Nagi no Asukara – 21

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At last, the true pairing in Nagi no Asukara has been revealed.  Congrats, Tsumugu.

It was pretty much a given that Manaka’s return was going to shake up Nagiasu, but she blew through the story like a hurricane.  On balance I think the change was very much for the better, at least as compared to last week.  While there were still things about this episode that drove me crazy, on balance it was a whole lot more compelling that much of what we’ve seen while she’s been asleep.  And for an episode that only modestly focused on Hikari, that’s a step forward for this series.

Fittingly, the framing of the episode was very much structured around the impact Manaka’s return has on the other characters, and thankfully not fixating on Miuna’s reaction (which was about as one would have expected).  Unlike the boys Manaka is genki from the moment she wakes up – exhaustingly so, in fact (even Hikari can’t keep up with her).  It was so exaggerated that I would almost have thought it was overcompensating to cover up her real feelings, but by all appearances Manaka’s energy level seemed to be on the up-and-up.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of her memory – or at least it can be said that if her memory is OK, she’s improved as an actor.  We all know what the elephant in the room is here, but this being anime (and Okada at that) we’re teased until the very end of the episode before Hikari asks her the question that must surely be burning a hole in his psyche.  And even then, we get no answer.  Manaka seems genuinely confused to me, especially when Hikari asks if what she’d been planning to tell him involved Tsumugu – it’s entirely possible she’s simply pretending not to know what Hikari is asking about, but my initial read is that she truly doesn’t remember the promise she made before the Ofunehiki.

There’s other stuff Manaka says she doesn’t remember too – like what happened on that day she was sucked into the deep, and whose voice it was calling out to her.  Maybe she remembers one and not the other, maybe she remembers neither, or both – but Hikari, for his part, seems to have more or less settled back into his role of supporting Manaka whether she’s chosen Tsumugu or not.  The hardest thing to figure out for Hikari, in fact, seems to be that Manaka is apparently untroubled by her lack of Ena.  He certainly is, but in his usual fashion he’s plowing straight ahead, and taking his mood cues from her.

There’s a general tone of “Isn’t it great that the sea kiddos are back together!” among the others, but in looking at this dynamic is seems to me that Manaka’s return makes Chisaki’s situation even more painful.  She truly is the odd one out now – she’s aged five years while their time has stood still, and when the four of them are cruising their old haunts it’s striking how out of place Chisaki looks.  She’s certainly aware of it, and for all that Hikari and Manaka might gamely tell her “Chi-chan is just Chi-chan”, Chi-chan is acutely aware of the gulf that exists between she and the friends she grew up with.  There are a lot of brave faces being put on among the core cast, but they’re each in quite painful situations – and I’m not sure Chisaki’s isn’t the most painful of all.

One thing that continues to bother me is that Kaname seems to exist in a vacuum, development-wise.  When the moment calls for it we see him resentful and angry, and the rest of the time he’s neatly inserted back into his ever-smiling supportive friend role, as if those moments had never happened.  At least Tsumugu, boring as he is, is evolving a bit as a character.  He actually makes a joke here – a joke! – about bribing Uroko-sama for information (oh yeah, that world ending thing) using porn mags.  For his troubles it seems that (or a wayward step) caught the attention of Uroko-sama, who curses him with the same blight he foisted on Manaka early in the series.  Being the sea geek that he is, Tsumugu is of course delighted.  The sea slug and the fish curse – the one indisputable fated pair in Nagiasu.

I’m still not pleased that the entire global catastrophe plot has been relegated to an afterthought, and with only five episodes left the ship on correcting that misstep has sailed.  But it’s not as if there’s not enough personal drama to keep the show busy.  It would be so damn easy if Chisaki loved Tsumugu back – it’s such a supremely logical pairing – but there’s just no spark between them at all.  Likewise any notion that Tsumugu and Manaka might still have have any feelings for each other (if indeed he ever had them) takes a serious blow, as there’s no hint either of them is sparing the notion a moment’s thought.  And until proved otherwise I still think Manaka ending up married to the Sea God is a serious possibility, which would pretty much guarantee a forever alone ending across the board (unless that wacky theory that Hikari is the Sea God proves true).  The only two humans in the main cast for whom mutual romantic love seems a realistic possibility are Hikari and Manaka, but I just don’t see Okada allowing that to happen.

