Yes, I’m thoroughly on-edge about where Nagi no Asukara is going, and where it’s going to end up. I have been all along but I don’t see how anyone familiar with Okada Mari’s work could not be nervous. No writer in anime trips over their own feet so often, but what I see developing now is perhaps the most superficially obvious example yet of the good Okada vs. bad Okada split playing out in front of our very eyes.
I’ll make no bones about it – I don’t really care about either Miuna or Sayu’s character arcs (and with Sayu it goes past that). I was prepared to change my tune after the timeskip, but for me it’s been more of the same. There’s a certain risk of soap opera melodrama in any series centered around a five-way romantic dysfunction to begin with, but these two are allowing Okada to exercise her less fortunate impulses on a weekly basis. The good Okada is present in the loose threads left dangling by the first cour – the bad Okada is the relentless mooning, pouting, moe pandering and self-pity of Sayu and Miuna in the second. If indeed Miuna is to be the main point-of-view character in this cour, I despair for the future of Nagiasu.
I’m sure I’ll be charged with having made my mind up in advance, but this is really the sort of thing that had me against a timeskip in the first place. So far the second-cour episodes have mostly managed to remain at a high level in spite of the danger obviously visible just below the surface, but this week I really felt the overall quality of the ep was significantly hamstrung by the maudlin tone the focus on Miuna and Sayu layers on top of everything. It’s pervasive, and it’s starting to effect even the moments that focus on the other characters. If we’re in for a gigantic circle of unrequited love for the rest of the series, it’s going to be hard to keep the show as a whole from descending into the swamp of melancholy and self-pity.
Yeah, that comes off pretty pessimistic I know – but I don’t feel a whole lot of optimism about the rest of the series. I’m glad it’s experienced an almost unprecedented miracle comeback on Oricon (V.1 continues to chart and is now up to almost 3000 Blu-rays sold) and stalker, and I hope it continues to do so. But will the content follow suit? I’d really hoped Kaname’s return might keep the series dancing on quicksand rather than starting to sink, and I was very glad to see he didn’t come back as a bitter, angry psychopath like so many viewers seem to expect. But perhaps because Kaname’s story itself is so centered on one-way romantic affection, it seemed to resonate more on Sayu and Miuna’s wavelength than Hikari’s. In other words, much of his screen time felt like it was part of that world, and not that of Hikari and Chisaki and Tsugumu.
Undeniably, Kaname has it bad. I suppose it only makes sense logistically that he’d move in with Tsugumu and Chisaki, but existentially he could hardly have ended up in a worse place. He’s forced to stare at the two of them act like a comfortable married couple around him – though crucially, one with no signs of mutual attraction. Kaname to his credit makes it very clear his feelings about Chisaki haven’t changed – he says “I like older women now” – but we haven’t been getting much from Chisaki since the reboot. We know she’s a mess, but what are her lingering feelings towards Hikari? Does she feel anything at all romantically towards Tsugumu? It seems the deck is hopelessly stacked against Kaname either way, but it would be nice to get a little clearer picture of just where Chisaki’s head is at right now.
Ultimately, there seems to be a pretty direct relationship between how much focus Hikari gets and how strong an episode is. Because Miuna has now been confirmed to haver Ena it seems she’s attached to the Shioshishio storyline for good – let’s hope it’s strong enough to survive it. The “discovery” of a way to find Shioshishio – like the discovery of Miuna’s Ena – feels a little too convenient (and insufficiently explained) to be plausible. But it’s undeniably going to push the story forward, for better or for worse. I think we can assume that when Hikari and the others get to Shioshishio he’s either going to find no sign of Manaka at all, or a sign that she’s met a fate that will shock and dismay him. If in fact that happens, how Okada handles Hikari’s reaction to that will play a major role in determining how strong the final
eight nine episodes of Nagiasu are going to be.