Monday, June 9, 2014

Anime Review: Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea

My past experiences with PA works have been mixed which seems to be the case for a lot of people and makes me feel better. And despite that, if you sit me down and tell me there's a semi-fantasy anime airing with some pretty visuals of course I'm going to try it out. Which is more or less why I'm interested in PA Work's latest show, Glasslip, although after this one I'm not sure what my expectations for it are....

Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea (Nagi no Asuka)

A long time ago people did not live on land, all people were born and lived in the sea until some decided to leave and start different lives. But after just a generation or two they discovered that they had lost their special ability to live under the waves and from there the two societies grew farther and farther apart. While civilization on land flourished the undersea towns declined, Hikari and his friends are among the last kids in their town and so are sent to the school on land when their's closes down and this forcible broadening of their worldview will have a huge impact not only on their lives but on the world.

I was not expecting the show to dive into the fantasy element of the show in the way it did (it was more or less ignored for the first few episodes and then makes a grand, dramatic entrance) and that was by far my favorite part of the show. Sure slice of life and romance aren't bad but give me a story with it's own fairy tale in it involving more or less mermaids? Perfect! The setting was fresh and unique and I liked the backstory quite a bit, whenever the story focused on those parts it shot to the top of my weekly favorites list. I did enjoy the romantic aspects of the story, which is the real heart of the story and what it spends two-thirds of it's time on, and I agree with other reviewers that this story would not have worked as well if it hadn't been focused on impulsive, confused middle schoolers (which unfortunately leads to a problem I can't really discuss without spoiling). 

However, I might confuse some people by saying this but I almost wish the series was more complicated than it was. Every story has it's peaks and lulls but this one had just a bit too many lulls, the pacing slowed down to an ants crawl before the Ofunehiki, and it repeated an important even twice practically, frankly it's a wonder that the story works as well as it does with those problems. I honestly wish it had focused a bit more on the calamity threatening the world both because I found it rather interesting (and I do wish that they had used the setting more than they actually did) and because clearly focusing on the inter-connecting love lives of seven young people wasn't enough to carry the story alone. If the story had been an odd length, like 16 or 18 episodes, it could have pulled it off but since it was a full two-cour there were just too many areas where the characters needed time to react and deal with the changes and the story didn't have anything else to focus on so things would just drag. And that does give me some reservations about recommending the series, it had a strong middle but both the beginning and the ending drag. Well, that and the fact that the series introduces this world-endangering conflict and the characters don't seem to quite resolve it by the end of the show. Sometimes that's fine, it's a statement about the inevitability of life and the characters have to accept their roles in the world and move on, however the end of this show was framed more as a triumph even though the characters only helped to right what they set wrong and in that regard nothing has changed.

Regarding the visuals, the series looked absolutely gorgeous and between this and last year's Red Data Girl I think I like PA Works "style" the most out of any anime studio out there (not that they always follow it, Eccentric Family looks completely different but they do have this house style that I enjoy). I will readily admit however that I wish their character designer had been different or at least had made a few different choices, at some points I had a hard time remembering that some of the characters were 14 and others were 19 since their proportions were exactly the same and I don't think that was supposed to be a level of symbolism or such. Other than that however, the backgrounds and props were fantastic, everything was amazingly detailed and I loved how you could see little bits of rust on nearly everything on the surface, just this constant little reminder of how important the sea still is in their lives and a visual representation of their poor relationship. The color schemes were also amazing, you could probably take half of the scenery shots from this show and get a pretty poster out of them, it really makes me wish that PA Works would do a full fantasy show (that wasn't like, romance with some fantasy like here or school drama and fantasy like RDG) just because it would look pretty amazing.

For those wishing to give the series a shot, it has been licensed by NIS America and can be watched on either hulu or crunchyroll. It's not an immediate buy for me but I can see myself picking it up in the future since I did enjoy a lot of it, I might just pay more attention to some episodes and space out on others. 

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