There’s nothing like a little Snow Sea subterfuge to start your day. Kaina and Yaona’s underwater stealth mission meets some snags as Ririha’s position grows more perilous, pushing Valghia and Atland closer to war. As I’ve come to expect, it is another slow-moving episode of Kaina of the Great Snow Sea, but the show’s layers are starting to give form and texture to its story. However, whether that form will reify quickly enough and whether that story will be worthwhile remain open questions.
That idea of “layers” is important, as we learned this week that the Snow Sea is rising and driving the remnants of humanity farther and farther up their pillars of refuge. The threat of rising sea levels is something we are and will be contending with this century, and this adds more scaffolding to Kaina‘s climate change commentary (and I suspect it’ll only become more evident as the show progresses). But beyond its big-picture themes, I like the idea of cities and settlements being built on top of each other as society tries to outrun the disaster. Like a tree’s rings, the further down you go, the older the ruins become. It tells a story. While this is how archaeology works in the first place, the stratification here seems a lot more exaggerated, and I hope the anime makes the most of that concept in upcoming episodes.
As Kaina adds to its setting, it also challenges our preconceived notions of it. Last week, I posited that the “snow” in the Snow Sea probably isn’t real snow, and this week, I think the “sea” part is a lie too. We all know how buoyancy is supposed to work, and this sea operates by its own rules. There were earlier clues—mainly that mysterious item that stops you from sinking—but nothing as blatant as the uncanny sight of two boys walking along a supposedly submarine tree root. I had been assuming that the Snow Sea was a large mass of unpotable water that the trees had been bioengineered to filter and make drinkable. As far as apocalypses go, that isn’t good, but it’s comprehendible. Drowning the earth in something that isn’t’ water is a much weirder idea and potentially more intriguing. And, quite frankly, it sounds more like something Nihei would come up with.
But that’s all speculation on my part. Let’s look at the concrete developments this week. The plot only inches forward, and we end this episode in a place similar to the previous one, with Ririha in peril, Atland on the brink of war, and Kaina on his way to rescue her. While that’s poor for the series’ already floaty sense of momentum, the character writing is stronger this week. Yaona gets more room to be his own person and bond with Kaina. Ririha has a nice confrontational scene with Amelothée where she tries to talk her way out of imprisonment. It’s futile, but it’s a good exhibition of her feistiness and Amelothée’s shrewdness.
I’m most interested in the Valghian admiral, whose eyepatch and hook hand prove how seriously he takes piracy. In many ways, he fits the bill as the leader of these notorious brigands. He looks as salty as he is crusty. He stabs a messenger. He taunts Ririha. But I still suspect we’re going to see Valghia make a heel turn, or we’re going to see the nation hiding behind its military. For instance, before we meet the admiral, he’s described as a man with a fondness for curiosities from the past, which echoes Kaina’s old mentor from the canopy. And despite his threats, he hasn’t killed Ririha yet. Meanwhile, her father has already chalked her up as a casualty of war. If anything, the admiral expresses more concern for the citizens of Atland than their king. There’s more going on here.
I feel better about Kaina now than I did last week. This episode gave me more and better threads to grasp onto. Now I hope they’ll lead to something narratively and thematically substantial when I pull on them because outside of consistently strong background compositions and the slow accumulation of intrigue, Kaina doesn’t have much else going for it at the moment. It’s coasting, but it’s on thin ice.
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Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. While he enjoys writing about cartoons, he is currently looking into becoming a post-apocalyptic bug hunter. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.