「ひやっこい薄膜」 (Hyakkoi Hakumaku)
“The Cool Membrane”

The drama rolls in like a thick fog.

There is definitely a lot more going on than Nagi lets on at first glance. This isn’t just the usual love square (pentagon?) that we see in set ups like this, nor is it just a story about two worlds clashing. You could say it’s a little of both in equal measure and you wouldn’t be wrong, but I think more than that, it’s a very potent mix of that and all sorts of other themes besides, especially when it comes to the themes of growing up.

More than anything, it’s hard not to look at this series and realize how immature these characters are. But unlike series that feature older casts, I feel like this storm of hormones, insecurity, and lack of maturity fits perfectly into the framework. Most importantly, it’s imperative that we remember that these are middle school students. That places them somewhere between the ages of 12-14, and let’s be honest with ourselves; if you’re saying you weren’t a stupid little snot at that age, you’re either self-delusional or you were a saint of a kid. You didn’t have to be Hikari, with his anger issues and his inability to channel his feelings for Manaka in non-overbearing ways, to remember those kids that were like him as they came into their awkward stage of puberty. Nor do you have to be Manaka with her inability to understand why Hikari treats her the way he does, or why she feels the need to lie for Tsumugu, to remember friends and classmates who were like this at some point. I get that we tend to romanticize our childhood and that it’s hard to look back, but I personally went to a K-12 school; it was impossible to escape middle school because they had classes in the same halls as we did. Believe me when I say these portrayals are spot on; that age does not look favorable on most anyone.

That doesn’t mean these kids should stay the way they are. There’s definitely a lot of growing up to be had on everyone’s behalf, and that’s where I think the social problems come into play most powerfully. The idea of sea and land people living together, heavily bearing on Manaka and Tsumugu’s attraction, is a lot more complicated than simply acting as the source of teenage angst. It is apparently forbidden for the people of the sea and the people of the land to come together and fall in love; should such a union happen, the underwater village banishes the sea person in question, forcing them to abandon their previous life and family. That adds a darker shade to an already complex interaction, and I don’t doubt that the kids will have a lot to deal with and learn from now on.

The immediate crisis, however, focuses on Hikari’s sister Akari and her own forbidden relationship. This is a crucial experience for Hikari and Manaka to be witness to; will Akari give up on her relationship, or will she abandon her village and all the prejudice there to live among the land people with the man she loves? And if she does leave, how will she deal with the land people’s prejudice against her? How will her decision affect Manaka, who is already in love with Tsumugu and slowly leaving her friends behind, and how will it affect Hikari, who dreads Manaka following her heart? Just what sorts of repercussions are we looking at here?

Note: Since I’m blogging two Thursday shows and I have university exams every Friday, I will be posting Nagi no Asukara on every Friday and posting Galilei Donna on Thursdays. Thanks for your understanding!

 

Preview

41 Comments

  1. I will say something I have said in an episode of Suisei no Gargantia, back in the summer. There are just times when all you need from a work of fiction is to suck you in. To draw you and immerse you into its world. Some works manage to do that with their story and characters, others with their presentation and art.

    What I am seeing so far from Nagi no Asukara is a show that has the potential to immerse you in more than one way (and possibly all of the above). The setting is unique and interesting. The art is absolutely phenomenal in my opinion; the underwater village in particular being the pinnacle of awesomeness by drawing inspiration from traditional Greek island villages mixed beautifully with 90s/early 00s architecture and technology. Also, the music complements what happens at the screen almost perfectly. Plus, the ED is terrific and I can’t wait for the full version!

    The story too has the potential to provide drama in more than the obvious romantic setting; there are social undertones to be explored here, such as social discrimination, possible environmental crisis, xenophobia. The characters seem pretty standard at the moment but
    the show in its entirety has the potential to flesh them out through its setting and story. I am having very high expectations from Nagi no Asukara and, despite the fact that they will probably not be fully met, I beg to be mistaken in the end!

    Plus, Manaka is one kawaii cry baby! Hikari ganbare!

    Tassadar
    1. This show has immense potential but I was always reminded of the tale of Icarus and fear what may come to pass. I don’t want that. I want this anime to work. It’s so beautiful it would be a shame for it to be anything but good.

