Nagi no Asukara – 02

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And so the madness continues.  I wouldn’t be anywhere else, for now at least.

You have to hand it to Okada Mari – she really is the straw that stirs the drink.  There are few – maybe no – writers in anime today who can equal her ability to factionalize, rile up and generally piss off an audience.  Whatever else you may say about it that’s undeniably a talent, and she’s undeniably a talented writer. It also means that the audience reactions to her shows – especially originals – are usually at least as entertaining as the shows themselves, and Nagi no Asukara appears to be no exception.

There are a number of ways to measure one’s interest in a series, but one of the most important – especially this early in the season – is how much you find yourself anticipating the next episode.  On that score NnA was very high on my list – I was looking forward to this episode more than most of the shows I liked in the same general range at the time of viewing the premiere (which is quite a large group this season).  That’s a testament to Okada’s brainworm qualities, I think – she can draft a scenario that elicits a strong reaction, even if it’s not a positive one, and there’s a natural desire to be stimulated that way again.  That can certainly wear off in her case, but for now I’m quite invested in this premise and it appears Okada may be aiming a little higher than usual in terms of the story she’s trying to tell.

What jumps out for me in the always-entertaining fan backlash this time around is the ridiculously overplayed hatred Hikari is getting.  Yeah, he’s annoying – news flash, 13 year-old boys often are annoying.  In a medium that so often gives us high-schoolers acting (and often looking) like 13 year-olds, I find it sort of refreshing to have actual 13 year-olds do it.  That applies most to Hikari and Manaka, and while it can make them irritating I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic.  The first thing I take issue with is the oft-stated notion that Hikari somehow “made Manaka the way she is”.  Well, not only do I call BS on that but I think it’s a damn sexist way of thinking.  Are girls so weak and deferential that a pushy and overprotective boy can turn one into a simpering crybaby?  Manaka is how she is because of Manaka, not because of Hikari – sure, the way he acts bossy and seems to take it as his responsibility to watch over her can exacerbate the problem, and this has led (IMHO) to a kind of codependency that isn’t healthy.  But he didn’t make Manaka the girl she is.

Truth is, I find Manaka to be more annoying that Hikari because she bursts into tears at the drop of a fish and seems to crave the protection of not just Hikari, but Kaname and Chisaki too.  But that’s a matter of preference – they can both be a pill.  More importantly, unlike in many shows where teenagers act like jerks we actually have a little background as to why that is, especially in Hikari’s case.  And not only that, we actually see him face consequences when he acts like a jerk – his friends tell him off – and that’s even more rare in anime.  That’s why we have character arcs, because characters can change and grow as they learn – especially adolescents – and in a two-cour series a lot can get done on that front.

As to why Hikari is the way he is, it seems clear that the society the four “sea kiddos” grew up in is a mess.  There’s a rule – only Kaname seems to have known about it – that any villager who takes up with a landie scum is banished.  This hits especially close to home for Hikari when he sees his big sister Akari (Nazuka Kaori – may I be struck by an IFO for not mentioning her last week) making time with a surface guy.  When the truth comes out it’s especially awkward for their Dad (Amada Masuo, who seems to play an inordinate number of big guys with beards) given that he’s the Chief Priest of the village.  I can see a real breakdown coming for Hikari here, because he’s seeing the underpinnings of his life collapse beneath him.  He thinks he’s losing the girl he’s in love with, and now he thinks he’s losing his sister as well – a sister who probably took on a sort of surrogate mother role, given that the mother of the Sakishima family seems to have passed away at some point.

Okada, as usual, is playing the relationship dynamic very well.  Given the confused nature of the feelings involved there’s a tension in the air in every scene involving this group of kids, especially when Tsumugu is around (you can practically hear the fizzing of the hormones).  The romantic inclinations of this fivesome are a huge mess and the kids are acting exactly like middle-schoolers normally would – totally unable to handle it (with the possible exception of Kaname, who’s a tad too precocious in his maturity so far to be believable).  It seems Okada is working towards a larger drama too, as we’re seeing a share of ugliness on both sides.  From the surface people it’s mostly petty bigotry, but you can sense in the villagers a sense of desperation – they’re the ones on the defensive, the ones whose civilization seems in the course of being worn down by the overwhelming numbers of the surface people the way the ocean slowly whittles down a rock into sand.  When things get really ugly – and they may just have already started to – I think it will be from their side that it begins.

