First Impressions: Nagi no Asukara

Nagi no Asukara First Impressions

Anime Original by P.A. Works
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise: In a world where humans live both underwater and on land, a group of underwater students transfer above ground when their school closes. Hikari has looked after Manaka since they were kids, but will he be able to keep protecting her in their new environment?

Live long and prosper

Jel’s Verdict: From the Blue World

Racial tension and loss of innocence were not exactly what I expected going into this show, but to a certain degree that’s what we got. Like the recent anime my verdict is punning on, Nagi no Asukara benefits from a fascinating fantasy setting – a world somewhat structured like our own while still offering a great deal of creative leeway. While the atmosphere is not terribly sinister, there’s definitely potential for some good drama further down the line.

I also liked the precocious romance element developing. As dumb as it is, it makes sense considering the age of the characters. I can totally see middle school kids not knowing how to deal with their first feelings of romantic love. I also find it interesting that the main guy is NOT the cool dude all the ladies want, although I use the term “main guy” lightly. I have a feelings this will be like other P.A. Works shows in that it will be more of an ensemble affair, for better or worse. Overall I’m cautiously optimistic about Nagi no Asukara. Even though P.A. Works and Mari Okada have burned me before (I’m looking at you Hanasaku Iroha), I feel like it has all the pieces it needs to make a good series.

Scenery Porn

Zigg’s Verdict: Out of its Depth

There’s some really fascinating concepts at work here, and I’m liking the way the show is taking the time to layer some interesting depth into the world. Stuff like the barely concealed racist edge between land and surface dwellers, the odd religious and magical undertones and the general weirdness of the concept are really strong ways to get me interested and keep me there.

Unfortunately, almost any desire I have to keep watching is undermined by these godawful characters. Hikari is an utter jerk, plain and simple. I understand they’re trying to position him as a boisterous boy who’s struggling with his own feelings, but it just doesn’t work and he just seems to be stuck in permanent dick mode, arrogant and bullying. And I could go an entire lifetime without another character like Manaka, a helpless lump of blubbering victimization who seems to exist to cry and test the audience’s patience. PA Works’ utterly stunning visual work provides an additional draw, but I’m going to find it tough to come back to this unless it improves rapidly.

DRAMA

Lifesong’s Verdict: Surreal

This is Mari Okada’s handiwork alright. Her usual shoot first ask questions later approach to drama comes out as strong as ever in this first episode. It kind of feels like she took the characters from Tempest and stuck them into AnoHana and somehow replaced all the Hamlet with Romeo and Juliet. That makes sense to me at least… It felt weird and wrong, but I also kind of enjoyed it. At this point Mari Okada is pretty well know so most anime fans will know if they want to stick around or not. I’m a fan personally and that makes me curious to see where this is going even though the first episode kind of weirded me out.

Marlin’s Verdict: Fascinating Setting, Exasperating Characters

I love this entire idea. The world is very vibrant and the mythology has a lot left to be seen, so discovering more about this world is definitely something I could get behind. The concept of people being sacrilegious towards an obviously present deity definitely seems kinda ridiculous, though. This isn’t like religion in most fantasy where it’s just implied, there are literally supernatural beings and machinations everywhere. Something is also telling me that as much as I’d like to learn about this world, much of the time is just going to be used on the relationship between these characters. I can see a clear Relationship Centipede® forming already, and who knows how it’ll end up given time. Hikari is a huge dick though, no matter how you slice it. You don’t look after someone by yelling at them and pressuring them into doing things your way. That’s just being selfish. Not that Manaka does herself any favors by having the mentality of someone several years her junior. Here’s to hoping they both get some well-needed character development soon.

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