The conceptual imagery for the setting in A Lull in the Sea is really quite astonishing when the first episode starts. In the story there are more or less two worlds. One is the surface, which is mostly similar to many towns that exist near the ocean. It’s a decently animated town, but the other “world” is underneath the ocean. It has common attributes to the surface, but fish fly by like birds and people can take off and swim to wherever they need to go instead walking. This concept mimics the fish, and it’s intentional because the people who live under the sea have a power unique to them which allows the ability to breathe freely underwater, a gift that the people on the surface are not granted. The animation and direction help with the visuals as well. The daylight has an overwhelmingly fresh, clean feel (perhaps the true fantasy element in contrast to the amount of trash found in the real world’s ocean) but at night even the slightest presence of light becomes luminous and firefly-like. If the design for a fantasy setting was the only criteria for a successful show, then A Lull in the Sea would certainly excel, but to make a good anime it’s going to take more than just pretty backgrounds. The landscape is beautiful, and the writing is decent, but the overload of emotion starts to render things dull by the end.
The story centers on a bunch of school kids and their “complex” relationships that constantly straddle the line between friendship and romantic love. There are four kids that come from the ocean and they have to integrate with the students on the surface because they must now attend a school on land.
This setup of the people from the ocean learning to live together with the people on land could have been an opportunity for direct metaphors of segregation, but I’ll let it slide, as this is not a show that had intention to dwell in politics. However, this means that it must deliver in the emotional department, because in the end, A lull in the Sea is really all about love.
For the first half of the show, things are quite solid. The kids interact with each other in very simple ways, with minute things influencing their relationships. In the first episode the ocean dwelling girl Manaka ends up having her knee turned into a fish, and her embarrassment lays out her relationships with the characters depending on how she lets them interact with this knowledge. There are two boys whom she feels comfortable sharing this situation with, and it becomes obvious right away that a romantic plot is brewing. In the beginning, it’s handled well and doesn’t go too far with pushing the emotions as it culminates into a climax for the show’s first arc.
Then the second half of the show starts. It is certainly not terrible, and in particular the focus on Miuna as one of the new main characters is well-done considering her level-headed qualities and determination. However, the melodrama meter is pushed up much higher at this point. The new opening for the show is a warning, as it consists of the characters faintly smiling or frowning as wind blows through their hair and they stare off into the distance. Mari Okada is the writer behind this, so the tears can be expected, but she has done much better, less overt work than this. Towards the later parts of the series, the characters are more upfront about their emotions, but any subtlety that existed is lost. We get scenes where someone will admit their love for another character, but then that character happens to be there too and they just didn’t realize it. Now they know their friend was secretly in love with them. They go chasing into the sunset. Cue the dramatic music and crying.
With all that being said, it should still be remembered that even at its weakest points A Lull in the Sea is still enjoyable to watch. It starts to feel like a fantasy soap opera for a few moments, and while it makes it a little harder to take the characters seriously, they have become endearing enough that the viewer will probably have a decent time if they stay for the rather gentle ride through a beautiful world of sprightly fish, ocean gods, and progressively angst-ridden teenagers.