Nagi no Asukara (A Lull in the Sea) hit my TV viewing like a bomb last Fall. I was visually blown away by all 26 of its episodes. The show recently finished up in April, and it was for me one of those shows that changes me for having watched it.
Crunchyroll simultaneously broadcast the series as it aired in Japan, so it was a unique pleasure to wait each week for a new episode. Written by Mari Okada and with character designs by Buriki, Nagi no Asukara stood out from the rest of the Fall releases due to its unique vision and unusual setting.
The story involves the clash of two villages, Oshiooshi, a fishing village on land and Shioshishio, a village in the bay under the sea. The world’s heart has been growing cold, along with the faith of its residents. People no longer worship the sea god, and residents of Shioshishio have been moving inland for years. There are so few students in Shioshishio that the school has been closed, and the kids have to attend school in Oshiooshi.
The main character, Hikari, is angry with the landlubbers at first. His pride and trigger temper make him hard to get along with. Even the ever devoted Manaka is hurt by his abrasive personality. In time, however, Hikari starts to see that the ignorance of his elders and those in the fishing village are causing the destruction of his life.
A new ice age is coming and his people have decided to give up on humanity. They hibernate to await the coming of warmer days. Can Hikari change the hearts of the people to bring them together once again and stop the coming of the saltflake snow? Even when he succeeds, the result is not what he expected, and his own god takes away what he holds most dear.
Nagi no Asukara is a bit magic realism, a bit romance, and a bit nostalgia. The importance of tradition is woven throughout the entire series like strands of seaweed braiding the story together. All of the characters are strong and unique, giving the twin villages a very real feel.
The visuals of a city under the water with people in clothes walking where fish swim never ceased to amaze me. The color palette, the music, and the dramatic visual design made this show a feast for the senses. Since it didn’t offer fan service, exploding robots, alien invasions, or cutesy girls in cat ears, US fans in general didn’t take to the series well, yet it still carved out a loyal following online. The story was slow and deliberate—careful and thoughtful where other shows are manic and hyper—and the subject matters of faith, tradition, love, and loyalty played out in a heartbreaking manner.
You should sit and watch an episode or two just for the visuals alone, but you may find the plight of the high schoolers of Shioshishio tugs at your heart and holds on until the final episode. This slice-of-life anime with a hint of magic has become one of my favorite television series. I highly recommend it.
My only complaint is that the final episode seemed to wrap things up too quickly. After the leisurely pace of the previous 25 episodes, this showed that the producers didn’t pace things as well as they could have. However, the scope of the story was epic, and Nagi no Asukara one of the most aggressive projects I’ve seen to come out of Japanese television in years.
Original Air Dates: October 3 – April 3, 2014 (Japan)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: Not Rated
Network: Animax, KBS, Sun Television, Tokyo MX, TVA
Original Title: 凪のあすから (Nagi no Asukara)
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (adults drinking in the background)
Language: 1 (deity)