Nagi no Asukara – 06, 07
「巴日のむこう」 (Tomoebi no Mukou)
You have to have SOME swimsuit time with a show that centers around water, right?
Though I’ve heard a lot of criticism toward the melodramatic nature of the last couple of episodes of Nagi, I haven’t felt hugely alienated by any of it myself. That’s probably because I don’t expect much different from a show under Mari Okada’s name; as Enzo-senpai so deftly summarized in this week’s podcast, she’s like a surgeon who goes into the operating room with a chainsaw. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes she controls her overwhelmingly emotional style better than other times, but even though her chainsaw was definitely revving this episode and last, I find it easier, personally, to connect to something overly emotional than not emotionally enough. For all the waterworks and drama we’ve been getting, I still really enjoy Nagi, and I actually find the emotional flood pretty appropriate. Why? Because we’re dealing with a bunch of middle school kids. Middle school kids who also have to deal with real social problems.
If there’s one thing I can remember from being this age, it’s the embarrassing amount of melodrama in everyday life. Relationships with friends, with family, learning to live with the difficulties of puberty and dealing with growing up, everything seemed extra complicated and anything that went wrong could easily feel like the end of the world. I was an especially emotional child (and I’m still overly emotional, I’m afraid), so I can say that even the smallest things could set off my dramatic tendencies. Tears were not in short supply, and so I can kind of see why Manaka, Chisaki, and the others are all so prone to acting like this and tend to overkill. Relationships are always hard. When you’re young, they’re even worse. Chisaki’s pain now that Manaka has heard her secret is something we’ve probably all experienced to some extent, though clearly under different circumstances. She doesn’t want to be selfish and hurt Hikari since he is already in love with Manaka. That’s a common romantic theme in youth, giving up one’s love for the sake of that person’s happiness, though it’s not necessarily a healthy one. It’s also made worse by the fact that Manaka clearly wants to help Chisaki in getting through to Hikari. For Chisaki, it can almost seem like a slap in the face, that the rival she can’t hate continues to show how special she is through her caring naivety.
The fanservice aside, this episode was also another breathtakingly beautiful one, and I think the sea is definitely the perfect setting for a world where so much melancholy and melodrama exist. The tomoebi scenery fit perfectly with all the tears and angst, and even serves to create a mellower atmosphere. I definitely think Okada and the Nagi team are manipulating and wringing all the emotional turmoil from this that they can, but if you sign up for a steak (a salty one streaked with tears), you might as well eat it and enjoy it, I feel.
「おふねひきゆれて」 (Ofunehiki Yurete)
“The Shaking Ofunehiki”
Change is inevitable, as is growing up.
Despite finding the drama of the last few episodes perfectly adequate for the tone and style of the series (and of course, for Okada), this was definitely more effective as far as emotional and dramatic investment go. There is definitely a lot happening this week, and while things seem to have been focusing on the microcosm of the sea and land issues recently through the children and their growth, this time we’ve moved to the bigger picture. It’s no surprise that something more political and prejudiced like the relationship between the adults of each community should be more difficult to deal with than those issues between young people, but it is a rather fitting irony that the adults are acting more immature about their problems than the kids, even if there are a lot more tears on the part of the children.
It’s actually rather fitting that Hikari has matured so much from the incredibly hot-headed youth we first knew him as, and in some ways he’s come to accept some of the things out of his control. He, somewhat like Chisaki, has realized the futility of holding on to something that’s slipping beneath his fingers, and he’s accepted Manaka’s feelings for Tsumugu through his sister’s experience with Miuna’s father. It’s not about getting Manaka to look his way anymore; it’s about doing something to make her happy regardless of the returns in his favor. His determination and hard-headed attitude is now being used more productively and for someone else’s sake, and that shows a lot of progress. Unfortunately, determination isn’t enough to resolutely change anyone or anything but yourself.
The hatred between the sea and land proves to be too difficult to mediate simply because the children wish for it, and Hikari’s father seems particularly stalwart about his position in the matter. There is definitely something more to his resolute refusal to mediate on behalf of his children, and I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t wish them to live happy lives however they see fit. I’m not even sure I would say it’s purely because he hates the land or is too prejudiced to change; Uroko-sama and the sea god definitely seem to have something to do with it, though it seems like it could be some time until we understand why. I’m sure it has everything to do with the sea’s population problem, however, and little to do with the kids following their hearts. As Uroko-sama said in a past episode “we can’t let the land have more people of the sea”, and I don’t doubt this is directly or indirectly tied to the fact that few young people remain.
Hikari’s choice to leave with Akari is a little more immature, a run away mechanism to avoid having to deal with his father, but it doesn’t change the siblings’ resolution. They have learned that the sea and the land are not as different as they were brought up to believe, and they’re doing what they can to protect that sentiment. Whether or not that is the right choice is a much more difficult thing to answer.