My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the first half of Nagi no Asukara, which aired during the Autumn 2013 anime season.
Looking for episodes 14 – 26 from the second half of Nagi no Asukara? Click here!
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 1)
P.A. Works sure do love their background art. Yes indeed.
I’m of the disposition this show will be entirely made or broken on the high seas of where Manaka’s character arc goes. At the moment she’s positioned as the primary romantic interest for two male leads, with a side context of Chisaki getting the “Well, if Manaka were to go away, you’d get to step into her place in Hikari’s heart” aside. And we have the whole mythology of the sea god and a historical sacrifice. And Manaka has already nearly gotten herself killed in the first episode. Gears are in motion.
But for now she’s mostly this blubbering mess.
A moe stew of eye welling, quivering lips, and an inability to stand up for or help herself in any way. Which is justifiable if it goes somewhere, and I really hope it does. This could be an interesting little immigration and acceptance of values play amongst a romantic drama, but character development is going to be so highly critical to keep the story rich and fulfilling over just blurting out “Oh. By the way. Immigration and racism and stuff” via blunt force narrative trauma to the head.
While perhaps drawing the most similarities from the community at large to AnoHana, I haven’t actually seen that particular work yet myself, so the most immediate thing when I think of Mari Okada’s scripting and series composition work from recent years is Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Which, admittedly, is an entirely different genre of show. But in that case, it had lots of delightful stuff up until the final third of the series where we had characters just stand around literally explaining the plot to the audience, which can at least in part be chalked up to a shorter episode run.
I think there is definite high potential though; I don’t think Uroko-sama’s sniffing and comments about Manaka’s aroma and physical development as a young woman are there just for a silly one liner gag. There are places that can be run with, and sensibilities that are all nipping to be explored. So all we need is the followthrough.
I hope the fish knee is a consistent character.
Beyond the whole curse thing, they could be fun, whimsical, or a larger part of some whole puberty and coming of age set of affairs. And yeah, I’ll consider them a separate cast member for now. The fish knee has their own mouth and everything!
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 2)
I said last time I hoped the fish knee was going to be a consistent character.
Then the fish knee swam away this week, complete with a cheeky little “See ya!” line.
Manaka covers up where the fish knee used to be and lying about it still being there, hoping for another curse.
Meanwhile, we learn more of the mythology and the backstory that makes up this world, and things which had been hinted at previously are already starting to bubble up. People are getting into internal emotional knots over wanting things to always be the same as they are now, to stay in the sea or leave for the surface. Akari’s personal romantic situation was not only brought up, but given a degree of direct address already in the commotion at the temple. Hikari gets systematically told off. This is all great to see. I could practically hear the little wind up gears on this toy get turned, and at some point it will get to do… whatever it does when it lets itself go. We shall cross that bridge when we get to it, but at the moment I have a steadier faith in this show than I did last week.
Tsumugu will need more dialogue. I am certain that will happen of course, as he is a prominent male romantic lead, but at the moment he has fairly robotic efficiency. But given that he does not seem like one to emote much, he is going to need a lot of words words words to get me to see where he is coming from.
Civil enough guy, otherwise. Is interested in how the fish knee is doing.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 3)
Introduce and execute. Pitch then sell. Hint, reveal.
I have no idea what is going on inside of P.A. Works at the moment, but between Uchōten Kazoku doing so critically well for me last season and then what this series has been doing with its keen respect for mechanics, I think we need to confront the possibility their staff has been abducted by mermaids, tanuki, and other creatures. And I am OK with this should the material continue to hold up.
We receive pretty much exactly what we needed at the correct time we really needed it: more focus on Hikari’s interactions and introspections so he isn’t just a one note jerk, quiet time between several characters, showing elements of the older fisherman’s back story and Tsumugu’s family history via a singular silent move taking mere seconds in the sunset, and the guy we saw Akari with wasn’t just brought up as a vague concept of an individual but rather directly in two separate scenes approaching him in different ways.
