A disclaimer before I begin:
- All of the images for this show I took straight from Google. The site I usually use to collect images doesn’t have this show on file and everything else has a watermark or won’t load or whatever else. I didn’t care to go through the hassle.
Now then, to begin this entry, I would like to give you a little context. Umi Monogatari is ranked #4,033 on MyAnimeList at the time I’m writing this. The synopsis on the same site led me to believe that this anime would be “lulzy bad.” A series that is either grossly overexaggerated or absurdly stupid in an entertaining way. I went into this anime expecting nothing; anything positive, at least. After finishing it, allow me to give you a list of anime that are ranked higher on MyAnimeList that I think Umi Monogatari is better than:
A-Channel, Acchi Kocchi, Akame ga Kill, Aku no Hana, Allison to Lillia, Angel Beats!, Another, Ao Haru Ride, Asobi ni Iku yo!, Astarotte no Omocha!, Baka to Test no Shoukanjuu, Basilisk, Ben-To, Black Rock Shooter, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan, Canaan, CxCxC, Chobits, Chrno Crusade, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, Clannad, D-Frag!, Dantalian no Shoka, Deadman Wonderland, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dog Days, Dragon Crisis!, Fortune Arterial, Fractale, Freezing, Fruits Basket, Girlfriend (Kari), Golden Time, Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, Gosick, Grisaia no Kajitsu, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, Hanbun no Tsuki no Sora, Hataraku Maou-sama!, Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, Hidan no Aria, Highschool of the Dead, Hitohira, Hitsugi no Chaika, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku; Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha; Inu x Boku SS, Infinite Stratos, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Asagi, Kaibutsu Oujo, Kamisama Kazoku, Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi, Kannagi, Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de, Kiseijuu, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?, Kurokami The Animation, Ladies versus Butlers!, Lamune, Mahoraba: Heartful Days, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, Mashiro-iro Symphony, Mayo Chiki!, Mayoi Neko Overrun!, MM!, Mondaiji-tachi, Mouryou no Hako, Myself;Yourself, Natsu no Arashi!, Nazo no Kanojo X, No Game No Life, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, Nyan Koi!, One Punch Man, OniAi, Ookami Kakushi, Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, OreImo, Oreshura, Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu; Pandora Hearts, Paniponi Dash!, Papakiki!, Sakura Trick, Seiken no Blacksmith, Seitokai no Ichizon, Seitokai Yakuindomo, Servant x Service, Shakugan no Shana, Shinmai Maou no Testament, Shinryaku! Ika Musume, Shuffle!, So Ra No Wo To, Sola, Space Dandy, Speed Grapher, Sword Art Online, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, Tayutama: Kiss on my Deity, Tonagura!, UN-GO, Watamote, Working!!!, Oregairu, Yumekui Merry, Yuru Yuri, and Zero no Tsukaima.
That’s a looooooong fuckin’ list.
Umi Monogatari is something I wish happened to me more often. A series that surprises me with how well it handled itself despite all of the shit it threw at me. This series deals with friendships, fantasy elements, chosen ones, romance, emotions and how they’re used in “battle,” magic, sea creatures, talking animals, transformations, symbolism, foreshadowing, drama, tension, character development, and so on. It’s a series that shoves a shit-ton of things down the viewers’ throat, but somehow pulls it off without the viewer wanting to kill themselves. It’s a series that is destined to be bad, but escapes with some dignity.
Now, just to be clear, this series isn’t great. There are quite a few problems with Umi Monogatari that raise a lot of questions. It also has a tendency to take leaps with its emotional resolutions and character logic to some degree. There are moments within the series that’ll irritate those familiar with shounen or fantasy-action genre, along with the “magical girl” territory. Clichés and tropes are present through this series, but to some extent, they’re tolerable.
