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 – 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)