And Manaka reveals the continuing adventures of the fish knee were a lie all along!
So that isn’t even going to hang around long than necessary for purpose. Each episode of this series has continuously allayed my fears of just how wrong all of this could have gone in respect to being Crying Moeblob Mermaids: The Show. If anything, it is moving at an editing and narrative pace that would normally suggest a much shorter one season show, but it is scheduled for twenty six episodes. So we have a lot more ground to cover before we are through, and ideally it doesn’t stall out.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 4)
Were this series a card or video game, I would describe this as a “Gear Check” episode, so ensure it has the right equipment to proceed after the more dramatic previous episodes.
We have seen the well timed opening moves. Barriers, sentries, and code gates of character relations are all in play on the one end of the field. Now Nagi No Asukara needs to increasingly see if it can actually navigate itself.
I think it managed the test quite well. Hikari experiences some more honest to goodness development in his firebrand ball of hormones and Manaka spends more time with him. Akari heads to the temple and walks straight over Uroko-sama, who gets a message himself. The two little girls outside the supermarket are given proper triggering into various character arcs in a layered and sensible fashion. By the end Chisaki actually ends up feeling the most slighted and lonely of the whole group as she continues to want things to remain as they always were under the ocean, while seeing so much before her that makes that goal seem increasingly impossible.
The cast of kids continue to sound and react like kids in such a way where I am not groaning at the screen or finding my suspension of disbelief being called into question. The actions and reactions remain rather sensible for their personalities, relationships, and age. And that is a genuinely difficult thing to work through as a romantic drama series written by adults desiring to use so much peeling of onion layers where another team would have chosen an easier and more direct approach.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 5)
It was going to happen sooner or later, and here we are: an episode where a whole lot of anguished crying goes down.
In this case though, given the methodical build that has brought us to this point, I think it has earned the right to let some loose as a part of where we will go from here.
Chisaki manages to get at least a little of her feelings heard by someone, Hikari’s more fireball nature pushes him to actually do right not once but twice (pushing his Akari to be with Itaru, and going after Miuna), breakups happen, kids go missing, fish fries are had, and a lot of chewing gum gets chewed. And tears.
I think the show has done alright by this on the whole, but Miuna does seem to me to be speaking beyond her age bracket. She goes with a more poetic direction that seems at least a little out of alignment with where she should be, especially near the end of the episode. Given, as the source of her anguish has to due with something she has had time to think about (the loss of her mother, inability to swim, etc), this isn’t so much unbelievable as it is merely unlikely.
I’ll be surprised if Miuna doesn’t end up developing some kind of crush on Hikari.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 6)
I wonder how chlorinated school pools interact with the type of mermaid biology this show has.
It’s completely irrelevant to anything else, as they don’t have any difficulties with it come gym class, but it’s a quirky little personal interest thing.
With Best Friend-Kun Kaname now seemingly in possession of a peer aged admirer of his own, the relationship pileup matrix of the main group seems to be complete. Maybe things will get more complicated (I’m sure they will), but at least everyone now has a crush on someone and has someone of appropriate age who has tingly feelings for them.
As bluntly as it was handled via the other girls in gym class remarking about her breast size and trying to play with her body, Chisaki did definitely get the attention of several of the human boys, including some who were ruder to our mermaids earlier. Now they suddenly want to help out however they can!
With how down she has been, and depending on how spurned she feels with the whole Hikari situation, I’ll actually be interested in seeing if any of this drags her into a less than healthy relationship the group would need to deal with. Alternatively, by spending more time with the mermaid group one of those rowdier human boys might become more interested in the culture and such, possibly causing some kind of personal divide in their own friendships as they treat these outsiders more welcomingly.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 7)
Easy Ofunehiki come, easy Ofunehiki go. Don’t lose your head all in one place.
Or something like that!
