Anime Spotlight: Nagi no Asukara

Nagi no Asukara is an anime series produced by P.A. Works, and is directed by Toshiya Shinohara. The series aired on Japanese television from October 3, 2013-April 3, 2014.

As of this writing, NIS America holds the North American home video license for Nagi no Asukara.

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 focuses on four middle school students who live in the ocean named Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname. Because their middle school shut down, they must 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.

Even though the sea village may be sending its students to the surface, it doesn’t mean that the people of the sea and the surface necessarily get along. At first, Hikari adopts a rather negative attitude toward the kids from the surface, but as he gets to know them, he starts softening his attitude. Hikari’s older sister, Akari, has fallen in love with a man from the surface named Itaru who has a young daughter, and their father disapproves of the relationship. Miuna, the man’s daughter, doesn’t want Akari to be with her father at first.

While all this is going on, we see various love issues arrive. Hikari has a crush on Manaka, Manaka is torn between Hikari and Tsumugu, Chisaki has a crush on Hikari, Kaname has a crush on Chisaki, and Miuna’s friend Sayu develops a crush on Kaname.

Uroko-sama, a scale of the Sea God that looks over the sea village, warns of an impending disaster and that the people of the sea will need to hibernate. Hikari and his friends decide they’ll do everything they can to avoid the hibernation.

During the first half of the series, Hikari makes it his goal to coordinate a ceremony called the Ofunehiki. The fishermen on the surface are excited for the idea, but the people of the sea don’t want any part of it. In the end, the Ofunehiki ends up being held as part of Akari and Itaru’s wedding. Tragedy strikes during the Ofunehiki, which ultimately causes Manaka, Hikari, and Kaname to end up in the sea and hibernating with the others.

Then there’s a five-year timeskip in the series. Chisaki, the only one of the kids from the sea village to remain on the surface, has aged five years and is now living with Tsumugu and his grandfather. Chisaki is studying nursing, and Tsumugu is off at college in the city to study oceanography. Miuna and Sayu are now middle school students and have the same teacher that Hikari and the others had five years earlier.

Hikari and Kaname awaken from their hibernation and reappear on the surface. Not only do they have to adjust to the fact that everyone around them has aged five years and they haven’t, but Chisaki and Tsumugu have their own feelings to wrestle with.

Later, Hikari and Kaname go to search for Manaka. Right around the same time, several surprising things happen and revelations are made. It all culminates into an emotional conclusion for the series.

I have to admit that after watching the first episode, I had some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I kind of liked the story, although I was finding Hikari to be a bit on the annoying side. However, I was having problems with using my willing suspension of disbelief about people being able to live underwater; it turns out that the concept of Ena, which allows them to breathe underwater, hadn’t been properly introduced by the end of the first episode.

I decided to continue watching the series, and went into the second episode using my willing suspension of disbelief and focusing on the storytelling. It’s a decision I’m glad I made, because I found myself being more impressed with the series and becoming genuinely interested in the characters and their stories.

I’d become so riveted with the series that when the first half reached its climax with the Ofunehiki, I was a little frustrated that I had to wait two weeks in order to find out what happened. When the second half of the series started, I have to admit that it was a bit of an adjustment to get used to the fact that a five-year timeskip had happened between the two episodes and that some of the cast members were noticeably older.

I appreciated how there was a focus on the confusion for both those who returned from the surface after a five-year hibernation and those who stayed on the surface and aged five years. There’s a lot of raw emotion that’s prevalent in the second half of the series, but I found these emotions and reactions to be believable.

I have to admit that for the most part, I had basically predicted what directions the various relationships would go in. However, I still found the conclusion of the series to be satisfying and enjoyable.

Nagi no Asukara was quite a ride over its 26 episode run, and it’s definitely a series I’d like to rewatch again at some point.

Since NIS America has acquired the home video rights for Nagi no Asukara, this means that we should be able to expect some kind of home video release in the future. I’m very curious to see what kind of release NIS America ultimately gives to this series.

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