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NAGI NO ASUKARA #1 -- Special Review

Man didn't evolve from apes! We evolved from fish! If you need proof, Google "mudskipper."

Remember those scenes in Studio Ghibli's PONYO where the ocean rose up and was full of fish that just soared around the underwater village? Picture that village, but populated with humans--complete with adorable tweens figuring out this "growing up" thing--and you've basically got NAGI NO ASUKARA.

The story follows five seafolk children (not merfolk, mind you, as they don't have a fish half) who have to transfer to an above water school when their's closes. On the land they face prejudice and ignorance, though they aren't above those qualities themselves. They also wrestle with budding romantic feelings, some of which reach across their different worlds.

For a coming of age story, this show is delightfully surreal. Your brain struggles to reconcile how these people cook underwater, with fire no less, and how they have superhuman jumping abilities (hint: they just swim!). The super-saturated color palette emphasizes the tropical fish that constantly swim by in the underwater town, which is surprisingly indistinguishable from the surface town; or perhaps it's the other way around, since in this world the landfolk are an offshoot of the seafolk.

The sweetness boarders on syrupy, but the emotions on display feel genuine. While it's not devoid of archetypes - - the bishi-yet-lecherous mystic Uroko is particularly loathsome and sends some screwed up messages - - the ensemble of child characters are more complicated then they let on, even if they dip into cliché now and then. If you're in the mood for something sweet and fantastical this show's for you, but if you don't get the occasional hankering for puppy love stories you should just keep swimming.

Watch this episode, “In Between the Sea and the Land” here and decide for yourself, then read our comments on other anime pilots from the Fall 2013 season below...

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.

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 17, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.

Pilot set up not a love triangle but a square if not a hexigon.Animation is good .The fish on the knee curse was fairly gross an i think i have read about something like that myth wise.That said it was the 1st show i droped this season.It has good parts but as a whole it just didnt gel toghter for me.

The cooking underwater was explained tho.. magic.An not just any magic .No mere wizard did it.Its suposed to be from their head priests power from a sea god.

AURON570on Oct. 17, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.

A refreshing series, I just hope the characters and themes get a little deeper (pun intended) as the series progresses, since it has a whole 26 episodes to go through! Right now the situations and how characters react seem like typical anime. But it set up some interesting stuff with the environmental themes (not polluting the ocean or forgetting our origins) and the class division between ocean and land people.

If anyone is following this series and wants to post their thoughts or discuss it with others, feel free to drop by the anime vice discussion thread =) Otherwise happy anime viewing!

takashichea moderator on Oct. 17, 2013 at 4:13 p.m.

I'm not the biggest slice of life fan since I usually prefer Shonen and comedy shows. Though, I have some of somewhat of a soft side for romance. Plus, this series remind me of Tari Tari.

@AURON570: @Marshal Victory:

Dang it, guys. You took all the good comments.

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