Nagi no Asukara – 05

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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)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.
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Nagi no Asukara – 04

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Hikari refuses Miuna’s request to help break up his sister and her dad; prejudiced surface dwellers refuse the sea dwellers’ food; Hikari gets in a fight when he suspects they vandalized the Ojoshi-sama. He’s sent home, and Manaka follows; they rescue Miuna’s dad Itaru from drowning and take him home, where Hikari learns he’s a widower; Miuna confesses to ruining Ojoshi-sama. While visitng Uroko, Akari goes over how she met Itaru’s family and wanted to fill the void his late wife Miori left behind. Manaka tells Hikari she wants to start protecting him, and convinces him to apologize to the kids he wrongly accused; the next day he and Manaka get on their knees, and are both forgiven. Kaname catches Miuna’s friend Sayu – the real Ojoshi vandal – and makes her apologize to Hikari.

The focus returns to Hikari this week, as he’s called an octopus on not one but two occasions. The landlubber Sayu means it as a derogatory term, but Manaka uses it more thoughtfully: like Octopi, Hikari tends to “spit out ink” at “unfamiliar fish”. Rather than try to settle problems with the landies, he lashes out at them and jumps to conclusions. It’s a pattern of behavior that was likely to further isolate him at school had someone not stepped in to steer him right, and to his surprise, it’s Manaka. She used to hide behind everyone else, but she’s becoming stronger and more assertive week by week, even if she still cries a lot. Hikari can’t help but attribute at least part of that growth to Tsumugu’s influence, as he certainly didn’t do anything to incite it. Hikari is understandably conflicted about this.

Still, hotheaded chural that he can be, he does ultimately arrive at a detente with the surface-dwellers, and even if they’re not BFFs, they at least understand each other a little more. The balance of this episode filled in the blanks of the Itaru/Miuna/Akari picture. Miuna’s bluish eyes were an early sign that her late mother was indeed a sea-dweller, meaning Miuna faced the same kind of bullying as Hikari and the others, only at a younger age. But Sayu, a surface-dweller, eventually befriended her, admiring her ability – no doubt developed by necessity in a harsh social environment – to not let the abuse of her peers get to her. Miuna only cares about the opinions of people who care about her. At the same time, Akari cares about Miuna and loves her father, but can’t so easily fill the void left by her mother.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We thought Sayu and Miuna sounded familiar, because they are: we know Sayu’s seiyu as Madoka from Lagrange, and Miuna’s as Captain Marilka from Mouretsu Pirates.
  • Sayu really did a number on that Ojoshi-sama. Ya went too far, kid.
  • Had Itaru succeeded in using his borrowed diving equipment properly, would it have been fair to call his actions “SCUBA-stalking?”
  • What was that about Chisaki saying she’s “big?” ‘Cause she really isn’t. Either a case of skewed body image on her part, or a disconnect between writers and character designers who can only draw ridiculously pretty characters.

Nagi no Asukara – 03

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Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname visit their old abandoned school. Hikari vows to punch the guy who kissed Akari. When he returns home, Akari acts normally, but he hears her crying in bed. The next day Hikari chases Akari’s boyfriend to Tsumugu’s house. Tsumugu tells them both that the offspring of a sea and earth dweller won’t be able to live in the sea. Back at home, Akari tells him she’s decided to end it. Tsumugu builds a watering hole for his new friends. Afterwards, Hikari follows Akari’s boyfriend to his workplace and is ambushed by two girls, one of whom asks Hikari to help her break up her dad his sister.

This was an episode full of characters faced with complications on the paths they’d hoped to take through life, and must choose to either stay on the path or change course in order to avoid further trouble and anguish. One such character is Akari, who is portrayed in both flashback and the present as a selfless, loving older sister who decided she had to mature quickly and be strong for Hikari after their mother died. Hikari has always admired that strength, but also felt bad that she never thought of herself, to the point where he’s a little relieved when he learns of her boyfriend. He may be form the surface, but at least she’s thinking about herself for once.

By the end of the episode, she seems to be back to sacrificing her happiness for others; it would be unthinkable for the daughter of the high priest to be with a surface dweller and be banished, after all. Hikari doesn’t like how quickly she gives in. In fact, this whole episode redeems Hikari to an extent and develops his character, as he accepts not only that Tsumugu is a nice guy and Manaka may like him, but also sees a selflessness similar to his sister’s in Chisaki. His scenes with his sister are very affecting, too – especially when he notices how she trembles when she tries to keep things in. Still, while everyone is well aware of who likes whom, no one has verbalized anything to their respective subjects of affection, and so a tense impasse continues that could grow wearisome if it drags on.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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)

Nagi no Asukara – 01

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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.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.