Nagi no Asukara – 05

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Classic Okada, that one – for better and for worse.

Here’s what I said in my spirited defense of Nagi no Asukara after the third episode:

I am aware that there’s a certain manipulative quality to the writing here, as there is in much of Okada’s work.  I’m not blind, and I can see when she’s pulling my strings – but it doesn’t so much matter because the way she’s pulling them is pretty artful.

The truth of the matter is, that’s a fine line for any writer to walk, and Okada has certainly crossed it many times in her recent career.  I do now as I always have like Nagi no Asukara’s willingness to confront big emotional issues openly, without the frigid reserve which seems to be such an intrinsic part of most anime.  I like the fact that this is a series where people hug each other and tell each other they love each other – that’s a good thing, not a bad one.  In itself.

But with the last couple of episodes, I think Okada has overstepped herself and we’ve at times slipped into the realm of the maudlin.  Simply put, there was too damn much crying and wailing here for my tastes.  I think there are times when Okada has gotten the point across and simply doesn’t know when to stop, and when you factor in exploiting the cuteness of little girls, you really reach the point where manipulation becomes excessive.

For me at least, the issue with this episode isn’t one of substance so much as degree.  I like the Akari subplot, and I think it’s provided a great forum both for Hikari to show his increasing maturity and to highlight the long-term crisis facing the Sea People.  There was a lot of good stuff in this episode – I really liked the dancing scene, which so perfectly captured the almost immeasurable awkwardness of organized coed dancing for pubescent kids.  I liked where the episode took Chisaki’s character, showing us how being a little more mature than normal for one’s age can sometimes give you the perceptiveness to realize why you’re unhappy, but not to do anything about it.  Her conversation with Tsumugu – using him as her “sea slug”, which about describes his personality – was good too, showing us how badly she needed to unburden herself, and I liked his calm “Stop” when Manaka appeared on the scene.  I even liked the interaction between Hikari and Miuna for the most part, and I especially liked when Hikari told Akari to stop being his Mom and start being Miuna’s.

It’s too bad Okada didn’t trust the audience to get the point (which is often an issue with her) because the emotions behind all this were very authentic and the point would have been easily gotten without all the histrionics. C’est la vie – I can honestly say I’d rather watch a show that gets the big emotions right but overplays them than one that’s false to the core, though I do hope the writer steps off the gas now that we’ve seemingly reached the story’s first major resolution.  I think the bigger problem is very clear here, and it’s way Akari’s happy ending isn’t really a happy ending.  It’s nice if she follows her heart and stays with Tooru and Miuna, but that means another lost breeding-aged Sea Person, and a net gain for the Landies (who hardly need the help).  The intro scene made it clear that the Sea God (whoever that is) is fully aware that the current situation can only result in one ending, if unchecked, and it doesn’t seem as if he’s willing to let his people go extinct without a fight.

Perhaps this will all come to a head with the five children of the core cast – not technically the “next generation” as they’re the same one as Akari, but certainly at some remove from her.  If indeed Manaka loves Tsumugu (frankly it’s getting harder and harder to see why, as he isn’t very interesting) would Hikari have the stomach to let her go as he did his sister?  Hikari has, not surprisingly, shown the most growth of anyone in the cast and this is clearly his story, so it seems very likely that he (perhaps after a timeskip, though I hope not) is going to be the key player when the crisis of the Sea People is resolved one way or the other.  He’s stepped up as a very fine lead, one of the strengths of the series – he was always relatable for me as he seemed quite realistic for a 13 year-old, but he’s actually become likable as well as believable.

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  1. t

    I feared it might happen. and it did.
    it reminded me AnoHana…in terms of feels..this episode is very alike.
    that "over-melodramtic"…it's like they are forcing us to the feels, and it's certainly not necessary 'cause we've already established a connection to the MC and their feels.
    you shouldn't force your viewers to crying. I mean it's OK to have some crying scenes, but this was too much crying. sometimes forced one too.

    well, despite the exaggeration of feels, there were stuff I did like this ep.
    if it wasn't original, I'd have say we cleared Miuna's route 😛
    Hikari is such dollicon 😛
    Akari may have found inner peace within herself, but things are far far from over (aka we only cleared a flag in her route 😛 )

    and there's the stuff with Manaka and chisaki. I bet Manaka won't be able to shut her mouth for long..we can see she's struggling with her thinking in that matter. what should she do?I don't know..'cause it's unclear what she really thinks and feels. does she really love Tsumugu?clearly she is fascinated by him…and it make some sense despite him being indifferent.
    besides, it seems Hikari is meant for Manaka rather than Chisaki…so it's complicated ( and we haven't seen much interaction between them this time), but it's good thing that they aren't keeping the stuff hidden, little by little things rises toward to surface in that matter (great dancing scene!), for now it's between chisaki and manaka..but that's the start of the complex being apparent to the MC.

