No attempt has been made to avoid spoilers in the gallery.
Unfortunatly, nearly all of the artwork I found so impressive takes place at the end of the series. There's not much hiding what happens.
| Umi Monogatari, Legend of the Ocean. Two mermaids find a beautiful ring cast adrift in the ocean and set off to the sky to find its owner. A schoolgirl throws away a ring a classmate has given her. A girl so used to being alone, she cannot believe that anyone would ever love her.
The great evil, Sedna, has been released. It falls to the shrine maidens of Sea and Sky to seal her back. It falls to an innocent and naive girl from the ocean. A girl who loves everyone for who they are. A girl who does not see what is happening to her little sister. It falls to a rebellious and lonely girl of our world. A girl of few friends who struggles finding her place in the world. A girl who people avoid because of an aura of anger and menace that seems to flow from her.
Umi Monogatari does not set out to be a moody or manipulative show. It is not a children's show. It faces some of Man's fears; loneliness, grief, despair. It faces them through kindness and friendship. Friends that will walk through paths of darkness to bring their dear ones through.
It's quite a challenge to write about a show that I consider simply outstanding. The artwork is top notch. Small wonder. This is the same director that led the production of Aria. The story is really something once it gets moving. The sense of wonder at a new world, slowly yielding to a sense of dread was powerful.
That said, there were a few odd flaws. The animators saw fit to put a strange amount of fan service in the first episode. Granted, mermaids have never been known to be, er, modest dressers, but that doesn't mean that they need to be rooting around in the bushes either. Then in the very last couple of episodes, they suddenly realize that they haven't been putting in their fan service quota, so they try to fit it into a major battle. It just doesn't belong.
The other odd number is the music. Now, the music in and of itself is excellent. The use in most of the show is likewise. The weird part is the darkest scenes. The dark power has been released, black clouds gather around the island, a girl lies cowering in the rain, and we hear...relaxing cello music? Or, as skeletons long dead rise, take on form, and draw steel. Quiet piano music?? It's the composer from Aria trying to do dark and menacing. Very strange. Now that I have seen the complete series, I wonder if the contrast was supposed to be there. I wonder because of what Sedna really is.
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Theologically, the show is also worth watching. It starts out like any battle between good and evil. Very dualist. In the end, we find the darkness to be ourselves. As if the darkness itself would not exist without us. This is a strong break from the normal eastern take that light and dark are opposites. Here we find that people themselves create darkness. The final statement of the series bears thought. "From now on, even if the darkness appears again, we must keep on forgiving." Very interesting.
I was simply amazed by this show. Among anime, it normally requires a work from Studio Ghibli to get me thinking on this level. To place Umi Monogatari on par is not something I do lightly.