“Because, I have to change…so…”
“So that’s what ‘change’ means to you?”
“I mean, that’s what it means to become an adult, right? You can’t just keep thinking about yourself, and you have to keep moving forward.”
“So that’s why you’re neglecting your feelings, because you can’t forgive the person you are now.”
-A conversation between Chisaki Hiradaira and Tsumugu Kihara, Nagi no Asukara, episode 9
Five years following the above conversation, Chisaki’s childhood friend – and the object of her affection – Hikari Sakishima, emerges from stasis underneath the sea. He is unchanged from his 14 year-old self, both physically and mentally, while Chisaki, having spent those same five years on land, has grown into an awkward 19 year-old.
Although the term “arrested development” is no longer used in developmental psychology, a loose definition of the term applies to what Chisaki has done to herself in these five years without Hikari and the entirety of the hibernating sea community. Forcibly separated from her family and friends in the Ofunehiki accident, the broken 14 year-old Chisaki is taken in by Tsumugu’s grandfather. She graduates high school and looks after her surrogate grandfather while Tsumugu attends university. Her conversations with Tsumugu, when they do speak to one another, are stilted and punctuated with short phrases and long pauses.
There is little to suggest, in what we see of their relationship as well as Chisaki’s interactions with others, that Chisaki has allowed herself to grow at all. The scenery of Nagi no Asukara visually and aurally reinforces Chisaki’s state of mind. Cheery sunlit images of a lazy seaside town are replaced with the color palette of a constant sunset. Instead of the relaxing sound of ocean waves, the ominous dull thudding of ice floes can be heard. Like Chisaki, the town may have aged five years, but it too has gone into hibernation. The series constantly reminds us – through her character design and casual remarks from friends and family – that Chisaki is now physically 19; however, she hasn’t allowed herself to live through the past five years without Hikari, placing herself into a forced emotional stasis.