  2. p

    This episode is a classic example of Okada getting out of control. She's being excessive as hell here and it's bloody annoying because I know she's better than that. And PA Works. What a disappointment you are with this series. You're not Key. You're not Kyoani. You're not some cheapo run down the mill K-drama soap opera. You are better than this. You don't need to sink down to the lowest common denominator when it comes to drama and be so damn artificial and pandering.

    The melodrama in this episode was about as obnoxious as someone hitting you with a sledgehammer in the face and then asking you to not cry. I feel like grabbing that sledgehammer and hurling it back at PA Works HQ or Okadaville. Haven't seen episode so wrenched in forced melodrama since Black Rock Shooter and Anohana. I wonder who wrote those two series. OH WAIT…

    There might be a potentially an interesting premise here with the whole landweller and seadweller conflict, and the visuals, particularly background visuals are top notch but unfortunately it's all drowned in this melodrama tidal wave. Pretty sure I'll drown in it first before any of the landwellers think about committing suicide by drowning themselves. Oh shit, did I just give a bad plot idea for this show?

    Abysmal episode. Way too many wide fastballs and the pitcher now has a sprained arm. Slow down or you're gonna cause an early retirement or worse disgruntled attendees (me) who leave the game early.

  3. I have absolutely no idea why you're still watching this series – or, to be honest, why you started watching it in the first place. Why torture yourself?

  4. p

    You know very well the answer :p

  5. p

    In summary, I really want to like this show. I REALLY do. It's like with you and Kill la Kill until the latest episode which you seemed to have praised a lot.

    But it's becoming more and more impossible until these theatrics is toned down. And it cuts me deep because I know both Okada and studio are better than this. It's like you said, they don't trust the audience. They don't trust the fact that unless they hammer it home (with a sledgehammer) they won't get the reaction they won't and ultimately the disc sales they need. It's a bloody shame. If this series had the genuity and restrain of Tari Tari but with a beautiful and wonderful world they have right now, I would be gobbling this up faster than a fat kid eats cake because I LOVE PA work's style.

  6. K

    The crying was a bit much but other than that I actually thought this was a beautifully directed episode with a great story to tell.

  7. R

    not really that bothered about the melodrama., it ism''t on Black Rock Shooter levels of histrionics (yet). or maybe i am just immune to it, having watched too many filipino soap operas.

    what i do like about the series is still how they highlight hikari's changing views every episode. in this one, he is particularly more level-headed. also love his last line of "who's the kid now" showing how he himself irealized that he is slowly moving away from his childish views.

    i am stiull crossing my fingers that the whole sea god plot isn't some deus ex machina to generate more melodrama.

  8. M

    Shhhh ~ there was so much crying this ep because PA Works wanted to show off their nice water animation(dem wave-like tears).Meanwhile,Okada has this grin on her face in the background & while telling herself: "Just as planned".

    In all seriousness though,I can deal with this much melodrama – maybe it's because of the atmosphere,dunno.I'm more worried that it's being used so early in a two-cour show because I think there's a limit to how much they can use it in an attempt to draw out some feelings from the audience before it becomes just downright annoying,even for the most patient ones.

    I guess I should also say that as someone who really disliked Hikari's in the beginning(kid or not,when I was his age I couldn't stand other kids that behaved like him either) I continue to be pleased at the early development he's receiving.Some will surely think of it as rushed,especially those who have garnered so much hate for him in the early episodes that any development he receives is much harder to accept(I really need to stop bringing this up all the time…),and to a degree,they might be right with this episode too.Personally,I think giving him a few more inner monologues scenes would've helped here.

  9. especially those who have garnered so much hate for him in the early episodes that any development he receives is much harder to accept

    Think you distilled the essence of the matter right there.

  10. K

    What measure is a good anime? I don't know the answer to that. Saying that it is interesting is not really answering it because of the vague properties. But I think what I can be certain of is that a good anime doesn't have the features that makes it a bad anime.

