Nagi No Asakura tells the story of an alternate Earth… one in which humanity originated from the Oceans, possessing an outer layer of skin known as ‘Ena’ that enables them to function underwater. Some time long before our story takes place, humans who longed for the surface shed this layer and began life on land, still paying homage to the Sea God. As our story begins, those still living underwater and those who live on land have begun to become somewhat estranged, and many of those on land no longer revere the Sea God.
As we enter, our four main characters have had their school closed and are forced to attend school on the surface despite living in the sea. This event is, of course, the catalyst behind the entire story.
Nagi No Asakura is an interesting show… on the surface it’s an incredibly overdramatic – even for an anime – tale of children attending school and trying to restore an old tradition… but there’s a lot more to it than that. Going beneath the surface reveals a show that almost has too many things going on at once. The show uses this strange analog to our Earth as the medium through which it tells its stories. These stories hit a pretty wide range of subjects including a simple yet touching tale of a young girl and the woman who wishes to become her new mother; a rather strange and awkward coming of age story; several intertwined and unfortunate love triangles ( love dodecahedron?); even an attempt at delivering commentary on discrimination and how it can be overcome. Since there are so many disparate stories, unfortunately they don’t mesh together all that well. And, because there simply are so many I’m sad to say few of them are particularly impactful or moving.
There are four main characters, with a fifth being arguably just as pivotal to everything, through which these stories are primarily told. While the characters themselves are interesting, and adorable, they really aren’t terribly involved in the really effective moments of the show. The points where the show really manages to succeed are when the side-stories get enough focus to tell a dedicated story. Unfortunately, this happens rarely throughout the first core arc that I’ve watched thus far. Most of the time the show is struggling to juggle a dozen arcs at once and provide equal air time to all of them… and many episodes just end up losing their focus. And the ones that don’t lose their focus seem to be the ones that put our main characters in a supporting role, which is unfortunate because I find the characters quite fascinating.
One final thing that I found rather shocking, as awkward as it is to say so, is that despite the show featuring several characters who perpetually wear typical Japanese school uniforms – I cannot think of a single moment that felt like it was trying to sexualize them or simply provide fanservice. Yes the girls are attractive and utterly adorable… but the show is content to leave it at that. That is something that is all too rare among anime nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with fanservice or sexualisation of female characters, but it’s great to see a show that is confident enough in its content to not feel the need to go there.