A Lull In The Sea Part 1 (Episodes 1-13) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 308 minutes approx.
The four remaining students of Nami Junior High School, Hikari Sakishima, Chisaki Hiradaira, Kaname Isaki, and Manaka Mukaido, are forced to start afresh at Mihama Junior High School after theirs was closed down. The quartet make their presence felt from the start by stubbornly wearing their old school uniforms in a united stance against the prejudice that awaits them.
Why should they expect such a rough reception from their new schoolmates? That would have something to do with the fact that Nami Junior High is situated under the sea! Their home is the underwater world of Shioshishio which once was home to all humans until some become fascinated with the land above, causing a mass exodus and a split between the two races.
It’s quite remarkable how a unique change of setting can breathe new life into a tired concept as this fantasy slice-of-life series from P.A Works demonstrates so wonderfully. All the usual elements that make up a teenage romantic drama are present and correct but with an unusual twist and a self-contained mythos upon which a compelling and emotional drama is built.
Forgive the obvious pun the first few episodes run with a literal “fish out of water” storyline as the main protagonists try to integrate into a society that views them askance. In the first two episodes we are already dealing with the subjects of upheaval, prejudice and discrimination, belying the cutesy, luscious visuals and occasional comic frippery.
With the four young principals representing the familiar tropes – Hikari the headstrong one, Manaka the good hearted ditzy one, Chisaki the quiet but sensible one and Kaname the amiable level headed one – the initial set up seems like a clichéd lily being gilded with a fantasy veneer but it doesn’t take long for this notion to be dispelled with some deeply emotional and quality drama.
Not everyone on the land is against the sea people – Tsumugu Kihara is the grandson of a fisherman who accidentally catches Manaka in his trawling net on her first day at school. A quiet, thoughtful lad he goes out of his way to help the newcomers settle in, with only Manaka being the most appreciative while Hikari is reticent to leave his anger behind. There are some troublemakers both at school and around the village but overtime the hostilities subdue, in part through a forbidden alliance.
The union between a sea person and land person is prohibited for a good reason – to survive under the sea and on land the sea residents are protected by a natural substance called Ena, a barely visible scale like coating on their skin which glistens in the light. If a hybrid child is born they will not posses Ena.
Naturally then we have a doomed romance sub plot featuring Hikari’s older sister Akari, who lives on the land, fisherman Itaru, a widower to Akari’s best friend who has a daughter Miuna from that marriage. Miuna and Sayu become important players in the story but not before they cause a few headaches for both Akari and Hikari. This eventually leads to the dramatic half way climax that changes the entire complexion of the story in epic fashion.
The Ena part is a well-worked component to add some drama to the proceedings especially when the kids are on land and they begin to dry up. It’s a clever way to add a sense of vulnerability to sea folk since their ability to cross between land and water is rather unique and needs some sort of caveat to bring out the compassionate side of the land dwellers.
However we do need to address a huge oversight which even the presence of Ena or the current Sea God descendant Lord Uroko cannot seem to explain. Shioshishio is an ocean floor based civilisation with houses, shops, plant life and roads. Fish swim about as you would expect them to but nothing else seems affected by the water!
It is as if the city is under an invisible dome because the people are never wet (except after reaching the surface to go on land), they can breathe and talk without visible oxygen bubbles, they can cook underwater and nothing floats about like it should. There are even clouds, sunshine and apparently seasons down there too!
This pushes the required sense of disbelief to the absolute limit and beyond but frankly, everything else is so well done and the story is so emotionally involving, we find ourselves begrudgingly ignoring it and soldier on regardless. Which is just as well as there is plenty going on in these thirteen episodes (episode fourteen is curiously included in the extras despite being in the next volume too) for us to worry about it.
Propping up the main storylines is the mythos of Shioshishio which mirrors many Japanese traditional folklore tales and superstitions. This is not an attempt to create a pseudo-religious slant to the divide between races but it is in fact a shared symbol of their existences, playing a vital role in the fateful Ofunehiki festival subplot which closes this first half of the series.
Visually this is one of the best looking shows in recent memory which I am sure will look a treat on Blu-ray. The aquatic theme is laid on pretty thick with the entire colour palette suffused in a whimsical blue hue, matching the colour of the sea kids’ eyes. The artwork both above and below water is breathtakingly intricate in its detail while the animation is superb, reaching a zenith during the abovementioned festival sequences.
Combining fantasy and slice-of-life romance without being twee and superficial sounds like a tall order but P.A Works have pulled it off magnificently with A Lull In The Sea. A delightful series that engages, entertains, amuses and touches our sensitive sides wrapped up in a gorgeous presentation this, ironically for a show based underwater, is a genuine breath of fresh air for anime fans!
English Language (with partial English Subtitles)
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Original Japanese Trailer 1
Original Japanese Trailer 2
Bonus Episode: 14. The Promised Day
Rating – **** ½
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