Nagi no Asukara – 26 (End) and Series Review

Nagi no Asukara - 26 -8 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -22 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -29

How could Nagi no Asukara have possibly finished with an episode that was anything but a mixed bag?

So, there are two thoughts running through my mind as I reflect on this series.

  • Sucks to be Kaname, huh?
  • Let me get this straight – the showcase hug we get in the finale is Manaka and Miuna?

I’ve written so much about Nagiasu over the last six months that the “series review” portion of the post is pretty much impossible to write without rehashing a lot of old ground, so why bother?  The final episode was never going to change any of that – the ship had sailed as far as what kind of series this was going to be.  There was simply too much that wasn’t fixable in one episode, so the finale was always just going to be about the finale.

So how did it do on that score?  Well, exactly as you’d expect, I suppose.  Ethereally beautiful visually.  Possessed of isolated moments of real emotional profundity, balanced with those of exasperating inanity.  Ultimately unsatisfying.  In short it was everything you’d expect from an Okada Mari episode of an Okada Mari P.A. Works series.  It was a lot like the finale of Hanasaku Iroha, in fact (though not quite as good), which is the other 26-episode original show she wrote for P.A. Works and thus, unsurprisingly the one that it most resembles in many ways (I re-read my HanaIro series review post after I wrote this one, and was unsurprised to see how many themes were consistent between those posts).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show that could quite match HanaIro in terms of outright inconsistency (this show and Sakurasou come close – is there a common denominator?  Hmm…), and I think NagiAsu stands as the slightly better work as a whole.  But they’re both maddening pieces of work, both in the viewing and in post-factum consideration.

Any discussion of the positives of NagiAsu starts and ends with the visuals for me.  P.A. Works can paint an emotional picture like no other studio, and watercolors clearly suit their aesthetic.  The visuals have never really wavered in this show (as they didn’t in HanaIro) but the finale was especially stunning.  There were several shots that stood out (the screencaps are full of them) and on the whole, I think this may be the most visually impressive show since Hyouka – it’s that good.  What P.A.Works understands is that art and animation is about more than just pretty pictures, it’s about having a sensibility – telling a story with images.  I think one could look at the screenshots from this episode and understand the flow of the story without any of the dialogue (and in fact, it might be the better experience).

But this is Okada, and of course that means lots of tears and too-dramatic moments, and moments that should be dramatic and aren’t dramatic enough.  I think probably the best part of the episode for me didn’t involve any of the main cast at all, but the person we’ve only talked about – Ojoshi-sama (Sayami Haori) – who’s coincidentally a doppelgänger for Tamako from Tamako Market.  It’s the story of her ill-fated relationship with the Sea God that’s the underpinning for everything that happens in Nagi no Asukara, and the details framed the rest of the series perfectly.  It had a grace and subtlety much of the rest of the episode (and series) lacked, and I wish we could have seen more of it.

“I wish we could have seen more of it” pretty much defines my feelings about this show – and of course its eternal partner, “I wish we would have seen less of it”.  The return of Tomoru was powerful – and only served to remind me of what a shame it was he was absent for the entire second cour.  The fate of the land was rather poetically mused on in the final moments – likewise a reminder of how badly that story was shafted.  We saw the reunion of the people of Shioshishio and the surface dwellers powerfully depicted, reminding us of what a fascinating thing their clash of cultures was before it was dropped from the plot.  We all know what those things were thrown over in favor of in the second cour, so there’s no need to rehash it – especially as we got plenty of reminders of that in the final episode, too.

The reunion between Hikari and Tomoru was a classic NagiAsu tease, really.  What a wonderful, complex relationship – but there was no physical contact whatsoever between father and son after their years of separation.  No, it was Miuna who got the affection from Tomoru – just as when everyone was reunited on the surface, it was Miuna that Manaka hugged and cried over?  Symbolic?  I’ll let others decide for themselves.  We received only brief, inferential words to try and give emotional closure to the two most interesting relationships in the series (along with the Sea God and Ojoshi-sama, it seems) – between Hikaru and Tomoru and Hikaru and Manaka.  Yes, the point is made – but it wasn’t enough.  After 26 episodes of suffering through all the nonsense that was shoved down our throats, I thought the audience deserved more than that.

