Nagi no Asukara: Episode 15 – “The Protector of Smiles”

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 series started out by focusing on four middle school students who live in the ocean named Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname. Because their middle school shut down, they had attend a school on land. During the first episode, Manaka met Tsumugu, one of their new classmates. He’s from a family of fishermen and has an interest in the underwater village.

At the end of episode 14, Hikari reappears during the Tomoebi. He’s baffled seeing Miuna and Tsumugu both being five years older, even though Hikari is the same age he was when he disappeared.

Quite a bit of the episode focuses on Hikari and the culture shock he’s experiencing from all the changes that have happened over the five years that he had been gone. Chisaki, meanwhile, struggles with the fact that she’s changed but that Hikari has not. She’s very conflicted as to whether or not she should go see him. Near the end of the episode, fate brings the two of them together and they’re able to talk things out. But during the time Chisaki is dealing with her confusion, Tsumugu feels as if he’s caught in the middle of the whole situation.

During a lot of the episode, Miuna is glad that Hikari is back, and now he’s the same age as her. It’s not until near the end of the episode, when she witnesses a confrontation between Hikari and Tsumugu, that she truly understands all the confusion that Hikari has been going through since returning to the surface. At the end of the episode, Miuna declares that she wants to be the one to protect Hikari’s smile.

After I saw Hikari return at the end of episode 14, I had a strong feeling that episode 15 would have to focus on Hikari and dealing with his shock of the changes that happened during the five-year timeskip. I thought this part of the plot was portrayed very realistically.

Chisaki’s worrying about change that took place earlier in the series was referenced several times over the course of this episode. During a conversation she has with Tsumugu, she even admits that five years ago, she had been worrying about Hikari changing more than anything else. How ironic that he’s the one who didn’t change, while she did.

From visuals that are in the opening credits, it appears that Kaname is also supposed to be returning to the surface. I had assumed that he was going to arrive with Hikari during the Tomoebi, but the story ended up not going that way. So now I’m very curious as to when Kaname will end up returning to the series and under what circumstances.

I’ve definitely adjusted to the timeskip and the change in tone for the storytelling now, and I’m really looking forward to watching episode 16 to see what else will happen to these characters.

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