[Anime Review]: Nagi no Asukara

Nagi no asukara

Director: Toshiya Shinohara

Writer: Mari Okada

Animation Studios: P.A. Works

Version Watched: Subbed 

You have to admit that when you watch anime often you see a lot of ideas being recycled. I mean, at least 60%* of all series these days seem to be high school slice of life comedies plus/minus romance, if not more. That means that I get really excited when something new gets thrown into the mix and this time around that’s Nagi no Asukara. While some may accuse it of making use of the usual tropes, it has so many more unique themes and concepts to offer than I’ve been seeing lately and I really enjoyed it overall. I happily and heartily recommend it.

Many generations ago mankind left the oceans for the surface, though a portion of seadwellers refused to leave their ancestral home. In modern times Shioshishio isn’t your average town, but Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname have lived there all their lives. They and the others residing there have a special lining to their skin called Ena which allows them to breathe and live entirely underwater. When the town’s school is closed down the four friends are forced to take to the surface for their education and are soon exposed to the tensions between those beneath the waves and those who have left them behind. They’ll have to find where they fit into things on the surface, making new friends quickly, but at the same time they need to make sure of how they feel about each other. Meanwhile the God of the Sea, creator of all life, finds his power dwindling as he is forgotten by those leaving the sea for the surface. Without his presence, there’s no telling what will happen to the Earth itself.

Nagi no asukara3

While you may not see them, that summary alone alludes to three or four features that you simply don’t come across in anime very often and I assure you that each one is portrayed beautifully. Life in the underwater village Shioshishio looks fantastically normal in Nagi no Asukara yet at the same time is fascinating because of how bizarre it is to us as viewers. The relationships between surface dwellers and sea people, both old and young, are so very believable. The struggle of an isolated community to keep its young people from leaving, and the effects that struggle has on the village’s interactions with others, make so much sense. Then finally, on either side of these legitimate, worldly concerns sit the feelings and actions of individuals placed next to the ethereal yet important spiritual balance that gradually gets overlooked. There’s a lot of conflict in this show that alternates between overtly staring you in the face and bubbling away below the surface, and one of things I love about how it all fits together is that, much of the time, you really can’t blame anyone. There’s no good or evil here, so much as different people arguing from different points of view. After going through all of that, there’s still one major twist that you’ll have to watch the show to find out about.

With all of that airy-fairy thematical stuff floating around I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Nagi no Asukara’s main focus is on the relationships between its characters. Love triangles and other shapes abound, forcing viewers to give a damn about the feelings of each individual. If I had to make a complaint here it would be that some of the plot developments in the area feel a little forced, though that’s an impression that has only come to me since finishing the series; I wouldn’t call it something that affected my overall enjoyment of the show. There’s a lot of emotion swirling around that you really can’t help but get caught up in, which is another one of my hallmarks of a good story. If I had to make a second complaint it would be that some of the characters are a little bit shallow and don’t have much going for them to differentiate them from generic slice of life rom-com girl B (or generic slice of life rom-com best friend A) (or generic slice of life rom-com rival love interest C). I don’t want to name names, Chisaki, Kaname and Tsumugu; it’s just worth noting that there aren’t really any characters that will stick in your mind for years afterwards, even if the series uses them well.

Nagi no Asukara2

Nagi no Asukara’s wonderful visuals mean that it looks and feels fantastic. Beyond the art itself, the design of Shioshishio and its surface counterpart fit perfectly. Fish and coral are abundant below while above the effects of the salt air above rust any exposed metal, giving each setting its own character and depth. Underwater shots always offer an opportunity to wow an audience, which P.A. Works seems to have picked up on pretty quickly. The background music fits the overall feel of the series and its themes though I’m not sure I would call it memorable, and as always the voice acting is spot-on.

Summary –  Nagi no Asukara is unique, novel and entertaining. The plot itself, the themes surrounding it and character relationships within it drive an experience that doesn’t get boring from beginning to end. If I really wanted to I could complain about shallow characters and contrived interactions, but in a series that I really enjoyed that could only be called nit-picking. Great visual design and animation quality adds to the series to earn it an emphatic Geek Clinic recommendation.

 Score: 9/10 – Great

 *Note: Statistics 100% fabricated.

Nagi no Asukara

About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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10 Responses to [Anime Review]: Nagi no Asukara

  1. Lazarinth says:

    My reactions at each stage:
    Introduction of characters in ‘love many.pointed.shape’ – This doesn’t seem to be for my tastes but I’ll watch it because it got a high recommendation and it has pretty animation.
    Slice of life character development – Come on, this teenage relationship bullshit is going nowhere! Show us some more curses or something, for god’s sake make something happen!
    Halfway point twist – Nice, now this is a lot better. There’s actually a reason for the relationships to be relevant now. Let’s see how the final act does to finish it off.
    Ending conflict – God damn it, so she’s cursed and couldn’t even… bah! This is the most contrived relationship problem bullshit that… it doesn’t make it clear if they… god damn it! This is why I hate romance anime!

