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A Lull in the Sea (Premium Edition) Blu-ray Review

lull-in-the-sea-bluray-coverU.S. Release (Region AB)


The Series

[Rating:5/5]

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A Lull in the Sea, known as Nagi no Asukara (凪のあすから) in Japan, is an OVA fantasy anime series produced by P.A. Works. The first thing you will notice when you sit down to watch A Lull in the Sea in just how beautiful the artwork is. This series is truly one of the most breathtaking anime series you will have the pleasure of watching.

The story is set in an alternate version of Earth where all humans long ago had lived in the sea. Many humans over the years longed to live on the surface, however, so that, now, the population of humanity has split between the sea and the surface, with the number of humans capable of living in the sea dwindling. A Lull in the Sea focuses on a group of five middle school children, Sakishima Hikari, Mukaido Manaka, Hiradaira Chisaki, and Isaki Kaname who must leave their small underwater village to attend school on the surface after their middle school shuts down. They have spent their whole lives together up to this point, with four of them, especially Hikari, looking out for Manaka, a sort of helpless and indecisive girl prone to lapses of memory and crying fits who is highly dependent on the other four of them. However, after coming to the surface, Manaka begins to become more self-assured, especially when she meets the surface boy Tsugumu, a boy fascinated with the sea, and she seems to be developing a crush on him. This new development begins to change the dynamic in the group of friends, and seems to anger Hikari, who starts to realize his long-held feelings for Manaka. It also brings to light the feelings that Chisaki has been holding for Hikari and that Kaname has been holding for Chisaki. Complicating matters for the group further is that Hikari’s sister, Akari has started dating an older man from the surface, with a young daughter, Miuna, but relationships between people from the surface and people from the sea are forbidden. The children born from this relationships are not born with the protective layer, known as “ena” that allows them to breath underwater. So not only does this make it hard for Hikari, Akari, and their family, but it also upsets Hikari even more to think about Manaka possibly being together with Tsugumu.

All of the relationship issues are not the worst of the problems that affect everyone, however. The people of the small sea village Shioshishio and the small surface town Oshiooshi where our main middle school characters are from, have received a dire warning from Uroko-sama, a scale and messenger of the Sea God. The Sea God is displeased with the crossing of boundaries between the surface and the sea, and there is an impending doom coming to the surface. When intense cold, beginning with a “salt flake snow” begins to fall both on the surface and in the sea during the summer, the sea people are all ordered by Uroko-sama to return to the sea for a hibernation that will last an indefinite amount of time, and the people on the surface will eventually die off from the intense cold. Without revealing too much, this turn of events causes one of the most heartbreaking plot twists of the film, especially concerning Hikari, Chisaki, Tsugumu, and Miuna.

A Lull in the Sea is one of the most inventive anime series I have come across yet, especially one originally intended for television. The idea of a world where humans exist to live in the sea and this is just an accepted reality is both strange and charming, and this setting also allows for some of the most beautiful underwater scenery. The animators, background art designers and character designers really make the most of this as well, drenching the imagery in cerulean and cobalt blues, the underwater world with a multitude of colors that leap from the screen, and various fishes that are colorful as well.

Although this story revolves around middle school children, there is a maturity to the storytelling and its characters, particularly Kadame and the surface boy Tsugumu who seem to be able to wax philosophical on most things regarding love and life. Hikari is the only one that comes very close to being unlikable and immature, seeming to fly off the handle all the time and, at times, being very mean to the very girl he is sworn to protect, Manaka. Thankfully, the writers of the series offer enough relief in characters like Miuna and her friend Sayu who are both third graders and always seem to be scheming to get into the circle of the middle school kids. It’s both cute and endearing, while at the same time allowing one to remember that the series is basically about children that have to deal with a lot of adult issues.

What we get with this series is a full package of all the things that make anime so great, from the beautiful imagery, to  the music that fits so well with the mood, and a story that will hold your attention. This story, one that combines fantasy with romance, encourages determination, friendship, and, yes, love, is one that will linger with you long after you’ve finished watching it.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

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A Lull in the Sea isn’t just beautifully animated, but it also looks beautiful in this AVC 1080p encodement on Blu-ray from NIS America. The colors, especially the blues, look vivid, the detail is crisp, and there is little issue with the usual problem of color banding to speak of here. This is a thoroughly satisfying anime release.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

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We get the original Japanese soundtrack in LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz/16-bit) and an English dub in the same LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz/16-bit). Both mixes sound the same, providing clear and full dialogue, a wonderful balance of the sounds and the pretty musical accompaniment nicely spread out across the stereo field, plus a good dynamic range. While I applaud NIS for including an English dub, it doesn’t really approach the level of engagement offered by the very talented Japanese voice actors on this series.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

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In typical fashion for NIS America, this premium edition of A Lull in the Sea comes beautifully packaged and stuffed with a collectible art book. In addition, the wonderful soundtrack for this fascinating series is also included on two CDs. Kudos to NIS for including the CDs rather than offering a lossy download in MP3 or some other awful sounding format.

  • Clean Opening 1
  • Clean Ending 1
  • Original Japanese Trailers
  • Clean Opening 2
  • Clean Ending 2
  • Alternative Clean Opening 2
  • Alternative Clean Ending 2
  • NIS America Trailers
  • 76-page hardcover art book with episode guide, character info, text commentary, prop designs, background art, art designs, and art settings.
  • 2 CD soundtrack


The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

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A Lull in the Sea is a wonderful series all around that will touch your heart, your mind, and your soul with its themes of love, hope, friendship and determination, and its stunning artwork and musical score. NIS America’s premium package on Blu-ray is one well worth owning.

Additional Screen Captures

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