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.