Nagi no Asukara – 23

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Well, that was convenient.

Ena for everyone!

I don’t think one has to look too hard to see a trend in Nagi no Asukara, where things just happen because that’s what’s necessary for the plot to get where it needs to go.  Call it putting the cart before the horse or use whatever metaphor you like, but in my view it’s a flaw when the characters’ don’t drive the plot, but the plot drives the characters.  We needed Miuna to have Ena in order for her to become the main character, so that’s what happened.  And now, it seems, we needed Tsumugu to have it for…  Well – for all sorts of things, it looks like.

There’s an interesting sort of philosophical divide at the heart of this episode, but Okada Mari (she actually wrote the screenplay for this one, for the first time in quite a while) only dances around the fringes of it (and in fact seems to equivocate about it, for now at least).  If Manaka is happy, is it necessarily such a bad thing if she’s lost the ability to love?  I think it’s difficult to answer that without knowing more about the details of her condition – most critically whether it applies only to romantic love – but it’s an important question nonetheless.

On the one side we have Hikari, who as always takes the idealistic view on the matter.  Even though he professes certainty that it’s Tsumugu that Manaka loves he says he wants her to be a complete person and be able to properly exercise her feelings.  Is Hikari being selfless or selfish here?  As you’d expect from a 14 year-old boy I think it’s a bit of both – surely, some part of him hopes that it’s he that Manaka loves, even if he won’t admit it.  But there’s ample evidence that even before the big sleep Hikari had already decided to dedicate himself to Manaka’s happiness even if that didn’t include being his lifemate.  Most importantly the belief that Manaka should be able to love is perfectly consistent with Hikari’s general worldview, that problems only exist to be solved and settling and compromise are dirty words.  This is the person Hikari is, plain and simple.

There’s this, too – the views everyone else takes on this subject are at least as colored by their selfish interests as Hikari’s, if not more.  It’s no wonder that Chisaki, Kaname and Tsumugu are ambivalent – Manaka certainly seems happier than they are, and they all love someone who doesn’t seem to love them back.  Sayu being the erratic pubescent she is it totally on the fence – she’s in the same boat but young enough to believe it can get better (yes, Kaname is too but he’s always been an old soul).  There’s obviously a much broader existential issue at play here, but it doesn’t seem as if Nagiasu is interested in confronting it at the moment – indeed, every time it seems ready to embrace one side of the argument it does an about-face and contradicts itself.  

There’s evidence that Manaka may be starting to at the very least be aware of the emptiness that exists inside her now – the discovery of her sea slug stone is obviously a symbolic moment of some importance.  But the first relationship that it appears will be confronted is that of Tsumugu and Chisaki.  It starts with a confrontation between Hikari and Tsumugu, with the former pushing the latter to expressively act out love towards Manaka in an effort to job her emotional memory.  Tsumugu clearly has nothing to worry about from a 14 year-old trying to mix it up with him and he’s quite right to refuse to toy with Manaka’s feelings (though that’s not how Hikari intended it), but the incident does prompt him to admit to Hikari that he’s in love with Chisaki – which Chisaki is conveniently present to overhear.  Even more conveniently, when she dives into the ocean to escape him and he follows, Tusmugu conveniently (three times in one paragraph, that’s how convenient all this is) develops Ena.  A game-changing moment, for certain, but one not generated by character development as far as I can see.

Certainly, emotionally there were no revelations here.  Tsumugu being in love with Chisaki has been a given for a long time – frankly it stretches belief that she would be so surprised by it at this point.  Tsumugu and Manaka as a potential pairing has been dead since Manaka told Hikari she had something to tell him, and effectively so earlier even than that.  But narratively speaking, the problem here is that Tsumugu and Chisaki just doesn’t pass the acid test as a relationship – if the two of them end up together now it will play as, yes, convenience – just as it would if Kaname and Sayu did.  Sayu actually muses on the possibility of being with someone you don’t love just to avoid being alone, and that’s what the impression would be in both Chisaki and Kaname’s case – even if they were to protest otherwise.