    Nagi no Asukara is not a bad anime. I'm not sure if it is a great anime but I think that call is still to early to call of its greatness.


  11. s

    I dont know i think id like a timeskip, but not for the reason that I cant stand the fact that this series revolves around 13 year olds. Hikari is finally groiwing into himself with each passing episode, sketching his path towards manhood and the responsibilities a teenager begins to realize as they grow older; and it's doing that pretty competently.

    I think the show itself would benefit from a timeskip to kinda illustrate how hikari's path towards maturity has translated over the years and as an older character, how he deals with the social and political matters that are occuring in his universe as they would be even more relevant to him now that he is an young adult (like 18 or 19). I think that could be really interesting and open up vast possibilities for both the characters and the plot. But as of right now, the show is fine using adolescent characters as its character framework.

    This weeks episode was something else; it had great ideas and i am very fond of Akari's character (Kaori Nazuka fan here) but…..hmmmmm…..ill just call this a misstep for now. This series is still good.

  12. I'm very fond of Akari too and I think her storyline serves several porpoises very well, but Okada undercut it by not trusting the audience IMO. That's something she does quite a lot – establish something really meaningful and then use it like Koto's hammer. She's like a surgeon with great skills who insists on using a chainsaw instead of a scalpel.

  13. s

    hahahaha; I couldnt have said it any better. Okada flips from 1 to11 on a dime; one minute she understands subtlety, the next minute she puts a megaphone next to the audience's ear and screams away; doesn't matter how lovely a voice sounds, if its too loud, it becomes gratingly painful.

  14. p

    One moment she's making True Tears and True Tours or adapting Wandering Son and Tempest, next moment she's making Anohana and Black Rock Shooter or adapting Toradora and Sakurasou.

    Apparently in an interview she says one of the hardest things in writing is the amount of times she gets asked to put in more melodrama than she already planned though I'm beginning to think it's a load of bullshit. She's like being obnoxious and fiesty in her drama or her comedy and is pretending she likes doing the "smarter" more "restrained" stuff.

  15. Very disappointed to get no love for that gloriously terrible pun…

  16. p

    I got it enzo. I just got distracted by the okada bashing :p

  17. F

    It was on purpose, eh?

    Tbh I wondered if it might have hiccuped in your typing – like text commenting via smartphone or something… :-/

  18. i

    It's too bad Okada didn't trust the audience to get the point – most audiences are stupid, things needs to be dumbed down for them to understand. It's why subtles things are for subtle people not a flash mob.

    I understand what you mean, the crying and stuff is certainly not very interesting but to create a dramatic scene without crying or yelling is difficult and its easier for Okada to just let the water works begin. Still I'm in it for the long run so not too mad.

  19. p

    The responses on MyAnimeList is just as you expect. There's people loving the hell out of it because to use one of enzo's phrases "posting and mailing it" hard on the shipper crowd since this is a blantant and obvious series such that would be dominated by shipping discussion. Maybe I'm too old or something, but I still don't understand the appeal of shipping… though I do like well done romances. This however, is not one of them.

    I admire you're tolerance though, because I'm finding it incredibly hard (impossible actually) not to lash out at this series due to all sorts of baggage, being a PA Works fanboy being one of them. But one question still boggles my mind: why is there so few people that can keep Ms. Mari Okada undercheck in her over indulgences? Is she so influential that producers or directors have little say, or is it the producers or directors themselves that force her.

  20. M

    She's the Shinkai of the TV anime world. At least, when she isn't behind something worthwhile like Simoun.

  21. h

    The weeping and wailing was wonderful. No need to resent being manipulated, just go with it and enjoy the intensity. Yes, it can be overdone. It wasn't overdone here, for me. I mean, Akari had just been denied the love of her life and was suppressing her feelings for the sake of her community. Then Miuna went missing, and was found, and the dam of Akari's feelings quite naturally broke.

    I'm one of those who garnered so much hatred for Hikari that this, to me sudden, flip over to maturity is quite unbelievable. As I have said before, just because he was somewhat realistic for a middle school student, that didn't make him any less awful when he was bossing Manaka around. I recognized from the start that the intention was to show him improving, but if I were going to complain about Okada-sensei, I would complain about the mechanical way she has been trying to show him changing.

    As for Tsumugu, he is also realistic, in my experience. I don't see him as without character, but as strong and reserved. That "stop!" was wonderful. I'm not sure I see any romantic spark there, but that's another matter.

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