There’s irony, I suppose, in the fact that after all the elaborate theories and speculation, the ending was pretty much by-the-book.  Manaka ends with Hikari but we don’t get so much as an acknowledgement from either (Akira scored more physical contact with Manaka than Hikari did).  Tsumugu ends up with Chisaki, Kaname is left on the outside looking in (did he even have a family?) and generally (as usual) screwed over and forgotten.  No one ends up being married off to the Sea God – or becoming the new Sea God.  The land is still in trouble, but may nebulously be saved by the power of love.  It’s all pretty insubstantial, really – but it is somewhat redeemed by the fact that the finale gets the central theme right.  It’s better to fall in love with someone and be hurt than never fall in love at all, because pain and loss is an inherent part of love.  It’s Mono no aware to the core, and that’s the essence of the P.A. Works sensibility.

I’ll be very interested in seeing how my feelings – and the overall perception – of Nagi no Asukara change over time.  There’s no denying that this was a show that delivered some outstandingly good things, but it was just as undeniably encumbered with deep and crucial flaws.  I was skeptical of the timeskip idea from the beginning – I certainly argued against it – and I think it proved to be a significant detriment to the overall success of the series.  Timeskips can be useful for expanding the emotional range of a story, but they can also be an excuse to kick unfinished business to the curb – and I think that’s what happened here.  Much that was developed in the first cour was effectively abandoned in the second – and worse, the themes of the second cour were far less interesting on the whole.

There’s no need to restate the obvious, but NagiAsu seems to be about what one can expect from a two-cour Okada original.  She’s a writer of undeniable talent, and her skills shone through admirably in the first cour.  In the second she mostly indulged the bad habits which can make her insufferable.  But I’ll still take that over a show that takes no risks and is mediocre from start to finish.  Nagi no Asukara was often interesting even when it was infuriating, and it did enough in the first cour to keep me invested in the characters (well, some of them) even through the histrionics and missteps of the second. And I’ll never forget the miracles the series worked with sight and sound – it was a triumph of what the medium of TV anime can be when artists of imagination and vision are allowed to express their talents.  A mixed bag?  Undeniably – but certainly one far more memorable than most.

Nagi no Asukara - 26 -10 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -11 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -12
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Nagi no Asukara - 26 -36 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -37 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -38

ED Sequence:

Nagi no Asukara - 26 -39 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -40 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -41
Nagi no Asukara - 26 -42 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -43 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -44
Nagi no Asukara - 26 -45 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -46 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -47
Nagi no Asukara - 26 -48 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -49 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -50
Nagi no Asukara - 26 -51 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -52 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -53


Nagi no Asukara - 26 -54 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -55 Nagi no Asukara - 26 -56


  1. K

    I can understand you Enzo. This anime is great, no doub about it but it is frustrating how it could be so much more. It's like watching an ace student getting an A instead of an A+. But in terms of anime, music… I can see few or no equals to it yet. It is that good! And I must say my deep appreciation to you and everyone else that had cover this show. It has been a long ride but I did not regret watching this show – I might even watch it again. Thank you!

  2. d

    WTF are you talking about i already watched it AGAIN IT WAS THAT GOOD

  3. m

    That was deeply unsatisfying.

    I kept cringing throughout this sickly-sweet episode and at one point, burst out laughing when Uroko-sama widens his eyes and says, "How ironic! The Sea God stole Ojoshi-sama's feelings for *him*!"

    Yes, we got that. No need to spell it out and hammer it in some more.

    The worst part was that final shot between Manaka and Hikari, and we're finally expecting something more from them. Instead, they just sit down and spout how feelings are important and shiny, becoming mouthpieces more than characters.

    Ultimately, this show is like cotton candy. Beautiful, ethereal, but insubstantial.

