Nagi no Asukara – 16

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Nagi no Asukara continues to dance on quicksand, but so far it’s incredibly light on its feet.

The alchemy of this series is still working for me, and the reason I know that is because I’m conscious of the fact that Okada is being herself and making me like it.  I see red flags all over the last two episodes, but with a couple of exceptions they’re still just that – the content itself has been as good as ever.  It seems strange to say it as late in the game as we are, but despite the strong run Nagiasu is on I have a lot of trepidation about whether the paths it’s laying out are ones that lead to a satisfying conclusion.  The only one that can stop Okada from succeeding here is Okada – but there’s nobody better at doing just that.

I really see a split in the narrative effectiveness of the episode in the last two weeks, one which reflects this new post-timeskip reality.  The stuff with Hikari is off-the-charts, almost entirely because of Hikari himself.  Okada is in a zone with him, and he’s fast making a case for the best male character in any of her shows (I’m still partial to “good boy” Shin’ichirou).  Hikari is just awesome at the moment – the perfect balance of juvenile snark and a sense of perspective and regret that tangibly makes him more of an “old soul” than his classmates.  All of the seeds that were apparent in the beginning with his character are bearing fruit, and he’s turned out to be a rock-solid core around which the series can be built, its beating heart and troubled soul.

On the other hand, the stuff with Miuna and Sayu is only marginally less painful (and not the good kind of painful) than it was before the timeskip.  Sayu is a pill altogether, a thoroughly annoying presence whose self-aware dramas have no pull for me whatsoever.  Miuna is better, but she still reeks of audience manipulation (the specialty of the bad Okada) and her romantic entanglements with Hikari seem quite contrived to me.  It’s all very convenient – the timeskip being exactly the right length, Miuna’s discovery of Ena at precisely the right moment (in itself this is defensible given that her mother was a sea kiddo – it’s the timing that makes it a stretch).  I don’t especially want to see a second cour told from her perspective as she pines for Hikari – or one where she ends up paired off with him.  I don’t think we’ll get the latter, but I suspect we’re going to get the former.  And that, sooner or later, will be a major problem.

By far the best part of this episode – and everything since the timeskip – is seeing Hikari deal with the new reality he faces.  I loved his presentation to his classmates, and the way he simply acts like himself (he doesn’t think twice about pantsing himself in front of Miuna, for example).  But it’s clear that much of this is a cover, both so that others won’t worry about him and so that he’ll appear to be a tough guy.  Itaru has it exactly right – this is a facade.  But it’s a good one, and this conflict in Hikari is the most compelling storyline the series has going.  But Hikari is forever reminded of the hard truth – Tsugumu’s four year-old uniform fits him like a tent, Miuna is almost as tall as he is, and he can’t be sure if the five years of growth he missed out on will ever be paid back to him.  It’s Hikari’s nature to be a smart-ass, and to be the one that tries to take care of everyone else – to be the vulnerable one doesn’t suit his nature, and he’s trying hard to avoid being placed in that role.

I’m not that crazy about the rest of the episode, mostly concerned with the trip to the uniform tailor, especially the convenient (there’s that word again) incident of the shipping crane falling and leading to Miuna’s awakening.  It’s interesting trying to gauge the vibe between Hikari and Miuna, which suggests to me that he still sees her as more of a little sister (uncle is just too strange) than anything despite their new relative ages.  It’s not hard to see where she’s coming from – she’s in love, plain and simple – but setting aside all concerns for Manaka I don’t think he sees her in that way.  He certainly didn’t seem too upset at the notion that she might be dating Minegishi (I still think that subplot has legs).  But mostly this felt more manufactured and less natural than the rest of the episode, and the descent into wailing and tears between Miuna and Sayu was just a complete reversion to a place I hoped Nagiasu would never return.

Frankly, I think Kaname’s return couldn’t have come at a better time – but I worry now that we’re going to see the same sort of romance of convenience angle played up between he and Sayu, and that would be a disaster.  Love isn’t simply a matter of convenience and calendars, and I don’t like the message Okada would be sending if the Hikari-Miuna and Kaname-Sayu relationships are pursued seriously.  I want to see all the heavy lifting of the first 13 episodes – all the interpersonal development that we saw – explored and resolved, not tossed aside because of a plot contrivance.  That could certainly still happen, but the unease that’s been growing at me (and the general distrust of a timesekip that I’ve felt since it was first discussed) is growing stronger.  There’s a disconnect between how good Nagi no Asukara is now and how good I sense it’s going to be from now on, and even if Okada’s track record is part of the reason I’ll be the first to admit that it wouldn’t be fair of me to presume a train wreck is coming while for the moment we’re still on-track.  Hikari is Nagiasu’s best hope – he’s a great presence to build around and so far, Okada is at her best in writing him.  Let’s hope the show keeps its focus there and doesn’t toss aside all the hard work it put in getting us to this point.

