The second half of Nagi no Asukara is almost as enjoyable as it was hard to review.
Seriously. This is at least my third attempt, and even that required a marathon rewatch to settle things in my head.
Part of the difficulty is that the second half of Nagi no Asakura is multiple overlapping stories rather than a single narrative, and the switch gives it an unfocussed feel.
There are MAJOR spoilers ahead.
The Promised Day
The Promised Day commences 5 years after Unreachable Fingertips with several flashbacks to show how the characters left in Oshiooshi have matured, or struggled to build a façade over their shattered hearts.
Miuna and Sayu are the former, and increasingly they are becoming admirable young ladies.
Chisaki is the latter. Chisaki lost pretty much everything and everyone in Unreachable Fingertips, and her choice of nursing as a career is pretty much driven by her need to not lose anyone else. Specifically Tsumugu’s grandfather who took her in after the disaster of Unreachable Fingertips, and is in the hospital by the time of The Promised Day.
Tsumugu is harder to read, but I think is somewhere in the middle. I think his unwillingness to admit his growing love for Chisaki is a façade hiding unhappiness, but his oceanography studies are a continuation of who he was before.
From here Hikari, Kaname, and Manaka gradually return to Oshiooshi over the course of several episodes. There is no overarching story here, only increasing levels of emotional pain as facades are ripped away, and new relationships are built.
This isn’t like the first half of Nagi no Asukara where the Ofunehiki shaped the first half of the story up until Unreachable Fingertips. This is more slice of life as the troubled characters struggle to adapt to a five year gap in their lives, or to being five years older than the people they once knew.
This section of Nagi no Asukara delivers consistently strong episodes where you care about what happens, and want to know what happens next, but not a consistent or overarching story.
Things also get very messy very fast….
Miuna is now the same age as Hikari, and very much in love with him. Sayu is crushing on Kaname, who isn’t even seeing her as a girl his age. Kaname is still sort of chasing Chisaki, for the wrong reasons. Chisaki is holding to her feelings for Hikari because her unacknowledged love for Tsumugu feels like betrayal of her childhood. Hikari still believes that Manaka loved Tsumugu, although Tsumugu knows better but isn’t saying so. Hikari is still in love with Manaka.
Manaka is where things get…complicated.
The complication to all of this is the idiotic remnants of the Sea God. When Manaka is rescued, and finally awakens, there is no sign of the crybaby she was before.
Instead there’s a cheerful girl with Laser Guided Amnesia and not even the concept of love.
Manaka’s heart to love, or be hurt by love, has been taken from her by the Sea God along with her Ena, and any memories related to her feelings.
The penultimate episode Love is Like the Sea has an absolutely brutal cliff-hanger, so before you watch it make sure you have this episode available:
I’m not sure if that’s a record for the longest episode title ever, but it has to be at least an honourable mention. 🙂
The finale itself is surprisingly satisfying, more so on a second viewing after a marathon run through the 2nd half of Nagi no Asukara. Part of the satisfaction comes from the surprisingly realistic resolutions, or lack thereof, to the various relationships.
Speaking of which the resolutions allow for the very real differences in maturity and perceptions amongst the characters.
So, once Tsumugu finally makes his move, and once Chisaki accepts that she is allowed to be happy, that relationship is one that will mature quickly.
On the other hand, the nascent relationship between Kaname and Sayu isn’t much more than that. Kaname has started seeing Sayu as a girl his age, but anything more will take time to grow. That felt right to me, and it makes a nice change to not see everything wrapped up in a bow.
Hikari, Manaka, and Miuna remains a not-quite-resolved triangle at the end, and that also makes a certain amount of sense given the [SPOILER EVENTS DELETED] of the finale.
Although I will note that I as absolutely right to go “uh oh” when I found out that Miuna’s name translates as “Beautiful Ocean“.
The second half of Nagi no Asukara isn’t all angst, there are some extremely funny moments in there. Oddly many of these revolve around Chisaki, but the one where she pops out of the ocean in front of Hikari and Kaname was priceless.
Their “wake up and SEE the Hottie” moment is utterly hilarious as they truly realise that Chisaki is now a beautiful woman 5 years their senior. The best thing is that the moment is entirely natural, devoid of fanservice, and Chisaki is completely oblivious to what just happened. It’s just beautiful to watch, and it never gets old.
I’m not going to inflict a screenshot on you, but PA Works really need to dial back how they animate tears. It is so overdone that it broke me out of a few scenes. Seriously guys: less is more.
Nagi no Asukara delivers a strong character driven second half, but it also has a much less focussed story. It is astonishingly pretty to look at, highly rewatchable, and remains one of the best anime of the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 seasons.
Recommended overall, and I’m definitely getting this on Blu-Ray when I can.
I’ll wrap up with this rather nice collection of both opening and ending songs:
 For a couple of episodes Kaname was enough of a jerk that I was hoping for Sayu (who deserved better) to hook up with almost anyone else.
 It becomes brutally obvious though to anyone who watches the synchronicity between Chisaki and Tsumugu in that kitchen scene. Including Kaname.
 Like that’s a surprise. Not.
 Bonus points to Miuna for actually calling the Sea God an idiot during the finale.
 Which, bizarrely, no one really questions given the disaster that the last attempt turned into.
 Among other things, but saving the surface world was a secondary consideration. No, really, it was.
 No I’m not going to even try to type out that episode title. I’m just disappointed it wasn’t longer, given that there was still room on the title card.
 Especially given the various revelations made along the way.
 FINALLY is the word. I got some agreement on twitter when I said this: