Posted by psgels on 22 November 2013 with categories: Nagi no Asukara

Well, so I thought that I’d check out what Nagi no Asukara was up to lately, so I set down to watch this. And boy, it actually took a long while for me to actually start the thing. Today I finally managed to finish the latest three episodes because otherwise I’d never be able to move on, but it did make me ask a question: why am I still watching this?

It’s episode seven, so at this point we have a pretty good idea of the nature of this show. For the past few weeks I really started looking at anime in a different way, and I asked the above question for a lot of other series. Is it really worth it to watch so many series that contain such lazy writing that contains so many glaring flaws, just for a few things they do well? The key again is balance. Does Nagi no Asukara have that? I’m afraid not.

The thing with drama is: you take a few ingredients, juggle them together and let them culminate into a powerful climax, with some mid-climaxees inbetween. What Nagi no Asukara does is having way too many of these ingredients, overcomplicating the dish. Every episode it finds some contrived reason to create as much drama as possible, ranging from a love polygon that’s triggered way too easily to people behaving like arrogant pricks who can’t use their head for one second. A bit of this is fine and all, but this just kept on coming with the drama, there was hardly any variation to what went on. It’s all just teenaged drama.

Especially now that Hikaru has developed, things should have been more bearable, since he isn’t annoying anymore and he actually tries to take care of his loved ones, and he actually can shut up at once, but… meh. It’s all just so gloomy. Episode seven with those fishermen for example. That came out of nowhere, but these guys acted just as bigoted as he did a few episodes ago. These three episodes consistently bored me because they had nothing going on here. Only episode seven had something noteworthy when Hikaru and his sister actually left their home. That was something different, but getting less and less sure whether it’s worth it.

I think Mari Okada overshot herself with this series. In this series, and with Sakurasou too by the way, she focuses too much on one-sided drama that is in most cases really quite stupid. Compare that to three series of her that did work: Hana-Saku Iroha, True Tears and Ano Hana. Hana-Saku Iroha knew how to spice things up. It might have been a bit boring around this point, but at least it used this time to show what everyday life is for the cast, so it could use that for some very effective climaxes. The sm-episode came out of nowhere, but it took guts and stood out. True Tears also had lots of drama, but it was calculated: slow paced and it knew exactly what to do to remain interesting, again with great characterization. Ano Hana also had tons of drama at a fast pace, but it also delivered many twists that really got the best out of the characters. The cast was well balanced and every character was different, and the drama kept moving forward. It had strange twists, but these twists went together with the characters. It didn’t throw in stuff for the sake of throwing in stuff like what Nagi no Asukara is doing.

The animation in anime is consistently improving: people are really innovating there to create graphics that are really gorgeous, and you see this more and more. That’s good. Now transfer that mentality over to the writing departments. Force them to think logically about what they’re doing. We need more people like Gen Urobuchi, who are celebrated for their writing talents. There doesn’t seem to be any glamour to the writing business and to be honest, the whole scene seems quite a bit closed off. Because of this you have one group of writers who gets picked over and over to write and adapt these series, and there hardly seems any incentive to attract new talent or cultivate it. That really needs to change, because as I see it, it’s the biggest thing holding anime in general back right now.
Rating: 3/8 (Mediocre)

20 Responses

  1. Firechick says:

    The only thing that turned me away from this show is…the grope scene in episode 6. Ugh. You’d think the anime industry would have taken the hint by now.

  2. Mazz says:

    I really liked episode 7, but aside from that the show has been lacking. Even the last episode wasn’t very good, although it did hint that the real plot would start next week (episode 9). I might as well finish it, I mean it doesn’t suck. But if I was marathoning this show, I probably would have dropped it already. I tend to be more lenient with weekly shows.

  3. Hogart says:

    No kidding. I always say that Okada needs someone to reign her in, like they did on Bantorra. She’s got the dramatic chops but she badly needs someone to center and ground her writing, so she does what the series needs rather than the series revolving around her drama.

  4. Emma-hime says:

    Ah but hogart, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the bantorra guy working on this show too?
    I dropped this series an episode or two ago, PA works as per usual wastes too much potential and the drama while you can tell this has some sense of A game it rarely hits it.

    • Hogart says:

      You know, you might be right about that. I haven’t checked who the other writers are on this one. Maybe it’s that Okada does her best when it’s an adaptation reigning her in? Hmm. I might just be too tired; maybe I should shut my big mouth :)

      • Yause says:

        I think it’s more that melodrama has worked so well that Okada feels compelled compelled to take things up a notch each time. It paid off in spades on Hanasaku Iroha and Ano Hana (and I’m sure everyone combed the blogs, 2ch, and Twitter to see which scenes were most successful), and it’s an easy trap to fall into. The writing process becomes manipulative – one in which the writer concentrates most on thinking up scenes that will win over viewers like before.

