Nagi no Asukara – 15

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As good as last week’s episode was, getting its best character back really makes a difference for Nagi no Asukara.

After a really strong episode, I normally have a good amount of scribbles on the notepad I keep with me when watching anime I plan to blog.  But right now this episode only has two words scrawled on the page: “sick” and “change”.  What that tells me is that this episode did an admirable job of speaking for itself – which makes my job as a blogger either easier or much harder, depending on how you look at it.

One of Okada Mari’s gifts as a writer is emotional clarity.  Not that she always displays it, but when she chooses to she can get to the heart of what we feel as well as any anime writer in the business.  Shows like AnoHana and Nagiasu (and even HanaIro when dealing with the generational relationships in Ohana’s family) are not especially subtle, but they’re very effective because they build a bridge between the audience and the characters.  We feel what they feel because the feelings are universal.  It sounds easy enough, but there aren’t many writers who can get there without the material seeming false or preachy.  Okada does too, sometimes – but not when she’s on.  And with this show, she’s been very much on.

The story of this episode, really, is Hikari.  It’s in his reactions after waking up from a five-years nap, and in the way his appearance impacts those around him.  Watching Hikari dealing with those feelings was pretty heartbreaking, and watching the way he rose to the occasion was pretty inspiring.  You’ll be seeing a lot of “Wow – it’s amazing how much Hikari has grown!” posts in wake of this episode, I’m sure.  And there’s truth in that, but there’s also this: the qualities we’re seeing in Hikari now were present in him from the beginning, even when his immaturity and adolescent anger made them harder to see – as many of us pointed out at the time.  The fact that some people chose not to see them then doesn’t mean those qualities didn’t exist.

That, folks, is a well-written character arc.  And it would be a disservice to the writer and the character to dismiss what we’re seeing now in Hikari as some kind of miraculous transformation – dismissing it suchwise is really ass-covering more than anything else.  No doubt Hikari has grown, but the signs of that growth were visible like new leaves poking through the snow, right from the beginning.  The Hikari we see now has more reason than ever to be angry, and even more to wallow in self-pity.  The growth comes in the fact that he realizes this much sooner than the boy we met 15 episodes ago would have – even  if those close to him are a little slower arriving at that realization.

The “sick” I have written on my notepad refers to Hikari pretending to be ill when he saw the Ofunehiki flag the Fisherman’s Collective had saved for him.  This was a concession to his pride – Hikari never liked the idea of showing his vulnerable side in public, but all the more so now that everyone he knew (apart from those still sleeping) has aged five years, making him all the more aware of his own youth.  And the “changed” refers to Hikari telling Chisaki she hadn’t changed – something he did simply to make her feel less despair over the situation.  In truth Hikari had every reason to be angry at Chisaki for not visiting him, and every reason to be the immature one – he’s the child now, not Chisaki.  Yet he took the high road and acted to spare her feelings, which as much as anything shows how mature he is.  I’ve repeated over and over that one of the major themes of Nagiasu is the transition from childhood to young-adulthood expressed through a growing sense of empathy, and Hikari is certainly the most obvious example.

I’m not going to be too hard on Chisaki here, even though not coming to see Hikari for two days (and who knows how much longer, had he not stumbled upon her at the seashore), knowing how hard this must have been for him, was a selfish act.  As I said last week, it could be argued that Chisaki has had it harder than anyone – while her friends were sleeping, she had to experience those five years.  For Hikari it might be the day before yesterday, but Chisaki has endured 1800 or so day-before-yesterdays feeling herself slipping further away from everything she knows, and from the boy she loves.  And not even Hikari’s kindness can spare her the hard truth – she has changed, no matter what he says, and if there was ever any chance that they might end up together (I don’t think there was), it seems impossibly remote now.