I’m certainly interested to see how all this works itself out over the last three episodes, but at the moment it feels as if Nagiasu has gone off the rails a bit and become somewhat unfocused and disjointed.  There are just too many spur lines branching off the main track, and too much time spent following the ones don’t seem as important.  I don’t see the need for yet more scenes of Miuna crying watermelon tears and 15 instances of her whispering Hikari’s name every week while the fate of the world barely gets a mention and all of the inhabitants of Shioshishio continue to sleep, and an episode dedicated to Sayu’s pursuit of Kaname (as it appears next week’s will be) while Hikari and Manaka’s fate remains up in the air.  There’s still time left for the series to bear down and confront the issues that really matter, but the window of opportunity to do so is getting smaller with each passing week.

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16 comments

  1. s

    "at the moment it feels as if Nagiasu has gone off the rails a bit and become somewhat unfocused and disjointed"

    yup,, my thoughts exactly; i think this series half-way through could not get a handle on its narrative and now the final eps are starting to show the compounding affects of hanging plot threads and a lack of overall focus. I was always under the impression that this show was just good, which was enough for me to enjoy it and invest mental energy into it, but lately i feel like im just watching it to see how it wraps itself up. It has lost that intrigue for me and has just become enjoyable. Sigh……….Well, at least P.A works next project looks pretty nice

  2. R

    finally! at least one pairing is getting resolved.

    honestly, i don't see tsumugu and chisaki entering into a relationship as being "convenient" in that their feelings for each other are mutual (not that they are aware of it), they just held everything back for fear of changing their current situation. and as we've seen, hikari's and the others' return forced them both to come to terms with it and like i have said before, chisaki saying "i still like hikari" was her way of moving from the past and confronting her present feelings.on the case of sayu and kaname, that one i would find totally convenient.

    now for that twist in the last few minutes of tsumugu suddenly having ena. i would agree that it does feel a bit too convenient, but there are some interesting bits showing here. on the scientific level, it does prove tsumugu's and mihashi's theory that extream stress might cause people to develop ena. up to what extent we don't know (tsumugu is a quarter sea-person after all).

    now the metaphysical level is more interesting. it might be that the sea god is finally relenting. sure, he won't be staving off the cooling of the planet (which we know won't be happening for the next couple hundred years or so(, but he might be actually giving his people a way out, by letting them regain something that they have long ago lost. or it could be that this is the "blessing" that manaka and the others like her have given in exchange for their sacrifice.

    oh, and i actually found miuna finally crying quite heartwarming, since this is indeed the first time she did cry after making that promise to never cry again.

  3. If after living with the guy for the five most hormonally-charged years of their lives Chisaki was genuinely surprised by what she heard, she's one badass master of holding back her feelings.

  4. R

    i think they are both are badass masters of holding back their feelings if this took them this long to confess. 😉

  5. f

    i don't think it was as simple as spending the most 'hormonally-charged years' together that dictates whether a pair has chemistry together. Consider that chisaki was going through a severe period of loss (that analogy to 'death' when miuna visited the sleeping shioshishio certainly rings a bell) and the 'convenient' 5 year period doesn't sound like such an opportune time anymore. given all these things, i can sympathize with the sentiment that this was akin to a time prison for chisaki and by extension, tsumugu. I think even tsumugu alluded to it earlier during a convo with kaname that it finally felt like time could progress again after everybody woke up.

    To me, this episode only confirmed tsumugu's feelings and not chisaki's. I think you're jumping the gun a little bit here, enzo. Chisaki has yet to resolve her feelings for hikari (though the outcome looks clear) and still hasn't replied to kaname yet. I would not be opposed to an open-ended resolution where none of them end up together.

    Regarding Tsumugu gaining ena, I had already predicted this a little while back when he got cursed by Uroko-sama. Given that (to our knowledge) only sea-people have ever gotten cursed with that fish, i felt it was pretty well fore-shadowed that tsumugu was going to gain ena, or at the very least, was a sign of acceptance by uroko-sama. Now as to why, I'm not sure….that story has yet to be told. But I do not think that tsumugu conveniently/randomly gained ena as a result of chasing chisaki into the sea.