        Financially, Okada is doing incredibly well (and unlike animators, writers are well paid, plus they earn royalties for original series). If the shows keep selling, she has no reason to change. Also, it isn’t in her best interest to cultivate new talent (Yousuke Kuroda does some of this, but he runs a screenwriting agency of sorts, ensuring a cut for himself).

        One can argue that Ichiro Okouchi and Hiroyuki Yoshino took a similar approach after they it big with Code Geass.

        • Hogart says:

          Thing is, I wouldn’t exactly call abusing drama great writing. Nor making something that’s popular. That said, I know Okada has it in her to do great things, so if she’s just coasting on financial success it’s quite a shame. Doubly so if there are so few writers in the anime clubhouse.

  5. Emma-hime says:

    Indeed hogart its true: http://myanimelist.net/people/5979/Shinohara_Toshiya
    I’m content to say director or not Okada is generally just a hit or miss writer. She also does too many shows which is probably part of the problem.

    • Hogart says:

      Oh ugh. Toshiya’s anime lineup is not exactly what I’d call inspiring. LoGH and Bantorra aside, it’s pretty sad. I’ve probably given him too much credit. And yeah I think Okada probably is overworked as well. But it’s still rather sad that they can’t give her a hand so she has to fall back on her dramatic habits.

  6. Ellixus says:

    I understand your frustration…

    “How can it be so hard? – one wonders – How is it possible that they always make the same basic mistakes?”

    Well, a few ideas about it:

    1 – During the last two decades graphic tools have evolved a lot, drastically changing the way the things are done. On the other hand, given its “simple” nature, remains pretty much the same.

    2 – Although I’m pretty sure there are a many good writers out there, the most mediocre are the ones that seem to thrive. It makes sense: the most stupid writers also happen to be convinced that their work is the best and therefore they have no second thoughts when it comes to knocking doors and presenting themselves as candidates for any possible job. Instead, the good ones always have a certain degree of self-awareness. They know their own “weak points” and for that reason they may show some hesitation when it comes to look for jobs…

    3 – This is also related to the previous point: the bad writers are hired because they meet the deadlines… yup, not only writers are responsible for bad shows, the money guys also are. Essentially, its always been more important to meet the deadlines than doing something good. Sticking to already proven formulas, oversimplifying causality chain, deus ex machina use and abuse… this techniques get the things done for sure. Something good requires to take risks and invest a lot of time (and the mayor risk is that after all that time you may end up empty handed)… so, this way will rarely get picked. After all, money guys are in this for the money, not for the art…

    4 – Also related to the previous one and probably the most sad aspect of this reality: as much as one may like to blame writers or money guys, the thing is bad shows with awful scripts will still sell… and if they sell, it means the people likes them…

    Anyway… sorry for the lecture…

    Cheers!

  7. kero says:

    I didn’t think it was bad, but didn’t think it was good either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect much of it in the first place that it doesn’t bother me so?

  8. Joe says:

    I don’t know. I thought Episode 7 was fantastic. A pretty intense affair and the ending was well executed.

  9. Jalapeno Bagel says:

    I can’t see where this thought of “overdrama” is coming from. The other works you listed certainly had fine drama, but they also had their share of contrived drama. Seems to me like a case of rose-colored glasses.

    For me, Nagi has been consistent with its drama, but has yet to pull out something that has very strong impact. It’s hinting at it with all this tension and small outbursts, but it hasn’t reached it yet and considering it’s 2-cour, that’s fine.

    And the fishermen? They’ve kind of been an issue the entire series and the negative attitude between the two sides have always been a source of tension. How exactly did anything about them come out of nowhere?

    • Hogart says:

      I think he means more that it’s all drama practically all the time, melo or not. And that’s how I’ve felt too; with almost no levity, it seems to go from one dramatic crescendo to the next so much I can practically hear the string ensemble strike their violas.

      It’s like recent Final Fantasy characters. All mopey and depressing all the time. When it’s always rock bottom, you have to work that much harder to get any lower, and we don’t know why we really should care. Then again, that’s a tad harsh on Asukara in particular, but I don’t think by too much.

      • Jalapeno Bagel says:

        I think it has its proper share of levity, although, like some of the drama, it doesn’t make a strong impact. which is prob the main difference between this and hanasaku, there was a lot more energy in the cooldown times. but that’s an issue with fitting in with the characters, and the characters seem to be more of what psgels has an issue with than the actual writing.

        I just think it’s a shame when psgels makes these sort of catch-all statements about anime, but most of the “eh” feeling he gets seems to stem from the series just not gelling with his tastes rather than some rather minor flaws being thrown out of proportion.