For Hikari, now, it’s a question of staying himself and staying the course – hoping those he’s left behind under the sea will rejoin him someday.  As with Chisaki, Tsugumu and Miuna have it pretty rough.  It seems unlikely that, if after five years under one roof Chisaki hasn’t grown attracted to Tsugumu by now, he ever will.  And Miuna must deal with the reality that Hikari still considers her a child, and a family member – anything but a potential mate.  I hope Okada doesn’t gnaw at the doomed relationships too obsessively in the episodes ahead – they have real pathos, but that could get too gloomy pretty fast.  Ideally I’d like to see a transition to the relationships that are possible – but without Manaka’s presence, it’s hard to see that train leaving the station – her return would be the event that would trigger a chain-reaction and allow the frozen time to move again for all of the main cast.  As I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon, I think we’re entering a dangerous period for Nagi no Asukara, even as good as it’s been of late.

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  1. s

    Hey, Hikari might as well be eighteen/nineteen in my eyes; just the way he handled the situation of the change that was before him was excellent. I particularly liked seeing him be a competent uncle regardless of the fact that he was sleeping for five years and I am glad that regardless of the fact that he has lost Manaka (at least for now), he isnt being a big downer; instead, its as if he has hope that if he continues to be strong, he will eventually see her again. Just great stuff all around.

    Miuna is about to come into focus now more than ever and it's definitely looking as if Okada is trying to make some parallels between Miuna and the way Hikari felt about Manaka when he thought her heart belonged to tsumugu (in that as much as Miuna is crushing on Hikari, she finds it more important to protect his happens, or will find it more important to protect his happiness). Speaking of which, Miuna is fourteen; I was gonna correct you about that last week but it completely slipped my mind till now.

    I dont know if next week's preview is a red herring but it seems as if we might be seeing Manaka sooner than we think, and if that's the case thank god cuz there would be no point in dragging her return for too long.

  2. M

    I just hope the relationships between all of the characters will be smooth and silky . Watching Nagiasu for me is like opening a present box hoping to get a good present .

  3. m

    No I think the "aren't you lucky the person you like is awake is in reference to Kaname waking up and said to sayu. Maybe things go better for her (also fits the "im repeating this grade" line.

  4. s

    I actually think that's Sayu saying that to Miuna now that i think about it…most likely although i could be wrong

  5. t

    Hikari is back, and so as NnA's grace and charm.
    it's not that last week episode was really bad, but it had issues, yet, this time NnA is great, and indeed thanks to Hikari's nature. he isn't the main character just for nothing.
    and I think, despite it was five years and everyone around him has changed and all..he is still strong more than anyone. the fact we were exposed to his tremendous change during the 1st cour, proves that he still somewhat more than just a mere 14 years old. and I guess this will play major role in further developments.

    as for Chisaki, well, there is a point to your statement about she should've visited Hikari. but I wouldn't label this as "wrong decision". as Tsumugu said, it's complicated. we can feel it because Hikari didn't came to see Chisaki either. so it's not only between them, but as individuals, each one has his/her own reaction to the situation and it's very different perspective. both are now feeling the heavy change of 5 years. one just blinked and wake up having his world changed and for the other (Chisaki of course) suddenly the whole 5 years strike her back…it's tough. there isn't right or wrong. sure, in our perspective the immediate reaction would be to see each other, but I think having time to arrange your thoughts and have some space was wise as well.

    I am not completely sure how Chisaki really feel about Hikari. I think that even she doesn't know what she feels. but eventually 5 years is a long time. and I don't feel the vibes of them as a couple. there is some..imaginary threshold before two might form a relationship, and it's strong enough in Hikari and Chisaki. it wasn't strong enough before, and it's not strong enough now. that's why Chisaki X Tsumugu seems more reasonable.
    also, it's as you said, Hikari still sees Miuna as little child and I am not sure it's gonna work. what remains is the possibility of Hikari and Manaka, as I said last week – it seems the most healthier relationship (unless Manaka would somehow return in early stage and maybe ignite the fire between her and Tsumugu..but I don't see that happen for now).

    we still haven't got Kaname and I believe he would return soon enough to reform the complex of romance. it'll be very interesting with Chisaki when Kaname will return.
    soon, NnA gonna push little by little and eventually explode in the climax (around ep 19 or 20?).
    I don't know what Okada is planning in this context (or in the macro level) but knowing HanaIro and AnoHana..things gonna be solved someway or another.
    I hope it's not gonna push the button of tears too much. I still feel her doing it in NnA last two episodes. although under control, but I feel it..the seldom slips of pushing the button of tears (mostly Chisaki HaHa).
    I am intrigued to see more of NnA. seems like they know where they are heading, and although it's toward "dangerous period", I believe this will work out. but let's not rush toward it.

