「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!