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  1. K

    Something is going on, something BIG. For a brief moment, Manaka had that dead eye looked- it is both scary and unnerving. To think that Manaka could pull that off – what is this world coming to?

  2. K

    Akira was injured and Akari healed him. Everyone was relief and Hikari looked at Manaka and noticed her eyes – those are the eyes of suffering…

  3. I'm not sure I interpret that scene exactly the same way. Manaka was smiling, albeit wistfully (I mean, her parents are still asleep so that itself isn't definitive). It could be that was the moment when Hikari was struck all over again by how much he's in love with her, and decided he couldn't wait any longer to ask for his answer.

    Or, it could be more or less as you say. I'm not confident either way.

  4. H

    No I thought that was creepy too, it was enough to make Hikari freak out, (especially since he flashed back to just earlier today when she was smiling with happy eyes) combine that with the fact that Manaka really doesn't seem to remember what she was going to tell Hikari (which I read as a love confession) and that she's acted so different than when Hikari and Kaname woke up, it feels like something is up. She might be in the OP now but I'm not counting out the idea that this might be just a brief respite for her and that she's going to end up back with the sea god in the end anyway.

  5. H

    Yeah I actually think that was weird too. Her eyes going blank like that isn't normal

  6. G

    I'm wondering if Manaka is the sea god (or a new replacement)?

  7. I don't think she's the Sea God – the story has been pretty consistent with the pretext that the Sea God is male.

    One way or another, the question of whether Manaka was avoiding Hikari's question or had honestly lost her memory seems to be a crucial one. Each is loaded with implications.

  8. M

    I have a feeling that Manaka won't be able to return normal by the end, and if she does there will be consequences. It seems that she lost her ability to become affectionate which Hikari must have noticed by the end. Especially in the OP, Manaka is the only one still in her old uniform, catching the lost red umbrella right next to the flag that is supposed to guide people… Either her soul disconnected from her body or the sea god robbed her of her affections. And if you look up the chinese meaning behind the red umbrella, it seems that its used to send off brides right before their weddings. (Symbolizing good shelter for her married life) I'm not entirely sure what the meaning behind Miuna and the umbrella is, but it seems that Manaka is fated to leave the group :( Although I hope not!

  9. K

    Episode 22, people, my fears were correct! OMG! This is anime!

  10. s

    The fact that Chisaki feels this disconnect from her friends is one of the reasons why i waned to see a time skip; it allows thought-provoking themes like the pain of change to be explored more adequately. Unfortunately the time-skip hasnt been as eventful as i would have liked (although im not as disparaging as others) but i would like to see more subtle exploration about that theme and how the sea kiddos cope with it.

  11. m

    I do like how Chisaki handled herself in this ep tho in regards to feeling misplaced. She creates an opportunity for Sayu and Miuna to become a part of the group (tho she sneaks off herself). I like the whole Chisaki recognizing Miuna is exactly like she was pre time skip storyline, and the way she has sort of tried to help her out almost in an attempt to help herself resolve the issues she couldn't bc she was left on land for the deep sleep. I'd like to see more of that from Chisaki's pov and maybe tie that into her moving on and more of her/Tsumugu. Not necessarily in them being together but dealing with the fact that" time finally can move forward for them" as Tsumugu said.

    Give me these storylines: The Chisaki moving forward one I just said, Hikari/Manaka/the sea god, Hikari/Manaka relationship, the Global crisis, and a small bit of time resolving Miuna's/Kaname's/I guess Sayu's too storylines (which could all be done tying into the others) and I won't care how specifically the story ends. Enough of Chisaki liking 15 yr old Hikari and Kaname liking older Chisaki, Miuna/Sayu not feeling like a part of the group, and every other drawn out emotional storyline where I want to scream "Just f'n say what u want already and stop pining over it nonstop". I wouldn't mind Tsumugu/Sayu/Miuna/Kaname and ther unrequited feelings if they would doing nothing but whining and put it out there.

