Uroko-sama may have detected the scent of a woman in the air this week (Hoo-ah!) but what I’m catching more than a whiff of is impending heartbreak. As we crawl inch by inch towards the conclusion of Nagi no Asukara, my sense is growing that we could be looking at a really depressing ending. It just doesn’t seem like anyone is destined to be with anybody else. And if by some freak Okada allows any two cast members to get on the same page romantically, it’s a good bet that one of them is going to be a sacrifice, be it willing or otherwise.
And then there’s that whole end of the world thing.
The hunt for Uroko-sama provided what little comedy this episode had on offer, but with the story as emotionally constipated as it was, finding him was rather a serious matter. In the end, of course, he didn’t provide much of a laxative but at least now everyone can begin to process the way their life sucks knowing the reasons why. I did enjoy Manaka’s approach to luring Uroko-sama out – porn and some of her Grandma’s cooking, left in a playground no less. Whether that was what finally prompted Uroko-sama to reveal himself is left up to the viewer.
In many ways the Chisaki-Tsumugu-Kaname triangle has been the less frustrating subplot, because at least there’s movement there and everyone’s feelings are more or less on the table. Unfortunately Nagiasu really doesn’t seem to be able to balance both romantic dramas in one episode, and with the focus on the bobby-soxers this week the other trio gets the short end of the stick. We know Tsumugu is staying behind when his professor goes back to university, and Kaname correctly guesses it’s for Chisaki’s sake. Kaname effectively re-confesses to Chisaki, though he knows it’s hopeless. Tsumugu (at least this is how I read it) effectively acknowledges Kaname as being his equal maturity-wise with a can of black coffee (no sweetener whatsoever!). But nothing fundamentally changes between or is revealed about the three of them.
I like that trio more and more because unlike the 14 year-olds (yes, I know Kaname is still 14) there’s more pathos to their situation than just being in love. Each of them is for related but different reasons in an agonizing and difficult position, dealing full-force with the pain it brings. Hikari is still the best character in the cast but comparatively speaking, his group dymanic is driven mostly by romantic frustration. Miuna is exactly where and what she was as an eight year-old, pretty-much, and the trio as a whole – even Hikari – are effectively frozen until Manaka acts in such a way as to cause them to lurch forward. As a result their arc has become less satisfying all-around.
Sadly, while Uroko-sama’s infodump was a fascinating addition to the mythology, it doesn’t appear to be the impetus to change that dynamic. Manaka, it seems (Hikari has noticed in general terms) has forgotten a lot – and it turns out what she’s forgotten is everything connected to the feeling of being in-love with someone. The sacred fire, Uroko himself, the raw emotions of the Sea God – all are remnants of the dissolution of the God’s body into the sea. His “consciousness” wishes to save the world, but those raw emotions seem to act on their own (as they would). They took Manaka’s Ena because part of her was longing to be on the surface with the person she loved. And when she was taken from the sea, what was taken from her was the ability to love.
So where does that leave us, with four episodes to go? Manaka is apparently stuck in a childlike state – whether she’s able to love someone non-romantically I have no idea. Hikari is mired in helpless rage at the unfairness of it all. Uroko says the destruction of the surface may come around sooner because she was taken from the sea, but not until after Hikari and his children are dead (as if that makes it all OK). As for who the person on the surface Manaka was in love with might be, well – both Hikari and Tsumugu were on the surface at the time, so in itself this is no kind of hint. I don’t think we need any, because it’s pretty clear what Manaka was going to tell Hikari that night – but whether that even matters, who knows. I just don’t the feeling anybody’s going to end up with anybody here, and I don’t think we’re getting out of this story without one (or maybe even two) of the main characters taking one for the team.