      TQ

      KF
  2. I like the integration between society conflicts and romance, as we see it through Hikari’s sister. so this episode keeps developing both, yet something still bugging me..there are references to old-tradition, legends(?) or maybe it’s the incident which sea people turn to land…I am not sure..something is waiting there behind the scenes and behind romance-complex. speaking of which, I think the 5 MC express the true nature of middle school students, they are brats (mostly Hikari) who still don’t know how to..express themselves in the right manner, especially when it comes to romance and/or relationship. they are confused by the changes in their world, it’s a step of becoming grown up. we saw how the elders start to treat Hikari like he should know more as an adult…so I like that aspect.

    well, the romance will probably become more..complex. but right now let’s see how the sister problem will be solved (if it will be solved). and there are those 2 little girls Hikari keeps meeting…what’ with them?
    the sure thing is that somewhere ahead of the road..those 5MC will gain each other trust.

    thedarktower
  3. I wasn’t fully captivated by the first episode, but this one just reeled me in.

    This show feels so immersive. It feels like it’s real and the rules and the way it functions are being thrown at you before you can really have it all sink in. The characters themselves enforce this since they feel their age. They feel inherently believable to me. We were all immature and snotty brats like the ones we see here.

    This show is openly showing the mutual hate between two cultures. It seems both the land and sea dwellers are quite openly racist towards each other. (Not all of the sea or land people hate each other, but a good number do.) The sea people don’t even want their kind to be with a land dweller. Well, this isn’t much of an issue in first world countries, but women not being able to marry people outside of their nationality is quite common in third world countries. Living in Kuwait, I know that women cannot marry a non-kuwaiti. I also have a ton of Indian friends who cannot marry people outside of their Indian sub-culture.

    I love how this show is touching on very real issues. Issues that are common to people like arguments, clashing of feelings, and love, but it also touches on much bigger problems like discrimination between cultures. Discrimination of cultures is a very real issue where I live, and it hits close to home.

    It’s also quite sad how Akari is dealing through this. I’m an honest sucker for the Onee-chan types. Will we get to see more of her in the future with her boyfriend? He seems like a timid one, and I would like to see him in future episodes.

    dytianquin
      1. Well, in most part of the World. the “kids” can not Marriage, if the Parents not allow it. And in some parts, you need the “Bride Price” to be able to Marriage. So thats a Big Problem there, too. They have Love and so, but cannot afford to buy this “fee”…

        Germanguy
  4. Uh, i expected this “Traitor” line. But that they actually goes this Road, i am surprised myself. You have Guts, i admire it. Looks like this Anime is Serious matter…

    Germanguy
  5. I really feel bad for Hikari. Jealousy and anger issues are commonplace at that age, as you said. Hell, I’m in my twenties and still struggle with jealousy at times, and I’m not so conceited to deny that. Fortunately, unlike Hikari, I’ve had more life experiences to help deal with it. He’s just a young teen.

    All that being said, in the end, though, it’s Manaka’s choice. Tsumugu’s an all-around good guy – understanding, sympathetic, responsible, etc. You name it. There’s really no easy solution here. It doesn’t help matters that Chisaki’s in love with Hikari, either; she’s certainly dealing with so many conflicting issues herself. And now that we know about this rule? We could very well be heading towards a Shakespearean tragedy here.

    Mormegil
    1. On the other side, whatever way I look at this, I can only see this situation as his own fault. He never let her see that he cares for her, never makes her feel needed or wanted. The first meeting between the surface guy and Manaka happened because he decided to leave her on her own. I can understand him (it seems like the key word for this episode), but I can truly pity him.

      brajt
  6. Manaka is cute and all, but I absolutely adore Chisaki better. (Ditto for their respective VAs as well, I admire Hanazawa Kana, but am increasingly drawn to Kayano Ai’s performances. )

    So this is once again the Ano Natsu Matteru formula of A <– B <– C <– D <– E, though with the genders reversed from 3 girls 2 boys to 3 boys 2 girls. Hikari is in the uneviable position of C, where A and E can easily swoop down and take away both his options (to make things worse, he doesn't even realize Chisaki's feelings for him before it's too late) and leave him FOREVER ALONE.

    Still meh about the "Third Guy" Kaname (in position E). He doesn't seem too unlikable, but unless he makes his move towards Chisaki soon, then people rooting for the Hikari and Chisaki ship would be more justifiable. But we'll see.

    echykr
  7. At this point, I’m on Akari’s side because it’s bullshit for a bunch of grown ass old men to gang up on her and try to tell her who she can’t date. I bet all those old men are single.

    Magoiichi
  8. Hikari’s prick level, steadily rising.
    Tsumugu’s personality, still nowhere to be found.
    Manaka’s fishknee, gone to a better place.
    Chisaki’s suffering, unending.
    Kaname’s true nature,(evil) mastermind.