        • psgels psgels says:

          Uh… I don’t experience it that way. At all…

          Sure the characters are annoying and all, but I like them. It’s the way they’re delivered that gets to me.

          Also for you these issues may be minor. For me, they’re major.

          And the statements I make aren’t meant for every single anime out there. However they are directed at a pattern I’ve been noticing in quite a few series.

          • Jalapeno Bagel says:

            Sorry if it seemed like I was putting words in your mouth. But from what you’ve written, that’s what I gathered; otherwise it’d make as little sense to me as parts of the anime do to you.

            and yes, I think few people believe you’re applying those statements to all anime. but when you put them in the context of “anime in general” or something like that…well, that’s the connotation it gives.

            As for the issues, no disagreement there. final call is up to you. i posed the idea that mountains may be made out of molehills; hearing the general opinion going around, you’d think Asukara was 24/7 dreary drama (which it’s clearly not, even oyasumi punpun doesn’t achieve this and that’s one of its highlight feature).

  10. Emma-hime says:

    The past few episodes for this have also been apart from one or two scenes been dull. Time wasting and one episode of trivial drama.
    I’m definitely going to finish this when its done as bagel may be right that it’ll play its full cards later on.

  11. Sword Testing Cliff says:

    ugh, I watched ep 12(or was it 13) just on a whim to see if I’d liek to watch the whole thing and…UGH the over doing of the drama and the main character pining away for the annoying female love interest. . .then the “romantic confessions scenes” that I”ve seen over and over and over, and over. I had to stop watching it after like 10 minutes.

    Psgels is right, the poor Writting in anime is a ten ton anchor dragging the whole industry down.

  12. Hysteric Faery Tai-chan says:

    As much as I love your reviews Psgels, and share the same views with many of them, I have to disagree here. True, it’s not the best series ever, but on the plus it’s not a manga by Masakazu Katsura either (THERE is where overdrama kicks in full gear…) Admittedly, there are some problems with the delivery and pacing, as far as the subtlety goes. In fact, I’d say the message of prejudice is quite over hammered a bit. But at least I found many of the characters relatable enough, which was more than I could say about any other series at the moment, anime OR live-action.

    The episodes here really put me in tears, partially because I dealt with those sorts of prejudice growing up.

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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:30 AM)
    Watchmen was deemed ‘unadaptable’ for about thirty years, so just getting what Snyder got out of the material is a huge success; it is said that what he did was to write a book version of Ingmar’s Holy Mountain. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to ever win a Hugo award and is easily the most intricate and multilayered Alan Moore comic, so it’s no surprise that it continues to top ‘best comics of all time’ charts to this day.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:20 AM)
    I beg to differ. Doctor Manhatten is the most intriguing character of Watchmen and the comic is a giant in ,not only in the comic world, but the history of literature itself. It is a deconstruction of superheros and Dr. M shows how afraid the world would really be when faced with a ‘superman’ and how a creature in such a higher realm of time and perception would show apathy toward humans and their foolish struggles.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:15 AM)
    GitS just won’t work. Maybe in a world before the Matrix, but not now with so many elements of it borrowed liberally by so many franchises in various mediums. Scarlet Johansson is decent in roles that fit her. She was enjoyable in Lost In Translation, but race aside she has nothing in common with Kusanagi. This is a travesty and the franchise is dear to me so it especially burns my ass.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:10 AM)
    While I am no fan of man of steel, Nolan and Snyder, just about anyone would have a hard time taking a difficult character like superman and making him work on screen.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:08 AM)
    Apart from Veidt and Rorshach I could never get into the characters all that much in watchmen. I also found the film overly long and mediocre acted for the larger part. But to each there own. For Alan moores works I always preferred his Miracleman, swamp thing, V for Vendetta stories.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:06 AM)
    Nolan can produce the action plus personal and dark story that Alita would need, and he also brings talent such as composer Hans Zimmer and Cinematographer Sally Pfister to the table. Him and Snyder have too much combined integrity to make a mockery out of Alita like Spielberg did with the GitS license.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:03 AM)
    Well Snyder has respect for his source materials and that is key in anime-to-film adaptations. Hell I’m a big Watchmen fan and I thought his version was (almost painfully) close to the comic. You’re not going to get that anywhere else in Hollywood. Also the combination of Nolan/Snyder is quite different than them individually.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:34 AM)
    And directed it as a co-production with America, using a Japanese cast.
    Yeah…this is impossible…
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:32 AM)
    The only way a live action ghost in the shell film would work is if Mamoru oshii directed it.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:29 AM)
    Wait wait…his Van helsing film is a reboot sorry I confused it with the other one.

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