Adapted from the critically acclaimed manga by Daisuke Igarashi, ‘Children of the Sea’ reflects the relationship between nature and the human mind. Igarashi’s ventures into surrealism have gotten him a much deserving place on various lists of great artists and comparisons to the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.
‘Children of the Sea’ is indeed a work of anime art than Miyazaki’s ‘Princess Mononoke‘ or ‘Spirited Away‘. Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, as it ends, the movie turns out to be larger than life itself.
Children of the Sea: The Plot
‘Children of the Sea’ opens with the promise of a coming of age movie. Ruka, a young adult’s character, is portrayed like that of an outcast. Her handball team avoids her for arguing with a teammate. She is forced to be at an arm’s distance by her father, and is distant from her mother.
She finds solace in her relationship with the ocean that confines to an aquarium in which her father is employed. She finds her tribe here: two brothers brought up by dugongs (sea cows), by the name Umi and Sora, both of whom are subjects of research that will determine their origin and nature. Neither can conform to a life on land but still, during the short time they spend together, Ruka and the two brothers develop a deep connection.
Suddenly, an extraordinary and surprising phenomena begins to occur over the world. Marine life gathers at the site of a meteor crash, while whales hum exotic melodies. This is revealed to be in the prospect of a festival that celebrates life, and Ruka is soon invited as guest at the celebration. Umi and Sora, also play a pivotal role in the festival.
A developing tornado is soon decided as the venue for the gathering. When Ruka, Umi, and Sora meet at the eye of the storm, they meet researcher Anglade and the mysterious Dede who quietly watches them. While each of them waits for their call, Sora places the fallen meteor he’d hidden away inside Ruka before it dispersed into the now glowing sea. Soon, Ruka and Umi begin a quest which takes them light-years away.
What Does Ruka & Umi’s Journey Symbolize?
At some points, Children of the Sea swings back and forth between the narrative of fantasy and science fiction. At the height of the tornado, Umi and Ruka ascend into a psychedelic hunt in the galaxy. They then dive into the tornado-stricken ocean and Umi, right before Ruka’s startled eyes, disintegrate into what looks like miniature galaxies.
Watanabe’s inferences are more metaphorical than literal, and the quest is a search for the real purpose of existence, for both Ruka and Umi. Their hunt spans the profundities of the ocean as much as the apex of galaxies. Watanabe draws similarities here between two entities as different as could be: the infinite space and the earthly oceans.
Even though both vast galaxies and the hearts of the earthly oceans are beyond our imagination, at the minutest level, they are still composed of atoms, and they are more similar and more connected to us than we can comprehend.
What Happens To Umi?
Once Umi ingests the meteor and begins to descend into the ocean, he begins to disintegrate slowly. After consuming a meteor, Umi takes a new and enlightened form.
Since what is manifested within Umi and what is reflected outside of him in the ocean are both in pure harmony, Umi disintegrates. He eventually becomes one with the ocean. His lifetime’s worth of memories ( the tiny galaxies we see) slowly merge into the water as he now becomes a part of the never ending ocean.
The Ending: What Lies Ahead For Our Protagonist?
The film centres around the themes of humility. As the three await the celebration, Anglade contemplates that there’s much more to the world than meets the eye. He argues that only a fragment of the world is known to humans, saying, “Humans can only see a tiny fraction of what exists…the world is full of invisible things, and the universe exceeds much of what we see with our eyes.”
This is also supported by Dede, who has the same understanding of those who lack knowledge. As Dede and Anglade converse on their boats in wait of the celebration, Dede says to him, “If you really want to protect [Umi and Sora], protect them from the arrogant.” She points, unquestionably, at the researchers who are driven by their (self-proclaimed) intellectual supremacy and disregard Umi and Sora’s freedom.
The hands of humanity mishandle Umi and Sora because of an increasing greed at the cost of their own lives. In their arrogance, the selfish researchers assert themselves as the final authorities who would decide what’s best for the pair.
Arrogance also consumes Ruka at the very beginning. After getting into a fight with a handball player, she shows no empathy. She treats her colleague with humility. However, after the end of her journey of retribution with herself and those around her, she begins to rise above herself and come to terms with her transgressions, as the movie ends.