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  1. K

    Hikari of course is also my favorite aspect of Nagi no Asukara but I think I enjoyed this episode more than you. I even felt for Sayu because as I said on anime suki I've been in similar situations like that before. Being the third wheel hurts.

    As for the romance aspect I can't say it's my favorite part of the show (and frankly I don't even think I care who gets with who) but I did really enjoy the Hikari/Miuna interaction. And well you can't blame Miuna for falling in love with Hikari, he's terrific. lol

    That's not to say I have no trepidation about the series. I almost feel the series has been too good to be true. I never expected to love this series as much as I did, and even now I am still expecting things to go wrong.

    And while I don't necessarily mind the romance, I certainly hope that isn't all the 2nd half focuses on. I think the first half was so strong because there was a focus on the growing relationship of the sea people and land people. It has this real great sense of community.

  2. H

    Surprised you didn't mention anything more about Miuna's sudden swimming abilities, got any theories on why that happened or are you just going to wait and see?

  3. Well, I did – I said her mother being a sea kiddo made it feasible, but the timing was too convenient. I chalk the swimming and the ena up together as a single phenomenon.

  4. R

    from what i recall, they already said that a kid born between a landie and a sea dweller don't have ena (much like a recessive trait). it felt more like she was magically given ena and swimming abilities at that very moment.

  5. m

    It was def too convenient as far as how it was discovered, but I feel like it could be just a forced way to restart the plot of whats going on in the sea. Maybe all half sea/half land ppl will start to get ena and her discovery of that fact will progress the underwater storyline tht has been on the backburner. Or it could be a dumb way to connect her to Hikari…but I'm inclined to believe the former.

  6. R

    i thought that this episode was going to be a breather of sorts (which it is with the whole uniform deal). but it still managed to continue the themes of change and looking back into to the past that the two episodes delved into. that remark of hikari being an "octopus head" certainly does the trick in reminding us that the past still haunts them.

    and okada definitely decided to hammer the point that hikari is miuna's uncle now. not that she says that it is outright bad, but it is certainly going to be a conflict that miuna herself must face in order to mature. i must admit that that petty fight between her and sayu is a bit grating, but it certainly does the trick of saying that they are still very much the same kids from back then. and hikari's talk to miuna about how chisaki and manaka was like that when they were kids was sad in that he is still clinging on his memories of the past.

    now that kaname returned, i wonder how okada will lay out his eventual move to tsumugu's home so that it does not feel like a contrivance (knowing okada, it certainly will).

    but THAT TWIST near the end. it wasn't that miuna discovered that she had ena all along. it was more like she was miraculously given ena at that very moment. by whom? it certainly be an important plot point later on.

  7. f

    here's my question about miuna's ena: how did she get away not having to maintain it for all these years? Even seafolk need regular salt baths to keep their ena intact, and miuna's ena is evolved ena that doesn't dry out?

  8. I think it all depends on which theory you believe. Maybe she didn't need to maintain Ena because she didn't have it, plain and simple. Perhaps it can spontaneously occur at puberty in halflings, or perhaps it was some kind of spell from Uroko-sama for unknown purposes. Or maybe just a plot contrivance we're not supposed to question too much.

  9. M

    "i thought that this episode was going to be a breather of sorts"
    Certainly was a 'breather' for Miuna, heh heh.

  10. T

    This episode was definitely a breather but it's clear that hikari is definitely still taking in all the changes and its the subtle moments in this episode that we see that he is still absorbing everything and dealing with the 5 years he lost. I think minua and sayu are "ok" but to be honest they are not that interesting to me as characters yet. I like that okada is really hammering home that aside from that official family status hikari only sees her as a little sister and I definitely would get behind exploring how she will deal with that reality.

    I want to see hikari and akari interact more onscreen I'm sure she has so much she wants to share but like everyone else she is overwhelmed with how to deal with it too. Overall this was an "ok" episode and kaname couldn't have come at a better time!!!

    There are so many questions I have like who is the sea god? will we ever see the sea god? what happened to manaka? how did minua get ena all of a sudden? damn okada DON'T SCREW IT UP!!!!

  11. s

    My impression with Miuna getting Ena is that she has always had the trait for it, which happened to awaken because she is now of age (you know..because she's 14 now, something she likes to remind everybody) . But why do i get the feeling that her getting ena and being able to breathe underwater now is this series way of waving a banner saying "MIUNA HAS A PRETTY GOOD CHANCE TO BE WITH HIKARI"…..i just found that to be hilarious.

    But i guess that's kind of building up on the established point that Miuna wants to protect Hikari's happiness and that transcends just being with him romantically. Even if he doesnt reciprocate her feelings, at least she'll be able to go where he goes and be able to reach him if he ever needs her even if his affection might be out of reach…..that's pretty poetic if i do say so myself…but ill guess we'll have to wait and see. Also, notice how the second half of Nagiasu has been focusing more on Miuna's perspective than anyone elses.

