Anime Review: Nagi no Asukara

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PA Works is an anime-production company that is fairly consistent in executing all of their projects. You can always expect PA Works to come out with a drama, an ensemble cast, multicultural themes, and a sentimental story that will leave audiences feeling a little happier… maybe. And while many of these projects may go overlooked by most anime fans, occasionally they will come out with something that will appease the general audience. Nagi no Asukara (A Lull in the Sea) was one of those kinds of projects.

Bringing back one of my favorite screenwriters in the anime industry, Mari Okada, Nagi no Asukara tells the story of people from the sea: people who can not only breathe underwater, but actually live there! These people are the descendants of Ojoushi-sama, a woman who was forced to marry the Sea God (Umigami) after she had nearly drowned centuries ago.

In the current time period, the people of the sea have had a “symbiotic” relationship with the people of the surface in a town nearby, as they visit the surface, go to school on the surface, and even make business with the people of the surface. However, these cultures are not to be mixed, for if a person from the sea were to marry a person from the surface, their children will not have ena, the extra layer of skin that allows them to breathe underwater. In other words, enjoying surface life meant giving up on the sea.

Characters

Sayu (left) has a problem with Hikari, a person from the sea.

However, as the story progresses, the people of the surface and the sea are drawn closer together, thanks to the friendship of four middle school children from the sea: Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname, and their friend from the surface, Tsumugu (whose grandfather taught him the love of the sea). And when these youngsters prepare for the annual Ofunehiki festival honoring Ojoushi-sama, a prophecy from Uroko, a scale of the Sea God who acts as the god’s remaining life form, comes with a warning; and the once peaceful agreement between the sea and the surface for this festival will soon find itself at the center of Nature’s threat.

~This next part contains spoilers.~

By the second season, there is a somewhat confusing time-skip for our characters. In a span of five years, the characters who remained on the surface grow up in what becomes an Ice Age, as the summer scenery is covered in frost and winter-like conditions. Meanwhile, the people of the sea remain in hibernation, waiting for the world to freeze over. However, our childhood heroes awaken early on in this period to get a rude awakening.

Old Friends

A newly-awakened Hikari and an adult Chisaki find themselves separated by more than just an electrical post in this snowy scene.

How these two communities continue to thrive in an icy apocalypse will remain untold, so that you can watch it yourself. In the meantime, I would like to make a few other comments.

One thing that stuns me about Nagi no Asukara is how mature the children seem to be over even the adults. I know this is kind of a common thread in a lot of anime, but it seems even more so here; and quite appropriate as well, if you ask me. While the adults of the series do have a lot to contribute to resolving conflicts and giving advice, it’s the children (and the children who become adults) who drive the feelings and love the story has.

Of the many lovable characters from this series, Miuna Shiodome has to be my favorite, both before and after the time skip. I may have mentioned it before in another post, but Miuna’s love for her step-mother and Hikari’s sister, Akari, is golden. It’s not always easy for a person to love their spouse’s children, nor is it easy for a child to love their parents’ new spouse; especially when this person is an acquaintance who knew the previous parent who is now deceased. Still, however, Miuna comes to accept Akari as a mother rather than just a replacement, out of love and maturity that we as adults might have overestimated.

Young Miuna

Even though she doesn’t want to admit it right away, Miuna doesn’t want Akari to leave.

In the five years since the Ofunehiki disaster, Miuna is tested again as an awakened Hikari is added to the family. Hikari feels awkward and in shock that he has awoken to a world where everyone he knew is older, and feels anguish that no one else seems to have joined him yet. Hikari is at a breaking point to insanity when Miuna, now his biological peer, saves the day yet again. In order to make him feel better, Miuna retrieves the banner that Hikari used for the Ofunehiki, patches it up, and gives him a welcome home to remember.

Miuna

Miuna gives an “okairi” to remember.

Finally, I would like to say that, as always, the artists of PA Works deliver yet another anime with breathtaking scenes and beautiful character designs. While there are shows that take the simplified route to drawing, Nagi no Asukara leaves every visual to its utmost detail, embellishing on a drama where cultures collide to resolve a conflict found within the lull of the sea.

Tomoebi

Manaka (right) and Chisaki gaze upon Tomoebi, a view of the sun from the bottom of the sea. At a certain moment of time, this phenomenon occurs where it visually looks like three suns are in the sky above.

So if you’re looking for another tear-jerking drama, a story of clashing cultures, and resolve through love, plus some powerful visuals, watch Nagi no Asukara. PA Works has made one outstanding masterpiece with this.

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