Nagi no Asukara: Episode 1 – “In Between the Sea and the Land”

Nagi no Asukara is an anime series produced by P.A. Works, and is directed by Toshiya Shinohara. As of this writing, the series is being simulcast on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.

Nagi no Asukara is set in a world where long ago, human civilization lived on the ocean floor. However, there were humans who wanted to live above the surface and moved to land, and this created a separation between the humans.

The story focuses on four middle school students who live in the ocean: Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname. Their middle school has been shut down, so now they must attend school on the land. However, it should be noted that nowhere in the episode is it ever truly explained why the sealand’s middle school was shut down.

At the beginning of the episode, Hikari meets up with Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname to head off to their new school. Everyone except Manaka is wearing their school uniform from their sealand school; instead, she is wearing the school uniform for their new school. Hikari becomes upset with Manaka, saying they had promised they would all wear their old school uniforms as a sign of solidarity. Manaka runs off to change, and Hikari tells Chisaki and Kaname that they need to go on ahead without her.

When Manaka returns, she finds the others have left. At that moment, a fishing net grabs her, due to fishing in waters that are supposed to be off-limits. It turns out the person operating that net is a boy named Tsumugu, who ends up being a classmate in their new class. Hikari acts like quite a jerk in class, to the point where he’s almost acting like an abusive boyfriend toward Manaka; however, they are not a couple. But as we see later in the episode, it appears Hikari may have feelings for Manaka that he won’t admit to yet.

After school, Manaka needs to see Uroko-sama in order to get more sacred fire and to bring him some stew. She is given the sacred fire, and as she talks about the stew she has brought, Uroko-sama suddenly says it smells wonderful. However, instead of the stew, he’s talking about Manaka smelling like a female; we learn later this is due to mating season. She shoves the stew in his face and runs off, and as she does, Uroko-sama calls after her that he’ll curse her.

Sure enough, Manaka is cursed. When she wakes up the next morning, she has a fish head protruding from one of her knees. Hikari is able to cover it up with a cloth, and they go to school. Tsugumu ends up playing an important role near the end of the episode, much to Hikari’s chagrin.

When I first started watching this episode, I found myself wondering how these people could breathe underwater without gills or some kind of a breathing apparatus, and how their electronics could work underwater without shorting out. It could be argued that the same questions could have been asked about SpongeBob SquarePants, but SpongeBob is done in such a way where it’s meant to be fantastical and “over the top.” Later in the episode, we are given kind of an explanation for what’s going on. Apparently, the humans who live in the ocean have been given “a special robe of the Sea God” for them to be able to live in the sea. They also have something called Ena, which is apparently on their skin and is shiny. The Ena aren’t really explained, so I’m wondering if they’re scales of some kind. For me, even after getting this explanation, I’m still having a hard time using my “willing suspension of disbelief” over some of this.

Overall, though, this series felt like a typical series featuring middle school drama, except that there’s the angle of the people who live in the sea and the people who live on land and their separation. At this point, though, I’m not sure this is quite enough of an angle to really make it stand out to me.

The character of Hikari really frustrated me right at first, and I thought he was acting like a major jerk. If it wasn’t for my policy of watching at least two episodes of a series before dropping it, his behavior would have made me stop this episode before I reached the end. Fortunately, as the episode progresses, his behavior does get a bit better and he isn’t as much of a jerk as he is in the beginning of the episode.

To me, the best part of Nagi no Asukara is the animation, especially the scenes that take place in the seafloor community. Unfortunately, the animation doesn’t offset some of the other issues I had after watching this episode.

It’s not that Nagi no Asukara is necessarily a bad series, but right now, it’s not doing much for me. However, I will go ahead and watch the next episode before truly making an opinion as to whether or not I will drop this series. However, episode two is really going to have to blow me away to make up for my lukewarm reception to episode one.

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