Or Nagi no Asukara II – 01, if you prefer.
Well, the timeskip I’ve been dreading has happened, and the game has officially been changed by Okada-sensei. We’ll see how it goes, but my first reaction is mostly positive. Okada (who personally wrote this episode) does have a particular genius for screwing up the lives of her characters, and in this setup she’s found a fairly novel way to mess with them even further. At least in this instance she’s an equal-opportunity sadist – the girls are getting it just as much as the guys.
Today is pretty much survival mode for me, as in addition to many of the premieres I plan to cover most of Fall’s carry-over series resume today as well. The posts may be shorter than usual as a result, but it says something about my feelings for Nagi no Asukara that this was the first show I chose to watch today, which saw the biggest single-day queue dump in my blogging history. It’s too early to call this series Fall’s “last man standing” – I certainly haven’t given up on Golden Time, and not quite on Samurai Flamenco (it’s close) – but this is definitely the series that’s standing tallest. Of all the Thursday shows that crowded the Fall schedule, NnA is the one that had legs.
Ever since the promo images became available the general outline of the scene change was pretty clear, though I was fooled by the shot of Miuna in the last preview into thinking we’d be looking at 2-3 years, not five. Five is a pretty convenient number, as it makes Miuna now the same age as Hikari (and Sayu the same as Kaname – who’ll presumably show up next week – for that matter). It also makes Chisaki and Tsugumu 18, and thus Chisaki is left with a hard choice – does she find a new object of affection, or come out as a shotacon? She’s been taken in by Tsugumu’s grandfather (as we knew, a man of Shioshishio himself) and is going to nursing school while taking care of him after he’s fallen gravely ill. Sea Slug is off to Tokyo to study oceanography at college with an eye on figuring out what’s happened to the sea villages (we’re told there are actually 14 of them) and its impact on the land. He returns with one of his professors for Tomoebi, an occasion with understandably triggers painful memories for Chisaki.
As for the moeblobs, they’re now 13, and while Sayu is no less annoying it appears Miuna is now free to be a major player in the story without all the shameless pandering and watermelon-sized tears. Things have certainly been busy at the Shiodome household – Akari has had a child, a boy named Akira (Ishigami Shizuka). He’s shy but has already mastered a special move that puts me in mind of Gimmy from TTGL in one of the “Parallel Works” shorts, and makes Chisaki his victim. For her part Akari hasn’t forgotten about Hikari, but you know, life goes on when you have a family of your own.
That’s enough change for anyone, surely, but with the arrival of a (naked) Hikari during Tomoebi, the deck gets another major reshuffle. Yes, as expected, he hasn’t aged a day – let’s chalk it up to an extremely slow metabolism during hibernation and not ask too many questions. Miuna seizes an early lead by administering CPR – having both seen all Hikari’s secret places and taking his first kiss, she surely has a leg up – but I’m betting we haven’t heard the last of Manaka. I think the most telling part of Hikari’s arrival is that the first word out of his mouth is “Manaka!” even as he’s staring at Miuna’s crying (normal-sized tears) face.
What a colossal mess Okada had created here – a love polygon isn’t enough, she’s added a timeskip and even new players like Minigishi Jun (Murase Ayumu), a boy in Miuna’s class who confesses to her just before Hikari returns (I get the sense this isn’t going to be a throwaway plot element). If you step back and think about it, Chisaki is probably the one who’s had it hardest here – she was the only sea kiddo left behind, forced to go through adolescence without any of her friends. Of course it hasn’t been easy for Tsugumu either – he’s been living under the same roof with a girl it’s now clear he loves, but can’t make a move because she loves someone else – someone he can’t compete with because he’s not even present. This is the reality of what Miuna faces now, of course, competing against a memory.
To summarize: Hikari loves Manaka, Chisaki loves Hikari (who’s now five years younger), Tsugumu loves Chisaki, Miuna loves Hikari, Jun loves Miuna, and Sayu loves Kaname. Who does Manaka love? That’s the one thing we don’t know, but assuming she’s not sea-mulch – and I’m willing to bet she isn’t – we’re going to find out (that it’s Hikari) before it’s all said and done. At least Chisaki and Tsugumu are still the same age, and now so are Hikari and Miuna – but I don’t see Okada falling back on age differences as a deciding factor (and when Manaka returns I suspect she’ll be Hikari’s age). We’ve certainly got plenty to chew on here – seemingly endless personal drama and the little matter of saving the world from global devastation. It’s a rather brilliant setup Okada-san has created, one of her best in terms of pure plot, and I eagerly look forward to seeing where it goes in the second cour. Could she still screw this up royally? Oh, hell yes – this is Okada we’re talking about – but I don’t sense that coming with Nagi no Asukara. Only time will tell.
ED2: “Mitsuba no Musubime (三つ葉の結びめ)” by Nagi Yanagi