Nagi no Asukara – Episode 2: The Chilly Desert
Episode 2 of Nagi no Asakura took a much more relaxed approach to telling the story of our fiver main characters, choosing to further develop our characters instead of simply lacing the episode with action, thrills and spills. And, honestly, I liked it. This is what romance anime should be like, sure, it’s nice to have drama every once in a while (for example, last episodes ‘finding Manaka’ plot point) but it’s also nice to have a bit of ‘down time’, time to build up the story and make it something… more. Now this is a 24 episode show and they’re going to have lots of time to fully develop the characters but, until then, let’s just enjoy the salt filled fun bag that it, Nagi no Asakura.
I was thinking of negative things to say about this episode and I could only really think of one main point; Hikari’s constant outbursts. I understand that he’s meant to be an accurate representation of a male teenager in love but, honestly, at times I found his constant hotheadedness perturbing, he makes Manaka cry, he makes Chisaki cry, he pisses of Kaname and his impulsive behavior is beginning to get on my nerves. That said, I understand where he’s coming from. He can’t keep a hold on anything, ever since he’s been forced to attend school on the land he’s been loosing his grasp on everyone that he loves. Akari kissing a boy from the land is a perfect example for this. Hikari is genuinely shocked to find out that she hadn’t told him about this allusive land man and he’s even more shocked when he discovers that she might be banished from the sea village for this act of defiance. She’s slipping away. Manaka, the girl he loves, is falling in love with another and all anyone can do is tell him that they “understand”. From this we can draw certain parallels between shows such as Hanasaku Iroha and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou in that they’re both about growing up and learning that the world is not as perfect as one would think. Hikari’s story is one of growth and, whilst he often comes across as whiny and overtly capricious, his is a character that will surely only grow as the series goes on.
That said, if Hikari keeps going on like this, he will truly alienate everyone.
That aside, let’s talk about something that truly impressed me; the shows ability to manage the five characters. More often then not you’ll see shows that introduce five characters and then focus on one or two and, whilst it sometimes works, Nagi no Asakura needed to be something more to truly impress me. Episode 2 offers a much more intricate insight into our five main characters, straying away from the Tsumugu and Manaka subplot to further focus on the ‘group dynamic’. I found the perspective changing to be nicely paced, the episode never focusing too long on a single character and all of them prospering for it. I found that Kaname especially was portrayed in a much better light in episode 2, his character being on the, I suppose, ‘other side’ to the male teenage spectrum. He is in the (so called) ‘friends zone’ with Chisaki, the boy clearly being infatuated wit her, but he helps with to develop her relationship with Hikari, further sidling himself. I’m sure that many boys can relate, Kaname being calm and collected but obviously having much more depth than I gave him credit for in my first impression… that is, one sentence that declared him to be a psychopath. But I digress, Nagi no Asakura has an almost perfect amalgam of characters, each complementing each other with their distinct personalities and the often subtle nuances between them.
I suppose we should talk about the two little girls? Considering their actions in the first episode (defacing an area near Akari’s shop), I think that one of them (probably the overenthusiastic one of the two) is the ‘mystery land man’s’ sister, this whole forbidden love story scenario causing some contention between the land people and the sea people. Can I see this show going down a Romeo and Juliet route with this subplot? Maybe. I suppose it all depends on how the Akari is dealt with in the next episode. But, what I can is… hooray for cute children (no paedo)! What would anime be without them?
However, the main focus of this episode (and the series so far) is the growing relationship between Manaka and Tsumugu(-kun). I think it’s fair to say that Manaka has fallen totally in love with him and, if Hikari’s contemplation’s are anything to go by, Manaka might soon be making a choice between her life under the sea and her love on the land. How very ‘The Little Mermaid’. But in all seriousness, I think that episode 2 perfectly portrayed infatuation and all it’s various intricacies, the self-doubt, the selflessness, the jealousy and the idolization; episode 2 had it all. Tsumugu is an odd character though, his eyes never giving anything away. He’s the kind of character that all the girls love because he’s so selfless and, honestly, I think he’s growing on me as well. He’s not a bad guy, he doesn’t like to complain and he’s innate appreciation of beauty is something that I find very interesting. Not everyone can understand his love for beauty and, I think, this will become an issues as time goes on. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Tsumugu isn’t interested in Manaka so much as he is interested by, firstly, what she is and, secondly, how ‘beautiful’ she if (in a platonic sense). And, ultimately, this can only serve to hinder his relationship with the group, this appreciation only setting Manaka up to get her heart broken. But, again, I might be reading into his appreciation for beauty too much and his eyes may just have fooled me again.
On a final note (and, perhaps, another irrelevant tangent), does anyone else feel as though there are undertones of an ever-so-slight racial discrimination theme? Now this might just be me, but does anyone else feel as though this show is going to be about Hikari finally accepting that the land people aren’t responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world and also about how the land people come to accept the sea people? I don’t know, it almost feels as though that’s where this show is leading but until they actually start heading in that direction, I’m going to stop talking about it. Just throwing it out there.
And so we come to the end of this post. Nagi no Asakura still has a long way to go before it can be associated with the likes of AnoHana and Clannad (no romance story can every come close to Clannad, let’s just all admit that), but episode 2 has shown as that it’s definitely on it’s way and it definitely has potential. Let’s just see if it can live up to my expectations.