The premise of this series requires some suspension of disbelief. The idea is that humans originally lived below the sea, until some decided to live on the surface instead. This has created a divided human race. The ones below the surface have a substance on their skin that allows them to breathe under water. If they remain out of water for too long it starts to crack and peel. A person from the sea and a person from the land can have a child, but that child will not generally possess the ability to breathe under water. So there are a few aspects of this we just have to allow to wash over us, if you’ll pardon the pun. The humans on land seem to be aware of the underwater humans and don’t think this is anything unusual, although there is a distrust between them, so it’s used very effectively as a way to explore themes of xenophobia. You have to accept the sight of people not only breathing underwater, but walking along the surface at the bottom, and even talking to each other in the normal way (how does that work?). However, once you’ve got past the incongruity of seeing normal life going on, with the only thing to indicate anything being different the sight of some fish swimming around, it will be worth making that leap of faith to give this series a try. For one thing, the visuals are as stunning as the concept would suggest, with a whole town built under water. I’m not sure I ever quite got past the silliness of the idea entirely, but it didn’t really matter as I was so swept away (sorry) by the story. That took a while, though.
This is a 26 episode series and is rather neatly divided into two halves. It’s not just the change of opening and ending themes in the middle, the division is so stark that I was surprised this wasn’t two seasons put together in one box set. The structuring of the series, I have to say, is extremely clever. Halfway through, most of the characters from below the surface going into hibernation (I won’t spoil the reasons behind this). There are no guarantees that they will all wake up at the same time (in fact, they probably won’t), and they have no idea how long they will be asleep or what the world they wake up to will be like. It’s a fascinating idea, and throws the group dynamics into disarray, with some characters ageing while others wake up exactly the same as they went to sleep. As you can imagine, that throws up a whole range of emotional issues.
To take a step back, the main characters are nearly all teenagers, at least during the first half of the series. They are mostly children from the sea, but their school has closed down and now they have to attend a school on land instead. You can imagine how this interesting scenario would create issues with two groups of kids integrating, from different backgrounds. There are a whole bunch of love triangles going on between the main characters, and they seem to be just coming to a head when the hibernation has to start. The big question is what happens when they wake up: can they just pick up where they left off, or will feelings have changed? Complicating matters, a couple of little girls they knew before they went to sleep are now the same age as them, and their first crushes now take on an entirely different significance, while two of the group of friends took the slow path through the years and are no longer teenagers at all.
This is one of the reasons why I felt the series really kicked into gear for the second half. It started off quite slow, and it took me a while to warm to the whole show, not helped by the fact that I didn’t much like any of the characters to start with. They all seemed a bit too angst-ridden and whiny, taking far too long to help their cause by being honest about their feelings. But when it becomes apparent that this hibernation is coming up, coupled with what appears to be some kind of environmental apocalypse, it started to get really interesting, and well before the halfway mark I was hooked. The second half really benefits from the different group dynamics created by the changed ages of four of the main characters.
Although 26 episodes isn’t a huge total, this felt epic. So much story is packed in, with a strong progression in each episode (actually something quite rare in anime, which tends to dawdle), that I found this almost a tiring series to watch. It picks up the viewer on waves of emotion, throwing us down in unexpected places. And I promise that’s the last pun about the sea.
The DVD set of A Lull in the Sea has a 12 certificate, indicating “moderate sex references”. I’m struggling to recall what that is referring to, so it must have been very “moderate”. In general I found this a wholesome series which I personally wouldn’t be concerned to rewatch with my kids in the room. There is an English dub, which certainly does little to make some of the characters less irritating in the first half of the series in particular, so I’m tempted to rewatch this eventually with subs instead. Unsurprisingly, the best performance on the dub is from Michelle Ruff, who has carved herself out a niche playing quiet natured girls, but Xanthe Huynh and Sarah Anne Williams also do a great job of dealing with voicing characters at very different stages of their life. I’ll leave you with the trailer, which fails to give much indication of the complexity of this story, but will give a good idea of the visuals. RP