  4. m

    As much as I want to argue with you that the second cour wasn't nearly as bad as you say, now that it's over I have this feeling that most of my positive feelings towards the second cour are just leftovers from how much I liked the first cour. I think overall it still is a good show, but that entails putting aside the idea of what could/should have been if they avoided the timeskip or just didn't make it so much of a teary teenage love drama. Thinking back though it really did feel like two different shows, and a lot of my interest in cour 2 stems from my enjoyment of cour 1. Haha in hindsight you definitely were right about everything you've written, but I still can't bring myself to hate the show.

  5. R

    I actually find the ending very apt. anticlimactic, but very apt.

    My personal interpretation of the ending was that the Sea God wasn't really looking for a sacrifice at all. it was merely the force of changer in this world. the central theme of the series (or so me thinks) is that of change and people trying to resist it. the people of the Ojoshi myth tried to stop change from coming (the Sea God's "wrath") by sacrificing her. the people of shishio thought they can halt change (the hibernation and the planet's freezing over) by doing the ofunehiki. on the personal level, Chisaki, Manaka, and Miuna thought they could stop the change that loving someone will bring to them by sacrificing their own feelings. but in the end, they realized that they are better of facing it no matter what it brings to them. so no, there is no such thing as the world being saved by the power of love here (more of them continuing to love despite the world continuously changing).

    The series isn't flawless in my eyes though. my main gripe is mostly on how the Tsumugu-Chisaki storyline unraveled. like i said in your review of episode 24, that part could have worked a lot better if they provided more of chisaki's flashbacks in earlier episodes. I also wished they could have explored Tsumugu's family history more, as it would have laid more groundwork for the storyline.

    however, the series definitely had plenty of interesting moments that made me more forgiving of those issues, as well as appreciating the love polygon better. also, i didn't feel as if the world building and themes seen in the first half were abandoned in the second half. in fact, they were still much there, with the series dropping plenty of cues. what i am seeing is that the series was encouraging the audience to continuously look at the central story (the love polygon) through those themes and world building even after they seemingly became more low key.

    I guess this will always be the tricky part with Okada. as another blogger ( this article ) points, Okada tends to write intricate layers into her stories. for those of us who love the exercise of going through all those layers, there is always something to appreciate at the end. thus, for me, the series still was very much excellent over all, definitely one of her better ones.

  6. a

    I really need to update that post.

    Asukara is definitely going to fit into my top 5 Okada shows, albeit with a few serious caveats in concern towards the plot, but I never really watched this anime looking for a good plot. I wanted consistent background art, character drama, and Delicious Moe Tears. And that's what I got. The execution was clumsy at times, but I got what I was expecting and that factors favorably in how I see it as a whole.

  7. B

    Edited post:
    Hmm… my feelings on the show (and the second half) are more positive than yours. The socio-economic themes were already resolved in the first half- would it have been worth it to reopen something that's already been solved? And I didn't mind the self-pity as much as you did- Chisaki's, I believe, were justified considering the magnitude of the trauma and issues that were already present , and Miuna, Kaname and Sayu got over theirs fairly quickly. It's not just self-pity for the sake of self-pity- there are psychological reasons for that, and the fact that they eventually get over it (really slowly, in Chisaki's case- which is realistic, and things got worse before they got better, but that probably worked against her from a strictly narrative standpoint) is what matters to me. I do wish we got more development out of Tsumugu and Kaname outside of being Chisaki's potential love interests, though. And I do agree that the show does lapse into melodrama every now and then, though not as often as you seem to imply. In fact, I'd say Mari Okada actively tried to restrain herself here (yes- even in the second cour- though whether or not she succeeded depends on the viewer). Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this show from start to end, and it's been a pleasure reading your thoughts on the show, Enzo. I'm a first timer here, and I'm thoroughly impressed with the insight in your reviews (even if I don't necessarily agree with them). Hopefully you'll blog about the shows I intend to follow when the new shows start airing.

