The Story of a Lull in the Sea

nagiasu, nagi no asukara op, nagi no asukara opening, a lull in the sea

Nagi no Asukara is the story of two subsects of humanity: land-dwellers and sea-dwellers. As the culture of humanity on land grows, the more separate the culture of the sea becomes. Catastrophe draws ever closer as the population of the once-vibrant sea community dwindles, and the near-forgotten sea god preparing to freeze the land, tipping the balance of power back to the sea in the distant future. Faced with this calamity, four junior high school students, the last of the sea population’s youth, are caught in the friction between land and sea.

Four friends from a village beneath the ocean become unwitting ambassadors to a village on land when their own school closes down due to a lack of students. Tensions run high between the children from both the land and sea; however, as Nagi no Asukara progresses, individuals begin to form strong relationships, romantic or otherwise. These bonds lead to additional tension and understanding as the adolescents struggle to express or hide their respective emotions while a calamity looms in the horizon.

The two paragraphs above are plot synopses for the same series: Nagi no Asukara. One focuses on the social and political narrative within the series, while the other focuses specifically on the character relationships. Chances are, if you are a viewer of the series, your emotional investment is firmly entrenched in the latter, rather than the former. It’s difficult to care about the overarching narrative of the world slowly going into a deep freeze when all you want is for Miuna Shiodome to find her happiness. It is a credit to the writing of Nagi no Asukara, headed by series composer Mari Okada, that it integrates both stories so well.

“Shishio’s future is all up to you guys. You know that, right? When we wake up, the young’uns need to be full of energy to pop out kids left and right. It doesn’t matter whose seed it is, make the babies.”

-a Shioshishio elder to Manaka Mukaido, Nagi no Asukara, episode 10

Through its primary focus on character relationships, Nagi no Asukara does not eschew the grander narrative, but uses the main characters’ hardships and awkward adolescent fumbling as a frame through which to view it. At first, it is simply a hum in the background as Hikari Sakishima attempts to come to terms with his sister Akari falling in love with someone on the mainland, as opposed to her own village of Shioshishio underneath the sea. The narrative thrust of Hikari’s character growth in the first seven episodes is grounded by the larger tension from the sea village’s obvious stagnation and shrinking population. Regardless of whether the viewer comes to love Hikari or simply tolerate him, Nagi no Asukara makes it a point to show how Hikari’s natural hot-blooded nature stems both from his somewhat oppressive upbringing and ignorance, making his character development believable.

In episode 10, saltflake snow – a weather phenomenon previously restricted to the sea village – begins to fall on land, heralding the arrival of the deep freeze foretold by Uroko, a representative or “scale” of the sea god. The series does not completely shift gears into a in-depth discussion of the oncoming climate change, but instead focuses on how this calamity affects the characters that we have grown to know and love. The residents of Shioshishio prepare to undergo hibernation, therefore avoiding the freeze until it is their time to awaken. As the quote above indicates, this puts a tremendous burden on the youth of Shioshishio, who we have come to know as Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki, and Kaname.

Naturally, having made important friendships and relationships with people on land, as well as furthering their own emotions towards each other, the four are unable to accept the idea of hibernation. Their attempt to stave off the larger catastrophe results in a smaller, more personal tragedy. Time passes, and the focus remains on how these people, with whom we become more and more emotionally invested, go about their lives.

manaka mukaido, manaka, nagi no asukara, nagiasu, nagi no asukara ed

Episode 22 cements the union between the grand sociopolitical landscape and the complex web of interpersonal relationships between individual characters. In taking away Manaka’s ability to love another, Nagi no Asukara instantly transforms the larger narrative into an intimate one. Manaka has been the emotional mainstay of the group, and her sudden lack of genuine emotion has repercussions for each individual character. Regardless of whom you have come to care the most for in the series, they are irrevocably affected.

I watch Nagi no Asukara weekly with a friend. Following each episode, our excited chatter turns to specific character relationships and development rather than the impending climate change and continuing friction between land and sea. How will Chisaki bridge her waning feelings for Hikari with her budding feelings towards Tsumugu? Will Miuna replace Manaka as the sacrifice to appease the sea god, spurred by her love for Hikari? These are questions that are narrowly focused on specific characters, but remain inseparable from the larger narrative. Both synopses, sociopolitical and intimate, are correct. Most impressive is how Nagi no Asukara uses the former to inform and propel the latter, keeping the viewer emotionally invested.

5 comments

  1. “It is a credit to the writing of Nagi no Asukara, headed by series composer Mari Okada, that it integrates both stories so well.” – I don’t agree much:/

    I was watching in hope that the first story would be more explored or at least both stories would be in balance. I mean, why have such gorgeous backgrounds and world if you are going to give weight to the second story? Because honestly the second half of the series doesn’t evoke much to me except annoyance. I really liked how Hikari developed and the episode where he got angry and showed he was scared was a very strong one. After that though came repetition and stagnation. It’s natural that change would occupy their thoughts; I understand that. However, I don’t see any reason for the overflowing drama. This ‘orgy’ of unrequited loves is simply too much- at least for me.

