A few times a month, the Fandom Post community suggests and votes on a new top five list about something in anime, most often from the current season. It’s our way of highlighting something fun or interesting or strange—or even meaningful—about what’s airing now, or about anime in general.
Excuse the clickbait title for this first in our Summer List Series for the Anime List Project, but there’s no other way to say it: this is about swimsuits. Japan is an island nation. And most of its citizens are within—traffic and train connections permitting—a few brief hours of a beach of one sort or another. As well as a few brief hours by airplane from tropical beaches down the Pacific Rim or out to Hawaii (or just Okinawa). Sand and swimsuits, and the rest of beach life, are ever present—and ever coveted—in the culture. There are few anime series taking place during the Summer months that do without a side adventure at a beach, often for no other reason than to show off characters in bikinis.
#5: Magic User’s Club OVA, ep. 4 “The Sea, the Cave, and the Magic Party”
A beach episode doesn’t have to be without plot, even when its most memorable scene, right at the beginning, is a mesmerizing sequence of one of its characters disrobing to her bikini as she runs into the water. At the same time this also happens to have most every theme one encounters in beach episodes (and echoed in the other selections), from those swimsuit shots to trying to make it a work/training outing to something like a love confession or two. The club has gone to the beach to train, but this is also the place where their leader, Takeo, discovered the magic that he has imparted to the group. It’s also where he has a lot of horrible childhood memories due to his lifelong nemesis, Mizuha, and their peculiar relationship receives some unsurprising context and nearly reaches a climax. Finally, it’s where Sae learns of Takeo’s secrets about the magic—the cave part of it all—and begins more strenuously to believe in herself. Again.
#4: Azumanga Daioh, ep. 22 “Entrance Exams Study Camp!”
The last summer vacation together for the AzuDai girls (plus Kaorin!) finds them back at Chiyo’s summer house on the beach, except this time they’re supposed to spend their summer break focusing on entrance exams. As usual, something as mundane as playing around on the beach (or certainly studying!) is not the point. One unfolded side-view car mirror, one long stare at Sakaki by Osaka, one attempt at waking Yukari up by Osaka, one failed attempt by Nyamo to teach, one exercise stamp for Chiyo, one jump off the deck by Kaori to get a picture of Sakaki, one more deep tan for Kagura, and one more failure by Tomo to learn anything later, they’re back home safely.
#3: Angelic Layer, ep. 21 “Summertime at the Sea! Someone is in Love With Someone!”
Misaki and her friends take a break from everything to go to the beach. And like many beach episodes, just about every other major character happens to be there as well to join or get in the way of the fun and/or hijinks. But this is also a good example for a regular element of episodes set around extraordinary destinations or events like beaches or festivals: the love confession (or something close to that). The Beach in Summer is a romantic symbol almost the world round, so where better? Tamayo, childhood friend of Kotaro (who likes Misaki) finally shares her feelings with him. In the mean time Ohjiro is developing feelings of his own for Misaki. All in the usual CLAMP relationship merry-go-round.
#2: Non Non Biyori, ep. 5 “I Pretended I Forgot My Swimsuit”
The beach (and it’s only a “country beach,” as the girls call it, away from the city or on an inland sea; it’s never made clear just where the show takes place after all) is only a brief part of this episode. Most of it is preparing for it, and the last third is what, in fact, makes it unique: the long, tired train ride back in the evening. That piece of the story makes the experience of the beach more real, the adventure and its memories fading with the daylight under the fatigue and stress and hunger of just getting back home. (The girls’ guardian, Mizuho, gets the worst of that in the end.) The beach moments are routine, but funny and charming as Non Non Biyori always is, centered square on eighth-grader Komari, insecure as never before of her physical stature among the younger girls due to the swimwear (bearing the unusual stature) of fifth grader, Hotaru. So she won’t expose her own suit and swim, she’s mistaken as a lost child when she goes to buy drinks, and she’s later tricked into eating soba blanketed with chili flakes her sister Natsume spilled. “I Pretended I Forgot My Swimsuit” is about the very long day that a day at the beach can be.
#1: Aria the Animation, ep. 5 “To That Island Which Shouldn’t Exist…”
A ready theme for many beach episodes is training, or some such, as if a story featuring only characters cavorting in the sand and sun would be a bad influence on public morals. Certain swimsuits and other fanservice notwithstanding. (That’s for the other half of the episode.) So like the K-On girls going to a beach house to ostensibly practice, the junior undines of Aria are summoned to a mysterious fantasy island to do what they usually do, practice. Alicia and Akira are there, on a secluded and deserted beach, to give Akari, Aika, and Alice a brutal course in sculling large logs around the small bay. (Athena reportedly went to a different island.) Fortunately, Alicia is there so that Akira can be convinced to let people enjoy themselves after the morning’s workout. Usual beach activities ensue, but including cliff diving and snorkeling. The most lasting event is the simplest, however, as it’s the first time Akari has been able to swim in an ocean, in her little own Neverland.
Join us next time for more about Summer. To have a say in what makes it on that list, and the next list after that, check out the forum thread, read up on the rules, and join the Fandom Post Anime List Project today!