  6. I'm not jumping the gun – I said if the two of them end up together. I didn't say it's definitely going to happen – just that I have major issues if it does without some significant further development that isn't an asspull.

    As for the physical act of Tsumugu gaining Ena, the relevant issue for me isn't the reason it happens inside the plot – it's the reason it happens in terms of the writing.

  7. R

    "As for the physical act of Tsumugu gaining Ena, the relevant issue for me isn't the reason it happens inside the plot – it's the reason it happens in terms of the writing"

    this is exactly what Enzo and i are referring to as it being "too convenient" it just appears out of nowhere to drive that whole plot of tsumugu confessing to chisaki at shioshishio of all places. though i am more forgiving than him on this one, as it doesn't really affect my reading of the story that much (i was half-expecting them to throw in that scene).

  8. m

    Yeah I agree with you Roger. The fact that the whole set up for the explanation of this happening was that line about Miuna getting Ena out of an instinctual need when she was about to drown. That's so forced to explain Miuna's Ena and now the same thing happens to Tsumugu except he forces himself to drown? Really forced. Though I am glad they are finally progressing these characters in terms of facing their feelings. No more whining about them….hopefully

  9. K

    The ost has and always have been something otherworldly to me. It's beautiful!

  10. J

    Isn't it convenient that a lot of things in a story conveniently happen to conveniently drive the plot towards its convenient ending conveniently?

    Never mind both Miuna and Tsumugu are descendants of Sea People, and as Roger brought up this development can be connected to the research Tsumugu has done relative to the goings on of the world since the Ofunehiki (You know, the the Doompocalypse this show somehow is ignoring but not).

    I also vehemently disagree that Tsumugu didn't develop Ena for character development purposes. That all happened in a critical stage of the development in a relationship you bemoaned wasn't getting enough airtime because Miuna is the source of all evil in this show's world even when the focus isn't on her.

  11. It's a shortcut, an out, a crutch, plain and simple. Not wanting to do the heavy lifting in developing a relationship you push a button and advance it via magic. Jerking a relationship forward several notches via that sort of trickery isn't the same as developing it.

  12. R

    "You know, the the Doompocalypse this show somehow is ignoring but not"

    yeah, i think that this is a big point a lot of people are missing about the shot. the story ism't about hikari and co turning superhero and saving the world, but rather about them trying to continue their lives amid that major event that changed it permanently (or as another blogger says it, it's not about them saving "the world" but them saving "their world" ). the doompocalypse is simply a background event.

    even manaka's sacrifice isn't madokami in that she didn't do it with the notion of saving humanity. she did it simply because she believed that akari should be given the chance to be happy with her family. that would also bring some light to uroko-sama's explanation (convulated as it is). deep inside, a part of manaka didn't want to do it, wanting to stay in the surface to tell hikari whatever she wanted to say. that was probably what trigger her desire to wake up.

  13. R

    oh and that "ena developing a relationship" question, i don't see it. rather it feels to me that it simply starts tsumugu's and chisaki's romantic relationship (if they do get to start it). whether or not, as Enzo says, that relationship would pass the acid test and become one built on a solid foundation is beyond us at this point.

  14. A

    Why did no one mention how convenient it was that the sea slug stone just happened to be floating there? Both the ena bit and the sea slug stone are necessary clues to solve the mystery around the sea god's and manaka's feelings. I don't see how anyone can call one of them a symbolic moment of importance and the other one a simple crutch unless they're biased to begin with.

  15. R

    @Anon
    Unlike the appearance of tsumugu's ena, the appearance of the sea slug stone didn't actually kickstart a plot line out of nowhere.

    besides, they actually discussed the "convenience" in-show, with miuna correctly pointing out that it is unlikely to be the same stone (to which hikari throws in an amusing half-assed answer basically saying "I'll just assume that it is"). note that no such wink to the audience was given with regards to the appearance of the ena.

  16. R

    I agree with J-Man in that Miuna didn't even receive much focus at all this episode. :/

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