    I also get that everyone manages to relate to characters according to their experiences. I can’t feel sympathy for anyone in there or identification. Miuna probably is going to be used as a solution near the end, but I wonder if they could do without her. The sexual tension among the main four is logical to an extend due to the small society they lived in up till recently. Miuna’s (and Saya’s) centralization comes on top of all this unnecessarily imho and suffocates me. On the other hand, Okada left Tsumugu flavorless and almost a blank slate, while Kaname is shortly depicted as selfish in a bad way.

    The latest episode brings me hope but still the fact that everything, including the environmental issue, revolves around romance is … disappointing? Sure, romance is a central part of many people’s lives, but NagiAsu ending up yet another love story isn’t the most innovative thing. I wish they show that Manaka can be happy without romance, too. Then again, the fact this is represented as a toll, and not how Manaka naturally is, doesn’t help much.

    1. Not innovative, certainly; however, in this case I appreciate the execution of the romantic story line, even if it has been done before. In Manaka’s case specifically, I didn’t see it as a lack of romance, but lack of genuine affection. She cannot feel love towards anyone, romantic or otherwise. Everything she has done since she awoke has been on auto-pilot, a projection of her previously established personality without any actual emotion behind it. I was speaking to a friend about this, and based on the way the group of friends has grown into what it is today, Manaka doesn’t really have a place in the group anymore. I’ll be curious to see how the series resolves this.

      I see Nagiasu as a slice of the larger story. I hesitate to call it a “slice-of-life” but the storytelling reminds me of a war series or movie, where one watches specific characters attempt to live their daily lives in the midst of a much larger narrative. Where your average student love triangle story is based in the standard setting of a generic high school, I think the backdrop of racial tensions sea and land along with the looming crisis add a believable edge to the characters’ actions. Chisaki’s sadness and inability to change (until recently), Hikari’s overwhelming and explosive anger, Kaname constantly forcing the issue because he is unsure of tomorrow, I think all of these things are made all the more genuine because of the larger plot.

      Anyway, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. ^ ^ Thanks for the comment.

  2. nice review again.

    here is an interesting bit. in episode 14, it was clearly stated by Tsumugu’s prof Mihashi that there are 14 sea villages in japan. and from there, you could assume that there are thousands of villages across the globe. and uroko frequently mentions that he is only a “scale”, which can imply that there are a lot like him (heck you could assume that there is one uroko for each village)

    so you got to wonder how many manakas are out there who provided the same “answer” to the sea god on that faithful day.

    this is where i think nagi no asukara does well. the series does not turn itself into the “group of friends trying to save the world” story and instead kept it’s focus on the personal drama. the characters are not the center of the world, but just a small part of it, which makes the audience’s relation to the character more intimate.

    though, the series also poses an interesting question, is miuna sacrificing herself for hikari’s and manak’s happiness the right option? what about how that would affect itaru and, especially, akari? losing her beloved daughter in exchange for the happiness of her brother is just unfair. I agree with Fox Lady Ayame that just letting manaka be happy even outside of romance might be a better resolution (which might in fact being hinted upon by the ED). but this is undoubtedly going to be the hardest lesson hikari has to learn.

    1. Thank you.

      “The is where I think Nagi no Asukara does well. The series does not turn itself into the ‘group of friends trying to save the world’ story and instead kept its focus on the personal drama. The characters are not the center of the world, but just a small part of it…”

      Yes, definitely. As I said to Ayame above, but it is definitely only one small part of a much larger picture. I find it far more believable that they’re trying to save “their world” as opposed to “the world.”

      It’s been shown before that Miuna doesn’t necessarily think before she acts. Even as a child, she was the rash and bold one where Sayu was far more calculating, precise, and thoughtful. I don’t think her sacrificing herself for Manaka would be a good option for anyone, but I can certainly see her doing it and thinking that it’s the only way.

      Additionally, I agree with the both of you, and wish for Manaka to find her happiness outside of the love polygon.

      Thank you for commenting. ^ ^

  3. “Naturally, having made important friendships and relationships with people on land, as well as furthering their own emotions towards each other, the four are unable to accept the idea of hibernation. ”

    (Hi I’m here since you told me to give some feedback!)

    Nagi no Asakura was a really emotional watch for me (even though I never cried like people said I would) because the idea of family versus friends is a big one for me and that quote really reminded me about how my parents used to stop me from hanging out with my Caucasian friends and all. I like that in all the posts that I’ve read from you you catch the essence of things easily and make them very relatable. Keep up the work ^^:

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