「水底よりの使い」 (Minasoko Yori no Tsukai)
“The Messenger From the Bottom of the Sea”
Welcome back, Manaka.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the show, regardless of quirks here and there, it was more obvious to me today than ever just how much I’ve missed Manaka and what her presence does to the series as a whole. It’s not a question of shipping, but more one about group dynamic; Manaka is always the most childish presence, the happy, bright center of everything. That doesn’t mean she’s always happy, but without her, the sea kiddos do feel a little more somber and a lot more lost. She is important, not just in her role in the greater plot, but also because of the way she affects the others. There are a lot more interesting and complex threads of characterization and development when Manaka is around, and a much greater contrast between her glee and the actual state of everyone else’s psyche (as well as Manaka’s own situation, much as she seems to be oblivious to it).
First and foremost, there is Hikari. Undoubtedly happy to have Manaka back, her return has also caused him grief in terms of his uncertainty about her feelings. It’s probably been killing him, wanting to know what Manaka was going to say to him after the Ofunehiki, and even more so now that she’s back and seems to have forgotten about it. Even more worrying is the fact that she seems to have forgotten most of what she experienced, and that she seems completely unfazed by the fact that her Ena is gone. Perhaps she knows more than she’d like to tell, or perhaps she really has forgotten (the blank eyes she had when Akira got hurt seem to imply something’s wrong at the very least), but regardless, Hikari is definitely still more than a little worried.
On the other hand, it’s looking more and more like Hikari has less to worry about on the Tsumugu front. Not only do we already know that he’s in love with Chisaki, but Manaka didn’t seem to care very much to see her old crush, which is strange to say the least. I could see her feelings being the thing the Sea God took, to throw one theory out there, but it’s also possible Manaka was possibly awake/aware at some point in the last five years and overcame/lost those feelings there; personally I still think it’s likely she became the Sea God’s Bride, whatever that really entails in the long run.
Chisaki too is affected by Manaka’s return, but more subtly. She’s now truly the odd one out among her childhood friends, and as much as she smiles and probably feels thankful for Manaka’s tact and kindness, I’m sure she’s hurting at seeing her friends around her as unchanged as ever while she’s been left behind in a sense. You can argue that Miuna is feeling similarly, though for vastly different reasons (there’s not too much of a barrier there except for those self imposed and need to make up for lost time), but in my opinion Chisaki must be in quite a lot of inner turmoil, though I’m sure that’s true of everyone to some extent.
As to Manaka herself, I have to say that she’s still an enigma right now. For what reason do she and Miuna seem to share a connection? What did the Sea God do to her, and what is his “plan,” so to speak? Why was she allowed to be taken from Shioshishio (even if it seems the God was angry, I think he could have put up more of a resistance), and what role do her friends have in the distant storm we seem to be forming in the not-so-far future?