Post Reply Nagi no Asukara
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Posted 12/6/13
Written by Eclipsed_Oblivion

Fantastical tales of mermaids and other sea humanoids have been passed down now for multiple millennia. They may even seem to be long since stale, but Nagi no Asukara makes the idea new again by adding an unusual twist - the sea dwellers are fully human. By creating a world visually familiar, but with a novel history and culture, Nagi no Asukara pulls us into an enchanting fantasy with a touch of realism. Moreover, the internal strife of the world’s denizens render formidable character growth, as well as intertwine with societal issues to tell a greater story about discrimination and tolerance.

The discrimination in Nagi no Asukara is just part of the story’s major conflict between the sea and surface dwellers. Sea dwellers Hikari Sakishima and Manaka Mukaido are just middle students who get caught in said conflict after being forced to attend school on land. At the same time, Hikari must confront his love for Manaka and hatred of surface people while Manaka must face the fact that her love for a surface boy may mean banishment from her village. Nagi no Asakura explores just how painful love can be and applies it to a larger story of learning to accept those different from oneself.

Part of the exploration in Nagi no Asukara is of its world that not only encompasses both land and sea, but borders between fantasy and reality. Buoyancy and drag are ignored underwater, but not only does this visually minimize the differences between sea and land dwellers, but it creates stunning scenery; the town looks to be above water with underwater creatures simply floating rather than swimming, which creates a uniquely beautiful image. The towns also fuse Japanese and Greek architecture into their own structures, which evokes feelings of familiarity while still maintaining the fantasy. The world even has its own complete, magical history that explains how the humans from the sea live naturally underwater, and it also creates its unique culture. Not only does this give the fantasy a realistic basis, but the history and culture both play a significant role in the conflict between the land and sea dwellers, which gives the series added consistency and realism within the magic.

What is also particularly realistic about Nagi no Asukara is the internal conflicts the characters experience, most of which revolve around how love, no matter what form it takes, is painful, and coming to accept that hurts just as much. This includes unrequited love, and worse, having to watch the person one loves fall for someone else. To see how a character struggles with whether to intervene or simply support their loved one’s feelings is particularly captivating, as either way is painful. Just as painful, some also struggle with fearing platonic love after losing it once to death. This involves much more complicated emotions, inner demons, and complex relationships, and the contrast between this and other internal conflicts makes Nagi no Asukara all the more compelling. On top of this, some even struggle with having to lose someone to be with another. This is possibly the most difficult issue, as it isn’t only about love, but about how much one is willing to change in one’s life in exchange for what one wants. Just how the characters resolve their internal conflicts about love such as this are a large part of what make Nagi no Asukara not only engrossing, but so human.

The internal conflicts serve a greater purpose than just character development, however; they highlight the societal issues in Nagi no Asukara’s world. These issues revolve around discriminatory attitudes between the land dwellers and sea dwellers, and the lessons about love the characters experience through their inner battles is knowledge they apply to discarding prejudice and learning to love one another. For example, some characters deal with their struggles by directing their emotions into ignorant attitudes, which only contributes to the discrimination. It is the resolution of issues like these, however, that help the characters mature and see the larger issues that poison their society, which allows them to use their newfound tools to work toward a better world. Interestingly enough, as the main characters are all middle school students, it is mostly only children who are able to see beyond the hatred with their earned maturity, whereas the adults are still trapped within their own ugly, childish attitudes. This aspect of Nagi no Asukara clearly parallels our own world, which not only adds a sense of realism to the series, but considers various ways we can try to improve our world.

While grounded in realism, Nagi no Asukara establishes an original, unique world through both visuals and a detailed history and culture, resulting in a magical series easy to believe and lose oneself in. The characters as well, whether they be land dwellers or sea dwellers, all have their own internal conflicts that, once confronted, help them mature enough to fight against the larger issues plaguing their society: the hatred between those from the sea and those from the surface. With gorgeous animation on top of this, Nagi no Asukara is a magical series that explores the depths of both love and hatred, but consistently balances such emotional heaviness with lighthearted laughter.
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