A cornucopia of classmates human and mermaid alike finish rebuilding the previously destroyed festival centerpiece and need to, well, convince the feuding leadership between the shore and the sea to actually let the festivities occur. While I don’t really find the paint by numbers fight between the respective leaderships all that interesting (though there are extremely good reasons why we in the conflict resolution and mediation field never ever intentionally set up a room the way it was here, with such a wide gulf and oppositional seating, to say nothing of moderator placement), I do find the petition drive leading up to it to be something to reflect on.
The kids have bunches of signatures, with most of the remarks we get to see able to be bundled up along the lines of thinking the festival would be a nice thing to see because they were under the impression that it was not happening. The general population of the people on land would like to see the festival continue. Their problem then, as is often the case in situations like this, with a collection of old men who have buckled down and are unwilling to budge on much of anything while holding all kinds of grudges and being passive aggressive (and then aggressive-aggressive) towards each other. Nothing new there, but I do hope an angle comes from it that could get me more invested in that, as for the moment we barely even know any of their names let alone can really consider them as characters.
In other news, Uroko-sama actually gets off the floor and unleashes a torrent of nautical hell for his trouble. He has had these consistent hints of holding quite a bit back in-between his eating, drinking, perversion shenanigans and his more foreboding words of direction. Now we have our follow-through regarding some of the things he may actually be capable of, and as even that involved a lot of holding back and interruption I am sure he has plenty more to show regarding his power and what even the Sea God plans for the future. The question then is who or what it would be directed at, and why they deserve it, which if I had to put a guess on it would likely be just the thing to come back around in time for a mid-series finale.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 8)
There must have been a firesale on blush this week, because it was definitely out in abundance.
Miuna also sounded and operated a lot more like a regular kid her age for this go around, as opposed to her for poetically grandstanding big episode from a few weeks back, so that was very nice to see. She worked well, even if the actual plot resolution regarding the jewelry she wanted to give could be seen from a mile away. It was cute.
That several of the stores deeper into the shore have signs declaring their possession of salt water I think is a really interesting narrative and worldbuilding piece. Same with the mermaid themes in the shop advertising posters for their jewelry. It goes with the success of the petition drive from our previous outing: the general population of the surface is far more accepting of our mermaid folk than we may have been led to believe at the start. We were only really seeing kids before, and kids are judgmental and hair trigger idiots about all kinds of things. Same thing with our grizzled old set in their ways men who are on the respective community leadership groups. Everyone else in the broad middle? Seems quite generally pretty alright about it.
Originally, this was framed as more of a “us versus them” with the sea as the good and shore as more oppressive, but we are transitioning to seeing that the inverse is likely the more appropriate lens. Saltflake snow on the surface indicates things are likely about to get very aggressive indeed regarding the sea lashing out.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 9)
In a paraphrase of Hikari this week: Parents! They suck! They all keep everything secret!
And yet likewise: the hope they are eating well and are not drinking too much.
So we’re sticking with the sea slug thing that Miuna and Tsumugu bring up with their own ways, and I admit whenever a character states something like “I don’t dislike how you are right now“ in a show, that tends to get a large number of alarm bells ringing in my head. Tsumugu – Chisaki isn’t really a situation I had been considering, and admittedly Tsumugu is tricky to get a good read on. But I may also be looking into a single line too much, as I still get worried this show is going to somehow pull the carpet out from under me in how it approaches itself and end up betraying me with buckets of blunt hammers.
I also reason that, given the story that Tsumugu came to his current residence when he was nine and we were shown a photograph of him with their parents (complete with the shot cutting off before the heads) while runnaging around where the apron apparently was, Manaka was likely striking action ladle cooking poses with the dinner prep wear of Tsumugu’s dead mom. I don’t actually know that she has passed away of course, but it seems like a logical conclusion given the story. Maybe Manaka even looks like her too!
I really hope we get more explanation on the Sea God next episode, as at the moment they lack much definition other than “very vengeful about young adult relationships.” I’m sure it’s the sort of thing that has been building for a while, I’d just like to see some of that cause and effect gameplan.