  12. m

    I don't specifically mind Miuna and Hikari being explored per se, but its really the fact that that would mean forgetting so much from season 1 and just moving on that it would ruin the show. Unless it was solely based on hikari in season 2 and the show was meant to be a story about Hikari, with a poorly done 1st season…

  13. i

    It's funny how much perception matter when enjoying something. For me Golden Time and NnA haven't really diverted from the paths or expectations I had from them significantly. NnA is a little better than I thought it would be at the 3 episode mark and Golden Time exactly the same. Thus I still enjoy them as much as I did at the start, though with NnA I do like it a bit more. Samumenco threw a ball that curved back to the pitcher so I don't have any regrets about dropping it after enjoying most of the start.

    As for this episode, well I thought Kaname would do his unabashed walk infront of an old lady and make her faint but beside that it fell to expectation. I think when the OP came out it was obvious how the love tangle looked and how it could end up. ChisakixTsumugu, (heartbroken) KanamexSayu and Hikari could equally end up with either of Manaka or Miuna. Like it or not that is simply how it looks and how it will undoubtedly play out. Expect some level of drama or perhaps Okada's famous angst over the next few episodes, Chisaki realizing something for Tsumugu, Sayu comforting a broken Kaname and Miuna becoming blatantly obvious to Hikari before the arrival of the wild card. While I think Manaka will obviously directly influence Hikari and Miuna lives, she won't have as much as an affect on Chisaki as she did before and none on Kaname.

    Okada's biggest strength as a writer is that she tries to be subtly obvious. Some people get pissed off by it but as subtly is lost on most people they're okay with that level of it. More than anything though its just a damn anime meant for entertainment. Outside the 24 minutes I watch it and the 10 minutes I read and comment on blogs it has no emotional affect on me. Rarely has there been an anime that does.

  14. C

    For some reason when Miuna fell in the water I thought the sea god or something was giving her the swimming/ena abilities. I wasn't a fan of this episode overall though and it made me miss the old gang.

  15. That's definitely possible, although to be honest I don't really care about that blind plot alley all that much. I think the simpler solution is that it was simply the fact that she's 50% Shioshishio blood kicked in, but your idea is just as plausible.

  16. B

    yeah kaname's back. This series needs more of him, after all, his alway been the force that pushes the group. Hopefully he won't be shocked for too long.

  17. F

    You're about the only one in who doesn't like the idea of the timeskip Enzo. The got alot more popular with the concept of the timeskip. The themes and plot it brings has so much potential.

  18. F

    Also an interview with the seiyuus mentioned that there are more fantasy elements in the second half.

  19. I'm certainly not the only one by a long shot, but irrespective of that popularity is a separate issue – it certainly doesn't have a direct relationship with quality as far as I'm concerned. They move independently of each other.

  20. F

    True, but many do feel the timeskip really fit, foreshadowed and from little we know will be executed well. It's probably one of the best time skips around and fits in with the mood and themes in the show. It's no surprise that this show was picked up by a great many during the later episodes of the 1st cour. I for one think the Timeskip is masterstroke. It just opens a lot of doors for story and themes the show is trying to convey. I'm not going to mince words, OP2 song and mood just blew me away and ED2s imagery and symbolism got me thinking a LOT.

  21. T

    I'm not gonna lie I find that the whole her sea blood kicked in to be way too convenient I mean if it was true that at a certain age half sea kids get ena wouldn't there have been previous known cases of that? I'm just saying 0_0

  22. s

    The thing is that there havent been any other known cases; supposedly children born from a sea person and a human are not suppose to have ena; Miuna's seablood kicking in and her sudden acquirement of it is suppose to be a sign that something is starting to change within the laws of the world itself; its not just a convenient plot device as many people are thinking it is, at least from what i understand.

  23. F

    maybe someone cast a spell on her to save her? Used Sea God magic to trigger her dormant genes? Also I find it funny Uroko was sitting on a green crane in the OP?I wouldn't be surprise if it was temporary. Miuna excited to show Akari her new ability will suddenly cause her to almost drown.

  24. m

    It could easily something that happened as Hikari woke up. Just a start of the changes coming after the hibernation, and it seems like Hikari might be at the center of it all with some role to play.

  25. o

    I wish we could see more of Chisaki and Tsumugu. It's really refreshing to get their point of view of the time skip because theirs is rather a more somber version of what happened. I agree that having it come from Miuna isn't the best idea but I suspect it's because she's the one who spends the most time with Hikari now. With Kaname's return, I think things will certainly change. He's been the more mature one but the hint of him changing in the preview is quite intriguing. I'm trying to picture how he'll react and adjust to the time skip. He seemed prepared for it even before the hibernation. Do you suppose he will be more direct and get the answers he wants from Chisaki?

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