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.

 

 

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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 – 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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