  6. R

    wow! and here i was thinking that this ep is going to be overly melodramatic, which i would have willingly forgiven. but it never did, and instead become a lot stronger episode. it also nicely follows through from the last one.

    and i expected that hikari would be angsting about feeling alone in a new world he can't recognize. for like several more episodes, which he is undoubtedly entitled to. but after that much needed outburst, he decided to simply face it and start again. he might have to do some catching up on his academics after five years, but the guy certainly has grown a lot since we have met him 14 episodes. the way he handled that meeting with chisaki is definitely so emotional in the right way. his line that chisaki didn't changed certainly assured her that it is all right for her to move on now (and the end scene between her and tsumugu seems to hints that she is finally starting to move on).

    one question in my mind though is how come only hikari and kaname woke up early. from what i recall in previous episodes uroko-sama mentioned that the imminent catastrophe on land isn't going to happen within the next 100 years, after which only then should have the sea people woken up. uroko-samka's reappearance (at least in the credits) seem to imply that the two shouldn't have woken up early, so i am curios with that.

    though i must say that i am a bit worried about the next episode will turnh out. sayu's outburst in the preview seem too forced to facilitate kaname's return. crossing my fingers on this one (yep, i agree that this is the most dangerous stage for nagi).

  7. S

    Uroko-sama said that the disaster was happening because the power of the god was waning. However, I'm sure that Manaka effectively becoming a sacrifice at the end of the previous cour will have impacted that significantly.

    One thing I have never been clear of and it is a bit of a mystery to me is what Tsumugu as a 14yo thought of Manaka. It's clear that Manaka crushed on him hard but I'm not sure if Tsumugu was ever thinking of her in that way back. Boy's emotionally do mature slower than girls after all. He's always been a very opaque character to me.

  8. R

    i think tsumugu's fascination with manaka five years back stems more from his interest on the sea-people, which likely resulted from his estrangement from his mother who he feels abandoned his gramps. from that little talk he had with chisaki in ep 14 about family, it looks like it would be something he has to finally face and deal with if he wants his relationship with her to go further.

  9. I never got the sense that Tsugumu was attracted to Manaka romantically. I did, however, get the sense that pre-timeskip Tsugumu was starting to become strongly attracted to Chisaki.

  10. M

    Btw at the end of the preview . Someone said "Must be nice ! The person you like woke up" . Does anyone have any clue who said it ?

  11. T

    It was Saya talking to Miuna about the fact hat Hikari woke up but Kaname hasn't.

  12. T

    This was a great episode it showed how much hikari has grown as a character and he did a good job being able to remain calm seeing all the changes around him. It was a great build up to his outburst because damn he deserves to yell and cry his heart out. The same goes for chisaki it must have been so hard for her to see hikari again after growing up without her friends. Its clear the the feeling was mutual on both ends on how they both didn't push to see each other right away.

    As for miuna yeah it must really suck to always be "left out" like she said and I'm sure it must be hard for her to deal with the fact that hikari loves manaka. she is always trying her best but to be honest the show is going to have to do a good job to convince me that they could work as a couple considering all the development hikari had for his feelings for manaka. I'm sorry but hikari just see's her as a little sister and frankly so do I @_@

    As for kaname damn I wonder how he is going to take the fact that chisaki and tsumugu grew up in the same house together for 5 years. damn the kid didn't even get any closure for his feelings for her. I hope the chisaki will be able to help him move on.

  13. d

    I loved this episode a lot. I think the fact that I went to go watch this before Yowamushi really goes to show how much this series is really impacting me. At some points I was on the verge of tears and at others, namely towards the end, I was grinning like an idiot. The show has changed vibes lately and I'm really liking it. It's taken a more serious tone that I really appreciate.

  14. S

    I really loved the art direction in this episode. The use of reflection was especially appealing; like the one with Miuna staring at Hikari inside the car and Chisaki seeing the reflection of her 'changed' self via the bus window. The bird's-eye view from Tsumugu's perspective during the time Hikari burst out in front of him also deserves a mention.

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