  12. R

    On Tsumugu and Chisaki: will these two just hook up? And what’s up with them throwing the “are you lonely?” question at each other? I swear, I’ll smash my monitor to pieces if they don’t confess their feelings for each other by the next episode.

    Kidding aside, it is clear Chisaki has decided to move on. for one, she opted to leave her friends behind to go back to the hospital, which can be seen as her symbolically leaving her childish self behind (note that she was the only adult there). same thing goes with her happily giving them the cream puffs.

    And there is something so unsettling about this episode. Manaka being all genki just doesn’t feel right. I also don’t think that she lost her memory. It’s clear she’s trying to avoid hikari’s question. For what reason, i don’t know.

    As for the global crisis, i don’t think that they have left it in the backburner (though as i have always said, i prefer it this way and not it becoming the central plot). And from the looks of it, it will be a lot more intertwined with the main plot, judging from the new OP. That one also has a lot of foreshadowing, like manaka catching miuna’s umbrella, and gives some light as to why miuna’s growth from her self-absorbed views was given a big spotlight. Whether that scene of manaka and miuna wearing traditional clothing while holding the sacred flame means that one of both of them will be gone at the end, i would definitely want to find out.

  13. H

    I agree with you on the whole Miuna and Manaka wearing traditional clothes in the OP. It seems very fishy to me too (no pun intended xD ) . In fact , If you look closer , the gowns that both of them are wearing in the OP are exactly the same as the gown Akari wore when she was the Ojooshi-sama at the Ofunehiki. Lots of ominous foreshadowing there

    About Chisaki , other than the scenes that you mentioned , I think the scene where she is eating the tangerine and says she now likes it more than cream puffs also symbolises how she has grown up and how her likes,dislikes and way of thinking is so much more different than the othe sea kiddos.

  14. f

    I thought the food thing was pretty significant too – she just gives the cream puffs away to the 14 year olds (and there are five of them, conveniently enough), and later she says she might like the coffee jelly (which is Tsumugu's favorite food and possibly a more "mature" snack) even more than the cream puffs, indicating that she's leaning towards his side. I don't think Tsumugu x Chisaki is necessarily something that Okada is ruling out, even with the lack of chemistry between them – they have after all spent the last five years together, and that seems like a logical and convenient (but not necessarily well-written) way to have at least one couple by the end of the series. (Or maybe I'm reading too deeply into food metaphors.)

  15. S

    There were an awful lot of suggestions that things are very off in this episode. Starting right from the change in the OP. There are some added bits with Manaka and Miuna in shrine maiden outfits which suggests to me that Miuna will end up replacing Manaka as the Sea God's Bride. Also is acting Manaka very odd! It's almost like she has regressed to an elementary school child.

  16. H

    Bah, wrote a review and then something ate it, basically I agree with Kaname that something seems to be up with Manaka. She might be in the opening now but I'm not ruling out the fact that she might end up back as the sea god's wife after all (especially with that imagery of her and Miuna, who thinks that she stole Manaka's ena as well, being presented as twins/double imagery).

  17. H

    Another thing about the whole Manaka and Miuna thing , its wierd that just when Manaka wakes up (super energetically unlike Kaname and Hikari ) , Miuna's Ena gets so strong that being out of salt water for too long causes her to start flaking. She also mentions that it's the first time something like that has happened. Coincidence ? I think not.

    Maybe the fact that the Sea God has allowed Manaka to wake up means that now he' prepping up Miuna to become his wife even faster. Also the whole thing with her feeling sad about not fitting in with the sea kids, and how she is slowly learning to become more self less , might be leading up to her making some serious sacrifcies.

  18. J

    "I'm still not pleased that the entire global catastrophe plot has been relegated to an afterthought,"

    I didn't know it was relegated to an afterthought. There've been so many subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of what's hanging over the worlds' collective heads. It's hardly been forgotten. Then again, when one is so fixated on a certain character, moreso than the show itself, It doesn't shock me people are missing the entire forest for a certain tree.

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