Timeskips are among my favorite narrative devices in anime. In fact, if I were ever to write an anime myself, I’d definitely have a timeskip in there somewhere. Hell, maybe even two. Timeskips are a brilliant means to advance a continuous story between two periods of time, allowing the plot or characters or setting to transform radically without showing the unrelated events in-between. And that’s exactly what happened in Nagi no Asukara. At the midpoint in the anime, following a climax at the end of the Autumn 2013 season, Nagi no Asukara experienced a timeskip where everything changed. The characters, setting, and plot were all different between the first-half and second-half of Nagi no Asukara. However, there is one significant detail about this unique timeskip that makes it one of my most favorite timeskips ever.
Unlike most timeskips, where characters and events age the same as time progresses, Nagi no Asukara had a split aging effect that completely and fundamentally altered the dynamic between characters. For those who were trapped in the ice in the underwater village, Shioshishio, the characters did not even age a day between episodes 13 and 14. However, for those ashore or in Oshiooshi, the sleepy seaside community, the characters aged 5 years. This meant that the core quartet of characters was now split between their ages with Chisaki now 5 years older than her other friends. It also meant that the romantic interest of Manaka, the enigmatic Tsumugu, was now 5 years older, too. And let’s not mention that that’s 5 years more spent with Chisaki than with Manaka, Hikari or Kaname. And then there’s the two troublemakers, elementary-schoolers Sayu and Miuna, who were able to catch-up in age and maturity to the trio of frozen-fishies, further entangling the complex web of romance even more. Usually, when a timeskip in an anime happens, it’s the entire cast that changes, or at the very most, one character who stays the same age while the world changes around them. But no, for Nagi no Asukara, it was the entire dynamic of every character, even going so far as to fragment the relationships of the four best friends who were forced to commute to land to go to school. And even if that is all that happened in the timeskip, I believe Nagi no Asukara would still remain as one of my favorite timeskips of all-time. However, the transitions between episodes 13 and 14 were much more than just shattering relationships and aging characters differently.
Timeskips often involve changing the setting depending on the events that preceded the timeskip. Perhaps one of the most notable would be Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where society and humanity were profoundly changed between the two halves. Another would be JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, where the world ages 100 years between Phantom Blood (Part 1) and Stardust Crusaders (Part 3). While the transformation of the setting in Nagi no Asukara is nowhere near as profound, it did provide a dramatic shift in the environments, the societies, and the purpose between the two halves. Nagi no Asukara was magnificent in how it showed the dichotomy and contrast between Shioshishio and Oshiooshi in the first half, with the two sides in eternal conflict over just about everything, from fishing rights to social services to even clear examples of racism. However, when the barrier arose, locking the fish-people of Shioshishio into a lengthy hibernation, effectively preventing characters from going between the two towns, it had a profound effect on how Oshiooshi changed in those 5 years. Perhaps the most significant is how the citizens on land changed their attitude toward Shioshishio, and how they transitioned from being in conflict with Shioshishio to seeking an answer about how to save their neighbors and return to a healthy, friendly coexistence. And of course, you can’t mention the timeskip in Nagi no Asukara without mentioning the endless winter that plagued the town. While the first half of Nagi no Asukara had a pleasant, sunny summertime feel, the latter half was defined by the constant presence of snow and ice. If the character dynamic, the age of the characters and the change in attitude between the societies weren’t enough, why not also have a visual change, where the two halves are the two most opposing seasons? Yes, the change in the physical environment was the first and most notable change for the timeskip in Nagi no Asukara, and it held an ulterior meaning which was alluded to earlier: the heated conflict was during the sweltering summer and the solitude, loneliness and seeking comfort were set in a harsh winter. For someone who adores and appreciates settings, I must say that I was amazed and euphoric when the timeskip happened.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning how plot of Nagi no Asukara reformed as a result of the timeskip. While the first half of the series focused on the duality of Manaka, Hikari, Chisaki and Kaname, as they were forced to live between the two conflicting communities, the second half narrated the story of how those four would work to return their home back to normal. Of course, some might argue that the romance was the main storyline of Nagi no Asukara, and that two was predominantly different between the two parts of this anime. The delicate and intricate web that was constructed in the first half was transformed when new connects were added, relationships evolved and weights were changed between every string for every character. It was a massive upheaval that virtually redrew our initial pairings as matchmakers with new ideas for who characters should be with which… well, you probably already know what happens in romances where romances are as complicated as this. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the plot between the first-half and second-half were very, very different.
With all these factors in mind, there is no wonder why the timeskip in Nagi no Asukara is one of my favorite timeskips of all-time. The way it was able to completely change the setting and the plot of the anime were brilliant, with how the two halves of the series complemented each other. However, it was the unique handling of the characters and how they transformed over the timeskip that elevated it to where it is today and why you’re reading about it right now. The way the series transformed its cast, its setting and its story are why I admire timeskips so much in anime. And while there are many other notable timeskips that have occurred in previous years for previous anime, Nagi no Asukara developed one that featured distinctive elements that I have never seen before. As a result, Nagi no Asukara earns a spot within my 12 Days of Anime for 2014 as one of my favorite timeskips of all-time.
#1 by miharusshi on December 22, 2014 - 6:28 PM
Another anime I can think of that uses this time-skip is Fairy Tail (Tenroujima arc). Basically, the main cast are “frozen” in time, while the rest of the Fairy Tail guild members grow older in 7 years. After the “freezing” of time in Tenroujima, the main guild members awoke, only to find that their guild is no more as strong as before, and the current guild members do poorly with their quests. This was somewhat expected since the current guild members are the least strong of the entire cast.
At first the time-skip created an setup that would seem to lead to an emotional turmoil among the FT guild members. But it didn’t fully embrace that direction, which was, in my opinion, the good way the story went to. FT is generally a happy shounen battle anime/manga, only with the serious content tied with fighting the villains or if the characters are in a death-and-life situation. In this case, the current members were just lonely from missing the main crew. That’s why the reunion didn’t have much impact resulting from the time-skip. In the long-run, the time-skip didn’t really affect the whole series and story, even the characters, unlike in NagiAsu.
#2 by avvesione on December 24, 2014 - 4:37 AM
That’s interesting to hear about FT. I watched the first 40 eps of the anime before needing to take a break from the series, and it kinda dropped off from there with me. It is interesting that they tried a timeskip like that since it seems outside the personality of the FT series. Then again, quite a few long-running manga have timeskips with OP coming to mind, so maybe they thought it’d be an interesting way to create a story arc and work on some of the background characters at the same time.
#3 by miharusshi on December 24, 2014 - 4:43 AM
Naruto also had a time-skip to enter Shippuuden, not to mention, the last chapter in the manga, too. Among the big names in shounen weekly manga, Bleach has also been the newest (iirc) to use a time-skip as the intro to Fullbringer arc (which was practically the start of the downfall of Bleach’s narrative).
But with FT, though, it doesn’t feel like it ever happened. But I guess it’s not entirely a bad thing since it wasn’t the focus. And FT being too serious is just… odd.
#4 by avvesione on December 28, 2014 - 6:32 PM
I wouldn’t really call it a timeskip when it’s in the final chapter or last episode; I’d call those an epilogue.
As for FT not doing a timeskip because it’s not as serious as the others… well, you never know. Timeskips don’t always need to be serious and can be used to change the dynamics of the cast, introduce new characters or change the relationships between them. However, you know more about the series than I do, so we’ll see…