And so Manaka returns…
A lot of people will have missed Manaka and her very quirks, her very presence ‘fixing’ the group dynamic. Manaka is Nagi no Asukara – she is the bright and cheery center that holds everything and everyone together, those childish antics which define her also reminding the viewer what the show is all about (at least, somewhat) – the transition from child to adult and the fear of change. We’ve seen Hikari sweating over the thought of Manaka being lost in a world she does not recognize, but here in episode 21 we see her – at least on the surface – frolicking about in the snow and cherishing ever inch of…snow? Yes indeed, this is the same old silly Manaka that we’ve come to know, and yes, her return does indeed set the scene for something terrible to happen – not much unlike that which happened with the Ofunehiki. The contrast between Manaka and the group is large – in fact, despite first appearances, the group has really never been much more different. Chisaki’s not the ‘same’ Chisaki as she was before – despite Manaka and Hikari’s protests to refute this. In this episode, Chisaki looked so out of place it almost hurt. And Hikari? He’s more perceptive and more (pleasantly) assertive than he ever was before, even going as far as to ask Manaka for the answer at last as to what she wanted to say to him all those years ago…not that she (conveniently) remembers… It’s difficult to see amidst the haze of the groups warm reunion, but the cracks are still there and it’s only a matter of time before everything shatters once more.
Does anyone else find it odd that Manaka seems to have forgotten all about Tsumugu? I understand that Tsumugu was never really infatuated with Manaka and his lack of urgency is therefore not all that surprising, but Manaka definitely had some semblance of a romantic inclination towards our stoic compadre! What the hell happened? Also, why are the majority of her memories about the Ofunehiki gone? It’s as thought her feelings for Hikari, Tsumugu, and the words she had for Hikari that day have been taken – stolen by the Sea God alongside her Ena. And, if that’s the case, what now? If the new OP sequence is anything to go by, Manaka and Miuna’s destinies are now more entwined than ever, and the theory that Miuna now has Manaka’s Ena seems even more probable than ever before. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before we find out.
Honestly, not much happened in this episode. Manaka returned, everyone was happy, a fish embedded itself into Tsumugu’s arm (allowing for Uroko-sama to passively inform the children (and Chisaki) that he’s still around). What’s to come? We can only speculate…but, whilst we’re here, allowing me to go off on a tangent: a, ‘Why I Don’t Like Manaka All That Much’, kind of tangent. Manaka is annoying. She always has been. She’s aloof in a way that no longer fits with the group dynamic – even Hikari’s moved past his childish inhibitions. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she’s cute when she’s playing in the snow, but, character wise, she has always been the blandest and the least interesting – she’s just some child that everyone feels inclined to take care of and fall in love with for no reason other than that she’s cute! I get it: they’re childhood friends – but, honestly, as a viewer I don’t (at the moment) care what happens to her in the end because she feels like the character who’s developed the least and who has no real attachment to the viewer other than that her cutesy antics make us ‘aw’ every once in a while. Just take her back already Sea God – maybe then we’ll feel some of the poignant melancholy that makes this show so enjoyable.