Shinmaru gets to cover the frightfully entertaining, anime saving, trigger warning Kill la Kill. Meanwhile I get an anime from JC Staff that would have looked bad in 2003 and looks embarrassing now, and the latest shiny-faced PA Works anime written by Mari Okada.
Nagi no Asakura is about a society that lives in the water and have to go to school on land where they have to deal with racist assholes and their own burgeoning puberty. The type of racism on show here reminds me of the mean old city folk bullying the country bumpkins who have come in smelling of nature and wear ill-fitting clothes. It’s quite similar to the way you hear people in America talk about people from the deep south. You can just imagine them grabbing some poor girl from Mississippi, lifting up her shirt and going “phwoar she really does have a red neck compared to the rest of her body”.
For sea people though, there’s not a whole lot different about them. The traditional PA Works shiny skin was made relevant to the plot this time around. Their shiny skin is what helps them live underwater…somehow. The reasoning isn’t explained beyond !~magic~! but it’s not really important. Their shiny skin motif is rather undermined when the people who aren’t from the ocean also have eerily shiny skin because apparently PA Works can’t do character designs that don’t have shiny skin. Which they totally can, since they made Eccentric Family last season, but that’s a different branch of PA Works. You would think the Eccentric Family branch would share their non-shiny-skin expertise but I guess the two sides aren’t talking to each other. One of the Eccentric Family staff slept with a member of the Hanasaku Iroha staff and things have been awkward since then.
It’s not a bad story setup. It’s clearly going to focus on a giant love-web, but using romance to explore race relations is a fairly standard practice. The character designs between the sea and land people being basically the same is a let down. They don’t necessarily have to be mermaids, but at least give them gills or scales or something. Growing a farting fish on your knee is a nice start. As a connoisseur of fart jokes, a fish head for a knee that farts when you poke it is a fart joke I can sip my brandy appreciatively at. That and the scene where the girl is caught in the fishing net shows that Nagi no Asakura has a not-terrible sense of humour. Problem is the humour is pretty sparse next to the awful drama.
And now we’re getting to it! Like the sun rises, like the tide turns, like JC Staff make terrible anime, a Mari Okada written anime has some decent sense of humour but absolutely terrible drama. I achieved two eye-rolls in this episode, with the one where the moeblob running away and collapsing in a forest achieving an eye-roll so long that I wasn’t sure my eyes would ever come down. The bit with the fisherman’s son commenting on how pretty the farting fish knee was did make me giggle along with eye-rolling, but that was more because of how stupid cheesy it was. Spend long enough out on a boat and suddenly the fish you catch start to look pretty sexy. Remember fishermen are the ones who saw a manatee and came up with mermaids. But I get the feeling that wasn’t the reaction I was supposed to have. Much like my reaction to her asshole boyfriend, I get the feeling we were supposed to find his actions charmingly protective rather than thinking he’s a giant prick.
This episode gave the strong impression that the tone would have much more drama than comedy, and I simply can’t connect with this drama. The people don’t act like human beings. I’ve seen many people express the belief that people who don’t cry at something like Ano Hana are robots, but to me you are the people who seem like robots. These actions and feelings the characters express feel like they’re going through a checklist of what humans find sad and ticking each one off individually but without any comprehension of what emotion actually is. Are you merely a machine for whom you insert a girl crying and someone yelling with some mournful violin music and this triggers an automatic response of bawww so moving?
…sorry, got a little off-topic. Anyway, Nagi no Asakura. It was all right, but I don’t have a whole lot of confidence for the future. It’s a pretty typical PA Works piece. There’s the local community and family values and a few other conservative themes. The race relations part gives it enough to make it not feel like a total rehash. If you’ve liked previous Mari Okada/PA Works anime then you will probably like this. You robot.