  8. Thanks for joining the conversation, Bouken – hope to hear more from you.

  9. P

    I hated this ending, it was cute, I had tears in my eyes but it still did not resolve anything for me, and I mentioned this before, if one of the main gaps was closed: Kaname. Sure, adding Sayu to notice him was cute, but to have Chisaki never answer him in what happens to seem as one of the cutest confessions, still kinda leaves a hole in my heart. I wanted a closure. Also, was no one there from his parents to welcome him home? I don't get it. If Kaname cried because no one 'was waiting for him', I think he was really crying because the writer didn't bother with him or the animators lol I love Tsumugu yes, but really leaving Kaname like that seriosly drops the show from a 9 to a 5/10. Kaname's feelings will be healed by time, but probably I don't like that fact on how it ended. Though I knew from the begning how it will end for him, it is never resolved for those charecters.

    I liked the ending scene with Hikari and Manaka, it was the only thing that I wanted and happened in the end, the rest of the things were like 'oh hey lets test the viewer's feelings by ruining one relationship after the other, and putting the plot that 'this is what happens with time'.

    I am so dissapointed really.. I loved it but now they made me hate it..

  10. P

    It is like Chihayafuru ending with making Chihaya and Arata end up together, and making Taichi have no answer from Chihaya after a confession, and then making him suddenly notice Sumire-chan, lol sorry this is what Nagi feels like to me, it really was inconsistent, and I'm usually an easily pleased viewer, but they stomped on that u,u''

  11. M

    I feel exactly the same way. The only thing that was left of me to really look up in the ending was that moment for Manaka and Hikari. The others thing I wanted were just too far from being fixed, sadly. And honestly, you're right. It feels as though the writer has forgot immportance to Kaname, even if they did give him a sort-of happy ending. I don't think his feelings would turnaround completely after one episode. He cried like a lt of times, and Chisaki didn't even see it. That makes me sad.

  12. r

    Thinking back on the show, I'm pretty certain that the first cour was awesome and Miuna destroyed my enjoyment of the second cour entirely. She was such a wet blanket by the end of the show that I got irritated every time she came on screen. She was given no emotional diversity other than this melancholic pining after the out of reach Hikari, and it got to the point that she was starting to ruin Hikari's scenes (impressive considering he was the best and my favorite character).

    Nagi just failed to connected the emotional dots in the second cour and it's a real shame, because it really could have been so much better.

  13. J

    If you think about it, Kaname has Sayu…eventually. Miuna has her role in the gang by taking over Chisaki's role in taking care of Manaka. Regardless of what people say, I really liked the series overall. It was really touching seeing all these complex relationships meld together like it did.

  14. s

    "I think this may be the most visually impressive show since Hyouka"……you think so? I dont know cuz Hyouka's animation was pretty consistent throughout its entire run (plus I found the filter work and lighting in Hyouka to be a bit more superior). NagiAsu's, while still looking beautiful, tended to have animation dips here and there (at least with P.A works, if the animation falters a bit, they make it up by keeping the art looking good..for the most; you can always count on that).

    In retrospect, this was an enjoyable series but i dont know if i will ever go back and watch it again out of sheer enthusiasm (maybe i will out of the sake of analysis and to observe the writing and narrative mechanics that made it what it was); it didnt have that sense of presence in my opinion and before i knew it, i started to lose a bit of interest.

  15. m

    "I found the filter work and lighting in Hyouka to be a bit more superior" haha I don't have any clue what that means, but I am impressed that you know that much about how that affects animation quality. I can tell when something is animated well, but I can't really tell when two shows are both high quality, which one is better. It just becomes personal preference to me then. I like NagiAsu a bit better in visuals, but that's due to blue being my favorite color, and the fact that I like the sea more than land as far as artistic visuals are concerned.

    I agree that it tailed off little by little, and with Enzo that the finale was missing some stuff, but I liked the final episode. There's something about stories with young characters that having "we will be together forever" endings just feel forced and fake. I don't know anyone who married their first love and remained married until they died. I find even the idea of that happening to be absurd, and NagiAsu wasn't a operatic big Shakespearean theatresqe romance, but a slice of life (in a fantasy setting). I do think that my enjoyment of the show mostly stems from my enjoyment of cour 1 and then the rollover of those feelings.