Nagi No Asukara (episode 10)
Hikari kept saying “Hold on a second” a few times during this episode, and I can’t say I blame him in the least.
I’m in the same boat as him, where we seem to have suddenly ramped into way too many things happening at once for what was before a more methodical pacing.
So in the span of roughly twenty minutes we’re hitting the notion that the demise of all humanity will arrive in mere decades because the Sea God is going to be unleashing this bitter cold ice age vengeance. And the notion that the mermaid people can just hibernate through it via the ena. And elderly folks tossing out doom phrases like “if you wake up before I do.” And people like the high priest of the village using weasel words like “apparently” when referring to how this sleep thing actually works, even though as the high priest and this is a religious matter… you’d think that he would know possibility more about it than that? And as a religious matter due to surface folks not following rituals or whatever, shouldn’t that have made the Ofunehiki so much more pressing? Because at the moment it feels like “neener neener neener, our mermaid people didn’t tell you surface folks at the meeting that Armageddon was at stake from what has been going on.”
…except by Tsugumu’s grandpa’s commentary, we have a whole climate change angle with this as well, where something may be actually enjoying the saltflake snow, and it may just be a bad change for humans. In which case, perhaps the Sea God isn’t involved at all?
…and Kaname drops the “What if we are already asleep and this is all just a dream?” bomb. While also pulling the ear tearing move of telling the girl they like that they like them with a delightful straight face because it was super convenient for him in the doomsday scenario. In such a situation Chisaki has has no real means of responding appropriately with any of their own agency because the timer is up against the wall, so her feelings or ability to process this information has not actually been respected by him at all.
…While we have little kids on the surface saying lines like “how do you keep precious things precious?”
…What the heck was this episode, even? I mean, if it actually turns out this is a post-apocalyptic tale, it would be quite a turn of events. But I feel this was at least two episodes of material here just being rushed through and we still have more than a dozen to go.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 11)
An episode of many heavy piano keys and Hikari occasionally talking in voiceovers about present events in the story from some position in the future.
So they sure are gunning for a big end of season finale to set the tone for whatever will come in the second half of the show.
Kaname’s behavior has gone from being just sort of quietly below the surface of things to giant grins and “I just confessed my feelings to your daughter” smart remarks, and it does not sit right with me at all. Which is to say, I’m now viewing him more as an antagonistic force, someone who may provide some variety of sabotage or the like in the future. He’s too slick for his own good here, and is not acting in a way that cares an iota about Chisaki’s actual reactions. Hikari voiceovers speaking in flashback or reflective tones of regarding them and the normality or not of how they are acting in the present also supports this notion
The big mermaid sleep coming down on the day of Ofunehiki seems, well, reasonable enough given the religious overtones. Likewise, the fishery collective asking Hikari to still perform the event rings well enough now that everyone is basically in survival mode. It still bugs me that we still have those tastes of “Oh, well, I didn’t say that, you merely inferred it” aggravations this week, presented now via Uroko-sama remarks about if the Ofunehiki and actually getting the surface folks mobilized would really solve anything at all. It is easy drama sure, but it also is really not the way anyone in a position in authority should be screwing around when talking to kids during what we are continuously told is basically an apocalyptic scenario. I’m sure that will definitely fertilize a really great crop of well adjusted youngin’s to carry on the future of the civilization once the sleep is over all right.
The Akari – Itaru marriage registration sit down was nice, as is her notion of wanting to be playing the part of the Ofunehiki figure offering itself. Her dad will probably see her from down in the sea, so that reaction will ideally go somewhere.
I do not really expect the show to reach the midseries finale point without killing someone though. We already had our big nod to the notion of historical sacrifice at the outset of the production, and right about now would be a time for it to follow through on that.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 12)
I’m honestly rather surprised there wasn’t the wedding / Ofunehiki episode this week.
