“A Lull in the Sea” is fucking good. This will be the highest rated show I have written about to date so you better fire up Netflix and add it to that watchlist right now.
We enter the show with five middle school friends who live in the sea with the rest of their village. Their school shuts down, forcing them to go to school on the surface and throwing them into a world where they have to navigate the tension between the sea and the surface. Call it… surface tension… sorry, sorry. The show explores culture, history, folk lore, love and the pain of change.
The scene is half-way through the first episode. I am drinking wine in my dark anime war room while mapping out my review. I picked up the pin with Hikaris name and picture attached. I reached out and placed him in the category labeled “whiny anime character who shouts his love interest’s name way too much.”
“Manakaaaaa Manakaaaaa” Yeah, yeah, we get it. Yet, this pin was placed too soon. Hikari was overprotective, not accepting of the surface people, and rude. So I was right there, but he grew. Hikari embodied the change that all the characters had to go through and the pain that comes with caring about people in the midst of so much change in the world. Hikari actually becomes the catalyst for all the characters to change, proving that he deserves the main role. Evolving and enabling are the two cruxes of a fantastic main character, and we get to see both.
Manaka Mukaido & Chisaki Hiradaira
Oh, Manaka. Manaka is shy and clumsy and cries a lot. We love her, but she is a lot to deal with, always lagging behind. Manaka arguably receives the most attention in the show, so stick with it if that annoys you at first because she improves as a character.
She is the main driver of the emotional pain and confusion that makes the show interesting. Her interactions with Chisaki created a quick, but important contrast between the characters in the show. There were those who embraced the changes that come with age, mingling cultures, and experience, and there were those who rejected them. Chisaki is the opposite of Manaka in that she is more mature, motherly, and in control of her life. These two are inseparable in the first arc and create the most important comparison in the show, making each of them more dynamic. Chisaki is the most interesting character in the second arc when her whole life is upended and she is forced to find an identity for herself. Does she do this? I will let you watch and find out.
Kaname is an invisible friend. His advice is ignored, his feelings aren’t reciprocated, and he doesn’t get a long paragraph like the others.
There is not a lot to say about Tsumugu. It’s hard to talk about a character who feels like an observer for over half of the show. Trumugu is an important character when he provides his few lines that pierce through our more emotional characters, but it always feels like he is biding his time. I couldn’t help but feel he was building into this large moment that you have to wait almost twenty episodes for. Boy was that moment worth it though. While he isn’t my favorite character, he provides the intrigue and confusion that the relationships in the show need to justify the actions of others. Don’t sleep on Tsumugu, he could fly under the radar, but his presence is absolutely necessary.
Now, this crew probably sounds like any band of anime youngsters ready to tread on anyone’s lawn while never seeming to actually be in class. The difficult part of this review is talking about the relationships of the characters without ruining the show for you, because you really should watch it. The supporting cast of characters struck a perfect balance of recurring unimportant characters that gave the world color, but ate no mental space, and a robust group of core supporting characters that all contributed to the flow of the story and the relationships between the main characters. 5/6
The main theme of change interwoven with romance hits hard. I think any young person can identify with change and love, but the show does a great job of masking our everyday lives into a fantastic and beautiful world. I personally found Hikari super annoying at first, but I can identify with his fear of life changing and losing the people he loves. The characters’ dilemmas overall covered a wide range of experience. We watched Chisaki struggle to evolve as a person because she let her love hold her back, saw Manaka become confused with her inner feelings and the pressure that others put on her, witnessed Kaname feel completely ignored, and more. I felt invested in each character and the unique struggle that they brought to the world… but fuck Kaname because he was boring and was only around so the show could have love triangles.
But in all seriousness, even he was needed because he was invisible to the world. I think a lot of people can identify with not feeling like a protagonist in their own story, and the happy ending that Kaname got felt well deserved.
An important piece of the emotion here was the resolution. The struggles that each character faced defined a lot of who they are. Each struggle needed a resolution that was going to do the pain they felt justice. The writers did a fantastic job here and delivered what I consider to be the most appropriate emotional ending that I have seen in a show. 6/6
If you are going to do one thing, do it well. The writers explore how change affects how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see the world around us. Our main cast is split between being open to change and realizing that despite their anxieties, change is inevitable. What sets this story apart is the support for the idea. The world is changing, the culture is changing, (some of) the characters are growing and changing. While I love high-pitched male protagonists screaming about honor and their will to win over and over again, “A Lull in the Sea” doesn’t need to scream about their main idea to get it across. I like that they have a central idea and they explore it fully. Few deeply-explored ideas are far better than many skimmed ideas. 6/6
This show is different from most reviews that I do. Normally, I only review the first season or a movie, but this show was a twenty-six episode affair on Netflix. I know what you are thinking,
“Marshal, that is very clearly two seasons. I bet there was even a second arc half way through.”
Well… yes, you are right. But it’s my blog and if I want to do a whole show I can, so shut up.
About six episodes in, I started to worry. The show had introduced us to a manageable cast, the ideas for the show were clear cut, the scenery was beautiful, characters had quirks, and development paths were clear. Everything was going well, so the answer was clear: the pacing had to be wrong.
Then I got to episode thirteen. Then I got to episode twenty. Then I got to episode twenty-six. The pacing was perfect. I clapped at the end of the show, gave the writers a solid, but imaginary, pat on the back and started writing this section. Implementing a single, well-thought-out idea throughout the show is hard enough, but to make the pacing of the show interesting through the discovery of the world, diving into the characters, and properly spaced large events is just incredible. 4/4
A show earns full marks in the animation category when it can meet one condition: I can make it art on my wall. I have canvas prints of my favorite anime scenes from shows that are both beautiful and move me emotionally. “A Lull in the Sea” will take a place on my wall for sure. The world is paraded in front of the viewer. The show revolves around the sea, so it is only fair that these beautiful scenes also revolve around the water.
These scenes are bright, colorful, and detailed. It doesn’t feel like the animators are showing off — it feels like they empower the story with visuals. I struggle to compare the detail to something like “Weathering with You” or other movies that go into vivid detail, but between the world and the characters (noticeably the eyes) you cannot miss this anime. 4/4
“A Lull in the Sea” navigates a difficult world well. There are two distinct worlds in the show in the surface and the sea. Like shows that deal with events that happen at different times, the animators need to give easy visuals to let the viewers know where they are. The use of fish surrounding the characters, the presence of sea slugs and the more traditional feed of the sea set the setting apart. Not only were the two settings visually distinctive, but the writers read my award-winning, peer-reviewed journal entry, “Marshal’s Keys to a Cohesive World.” We know this because the writers established central points in the world, revisited the locations on logical intervals, and allowed the viewers to explore the world with the characters. Change is a big theme in the show so it makes sense that we get to see the world change with the characters. The world is immersive, allows for creativity, and is detailed — everything you want to experience in a world. 3/3
The show isn’t perfect. The music is… well, it’s okay. The opening song is not a bop at all. Good shows like Promise Neverland are made better by their bop of an opener but this one doesn’t make the cut. Would not listen to it again. Songs are not reused to a degree that I noticed and during key points, the music adds weight to the show. I never got the sense that the music reached the highest degree, though. I would not be able to listen to a song from the show, aside from the intro, and say, “Ah yes, that song from ‘A Lull in the Sea!’” 1/3
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||6||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||6||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||4||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||4||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||1||3|
Listen to me. Listen closely. If you do one single thing out of all the things that I tell you, watch this show. Give it a shot, and if you don’t have Netflix then pay $10 or ask a friend. I am pulling out my simp card and cashing all my credits on this show.