  16. s

    While its highly unlikely, there have been instances of people marrying their first love and sticking with them for the rest of their life. I dont remember if it was on the oprah or ellen degeneres show, but a couple of years ago, they brought on the show this extremely old couple; they were both over 100 years old and had been married for over 80+ years. They got together around highschool and had been with each other since, having reported that there was no cheating or foul play throughout their marriage. Their secret; they're best friends first and foremost and they communicate. Cheesy i know but i find so much truth to that. That couple may just be an outlier to what usually happens in romance but they show that those type of relationships do happen.

  17. m

    Haha that is proof of my point. Back then people got married a lot younger on average and divorce was far less likely. Though I do have to concede your point that it does happen at times. It's far less likely to occur now then it would have in our grandparents generation I think. I just meant it more in the sense that the world is do much different now with the internet at everyone's fingertips. Older people will say stuff like, "the world used to be a much friendlier place" but in reality its just that people only interacted with those in their small proximity, and now interaction is based more through technologoy (like we're doing now) amongst those with common interests, as opposed to being amongst those who live close by. That frees people up for so many more options and opportunites, and you don't need to rely on starting a family and being close knit in that sense to survive. So marriage doesn't mean what it did before. It's become based more on feelings and less on economical/social advantages which does cause it to become as short lived (at times) as the feelings of the people who are married. That being said it just seems unrealistic to expect a "first love" to last. Especially when anyone who has really been in love knows the difference between real love and the love you feel as a kid when its mostly about the newness of it all.

  18. R

    The second cour was as frustrating as hell — the potentials of the show were lost in the trashy and annoying melodrama. I liked the first cour — the cultural clashes, a declining clan, human relationships — all were good and interesting to lay on top of a story of puppy love. The change of direction was bad, disappointing, and sad. I thought the last saving grace could have been Hikari and Manada, too, but it was horribly handled and rushed. The only surprise, like you said, was the little story of the Sea God and Ojoshi-sama. I had always thought that it was jealousy that the Sea God took away the ability to love from Ojoshi-sama, but it's actually out of love. This little twist was actually handled quite nicely, and while their tragic end was because of misunderstanding, they were able to "reunite". Other than that, nothing remotely impressed me.

  19. I'd actually kind of like to see an OVA about the Sea God/Ojoshi-sama doomed romance.

  20. R

    That would be really nice…someone at P.A. should think about it.

  21. m

    I wasn't expecting a wonderful final episode. But after all the mess and the drama, the only thing I really wanted was a proper confession between Manaka and Hikari. In the first half, kids were confrontative between each other and with adults, but in the second half, everything was "subtle", you should imagine everything what was happening… like with Tsumugu and Chisaki's relationship or that Chisaki never properly rejected Kaname. And what I felt at the end, it's that I saw two different stories with the same characters. I don't know, but when I listen to the first ED, I feel nostalgic, like I'm still waiting for the conclusion of the first half of the story. Maybe Manaka wasn't the best character but she and Hikari brought brightness and they were turned off in the second half and instead it was filled with tears, tears, tears, endless tears. It was like watching Rugrats and then watching (Rugrats) All Grown Up! just don't work for me…At the end Kaname was the most "consistent" character..he was left behind since the beginning until the end.

  22. J

    Thank you.. To everything you just mentioned: I could not agree more. (Period)
    Now I can't ever go back to rewatch this anime, because it saddens me to even remember the firsthalf of this show's perfection. Chisaki was my favorite character and I never wanted her to be replaced by Miuna like that. In my heart they'll just have to be together like they never were broken up.

  23. C

    "Ethereally beautiful visually. Possessed of isolated moments of real emotional profundity, balanced with those of exasperating inanity." How brilliantly that describes the series as a whole, lol! Beyond that…I'm not sure how people formed their opinions of Manaka and Miuna. I find Manaka to be incredibly annoying. She's a blank slate who can't even function as an independent being. That's not cute to me, it's insulting and tiring. She has no emotional depth or maturity, and even her concern for her friends seems forced. Miuna, on the other hand, exhibits great emotional depth and maturity, coping with the angst of her first love while still noticing and responding to the needs of those around her. She's strong, self-sufficient, and capable of supporting the one she loves. Granted, she is hyper-aware of Hikari, but she deals with her feelings better than Manaka does. She was by far my favorite character.

