Well it has been some time since I last wrote on this site eh? I’ll try to do 2 reviews of mine on this site each year, at least I’ll try. But anyway, I am here to unearth a show that thanks to Nozomi Entertainment (thank you by the way), has gotten a release here in the West just last year. I am sure that it will be an interesting show to talk about here, which is……
“Heart of the Sea, Heart of the Sky”
Umi Monogatari (2009 TV Series)
Directors: Junichi Sato and Yuu Kou
Script: Yuka Yamada, Masahiro Yokotani and Reiko Yoshida
Genres: Action, Comedy, Magic, Drama
Themes: Iyashikei, Magical Girl, Mermaid (ish)
Number of episodes: 12
Umi Monogatari tells the story of two sea dwelling sisters, Marin and Urin, who one day while frolicking in a gorgeous seascape, come across a ring. Said ring belongs to Kanon a high school girl who lives on the nearby Kagero Island, doing odd jobs including helping out her mother’s fortune telling. She is kind at heart, but has an evil aura quite befitting of a sullen teenage girl. Of course there’s a reason of that; she had recently broken up with her boyfriend Kojima and in a fit of rage threw the ring into the sea So, being a curious bunch (well mainly Marin the Onee-chan), the 2 sisters decided to pay a visit to the ‘Skyland’ as they put it. But in seeking out the ring, Urin the imouto ends up awakening an ancient evil Sedna from its slumber. This launches a story of tense emotion and lots of FEELS.
I’ll start off my analysis with a term used to describe such shows like Umi Monogatari, Aria or similar Slice of Life shows which is IYASHIKEI: Japanese for healing, referring to a calming and soothing sensation. It is meant to put the viewer in a easing, peaceful state of mind. Here is where the main appeal lies in slice of life show to me at least, the soothing and relaxing mood it puts me when I watch them.
Part of that lies in the story and characters. The story has its own little twists and turns, but it essentially plays out like a mahou shoujo series at first. But through events that I won’t spoil for I want people to check out this show, it turns into a fantastic morality tale. What’s the moral is, in some form, regards the fact that small events have big consequences. Other moral has something to do with acceptance, once again is elaborated in the show.
Characters are quite interesting and tied into the show in surprising ways. Urin and Marin are quite a nice and loving pair of sisters, in fact their sisterly relationship is quite adorable. There are also some standard characters in the cast including the best friend (Suzuki), the caring but slightly doting mom, the crazy love rival (Oshima) or the old wise mentor (the turtle elder Matsumoto) but each is unique in their own way and contribute to the story. However, the true heroine is Kanon. This is really her story, as she tries to come to terms with incoming adulthood and the future alongside coming to terms with her place in the here and now. More over, she is a flawed heroine, mainly her dark aura which apparently she has had from an early age. Of course, one can speculate on the why but suffice to say over the course of the show, she learns to open up and be more accepting of others. So in some way, the story of Umi Monogatari (at least from Kanon’s POV) can be read as a coming of age tale. Also, the relationship between Marin and Kanon has quite a lot of yuri vibes mostly from Marin’s side, but it is mostly subtext and in the end doesn’t get any sort of payoff in the end. A bit of bummer, but yeah that’s life.
Part of the iyashikei also comes with the animation production. It is at times, it serves as the peak of artistic sincerity. Main director Junichi Sato I find to be a master of mood and atmosphere in Japanese animation, be it in Aria or Magic Users Club. In fact he has done a few other similar works like Aria and Princess Tutu and others. Granted he doesn’t slack with character and story at all. The character animation is suitable based on scenes they are on and the interactions illustrated in subtle ways. This becomes very telling in the second half since Sato himself storyboarded most of that. Of course this has a TV budget production as the quality does slip quite often but thankfully it’s contrasted with some truly wonderful moments of animation and art, in particular the background art done by Kobayashi Production and NARA Animation Studio.
The soundtrack by Ken Muramatsu is pretty good too, soft piano, strings, woodwinds and light percussion really quite a delight to listen to on its own. I love the solo piano and cello parts especially very Debussy-esque in feel transmorphed by way of Toru Takemitsu. I especially love the use of music in the show particularly the Island Ballad. The ending song ‘Tomei no Inori’ is nice enough, though really sad if u know the true tale of The Little Mermaid, the Andersen fairy tale not the Disney movie. Not much to say on the voice acting, as Umi Monogatari was released sub-only on a 3 DVD disc set but it’s good.
Overall Umi Monogatari is a nice show to watch on a nice lazy weekend afternoon. It might not be a big game changer for anime, but it is still worth a look at how morality tale and a coming of age story can function within the structure of a soothing/healing mahou shoujo show. It is a pleasurable delight.