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 – 13

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The day of the Ofunehiki and the hibernation arrives. Manaka tells Hikari she’ll tell him her answer after the ceremony, while Chisaki is still thinking about Kaname’s confession. When the ceremony begins with Akari as the Ojoushi-sama, Uroko uses the sacred fire to light her way, then knocks out Hikari’s dad along with the rest of Shioshishio. Multiple whirlpools open up; Akari and Tsumugu are thrown overboard. Chisaki, Manaka, and Hikari dive in after them. Chisaki rescues Tsumugu, but Kaname is crushed by a fallen concrete bridge pier. Shioshishio is cloaked in some kind of barrier. Manaka offers herself to the sea god so Akari is spared. Hikari tries to reach out to her but the sea pushes him away. Akari surfaces safe and sound.

We’ve reach the midpoint of the series, to where everything has been building up: the Ofunehiki. There’s a little more buildup early in the episode as characters arrive at peaceful places in their lives prior to the big event. In bittersweet scenes we see Manaka tucking her sleeping parents in, Chisaki’s parents letting her go, and even Hikari’s dad and Uroko cordially seeing off the four. Manaka and Chisaki haven’t properly addressed the confessions they’ve received, but both Hikari and Kaname assure them they’ll love them no matter the response. In all of these instances, with the focus on everyone’s lives and the futures they’re stepping towards, their personal affairs and conflicts loom large and prominent. And then nature—courtesy of the sea god, if you will—cruelly proceeds to dwarf and dash all of those hopes and dreams.

The episode gives the start of the Ofunehiki a proper level of pomp and ceremony: the fires, the flags, the fishing fleet. Akari and Hikari are transformed by their new traditional garb. In lighting the way, Uroko seems to be holding out an olive branch to the surface. But things turn sinister and it looks like the sea god really will try to claim Akari. While she survives, the town now seems to be totally asleep (and covered by…something), Kaname is taken out of the picture altogether by a freak accident, and the fate of Hikari and most importantly Manaka is left up in the air. If she became a sacrifice and Hikari surfaces, that’s a hell of a turn. We have no idea where the series will go in the second half, but all the upheaval here left us eager to find out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 12

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Akari and Hikari’s dad meets Miuna. Tsumugu, Manaka and Chisaki go into town to buy a kimono. Tsumugu runs into his mother, with whom he’s not close. Akari has a conciliatory talk with her dad. Hikari volunteers to bear one of the huge flags that will guide the Ojoushi-sama during the Ofunehiki. Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname return to Shioshishio to find the younger children have already started to hibernate. While reminiscing at their old school, Kaname asks Hikari about Manaka, and he says he loves her. She freaks out and runs away. Hikari runs after her, but stops and turns back when Chisaki falls, and she in turn confesses to him.

As the growing evidence all around them attests, it won’t be long before this quartet of friends starts drifitng off into a hibernation of indeterminate time, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever be together if and when it ends. As unpopular as the general opinion is about confronting various matters, Kaname takes it upon himself to be the guy to force a confrontation. It’s something Manaka still isn’t ready for, since she’s not sure who she’s in love with, and so it comes off as cruel, but thanks to Kaname, everyone finally knows who likes whom (again, except Manaka). The parties involved can either pretend these truths never came out and continue maintaining the status quo until the end, or they can act on the information, one way or another.

All we can say is, thank God for Kaname and his forthrightness; if not for him the awkwardness would only continue. As things stand, Hikari is glad he was finally able to express his feelings clearly to Manaka, regardless of how she took the news, while Chisaki is equally glad she was able express hers to him. They were alike in their hesitation out of fear of destroying friendships, and both seem to take solace in knowing they’re not alone in their frustration, and never were. Manaka can’t find such solace, as she’s still too unsure of her feelings. No doubt adding to her anxiety is the fact that her uncertainty won’t change just because time is running out. While Akari had time to grow up and choose her path before calamity came, Manaka isn’t so lucky.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 10

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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.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Nagi no Asukara – 09

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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?!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 07

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The students complete the Ojoshi-sama, and Hikari takes it upon himself to make sure they hold a real Ofunehiki. Everyone hands out flyers and collects signatures, but when Hikari asks his dad, he refuses. Hikari and Tsumugu are able to gather representatives from both sea and land, but the meeting ends in a fight, and the ojoshi is destroyed. Akari and Hikari both decide to leave Shioshishio, but when Uroko-sama tries to punish them, their father begs him to show mercy, and they escape to the surface.

