Humanity has split into two subspecies, those who live on the land, and those who live in the sea. When four teenagers from a village in the sea are forced to attend a new school on land, they begin to discover the depth of mistrust between their own people and those of the world above.
Hikari, a spiky stubborn teen, is forced to rethink his preconceptions of land dwellers when he sees his childhood friend Manaka, and his older sister Akari both fall for men on the surface world. He struggles more still when he realises his own feelings for Manaka go beyond brotherly protection and into uncharted waters of love. Futher complicating things, their mutual friend Chisaki harbours a hidden yearning for Hikari, as does their other mutual friend Kaname secretly long for Chisaki. Yes, it’s one long love train.
The touching innocence of each teenager discovering and trying to make sense of their romantic desires is contrasted, often painfully against the escalating tensions between the adults of the land and sea, and an ever changing world, thrown into uncertain chaos. When the young foursome discover that anyone from Shioshishio (their village under the sea) who enters into a romantic relationship from someone on the surface is banished from the village to the surface world, it throws a harsh light of danger onto their already confused feelings.
Nagi no Asukara is a visually gorgeous anime, and it really makes the most of its setting, with stunning blue skies, rich, evocative ocean scenery and of course, the sparkling vibrant blue eyes of the sea dwelling teens. The world building of the lives and culture of those from the land and sea is well rounded, and the often unrequited romantic feelings zipping back and forth are not hammed up but feel genuine. What results is an involving and affecting story about teenagers caught in a storm between the sea and land, between the people they love, and ultimately, between their childhood freedoms, and adult responsibilities. Whilst this anime uses some obvious character tropes for its teenagers – the brash teenage boy trying to come to terms with his feelings, the sweet innocent girl who doesn’t want to grow up, the emotionally mature girl who wants to be selfish with her feelings but doesn’t know how – each situation feels absorbing, and the emotions and heartache are easily relatable.
While this anime will certainly err too much on the sentimental, emotional side for some, it knows how to balance each emotional confession and significant moment against the minutiae of everyday life, and it touches movingly on the pain, confusion and beauty of that precious era of teenage youth and first love, with the mystical elements of the history of the land and sea to build a wider picture. If you’re looking for a beautifully animated feels fest, give this one a watch.
Click on the link below to watch the opening credits for the first half of Nagi No Asukara – it’s become one of my favourites!