There’s a predictable course this series could take – the next generation finding mutual understanding and trying to salvage the peace as their elders succumb to hatred, even as their personal feelings come into conflict.  But that could be quite an interesting thing to watch, and there seems to question that it’ll be an interesting one to seeNagi no Asukara continues to be a beautiful series in terms of visuals.  I’m not going to join the Statler and Waldorf’s in the audience carping about the undersea physics not making sense – seriously, given this premise that’s what you’re worried about?  Both the land and the sea are beautiful here, especially where the two meet.  It’s no secret that I adore P.A. Works’ aesthetic and it’s fantastic to see them apply it to a different sort of reality, just as they did in Uchouten Kazoku.  I’ll never write off Okada’s ability to drive me away from a series, but so far I’m fully on-board with this one.

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20 comments

  1. l

    Image 6, 7 and 8;
    It's like I'm looking at a bunch of giant whiny walking embryos

  2. p

    Unfortunately, I am totally unable to appreciate this show. In addition to the baggage and preconceptions I have (and my general dislike for melodrama), it's in the same season White Album 2, which frankly is multiple tiers above this one except in visuals. I've also loved these melancholic, romanticesque, nostalgic dramas and when it comes to romance I've loved the kind that True Tears, Baby Blue, Makoto Shinkai movies and VNs like Narcissu and True Remembrance portray. Nagi no Asu kara seems to be going for the theatrical type much like Anohana or Clannad After Story (and by extension Key) which manipulates your emotions and to be frank I don't appreciate it anymore.

    Watching it because it's PA works (not because it's okada) because it's PRETTY AS HELL (I too do prefer the look of PA shows over Kyoani ones that isn't named Hyouka) but to be blunt I have a feeling it's going to be thier worst out of the 4 slice of life/drama anime originals they made (the others being True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari).

  3. Let's just be clear up-front though – you did totally dismiss this show as a failure before it ever aired so you've got a lot at stake in seeing it tank! ;-P

  4. p

    To be fair that was me exaggerating, to the point I had to take a "vacation" on AS (mods took me seriously :-P). It's seriously the amount of melodrama I can smell from miles away that's mainly getting me sceptical.

  5. t

    Shinkai and Watanabe manipulate the hell out of you as well, it's the way they do it that makes you enjoy it more.

  6. i

    I quite like it as well. And I can't understand the hate for Hikari when he is just being a clueless kid – funny because a lot of the male anime fandom is at a maturity level that's even lower.

    Someone also complained last week about the character designs but to me it just seems like there is a distinct divide in style between humans and sea-humans. The latter looks like a fish and that's the reason for that.

    Whatever path the political side takes I think it will undoubtably be mirrored in the romantic one. And for the most obvious political resolution to occur two things must happen; Hikari must accept a lost fight and either Manaka goes to the surface or (a real possibility) Tsumugu has Uro-sama give him gills (Red Bullfish anyone?).

    On Kaname I think its likely that he knows because he seen it happen to someone close, possibly even his parents. If he had to live a knuckled down life because of that its no wonder he's so precocious. I also think that the way he acknowledges Chisaki's love is to keep himself away from thinking about whatever one he may have.

  7. t

    NnA Ep02 keeps developing the characters along side the conflicts that cross societies.
    clearly this is a bit predictable, ie the 5 or so MC will gain each other trust some way or another. what about the loving-complex..?still not sure. I think Manaka is influenced by Hikari despite her being the usual self. like when she decided to call that guy by the name Kihara, was all because of Hikari. yet the flow imply us she might end up being like the little mermaid who went to land.
    yes, they are middle-school brats (mostly hikari) that's why they really don'y know who to communicate well with the whole "romance-complex" except for Chisaki which can clearly see all the hints, faces, eyes..poor chisaki and Kaname who is probably in love with her.

    anyway..what i didn;t like this episode is the a lot of jumping between scenes. first manaka meet the sea-god..then she met him 1 or 2 more times this episode. and there's the stuff with the sister..it felt a bit.."jumpy road" somewhere in the middle.

    well NnA still looks good in terms of visuals and animation. and PA know how to manipulate to drama-romance-complex along with the society stuff. I wonder if the fantasy element will become more central, and there are mentions all time for legend or old-tradition…S:

  8. R

    hmm, from the looks of it, uroko-sama isn't just some pervert demigod. looks like he is going to be more of a reasonable, if a bit playful, father figure to the kids.

    nagi no asukara and golden time is starting to be an intteresting counterpoint to each other. on one end, you got mature college people falling in love while here you got immature kids going through the pains of first love. and they all act according to their ages.

    i agree with you that many of the haters seem to be forgetting the fact that we have 13-year olds here. they are at the crossroads between being kids and moving on to become adolscents. so naturally they are confused and act in odd ways as they try to adapt to the new phase of their lives.

  9. K

    I like this show. I watched because I find it interesting, because I looked forward to it more than the rest.