Given that everyone else in the schedule pretty much tends to head into this time of the year with a bang, even the ones that will continue into the next season, this felt like it was more of a “normal” episode even with the reveals that did occur.
We have Sayu and Miuna arguing over who is more evil for liking which boy more, our High Priest has come surface side to get some coffee (and a mouthful of flowers) with his daughter, Tsumugu doesn’t want anything to do with his mom even though she clearly wants to form some kind of connection there given her desire to get some food together or even just talk for a little while longer, and so on. Lots of family talk, and certainly the chat about the past that did occur between Akari and her father I thought was a nice little moment, right down to the small reaction of the cafe bartender.
Kids and some adults are already hibernating, and folks keep dwelling on how they look like they’re dead. Paricularly in the case of the kids, being walked down the streets cradled in arms while folks are in special concealing robes with torches. That’s some pretty heavy handed imagery though, so I’m not sure it needed to be harped on that badly, especially with the whole “we don’t even know if we’ll wake up” shenanigans nobody can seem to stop talking about.
For how often our mermaid school folks end up in their old classroom, you’d think it’d be more locked down or something. Especially since they are in there marking the place up with additional height growth charts now! Which I’m sure will come back around in some other scene from now later in the series.
Kaname continues to be a passive aggressive pain in the butt as he has been the last few episodes, dropping a point blank questions bomb as he did when everyone else is having a fun time. On the one hand I get it, because it is a frustrating situation to be in. But you’re only sabotaging your own case here kiddo. I’ve been there, I get it, but you can’t go doing explosive stuff like that which makes you look bad in front of the girl or you lose her before you even get her!
Maybe this whole thing where the mermaid team might wake up at different times comes into play regarding Sayu and Miuna’s feelings, since it could be all done in such a way where they are at more appropriate ages in the future.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 13)
Ah, here we are then, The Episode Where The Stuff I Was Pretty Sure Was Going To Happen Actually Goes Down.
It has been hinted at or alluded to for some time now, but even so the actual way this all occurred still was at least a little different than how I may have expected.
As far as the dialogue itself, I felt this episode went back on the more poetic “It sounds really nice on paper, but I can’t imagine kids this age actually sounding anything like that.” It is a little immersion breaking when kids are talking about ripples in their hearts making stormy noises and responding with “Because you are the sun” when someone asks why they are crying. If they were a little older or something, maybe? It is not so over melodramatic as to shutting me out, it just tastes kind of… off, swishing it around in my head. Particularly given how good it has been at other times at using more measured or better age appropriate language, with just these bubbles here and there of something beyond their years.
The Ofunehiki ceremony itself really reminds me that I do like the windows of the world that this show offers to me. I like the idea of the culture, history, associated imagery, the traditions, all of that. Akari ‘s shimmering attire does not feel like a gimmicky over the top statement piece, but rather something that feels wholly appropriate for the ceremony and holds a definite realistic place as what must have been a dear possession of someone before trading it in to a shop. It all tickles my gears, and the show really does look so much more rich and delightful at night, generally speaking. It might have something to do with the color palate, as there are a lot of whites, teals, light blues, and the like by default on its plate and it can all be pretty bright during the daytime. Which is certainly appropriate for more than one shoreside community out there. The night allows me to lean back a little more and appreciate the colors more, I suppose, and how they are handled with the richness of deeper evening tones and shades
The ceremony going all topsy turvy I do not think was much of a stretch for anyone to make, given the foreshadowing and the lead up we have been having. Even so, I had also pegged the death/s that would occur to involve other characters. Which on the one hand is nice, that the one I expected to be taken was not, and yet at the same time I really… don’t find myself too caught up on who was? They have been sort of all over the place for a bit now.
And for the moment, I do only think one character has left us. We already know Hikari is fine for instance, given his voiceovers from a previous episode talking about other characters and how they were acting at the time.
Unless this is the Matrix or something, and Kaname’s line a while back about maybe they were already asleep all along comes to pass and thus folks are really only waking up as a result of these events or something.