One of the things I really, really appreciated about this series is that it tried to make sense. Do you know how often anime just explains some stupid shit about how the power of love makes someone the digi-destined and allows them to go Super Saiyan without even blinking? Do you realize how stupid that is to me? Umi Monogatari explains things in the very same way… except they make sense. I was impressed with the cleverness of the story, and I was impressed with the ties they were able to tie the ends to by its conclusion. One example of this is the emphasis between light and dark, what is considered good and evil. Umi Monogatari begins precisely as is typical: light is good, dark is evil. As it progresses, the characters begin to realize that the two forces are one in the same, that they work together to embody one being, or one “heart” as they call it. The transition between the sky (or land) and the sea, light and dark, humans and… mermaids, I guess, all of it symbolically reflect each other in the same way. They work together to embody one central place or being or whatever. The way it strings all of these different points together is something I almost never see in anime, and it was so refreshing to see it done so well with a variety of different topics. Not since Baccano! have I appreciated a story for its meticulous attention to detail.
However, like I said above, the story is not without its tropes. It takes leaps of logic with both practical and fantasy elements. People act differently for half a second to cause conflict and then revert for no reason. People jump to conclusions through misunderstandings. The power of love defeats all darkness. All that typical garbage. Umi Monogatari is no stranger to this, nor is its original creator (writer of Kampfer).
One great point aside from the story-telling is the character development. Character development in anime? Holy fuck! While the development varies between characters, the central character gets, by far, the most of it. Her entire backstory is revealed and her core personality, which could be interpreted as “too male shounen hero-ish,” is also understandable due to her upbringing. That, and her “evil aura,” which plays a far bigger role than just comedic effect. She’s more than just a “male lead trope,” and her relationship with the other lead is strong enough to allow her to share the spotlight. I didn’t actually hate most of the characters in the show (aside from the love interest, who was the male hero trope down to the glare of his dorky glasses), and thought a lot of them served something to the show as opposed to just representing a certain arc. I can’t say that for most other anime.
The mermaids didn’t get as much development individually as they did with their relationship with each other, which made for a strong last few episodes. I wouldn’t call them fully developed characters as much as I’d call them polished chess pieces. They’re not very important as people as they are characters in the show, which is technically a fault, but it didn’t stop me from caring about them. The supporting mermaid characters were pretty non-important, though. Only the two main mermaids had any real attention, and they used it well. And then there was this weird spirit girl who spoke in cryptic messages that I thought was dumb because she basically just spelled out all the symbolism present in the show. Made me feel like I was dumb. I don’t need the help solving the mystery of the story, Umi Monogatari.
I actually felt the urge to hold back the holding back of tears. For those who needed to read that twice, I actually felt like I could cry to the end of this series, but I wasn’t nearly that attached to it. But in another life, I might have. I was impressed with the emotional tension and heartbreak that this anime was able to portray through the characters behavior and dilemmas. This anime had actual tension. Y’know how many anime have actual tension? Three. Don’t quote me on that. I just picked a number off the top of my head. The emotional control this series had on me was fairly solid, though I didn’t really notice until halfway through the series.
The ending is kinda bullshit, but that’s only a sour taste down the throat for an otherwise enjoyable story.
The animation, I thought, was sketchy at times. There are moments where one can clearly see effort, while others make the blonde mermaid’s hair look like seaweed. It varies tremendously throughout the series, enough to be noticeable to someone who doesn’t actively look for animation mistakes. There’s also an acute dependency on fan service throughout the series, too. There are times when it’s dumb, but fine, while others have it shown during moments of drama and action, which makes it feel forced and unnecessary. It’s disgusting. Otherwise, I have no other comment about animation. Everything else is standard. I actually noted hearing a piano-piece in the background when some serious shit was going on. I liked it. Made it feel more heart-breaking. I said something positive about the soundtrack of an anime. Today’s been really weird.
It’s a good series, even if many others don’t agree with me. Perhaps I may be looking too into it and it’s just stupid bullshit. Perhaps. Perhaps it’s because it’s not the same shit with a male lead getting devoured by beautiful, busty women? Perhaps. Regardless, Umi Monogatari did a lot more for me both objectively and subjectively than a good amount of anime now-a-days. There’s not a lot about this anime that I can say I don’t like, aside from previously noted disturbances. A good watch, and a surprising one. Funny how that happens, every once in a while.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.