Anime Review: Nagi no Asukara
Title (English): Nagi no Asukara: A Lull In the Sea
Title (Japanese): 凪のあすから (Nagi no Asukara)
Animation Studio: P.A Works
Genres: Drama, Romance, Fantasy
こんにちわみんなさん (Hello everyone!)
I first started hearing about Nagi no Asukara from one of my fellow Facebook admins around November last year. He was pretty invested in it, and he started posting about it whenever a new episode would air. I took an interest to it, since it seemed like a school romance drama, and that is primarily what I watch. As time went on, he began to mention all the crazy things that were happening in the anime and suddenly, it seemed so much more than just a regular school drama. He and a couple of my real life friends told me to start watching it because they said it was really good. My friends know what I like, and they themselves aren’t big fans of my genres. So when they tell me to go watch something that they wouldn’t usually watch, and it is within my comfort zone, I take immediate notice.
I was initially reluctant to watch it for a couple of reasons. I am not a big fan of fantasy anime, and, up until this point, I hadn’t watched any good original anime. My two previous attempts, Tsuritama and Tamako Market, ended in failures. The anime started on October 3, 2013, but I didn’t start it until over the halfway point, on January 22, 2014. I caught up fairly quickly, and so I am able to bring my review of it right now. じゃ、はじめるぞ！(So, let’s get started!)
The setting of the anime is in a fictional world where humans live in both land and sea. Humans originated from the sea, and were given a special skin film called ‘Ena’ to breathe underwater. However, humans soon grew bored of the sea, and began to settle the surface, and they grew distant from their underwater counterparts. The anime begins at a high stress point in surface and underwater humans’ relationship. Four of the main characters: Hikari Sakishima, Manaka Mukaido, Chisaki Hiradaira, and Kaname Isaki come from the underwater village of Shioshishio. The fifth main character, Tsumugu Kihara, is a boy from the surface who works as a local fisherman. The four underwater characters must come up to the surface to attend school because of the lack of enrollment at their underwater school. Tensions are high between the surface humans and the sea humans and there is immediate discrimination in the classroom. The four underwater students must get used to life on the surface, and Tsumugu is pleased at the opportunity to learn more about the sea from these four people.
Aside from the whole fantasy element to it, this may not seem any different than your typical school drama. And at first, it isn’t. The first half kept things interesting with its characters, and the crazy love triangles that the anime would become famous for among those who were watching it. Nagi no Asukara also had very steady plot development which lead up until the halfway point. Then… things got real.
The event that occurs at the halfway point sets the tone for the rest of the anime and now, the story doesn’t lift its foot off the pedal. I came in late to the party, but once that event happened, I had to watch it until I was caught up. After I was caught up, I waited in anticipation for each new episode. The story evolves into more than a school drama, and its fantasy element really comes out. It almost feels like you’re watching two different anime, with the tone shift after the halfway mark. In no way is this a bad thing. It really only made the anime better.
One of my friends pointed out last week that the script for the anime is done Mari Okada, who has worked on many beloved romance anime like Toradora, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and AnoHana, as well as Aria the Natural, Black Butler, and Hanasaku Iroha. That explains a lot, since the romance element of the anime is nailed perfectly. I already mentioned the love triangles in the anime, but they really came to life in the second half. The addition of two new main characters after the halfway point only made the love triangles more complicated, but none of them felt fake. You have to almost draw yourself a chart, so you can see the complicated relationships this anime has. It’s easy to find your favourite pairing, and the anime doesn’t resolve the love triangles until the final episodes, so you’re left in constant anticipation of who will end up with who. The results may surprise you. Of course, the anime has its fair share of sad moments that will bring out your emotions. The only thing I can fault the anime for when it came to the story was the melodrama at the beginning. The drama in the rest of the anime works, but the beginning… not really.
Let me introduce the characters and the extremely complicated love triangles.
Hikari is the hot-headed protagonist who is initially as racist to the surface people as they are to him. He secretly harbours feelings for the female protagonist, Manaka. Manaka is the timid girl of the group who follows everyone around. Manaka seems to have feelings for Tsumugu in the first half. Chisaki is the “mother” of the group who tries to make sure everyone is happy. Chisaki likes Hikari. Kaname is the rather ordinary nice guy. He has feelings for Chisaki, but he knows she likes Hikari. Tsumugu appears to like no one in particular, but then he begins to have feelings for Chisaki. Tsumugu is another regular nice guy, but he has a cool head even in the craziest situations. Two new main characters join in after the halfway point, and things get even more complicated from there. Miuna Shiodome is the daughter of Hikari’s older sister’s boyfriend, and Sayu Hisanuma is Miuna’s friend. They are introduced before the second half, but they are only supporting characters. Miuna’s past experience with Hikari leads to her infatuation with him, and she wants to do all she can to help him out. Sayu starts out racist to the underwater characters, but she loosens up and begins to help them out.They both get their own crushes; Miuna likes Hikari, and Sayu likes Kaname. Did you get all of that? Yes? Good. You have to wrap your head around all of these love triangles. It gets interesting trying to follow these relationships around.
