Anime Vice News

MY LITTLE PONY Fans Will Love This Anime

For the bronies out there, NAGI NO ASUKARA is highly recommended.

"Why are you watching this?" asked my mother flatly as she walked in on my viewing of the latest episode of MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC.

"Because I like it, Mom. I'm also a media professional and it's my job to take stock in what's going on in the media," I responded in a perfectly para-phrasable and memorable way that I am not making up for the sake of convenient reading.

My mother responded with a grimace and walked away, likely contemplating her decisions in raising me.

But I ask you, Vicers: who has not also seen this scenario play out, one time or another, over their taste in anime? Whether or not you like MLP, I think most anime fans can sympathize with the plight of the brony; one who likes something that not necessarily everyone else understands.

But, my fellow bronies, I know you are always on the search for more. For something that explores emotions and expands upon characters, all while giving you a fascinating world to ponder the implications of. And if you're in the market for something else like MLP, then I would love to recommend to you P.A. Works' NAGI NO ASUKARA (also called NAGI-ASU). And here's why...

1) Art Direction

If you watch MLP, then you're probably a big fan of "teh qte." Every pony in the show is adorable - - even most of the villains - - and their candy-colored coats make for a technicolor feast for the eyes.

And the same goes for NAGI-ASU. All the important characters in this show are supercute, to the point where I'd be lying if I said their design isn't moe. Their vibrant, sparkling eyes are quite puppy-like, though only the philosophical Kaname tries to use his cuteness powers to manipulate (and even then, it's for a good cause). Since most of the cast is middle school age or younger, pretty much everyone in the cast is this cute (and even some of the adults).

Manaka's learning about standing up for herself, OK?
Manaka's learning about standing up for herself, OK?

But if the character designs are cute and simple, the backgrounds are beautiful and intricate. Lush backdrops reminiscant of oil on canvas let you really inhabit the twin towns of Shioshishio and Oshiooshi. The sweeping, wavelike architecture of the sea town contrasts wonderfully with the hard angles of the land town. Beautifully detailed fish populate the ocean, keeping the world dreamlike and letting you read more deeply into the background.

2) Worldbuilding

Something I didn't really notice about NAGI NO ASUKARA is how the show practices worldbuilding. Sure in the first episode you're going "huh, whoa!" at all the strangeness that is bafflingly mundane for the underwater people of Shioshishio, but following that initial shock things are introduced gradually. Quirkier aspects of the world--such as the divine fire the sea people use to cook underwater--are only referred to in regular dialogue, allowing the viewer to use context clues to figure things out. More complicated things, such as the magic Ena that coats all sea people, are explained in the voices of characters and in situations where such explanations would be necessary, which helps keep you immersed in the story instead of being sidetracked by exposition.

Uroko-sama always knows something you don't know.
Uroko-sama always knows something you don't know.

Even the native sea children, though, don't know everything about their world. They have to be taught by authority figures such as Hikari's father Akari (the chief priest) or Uroko the sage. When pressed with revelations, Hikari and friends often doubt these sources because they have their own agendas—and they may be right to do so.

3) Expanding Background Cast

If there's something that bronies love, it's background characters. Every tiny action they perform gets read into, interpreted, extrapolated and expanded to fill the fandom's fervent need for more content.

So what if I told you, dear bronies, that there are no background characters in NAGI-ASU?

Because it's true. This show doesn't really have background characters because anyone you would THINK would be one, like fellow classmates or random people in town, actually become fully fleshed out as the series goes on. You start to wonder when that one guy in Shioshishio will get it into his head that Akari won't return to the sea for him. You wonder if the homeroom teacher at school will ever reward his class with something that costs more than ten yen. And will Kaname's classmate Yu ever confess her feelings for him?

He's a bit of a goof, but he tries his best.
He's a bit of a goof, but he tries his best.

4) FEELINGS

Something that MLP:FIM never really touches on is romance, and I think that's ok. The show focuses on purely platonic friendships for children and how they change and grow, and love interests would really distract from that (no, I'm not counting EQUESTRIA GIRLS in this--are you insane?). Sure Spike has a crush on Rarity, and that's a big part of his character, but he's also approximately 7 years old by human standards—she's his first crush, and she's wayyyy older than him.