    Ananas
  9. Well, for all the unfairness of the villages customs, they seem to have a bit of common sense behind them. While sea people can leave sea for extended periods of time, same cant be said of land humans trying to enter the sea. In this world diving never took off commercially it seems as when you needed any work on the seabed done you could just hire local workforce, so to say. To add to this children that dont have necessarily to inherit water-breathing genes, and there is some wisdom in the idea of mixed marriages staying on land. But the way the villagers go about physically abusing young girl for “improper conduct” is horrible…

    ewok40k
    1. This is just a speculation but I’m thinking that the sea god might be able to turn a sea dweller into a landlubber and vice versa.Since the sea people can also count as humans and he’s able to pull off something like a making a girl’s knee have a living fish face on it,I don’t think it’d be impossible for him to do so.If it does turn out like that,then it’s most likely a one-time thing,otherwise it’d be too convenient 😛

      MgMaster
  10. As unlikeable as Hikari is I’m liking the fact that it looks like he’ll be getting some repercussions for it from his friends.Admitedly,I was pretty annoyed with him until I saw how a group of grown men from were ganging up on his sister,treating her as if she was some sort of witch that they’d want to burn.I mean like,if those are his role models then I seriously can’t blame the kid (not saying it’s gonna make likeable though,he’d have to earn that).I like to think that by seeing how those adults were treating his sister,he’ll have a vision of himself as a grown up and be frightened by the thought enough to change his views on the whole sea/land people issue.

    At any rate,I’m definitely sticking with one.Oh,and that ED’s just awesome!

    MgMaster
  11. This is kind of off topic but has anyone noticed that there is a LOT of spongebob logic going on here? Like the fact that there are T.V underwater. Or the fact that you can somehow cook things even though everything is wet? This hasn’t lessened my experience of the show i just find it humorous.

    leatherhead333
    1. ….or that their hair underwater moves as though it is in air (barring the time they are shown actually “swimming”). I think we all see it, but like anything else in this medium the suspension of disbelief is a required, and almost welcome requirement.

      7godeohs
      1. There are a lot of things concerning the underwater life that do not make sense (or defy the laws of physics), even if you consider them in the context of fantasy. But these effecting your enjoyment of the show is like missing the point. The show is clearly aware of that fact and purposely imitates life on land with an underwater twist. Having a hot pot boil just inside the pot, electrical devices (such as TVs) functioning in the water, footsteps being heard like being on dry ground. I actually find all these superb and engrossing! And yes, even if some people do not find the comparison a good one, this approach on underwater life has a lot in common with SpongeBob SquarePants…

        Tassadar
  12. The only way I’ll approve of Manaka becoming a landlubber is if she sings “Part of Your World” while sitting on a rock having the waves rise instantly behind her. That’s my one requirement.

    Diyedas
  13. Kairi – Thanks for the excellent post.

    Japan seems to be an openish culture, but olde habits do die hard. Women have a different social
    role than men and the portrayal of Akari is not accidental on the part of the animators to underscore this.
    In other words, she’s timid, humiliated, and frightened about her “forbidden” relationship when she is
    confronted about it. Japan isn’t a patriarchal society in the strictest sense, but it’s very difficult to violate
    established social norms without severe consequences. Look at how they were restraining her.

    At least from my point of view (think Disney female characters), she would have stood for her beliefs
    rather than suffer the humiliation she was put through. I think we (in “Western” societies) sometimes
    forget – even today – a woman can be put to death in some parts of the world for such a transgression.

    This is not meant to be a criticism of the show / culture – just a mention of awareness of these things, IMHO.
    I don’t know how far the series will go and attempt to explore these ideas. But so far, it’s off to a
    good start and I’m interested to see where it leads…

    mac65
  14. Seeing Manaka lie about the fish just made me despair! I am not sure that particular scenario will end well. Then again , I think Tsumugu is canny enough to realise that the fish is no longer there -if the way he was imitating Manaka’s imitation of the fish and the comment he made to Chisaki about hoping the fish would like the pool/bath thing are anything to go by.
    That situation with Akari…there’s so many ways this could end.
    I’m getting some Shin Sekai Yori vibes from Nagi no Asukara , and SSY ended up being a work of intelligence , thoughtfulness and quiet beauty , so I am expecting similar things from Nagi.
    And that ED song…can’t wait for the full version

    Aki-Chan
  15. Can definitely see some difficult choices coming up for Manaka. I fully expect Akari to be made an example of and perhaps this experience will unite Manaka and Hikari. I pretty much raged when I saw Akari being manhandled like that, this next episode is probably going to be even worse for her.

  16. well now, it seems that uroko-sama isn’t just some pervy demigod after all. he might as well become a reasonable father figure to the kids.

    i still don’t get why many viewers hate the characters. sure, they are whiny and angsty, but they are still kids on the verge of adolescencem they are bound to do that. and it would be interesting to see them grown in the course of the series. that is of course if the series will be able to pull it off nicely (i am still reminding myself that this is, after all, still a mari okada penned-story).

    flamerounin

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