Nagi no Asukara
The are two things I love in anime: fresh ideas and unique solutions. Nagi no Asukara represents both of them. This 2013 anime has a whole arsenal of great ideas and fresh solutions to decades-old problems; one could say, it was a candidate for my top 10 anime list. In the end, it didn't make it in the list, but I'll talk about that later on... somewhere else. For now, let's focus on the great aspects this anime has to offer... and there's a lot of those.
For starters, graphics. The visual aspects of this anime are kept on a very high level most of the time, it's a pure pleasure being able to watch it. The amount of various particles, lighting, character designs and everything else is top-notch. What's surprising, though, is how they tackled the problem they set for themselves in the second half of the anime - and that is, they didn't. For reasons I can't tell you without spoiling the show, the second part of the anime required some change in various areas - and this change just didn't happen. Unlike what I expected, the creators opted for a milder, subtle change of climate - and it worked perfectly.
To complete the technical side review, I need to mention the soundtrack - and in this case, it's a real festival for your ears. Both of the openings, as well as the endings, have the chill feeling to them, which really puts you at ease. Both Ray and Nagi Yanagi really did their best on the pieces - and it's not limited to the soundtrack, either. While the voice actors didn't have an astronomically hard job with this anime, their performance deserves high praise, too. The anime really feels great with all of the pieces coming together for it, creating an immense, spectacular experience uncomparable to anything else. I will refer to this particular line later on, so take notes. Or not.
Now then, time to explain what's so special about this anime. You see, once upon a time there was an original idea. An idea so weird and unexpected people were eager to try it... and it worked. This anime revolves around this particular idea, and for a person who didn't really understand the synopsis (or rather, forgot to read it, lynch me all you want), this setting truly came along as a surprise. I was expecting Seto no Hanayome all over again, maybe with a little Anohana-like twist. What I got instead blown my mind...
You see, in this anime people were originally living underwater. Not to confuse them with mermaids - legitimate people used to have their cities under the water, form their communities there and lead normal lives like normal people do. Then they discovered what's on the land and it caused those people to divide - some stayed under the water and some moved to the land. Those who did the latter, however, had lost their Ena - the thing on their skin that allows them to breathe underwater and all that - so they could never return to the sea.
Due to the division, the sea people and land people started to see things differently. Over the course of centuries, this simple change led to many conflicts betweem them and made some people hate the other 'race' without actually having a reason to. One such person is our protagonist, Sakishima Hikari, a middle school student, who, due to the closing of underwater school, has been forced to attend the surface school with his group of friends.
Now, if you can't tell by now, I was really surprised by how the series went. The amount of surprises kept piling up, so when the first episode was over, I hardly imagined anything to come, because I knew the series would surprise me one way or another. Turns out, it was a wise choice. Instead of opting to go the easy way and settling down with an ordinary school daily life plot, this anime tackles matters way more serious... and turns into a blend of comedy and drama in the process. The first thing that hits us is the main problem of the series, how the division changed people. This small, seemingly irrelevant to the plot, detail, evolved into a plot-turning revelation, also introducing a few answers to this problem. It's a mature approach to the series; not unlike the second matter, which is - the very lives our group of sea students lead. A noble quest to reunite the people of land and sea? Sure, why not. But it's not the main issue here - Nagi no Asukara does what Glasslip tried, but couldn't. It tackles the issue of how the lives of our students change, as they develop feelings for each other, and from the group of people that was always together, we get a polygon of love. And I'll be damned if it stops at a pentagon...
To get back on track, there's one more point to the plot that really matters. It's how the division of people has affected the deity of the sea, that's been protecting its people. Much like the tales of the Bible, it decided to punish the people of the land by sending a calamity. The students, to try and stop it, decided to hold a ceremony for it, which is both the breaking point in the series as well as the closing one. In both cases, it functions as a Deus Ex Machina of the sort, but does a pretty good job of advancing the plot... and introducing things that weren't expected in the least bit.
Judgement: THERE IS A HELL, BELIEVE ME I'VE SEEN IT
Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed the show while it lasted. Sadly, it all ends sometime... as well as my good words about it. The rest of the review can be found here.