Too... much... feels...!
Too... much... feels...!

With NAGI-ASU, however, burgeoning emotions are integral to the premise. Since the four protagonists are all on the cusp of puberty, they're experiencing strong emotions of longing for the very first time and really don't know what to do with them. Is it OK to love someone you've grown up with? What if your family hates them for some reason? Or worse, what if your friends hate them, and hate YOU for liking them?

Manaka might like Tsumugu but Hikari definitely likes Manaka and Chisake definitely likes Hikari and Kaname likes Chisake so he wants Manaka and Hikari to work out. Tsumugu likes the sea.
Manaka might like Tsumugu but Hikari definitely likes Manaka and Chisake definitely likes Hikari and Kaname likes Chisake so he wants Manaka and Hikari to work out. Tsumugu likes the sea.

NAGI-ASU's relationship chart is best described as a non-euclidian love polygon. I could spend paragraphs going into who likes who and why but then they notice something and it changes feelings inside them... but the point isn't trying to diagram it out, because it's all pretty apparent. What's important is that these emotions are vivid, and there are no bad guys in their relationship conflicts. All the characters are dealing with more than one type of love for each other, and they don't know if they want to keep it balanced and preserve what they have or bring it closer to what they would like it to be at an unknown cost.

So if you like MY LITTLE PONY for any of the reasons above, I couldn't recommend NAGI NO ASUKARA more. And hey, if you like NAGI-ASU... maybe you should give MLP a chance too.

Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.

takashichea moderator on Dec. 18, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.

I usually get asked or get embarrassed in watching shows that are really cute and ecchi, Astarotte's Toy, or something really heavy in fan service like Highschool of the Dead. Nagi no Asukara is more like Disney or Ghibli. It's for everyone. I feel there is no shame in watching this show. It's not too cute enough to say the audience is female like for MLP. I might offend some guys. I think MLP is targeted for children, little more on the feminine side.

I'm a hypocrite. I enjoy watching Powerpuff Girls. I still watch it when the kids at Church want me to watch it with them. I can't stand MLP. I love Powerpuff Girls and Nagi no Asukara.

waybig1010101on Dec. 18, 2013 at 9:20 p.m.
love this show and im a member of the MLP Club here on the vice, but kinda agree with what taka said about the show being like disney where it can be marketed to a more general audience as compare to MLP's targeted audience.  
Murphix staff is online on Dec. 18, 2013 at 11:56 p.m.

@takashichea: Pffffffffft. You offend none of my sensibilities, sir. Pony Show isn't for everyone--as you said (in so many words), it's made for little girls to enjoy. Good children's television allows the grownups to enjoy watching it too, even if they wouldn't have sought it out on their own.

I would also agree with your assessment that NAGI NO ASUKARA is more akin to Ghibli than it is to MLP. But if you are of the brony persuasion, this will probably strike a few of the same chords.

takashichea moderator on Dec. 19, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

@Murphix:

  • Brony: What's Your Take on the Brony Scene and can you do an improve of America and Canada as a sport team? (Not sure what the gentlemen said after "sport")
  • Eric Vale: No bronies PERIOD. I have mad respect for the staff. Brony is a child's show. My 6 year old daughter loves the show, but it's annoying that I know some 35, 50 year old men who loved the show."

I remember at Anime Expo 2013, one brony asked Eric Vale what's his views on MLP. He said it was for children! I was laughing hysterically. After the Church kids made me watch it along with other cartoon shows, I somewhat like MLP, but I don't want to admit it. Like MLP, Nagi is a good show that teaches valuable life lessons such as putting aside differences in race and such.

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 20, 2013 at 4:22 a.m.
Damn... and I'd heard this show was good. Guess I can remove it from the queue.
gokugxon Dec. 29, 2013 at 9:19 a.m.

nice graphics :)

Dig Deeper into Nagi no Asukara

A story about 4 students from Shioshishio who transfer to a school on the surface and their struggle to overcome racial barriers between the Umimura (Ocean Dwellers) and the Surface Dwellers.

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