At the start of the series, Hikari felt very much as his father did, that the surface people could not be trusted or reasoned with. But that prejudice was handed down, not the product of a lifetime of dealing with them, as his father has. Once Hikari was forced to the surface for school, actually got to know surface people,  befriended some, and worked with them to build the Ojoshi-sama, he started to change. When he saw how much Akari had invested in Itaru and Miuna, he changed more. And when his father coldly rejected his plans for rapprochement with the surface, it was the last straw.

It was a poignant moment when Akari told her father what her mother said, about loving him even if he was form the surface. You can tell he knows that was true. His children may be fed up with his stubbornness, but we cannot fault him for, as Tsumugu says to Chisaki, being only what he can be. He has to balance love for his family and his desire for their happiness with the responsibilities of a high priest of a village that doesn’t have much time left. If his own children succumb to the lure of the surface (albeit for different reasons), what hope does the village have? Certainly not much, but a village preserved by isolation, suppression of free will, and force may not be worth saving.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Hikari’s initial motivation for holding the Ofunehiki seems clear: he wants Manaka to be happy no matter what, even if he thinks she continues to drift away from him. Later, he’s fueled by his father’s bull-headed obstinancy.
  • Manaka notices Hikari’s different attitude, and worries about things changing, but Chisaki is there to tell her that sometimes change can’t be stopped. Chisaki remains mopey, meanwhile; we hope she speaks up to Hikari soon.
  • The petty bickering of the men at the meeting contrasted sharply with the cooperation and comraderie of the students—more proof that amity often skips a generation.

Nagi no Asukara – 02

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The fish in Hanaka’s knee swims away, and she tries to get Uroko to curse her again. When Tsumugu volunteers to build the Ojoushi-sama, a wooden doll used as a sacrifice in the Ofunehiki (boatdrift) ceremony, Manaka, Hikari, Chisaki and Kaname join him. At the end of the day, they spot Akari kissing a surface guy; a banishable offense. Hikari snaps at Manaka and then Chisaki. Manaka asks Uroko to curse her again, but is interrupted by townsfolk who have arrested Akari. Hikari and Akari’s dad arrives and takes over, ordering everyone else to leave.

Tempests are raging within the hearts of Hikari, Manaka, and Chisaki, belying the cool tranquility of the sea in which they dwell. Chisaki’s situation in particular calls to mind a similar situation with Nadeko in Monogatari: she is in love with someone who doesn’t notice her, but isn’t doing anything to get noticed, because that’s the easiest course. Chisaki understands Hikari’s love for Manaka all too well, as it mirrors her love for him. But confessing her love would make things difficult for everyone, so she abstains. Well, whether she likes it or not, the status quo is already shattered thanks to Manaka’s fated encounter with Tsumugu. he doesn’t really do anything to cause all this havoc with his new sea-dwelling classmates, besides exist and be kind to Manaka.

Hikari even admits he’s a good guy, but that’s irrelevant to him: Manaka is his – not just his charge, but his love. But as he struggles with those feelings, she seems to be slipping away. The tension between everyone is palpably expressed in the awkward way they’re often arranged within the camera frame (see above). Chisaki selflessly warns Tsumugu (under her breath) to stop being so kind to Manaka. Akari provides a solemn warning about what happens when sea-dweller falls for a dry-lander. All of this underlines the theme of the world beneath the sea being so fragile and vulnerable to contamination, versus the unyielding, almost inevitable force of the surface. One by one, people are leaving the sea for good. You have to think at one point in the future there will be no one left down there.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)