The characters in Nagi no Asukara were developed really well and done fairly realistically. There was always a reason for each character behaving the way they did at any one point. At first, all of these characters have obvious flaws in their personality. Hikari is hot-headed, Manaka is too timid, Chisaki is set in her ways, etc. However, all of these characters grow out of these behaviours, and it happens so naturally. That’s another thing that’s fun to watch in this anime is its character development. It blends well into the story it presents. No one character felt out of place and they were all there for a reason. There is a lot of focus on the characters in this anime, and the time they spent on them means that they would end up being characters you can sympathize with; characters that you can understand as they face their own problems in this world.
Art and Animation:
The art of Nagi no Asukara is simply amazing. The world is stunning to look at and you feel immersed in the world. The two other P.A Works anime I watched, Angel Beats and Hanasaku Iroha, were also nice to look at, but when the sun came out, it was a little too bright to look at. They always seemed to have this kind of bright sheen that was distracting at times. This time, the lighting is perfect. The underwater scenes are probably the highlights of the anime. The underwater world is created with such artistic poise; it really makes you wish this kind of pretty world existed. Later on in the anime, the surface world takes on a new look and that too is a sight to behold. Consistently, the anime looks beautiful and it fits the tone of the anime.
One of the reasons that may have accounted for people’s lack of interest in Nagi no Asukara when it started out, was probably its moe style. I can’t really speak for people who are against moe art styles, since I love moe-styled anime, but it it doesn’t distract from the drama that is happening. With such realistic characters, combined with its moe art style, it may just do what moe is intended to do: make you feel more for the characters.
The animation, particularly the underwater parts, was well done. Fish swim around without a care in the world, and it shows life underwater very well.
Art and Animation: 9.5/10
The soundtrack is yet another high point for the anime. It makes excellent use of the piano during its dramatic scenes, and it perfectly captures each moment. During the regular parts of the anime where nothing is happening, the music doesn’t stand out, but it rarely does during these parts.
The OPs and EDs also deserve mention. All of them are beautiful songs. The part I like best about them is how they all fit being the OP and ED. They all lead into each other so well. The first opening, lull ～そして僕らは～ (lull ~Soshite Bokura wa~), is the more light-hearted song but then it transitions into the ED, アクアテラリウム (Aqua Terrarium), which is much more solemn by comparison. アクアテラリウム plays at the end of episode 13, and the transition to the melancholic second opening, ebb and flow, was brilliant. (Warning: the animation that plays during “ebb and flow” is a spoiler following the event of episode 13). I actually teared up the first time I heard “ebb and flow”, especially since I had just watched episode 13 and my feelings were still in tatters. After episode 13, each episode usually ends on some kind of revelation which leads into the second ED, 三つ葉の結びめ (Mitsuba no Musubime). (Warning: Again, this video contains spoilers.) The songs are used with a purpose and the songs they use all fit the times they are used.
The voice acting cast contains a couple of veterans alongside a cast of new or upcoming voice actors. The famous Kana Hanazawa plays Manaka Mukaido, and established voice actress, Ai Kayano, plays Chisaki Hiradaira. One of my personal favourite voice actresses, Kaori Ishihara, plays Sayu Hisanuma. One voice actress I want to see more of after this is Mikako Komatsu, who played Miuna Shiodome. The males are voiced fairly well, and I have nothing to really complain about when it comes to the voice acting.
I enjoyed Nagi no Asukara. It’s not especially high on my enjoyable watch list, but it was still fun. I have this really weird complex of not particularly enjoying anime with a dramatic plot, even if the story is amazing like this. Don’t ask me why that is. Kokoro Connect, and Waiting in the Summer (Ano Natsu de Matteru), was another two anime that I loved for the story and characters, but I didn’t really enjoy them per se. Since I have this strange complex, I’m not weighing my enjoyment high this time.
Nagi no Asukara is pretty much everything you could possibly want in a good romance drama anime. It has a perfect blend of a story; telling a great fantastical tale alongside an engaging love story. The ending was very satisfying and it was a nice way to wrap up this great anime. Everything just clicked: the story, the characters, the art, and the soundtrack were all riveting. The one word I would use to describe this anime, is one I’ve been using from the start: beautiful. We need more anime with this kind of caliber.
So, what did you guys think of the anime if you’ve watched it? Let me know in the comments!
また後で (See you later!)
I am a history major in university, but I am planning on taking a minor in Japanese studies, which includes learning the Japanese language.
Gaming Preferences: Any kind of RPG, Nintendo games, simulation games, strategy games
Anime Preferences: Slice of life, comedy, romance, drama, school
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