    • Silvachief says:

      Bwahaha! Alright, I finally accept it; no more romance anime recommendations for you. I will admit that even I felt the same way during some of the portions of the show, though the relationships kept me interested more than they annoyed me.

      I struggled to choose between 8.5 and 9 for this one but I ended up comparing it to my other 8.5s and deciding it deserved the higher score. So it’s a low 9, perhaps my threshold for that rank.

  2. wanderingwastrel says:

    This is one of my favorite shows of the past few years. The visuals are breath-taking, and are a fantastic example of excellence in animation art. It went beyond merely having a pretty background; there were artistic symbolisms, used well. These ranged from the obvious blue-white school uniforms of the sea kids versus the brown-beige uniforms of the land kids, to the unfinished concrete pilings in the bay (never remarked upon in the story IIRC, but apparently an abandoned highway project) which more subtly evoked a visual reference to halved and torn torii (shrine gates), the strain between the land people and the Sea God thus always there in the background quite literally.

    But the art isn’t enough if there isn’t a story there. And Nagi no Asukara comes through on that count as well. Yes, the teen characters seem a little shallow, and at the start it appears as if this will be yet another romance/teen angst story, despite the unusual setting. However as the story develops the events that arise from that setting make all the difference, as the characters are forced to deal with the circumstances that whirl around them.

    There are few anime that I watch more than once. Even the anime I enjoy the most, I will re-watch every three or four years, at the most. I can see myself pulling Nagi no Asukara down to watch again every couple of years, for a long time to come — and I won’t be too surprised if I notice a few new things each time that escaped me during the initial viewing.

    • Silvachief says:

      While symbolism is often lost on me, I can certainly see what you’re talking about when I look back on the show and appreciate it for what it is. It’s always impressive when artists take those sorts of things into account with their work; i’d be interested in knowing how much of it was deliberate and how much was coincidental.

      I also agree that the story stands out as more than one of teenage issues, even if it does use those as a base. Those central ideas are all modified by the setting to become relatively novel and, as you say, the other concepts that occur around the characters make the whole affair interesting.

      I will watch Nagi no Asukara again, that’s for certain. I’ve got so many other series waiting for me, however, that it might take a while!

  3. Kai says:

    Nagi no Asukara, one of the best title of P.A. Works before their eventual and atrocious Glasslip, lol. Fortunately, they more than redeem themselves in Shirobako a little later, but I digress.

    I love the story in Nagi no Asukara but one of the best part about the anime is definitely it’s characters; their relationships with others, and their developments. I find myself very interested in how the relationships with the other characters progress along the show. And in that aspect, they really did a great job implementing romance in the story as well, since Nagi no Asukara’s overarching plot is, despite being slice of life, is pretty large-scale.

    • Silvachief says:

      Thankfully i’ve never been exposed to Glasslip, though Shirobako is certainly on my list.

      The romance seems to be what divides people when it comes to Nagi no Asukara. I lean towards your point of view, though I can see why others aren’t so keen on it. The “X loves Y but Y loves Z but Y thinks Z loves Q when he actually loves Z” kind of setup simply doesn’t appeal to some people. In the end, however, that fact that I cared about where all of the characters ended up shows that they were well written, and the twist in the middle of the series throws a lot of the normal developments associated with the genre up into the air to keep things fresh.

      The overarching plot, I think, suffered because of the slice of life focus. A lot of what happened on that front was too ethereal and without logic to really sink your teeth into, partially because it wasn’t given the screen-time in which to gain relevance and partially by design (y’know, with all of the legends floating around that nobody -really- understands). I guess what i’m trying to say is that, for me at least, rather than being enjoyable in itself the overarching plot is enjoyable because of how it affects the slice of life components…does that make sense? XD

  4. sillynao says:

    I watched Nagi no Asukara last year and enjoyed it. What I remember most is just lying around afterward staring at the ceiling, feeling kinda sad. It made me think about how life and relationships and people and society change. Change can be welcomed at times but other times it’s scary or depressing.
    Yah. Nice review, as always. I was a little surprised at how high you rated it though, haha. 😛

    • Silvachief says:

      If a series has enough of an impact on you to make you sit back and reflect afterwards, how could it not score highly?
      Unless you mean you weren’t sure I would like a show like Nagi no Asukara. Slice of Life is tough to get right but in this case there were enough extra features and the flow of the story was good enough that I really enjoyed myself. It has a novel concept, is well written and looks great ^_^

      • sillynao says:

        That’s true! I was just expecting 8 or 8.5 for whatever reason, so the 9 surprised me a bit.

        I want to rewatch this show now. >.<

        • Silvachief says:

          It’s funny you should say that, because I originally gave a score of 8.5/10 but, after looking at the other anime I have given that score, decided to bump Nagi no Asukara up.

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