    Not only that, but I thought she and Hikari had much better chemistry as characters. They actually had a relationship, while Hikari mostly just took care of Manaka because she was too dimwitted to be a whole person. Sigh.I'm never the one who identifies with the annoying side character who crushes on the MC, but in this case, they actually wrote Manaka as that annoying side character and the side character (Miuna) as the worthy lead. I'm seriously confused that no one else feels this way, but it is what it is. Either way, the visuals, imagination, and world-building definitely take this show from barely average to excellent.

  24. S

    Christy Alice actually i also would love it if Miuna was the one Hikari fell for

  25. J

    is there a second season of this..

  26. M

    I agree with you, especially on the "sucks to be Kaname" part. I'm going to start about him. Sure, he may have had someone in the end that cared for him, but I think the whole thing about him liking Chisaki should'nt be ignored that easily. Even at the start of the anime, it was really obvious that he cared much for the girl. He was the one who was with Chisaki when she needed companion. And then there goes the time skip.
    I didn't like the idea of a time skip. It made it look like it was only put to give more emotion and drama on the series. I think it can give us the same amount of excitement even if it wasn't put there at all. The story had a great potential. But after the time skip, I was like "meh" and "why?", but I kept watching anyway. The time skip gave me sadness for Chisaki. It was the four of them all the time, but she ended up losing them all at once. She always liked for everything not to change, yet change betrayed her and she was the only one who grew up. Everytime I see the four of them together, it hurts me that she's taller than everyone else. She had to grow up without her best companions, but hey, there was Tsumugu. Another thing I don't like about the time skip is because I think it was only done to give Tsumugu and Chisaki's interaction and relationship develop. But (i'm going back to kaname on this one) that only puts Kaname on the edge. It was him who didn't get a reply. Yes, he didn't want an answer himself. But it was too sad to see him go back to the story only to have the girl she always liked be with someone else. He was chanceless, never given any.
    Another point is the whole thing about Miuna and Sayu growing up. Honestly, I didn't really think they'd have a really big role on that anime. Their appearance during the first cour was enough for me, at least. The thing that bugged me was about their feelings for the main characters. It makes me think that the time skip was there to have more blocks on the way for the main character, when really, it was Kaname who got hit hard by it. I really like Miuna at the first cour and didn't like Sayu that much, but it turned around when they grew up. I'm impressed how they kept their feelings for five years when they were just children when they first felt it. Also, i think the whole Chisaki-Tsumugu thing was a little too fast. Not that I'm completely against it though. And Kaname? Well, it was like he wasn't even there at all. He was the good guy, the honest guy, and the practical one. He was the very first one who confessed his feelings without having anyone to tell him to push for it. He had a really bad ending, even if he had Sayu.
    That's pretty much my rant about. I don't have anything against Manaka and Hikari. Though I must admit, I was once rooting for Manaka and Tsumugu. Why? Because they are so cute together. From the start and the whole fish curse thing. I even winced whey they did the whole cover-your-mouth-while-talking thing on the last episode. And also, because I am annoyed with Hikari at that time. I didn't like how he scolds Manaka and act like a boss around her when the truth was he really loved her. I thought that if ever there was someone who'll mix up their relationship, it would be Tsumugu. But hey, the time skip happened. Then it was revealed Tsumugu liked Chisaki after all. I really really like Tsumugu ever since the first episode, but as the series progressed, and especially on the second cour, I had mixed feelings. Not only to him, but to everyone and everything else. Talking about how quickly my feelings for change for characters, this anime pulled it off.
    That's just it. The thing I'd point is that this anime would've been better if the time skip never occured. A whole lot better. I'd be fine even if they added new characters to mess up and interfere on the story.
    But over all, it's a good one. It brought out a lot of emotions for me, even if some of it was nerve wrecking.

  27. C

    This anime is still good as fudge! I was hoping for a Season 2 but ****!

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