s actions as retreat, while Manaka’s reaction to Hikari’s hug is a complicated thing, motivated by her confused feelings for both Tsumugu and Hikari, as well as her knowledge of Chisaki’s feelings for Hikari. The rapid deterioration of their home mirrors that of their relationships. The once-warm, harmonious quartet of friends now find themselves listless and full of doubt, their very worlds upheaved and on the brink of destruction. But it’s always darkest before the dawn…right? Please?!
Rating: 8 (Great)
Chisaki uses Tsumugu as her “sea slug”, confessing that she likes Hikari; Manaka overhears, but Chisaki tells her to forget about it. Akari breaks up with Itaru and tells Miuna she’ll “go away somewhere”; that night Akari calls Hikari in a panic saying Miuna has run away. Hikari and his friends search for and eventually find her, and after a cookout, he stays with Miuna through the night. When Akari finds them sleeping outside the store where she works, she tearfully embraces Miuna, ensuring her she’s not going anywhere.
Ahh, little kids…hardly ever properly expressing how they really feel. How can they? They’re kids…they’re still trying to figure out what feelings even are. Fixing the Miuna issue is a matter of Hikari telling his big sister to leave things to him, and creating the right conditions to get her to open up about what’s truly bothering her. It’s pretty obvious she doesn’t really hate “Aka-chan”; her problem is she loves her, but when terms like “new mom” come up, she can’t help but think about how she lost her old mom, and how much it hurt. An increasingly layered Hikari admits that he’s often thought as Miuna has, but choosing to never love anyone ever is simply replacing one kind of pain with another. It’s running away.
This was a very moving episode with lot of tears involved, especially any scene involving Akari. This was fine with us, as we thought Nazuka Kaori delivered a passionate, compelling performance (we can’t remember hearing Eureka’s seiyu getting so worked up – she was so reserved in Amnesia – but it was nice). She admits to Itaru she loves him and Miuna too, but calls herself a “greedy child” who wants wants everyone to be happy and to have everything work out. But giving up on them wouldn’t be any more ‘adult’; it’d just be more running away. Both she and Miuna, the actual child in this, want the same thing: to be together and happy – not as mother and daughter, but as Akari and Muino. Thanks to Hikari, of all people, they’re on their way. Nice job, Hikari! Inspired by the reunion, maybe now he’ll see to his own troubles…
Rating: 9 (Superior)
- Oh yeah, Manaka now totally knows Chisaki likes Hikari more than just a childhood friend! Chisaki tells her to forget, but she can’t, and now every time she sees Chisaki around Hikari, it’s in that new light. It troubles her and will continue to trouble her, but wasn’t the primary focus of this episode.
- Chisaki used Tsumugu as her sea slug, Miura used Hikari as hers, and Manaka wonders what she’d ask a real red one next time she comes across one. Mana, just use Kaname or something!
- Hikari and Akari have an awesome dad. Obviously he’d probably hoped she’d marry a sea-dweller, but he tells Lord Uroko his daughter’s life is hers to do with what she pleases. Besides, her marrying a sea dude she doesn’t love isn’t going to solve all the problems Shioshishio is going through.
- Miuna has to kill the mood by brining up “dolicons.” She just had to get that barb in, didn’t she! Still, it’s a nice detail that she notices Hikari smells like her mother and Aka-chan, which comforts her.
- No Sayu? No problem.
Sakishima Hikari and his friends Mikaido Manaka, Isaki Kaname, and Hiradaira Chisaki are “sea-dwellers” who have always lived underwater. When their school closes, they must transfer to one on the surface. On their first day Manaka is pulled out of the sea by the fishing net of Kihara Tsumugu, who turns out to be their classmate. Manaka is also cursed with a fish head on her knee when she insults their local shrine’s Lord Uroko. That day, Manaka runs away to escape the surface girls’ teasing and gets lost. Tsumugu rescues her and submerges her in salt water to heal her cracking skin. Later that night she reunites with Hikari, who is increasingly threatened by Tsumugu.
There are a lot of reasons to have reservations about transferring to a new school. Maybe you’re from the country and moving to the big city; that’ll probably get you teased. Or maybe you’re among the few humans who never left the sea and so have a natural “raiment” that allows you to breathe and live down there without any difficulty. Kids are awful anyway; they’re more awful if you’re different from them, and Hikari, Manaka, Kaname and Chisaki are definitely that. It’s a clever, literal take on the “fish out of water” theme. Of course, not all landlubbers are assholes; and Tsumugu is efficiently introduced as Hikari’s rival for Manaka’s heart. There’s nothing too fancy about the Manaka/Hikari relationship – they’re like a sister and her doting big brother. Only Hikari likes Manaka.
Meanwhile, Chisaki likes Hikari, while Manaka taks an instant liking to Tsumugu, which Hikari notices and isn’t happy about. We see that anger causing him more troubles down the road. We also wouldn’t be surprised if Kaname likes Chisaki, thus completing the love wheel. Romance (and science) aside, the sea-dweller town has an otherworldly beauty to it. Nice details abounded, from showing how one can simply swim up to a balcony, the use of special blue fire, and tv weather forecasts talking about salt content. There was also an underlying melancholy to the sea world: the encroaching fishing boats, closed school, and cancelled ceremony all indicate life there becoming increasingly fragile. Decisive action may be needed to prevent its destruction, just as Hikari will have to act if he doesn’t want to lose his beloved Manaka to Tsumugu and the surface.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- We liked the concept of the half-godlike Lord Uroko (one “scale” of the sea god) portioning out fire to the townspeople. It’s too bad he’s a bit of a pervert.
- The fish head curse he places on Manaka’s knee is deliciously random, if unfair. Being a fisherman, Tsumugu knows just what to say about it to soothe Manaka’s anxiety.
- We’re wondering if a sea-dweller’s skin cracks and falls away completely, will that mean they’ll die, or simply be unable to return to the sea…we’ll see.
- This and Kyoukai no Kanata are both supernatural slice-of-life high school shows. They both look great, but we think Nagi had the stronger first episode overall, if only because it felt less derivative.