    TQ

  10. S

    Reminding myself that Hikari and co. are 13 years old sure makes watching Nagi no Asukara a much better experience. I'm looking forward to the character developments, especially Hikari's.

    I agree, Kaname feels a tad too mature. I hope the show would provide us with some insights into that precocious nature of his, that would definitely make him an interesting character.

  11. With two cours to play with and the current "it boy" seiyuu playing him, that seems like a pretty good bet to happen.

  12. M

    As unlikeable as Hikari is I'm liking the fact that it looks like he'll be getting some repercussions for it from his friends.Admitedly,I was pretty annoyed with him until I saw how a group of grown men from were ganging up on his sister,treating her as if she was some sort of witch that they'd want to burn.I mean like,if those are his role models then I seriously can't blame the kid (not saying it's gonna make likeable though,he'd have to earn that).I like to think that by seeing how those adults were treating his sister,he'll have a vision of himself as a grown up and be frightened by the thought enough to change his views on the whole sea/land people issue.

    At any rate,definitely liking this one and that ED's just awesome.

  13. s

    I wouldnt say that postulating that Hikari's behavior towards Manaka is what made her so meek as being sexist; Any gender relationship can have that affect. ive seen more than once, "friendships" like Hikari and Manaka's from any gender. Back in highschool, I knew two dudes who were friends but one of the guys felt that he couldnt do anything without his friend; a major reason being that the other guy always made him feel that way; he made him feel like he couldnt play sports properly without his help, he couldnt talk to girls without his help, and that if they ever stopped talking, there would be no one else to talk to him. I see stuff like this quite frequently whether it is two guys, two girls, or a guy and a girl. Hikari is just really deluding himself; his head is so far up his ass he really thinks manaka cant do a thing without him; and based on what we know about psychology, if one continues to reinforce that idea, one may actually believe it. That's not to say manaka isnt completely a meek person because she is. But hikari has agitated that behavior along far more than he should have. I dont hate Hikari (i tend not to emotionally hate characters unless they are just the embodiment of a scumbag), i just see him for who he is at the moment and i think its going to take him realizing that he aint going to be manaka's crutch for the rest of his life for him to grow up. I really want to see the status quo of their relationship to change, for manaka to lose that dependence on him so that their relationship can actually mature into a true friendship or whatever they might be in the future.

  14. a

    Thanks for the interesting read. I already feel invested in the group's dynamics even though it's only the second episode, so I think that's a good sign.

    The scene where Hikari is thinking about Manaka trying to escape his protection was really sad. I don't know if you've watched a subbed version of the ending theme song, but if you haven't, I would recommend it; the lyrics are so sad ;-; I would say they are definitely from Hikari's perspective (even though it's a female singer and all you see is Manaka) but I can see them as being from Chisaki's perspective, as well.

    I also like Manaka's little dilemma, too. It might be too cliche for others, but I thought she gave off a very Little Mermaid-ish vibe this episode. I hope she gets a proper character arc sometime in these 2 cours.

  15. x

    I am amazed that I don't find any of these characters annoying. Especially when I found Menma so annoying.
    Probably because Menma was an annoying unseeable ghost thing.

  16. K

    What are you saying? Are you not moved by Ano Hana?

    TQ

  17. F

    Hmm… for me the best part of the series is the story setting. A very interesting "world". And the animation is quite lovely.

    Unfortunately for me the characters don't "click" with me so far in terms of engaging me, which is a huge drawback.

    Well, we will see for a few more eps….

  18. Great to have you back commenting, Flower. I agree the characters are behind the world-building and animation at this stage, but I see a fair bit of potential there.

  19. t

    well..the characters in hanasaku (also 2cour from PA, their flag project so far) didn't click at first (except for ohana..well she was the main heroine).
    yet, I think they are doing great job expressing the true nature of the characters, they are middle school students (or mostly brats in hikari case) who are now takeing an important step in maturation process, along with the stuff going on in the society..so, the feels for the characters will come in a few eps, it's just taking time..

  20. R

    You're right, Enzo. I was cautiously optimistic about Nagi no Asukara before the Fall season started, but I now find myself looking forward to it more than other series — it does tell me how much I like this show. I don't find Hikari annoying at all, and it seems to me that the characters are simply acting their age — although both Chisaki and Kaname act a bit more mature. I like that it quickly sets up the tensions — both between the sea villagers and land people and amongst the characters — and this opens up the opportunity for developing the characters. Okada is quite good at building up a drama and eliciting tears. She may push a drama over the top at times, but it is still at my acceptable level, and I want to see how these kids grow, face the world that they are in, and deal with their own feelings.

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