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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Nagi no Asukara – 06

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In his first swimming class on the surface, Hikari challenges Tsumugu to a race, but loses and splits his toenail on the pool wall. Manaka tries hard to bring Chisaki and Hikari, but only ends up making things worse. While biking her to the pier, Tsumugu asks her about the phenomenon known as “Tomoebi”, when there appear to be three suns underwater; Manaka remembers angering Chisaki when she missed it last time. When it happens again, she finds Chisaki and they watch it together; Hikari and Kaname also watch just below them.

After focusing on Akari we return to the core group and its bright, buoyant core, Mukaido Manaka. As Kaname points out, is always the first to jump way ahead in things before the other three realize it, contrasting with her classic scaredy-cat nature. When Hikari gets hurt she springs into action before Chisaki can budge. She tries desperately to keep everyone together, and happy, but no matter what she does or says, the unhappy reality remains: it might not be possible for everyone to be happy. Too much may have changed, or is changing, between them all.

All she and everyone else in the group can do is be clear in their feelings for one another, face the trials that come with those various revelations, and see how the saltflake snow shakes out. Even Kaname, a relative island of tranquility (and gaining a surface-girl admirer), hasn’t come clean about liking Chisaki as Hikari remains paralyzed vis-a-vis Manaka. The final scene of the Tomoebi in all its grandeur is remarkably beautiful in its execution, but also profoundly sad; an echo of simpler times. Manka brought everyone back together for that moment, but the peace may be fleeting.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • A lesser show might’ve had Hikari’s pool duel with Tsumugu be the entire plot of the episode; here the point is made and it wraps it up quickly
  • Speaking of wrapping-up, what was with the surface girls wearing modesty towels even in their own locker room?
  • At this point, Hikari gets so mad seeing Manaka alone with Tsumugu that it makes his own encounters with Manaka needlessly tense and strained.
  • We like how the show portrayed the sea people being accepted more and more by the growing number of people helping out with the Ojoshi-sama
  • We hope to more of Kaname’s growing friendship with the nice surface girl who likes him.
  • Manaka’s multiple attempts to include Chi-chan were appropriately hard to watch, but that’s kinda Chisaki’s fault for not being upfront with the necessary party; not that anyone else has been, mind you.
  • Tsumugu’s suggests that Manaka finish her sentences to avoid ambiguity, which is safe but ultimately self-defeating in the present situation. That sound advice could apply to everyone in the group.