Final Impressions: Nagi no Asukara


Love me like the ocean

Nagi no Asukara was a show featuring intriguing ideas and frequently beautiful imagery, but it never quite gelled into a cohesive experience for me. For the show's entire 26-episode run, I kept feeling like the story was just on the precipice of going somewhere very interesting, yet never quite went there. The final episode did offer a fair amount of emotional payoff regardless, yet by that point, I have to be honest and admit that the series had worn out its welcome.

I don't regret watching it, and some of the characters certainly grew on me -- particularly the secondary characters, who were much more interesting than our junior-high aged leads. But I am kind of saddened by it, because I'm not sure entirely what went wrong here.

Feeling time

Well, pacing is probably the easiest culprit to identify, as it often is. If Engaged to the Unidentified was a 12-episode show that felt like it had maybe 6-8 episodes worth of content, NagiAsu was a 26-episode show that had maybe 18 episodes worth of story. The show reached a high point right after the end of the first cour -- when the time skip threw viewers for a loop and turned many of our expectations upside down -- but it started to drag noticeably towards the end.

Also towards the end, the show began to suffer from what I consider a frequent weakness of writer Mari Okada's work: people talking about feelings all the time, instead of actually showing their feelings through action. Don't get me wrong; feelings are important. I'm not trying to minimize the importance of interpersonal drama, and feelings can certainly be a valid topic of conversation. But later episodes of the show started to sound something like this:

"Aren't you concerned that Manaka has lost her feelings?"

"I'm very worried about Manaka's feelings. I'm more concerned about her missing feelings than my own feelings."

"But do you understand what Manaka-san has lost, now that she's lost her feelings?"

"I both do and do not understand what Manaka must be going through, because I don't feel what she doesn't feel."

"But still, what kind of feelings will Chisaki have if you confess your feelings over Manaka's missing feelings?"

"I'm very concerned about Chisaki's feelings, but I'm more concerned about Manaka's feelings, since at least Chisaki has the ability to feel her own feelings."

"What about the feelings I am feeling for you right now?"

"Why are you changing the subject to your feelings? I thought this was about getting back Manaka's feelings about my feelings for her!"

Pow: you just got Mari Okada'd.


Then there was the fact that thematically, the series had some good things to say but didn't seem to know quite how to express them through the narrative. The main message I took away from it is that just because something seems set in stone romantically, that doesn't necessarily mean anything; just because a boy and a girl have a big "dramatic moment," like Manaka and Tsumugu's first meeting, that doesn't mean they're fated to be together for life. Everything is in flux, and our actions will effect how people feel about us; there is no "fate" where love is concerned. I found this to be a refreshing viewpoint -- especially considering how often anime seems to take the opposite view -- but it comes off as kind of an afterthought. Instead, a lot of the show's energy is taken up communicating a trite "It is better to have loved and lost, then not to have loved at all," moral.

This was a series that actually had things to say about love, unrequited and not, and how people's perceptions of what love is can affect their behavior -- which, in turn, effects how the objects of their affections view them. But it all got very muddled somehow, and a lot of the various plot elements involving the sea, hibernation and climate change seemed to just add clutter instead of thematic resonance. Basically, the whole story just seemed to lack elegance; a more streamlined narrative could have communicated these themes better.

I will say one thing though; at least the show was interesting enough that the lack of underwater physics ceased to really bother me after a while. Not every anime is interesting enough to allow me to overlook major suspension-of-disbelief-killers like that, so at least NagiAsu offered some food for thought if nothing else. As it stands though, I feel like I can only give it the most tepid recommendation; patient, generous viewers may find a lot to like here, but those who value plot, smartly-written characters and narrative economy had best steer clear.

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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures



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