Nagi no Asukara has always been an interesting anime from a character perspective. Throughout the two halves of the series they have endured a lot of pain and actually changed as persons. What I have always loved about the characters is how they always tackle the difficulties ahead of them head-on without beating around the bush. They are not fine with things staying the same. This, in return, leads to consequences and forces our characters to grow up and mature.
The main lead, Hikari Sakishima, is a prime example of this. If you compare how he behaves today, 24 episodes into the series, to how he was early on you will most likely be shocked. His growth as a person has been remarkable and is one of the most naturally developed characters I have seen in anime. What is even more notable is how he, despite his change in behavior, still remains the very same person.
At first we are greeted with this really annoying little kid. He is always sure of what he wants to do and has a caring heart, but he can also be loudmouthed while also having a short temper. More often than not Hikari lets his more aggressive behavior get ahead of him as he is trying to protect his friends and beliefs, which frankly made Nagi no Asukara difficult to watch. Instead of reasonably arguing or calming a situation, Hikari started yelling and resorting to violence.
Yet, after a while we viewers learned there was a reason for this particular behavior. Without delving too deep into details, we are shown that there has long been a conflict between the humans who live on the surface and those who live down below in the watery village Shioshishio. This aggressive tension between the two parties has always been a close part of Hikari’s life as his father Tomoru is the Chief Priest of the village. Via many subtle nods we are shown how this may have ended up affecting his persona.
This is where the beginning of Nagi no Asukara comes in. Due to Shioshishio’s middle school shutting down he is now forced to visit the surface. This means he must interact with land dwellers on a regular basis; the ones he has been indirectly taught are bad. Hikari is this immature brat who in reality is only reacting to what he has been told his whole life. Despite putting up a brave facade, Hikari is the one most afraid in making contact with the people on the land.
When Hikari and his friends introduce themselves to their new classmates they are met with bullying. As a result of this Hikari takes on the role of a protector, the one who will stand up for his village’s and friends’ pride. This is, after all, how he believes he should act.
What then plays out is an interesting twist: his shy – but also incredibly cheerful – childhood friend Manaka is the one to actively seek out new friends. As time passes we see how this affects Hikari, who at first was overprotective of Manaka, and how he starts seeing matters in a different perspective.
Maybe the land dwellers are not bad after all?
He eventually becomes the odd one out and starts questioning himself. Later, in a key-defining moment, he outright says how he will try to change.
The realization reaches its climax when his older sister Akari falls in love with a man from the surface and is given the cold shoulder by her own kind in Shioshishio. She is shunned for not loving a person from the sea.
By now Hikari sees a person as a person rather than looking at their origins. Believing his village – including his own father – is absurd he tries to reason with them. This fetches no result and after a staple of events he and Akari decide to leave Shioshishio for good. Hikari rejects his past beliefs and sees that the sea village is just as toxic as its inhabitants claimed the surface was.
Hikari has taken one step towards maturity.
As Nagi no Asukara progresses we continue seeing him grow as a person. However, as I mentioned many paragraphs ago, he is still very much the same person.
Hikari cares about others a lot and is always sure of what he has to do. He can also be loudmouthed and occasionally lose his temper. Now, however, he does not do it uncalled for. He no longer views the world in black and white. Instead of putting up a facade he accepts things for what they are while learning from mistakes.
On paper this may sound miniscule, but in reality it makes for a significant change in behavior. I honestly despised Hikari in the beginning of Nagi no Asukara, yet now I absolutely love him. His character development has been amazing to experience and is easily one of the best I have encountered.
In fact, Nagi no Asukara on a whole is really well-written. I have barely touched upon the details that make up for this compelling story. Originally this post was actually going to cover the two characters I felt were least developed, but as I continued writing I was so caught up in Hikari’s character I could not resist making him the main topic instead.
There are a ton of elements in Nagi no Asukara I could talk about. It is such an engrossing anime with many nuances and themes that it is not until you start dissecting each separate part you fully understand how complex it truly is. Hikari’s character development is merely one of many.
That is what makes Nagi no Asukara a great anime.