“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.” –Craig Bruce
Kukuru allows Fūka to help out around Gama Gama Aquarium, and suggests that Fūka stay with her and grandparents in the interim. However, on her first day, Fūka, unaccustomed to dealing with penguins, slips and falls into the pool. Kukuru ends up lecturing Fūka on the importance of their main duty to look after the animals and ensure their safety. It turns out that Kururu had taken up the post of acting director with the aim of saving Gama Gama Aquarium from being closed down – the aquarium is of special significance to her, and while its age, coupled with dwindling visitors makes it difficult to bring their implements up to code, Kukuru is intent on finding a way to make things work out. That evening, Fūka calls home to let her mother know of her rough whereabouts. The next day, a pair of shady-looking loan sharks appear, hoping to rope Kukuru into some sort of scheme. Having heard Kukuru’s story from Karin, Fūka ends up driving the loan sharks off after they destroy Gama Gama’s hand-made sign. Kukuru invites Fūka to meet Tsukimi and Kai at the Teruya’s diner. Kukuru apologises to Fūka for being short with her, and Fūka promises to do what she can for Kukuru. The two also begin to get to know the penguins a little better. However, upon spotting that one of the older penguins, Choko, has ulcerative pododermatitis, Kukuru decides to call an a veterinarian who is on maternity leave. While she consents to come in and have a look, she unexpectedly begins going into labour. Without any available transportation, Karin ends up driving her to the local maternity home, where she gives birth to a baby boy. The veterinarian reveals to Fūka that she had a pleasant dream while at the aquarium and is happy her child’s birth was so memorable. Later, Kukuru spots Fūka with the penguin keychains that she’d designed, and resolves to do something new. Here at the three episode mark to The Aquatope on White Sand, it is evident that this series is going to head down the same route that Sakura Quest once did, while simultaneously combining notions of self-discovery and growing up from The World in Colours and Tari Tari. However, The Aquatope on White Sand simultaneously betrays nothing about what milestones will be hit in this journey, and so, the anime ends up succeeding in creating intrigue within its episodes.
Fūka and Kukuru’s actions in The Aquatope on White Sand lie at the forefront of all present discussion; this is to be expected, given that personal growth and professional development is central to coming-of-age series such as these. However, discussions have been unjustly harsh – when Fūka panics from the penguin’s forward behaviour during feeding time and slips into the pool, Kukuru delivers a tongue-lashing about how any carelessness surrounding the animals is grounds for termination because their aquarium’s first and foremost objective is looking after the animals. Rather than making any sort of effort to understand why Kukuru is as tense as she is, discussions swiftly point fingers at Kururu for not providing proper instructions. However, The Aquatope on White Sand makes it a point to indicate that Gama Gama Aquarium is of personal importance to her, reminding her of the time she spent with her late parents. While it is true that Kukuru is headstrong and stubborn, her intentions are admirable, and being a high school girl, she’s impatient and unlearned in some ways. These are character flaws that exist within all of us at that age, and over time, our experiences allowed us to outgrow them such that we could approach problems more calmly and rationally. Similarly, Fūka herself is being criticised for quitting her idol position on a whim and wandering about without giving her future any second thought, taking on positions she has no background in. However, had Fūka chosen to tough things out and make her idol career work out, The Aquatope on White Sand wouldn’t exist. Instead, her journey is meant to be a story of what experiences, both good and bad, lay ahead on a path whose destination is not clear. Altogether, The Aquatope on White Sand is a story that asks of its viewers a modicum of patience – one does not grow up overnight, and it is precisely by stumbling, making mistakes, and above all else, learning, that one begins to mature. P.A. Works’ stories require that one understand where the characters are coming from, rather than judging them; to do the latter would be to close one’s mind to the possibility of growth, and it does one no credit to be overly critical of the characters’ actions this early on, especially in the knowledge that the characters will be their best selves as things continue.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Kukuru is initially reluctant to bring Fūka on board and wonders if working at Gama Gama Aquarium will be Fūka’s jam, but decides to take her home anyways, where Kukuru’s grandparents welcome her. Somewhat uncomfortable with sitting still and letting the Misakinos do everything, Fūka decides to help out in the ways that she can. Small details like these give viewers insight into the characters’ nature, although it is disappointing to see how often viewers overlook these traits.
- While helping Kukuru’s grandmother make sata andagi (a fried Okinawan confectionary similar to a Timbit, but with things like purple yams inside), Kukuru’s grandmother invites Fūka to try one out, fresh from the hot oil. Immediately, one self-proclaimed expert cried foul that the sata andagi should’ve been too hot to hold, and yet, Fūka was able to receive hers without even flinching from the heat. However, this individual (who spent last season sarcastically lambasting Super Cub down to the last pixel) simply demonstrates that he’d slept through science class and therefore, had never heard of the Leidenfrost Effect. This occurs where a thin layer of vapour will form when a liquid is in contact with a hot surface and provide a brief bit of insulation from the heat. Since Fūka is cooking, her hands likely are a little wet, which provides the liquid that can form the insulating layer of vapour.
- Coupled with the fact that the sata andagi has a high surface area to volume ratio, by the time the Liedenfrost Effect wears off, the confectionary’s surface would have cooled down enough for Fūka to eat it. A little bit of science is therefore enough to debunk complaints: I’ve long disliked folks who believe that their capabilities are so far above that of the writers that they can nitpick at small details for internet points. As such, there is a certain satisfaction to be had when the same individuals fail to account for real-world phenomenon that can explain what’s being shown on screen. Now, I could go ahead and break out my old textbooks on thermodynamics and heat transfer to compute this holds true, but all this effort for an internet argument is quite unnecessary. As it stands, this moment is simply here to show that Fūka is enjoying a confectionary distinct to Okinawa: she’s blown away by the flavour, mirroring her exposure to the various aspects of Okinawan culture.
- Having put off answering calls from her mother, Fūka finally decides to reply, and understandably, Fūka’s mother is worried sick about her, as she’d failed to check in. Fūka attempts to assuage her mother’s worries by stating she’s with a friend. While this is true in a manner of speaking, it’s clear that Fūka is still trying to gain her own bearings, and she’s not quite ready to let her mother know what’s happening. Because Fūka comes across as being kind and considerate of those around her, to the point of giving up the centre role of a performance for a coworker’s sake, it stands to reason that Fūka does not wish for her mother to worry excessively for her sake.
- When Tsukimi sees the lofty goal that Kukuru has set for herself, she wonders if it’s even possible to raise that kind of money in two months: the total cost of equipment and upgrades totals some three million Yen (around 34118 CAD, the price of a fully-loaded sedan or an SUV with mid-range options selected). However, Tsukimi is more surprised to learn that she has Fūka staying with her. This scene also reveals that the fortune teller Fūka had met during the first episode is Tsukimi’s mother; I’ve previously remarked that anime do not introduce voiced characters without reason, and it can only be described as fate that the fortune teller knows Kukuru.
- Back in the Shirobako and Sakura Quest days, a great deal of time had been spent inside offices filled with paperwork and other clutter. I imagine that The Aquatope on White Sand will feature this office prominently as Kukuru and Fūka work towards their objectives. However, it’s not all fun and games for Fūka: she’s thrown in the deep end from the start, and in her haste to get Fūka going, Kukuru neglects to mention detail or properly orient her. Again, this is something folks have vociferously complained about, and like the Leidenfrost Effect, people appear to have forgotten that Kukuru is a high school girl, rather than a full-fledged adult.
- Assuming that the folks making such an aggressive response to The Aquatope on White Sand are a similar age to myself or older, I would find their commentary on Kukuru’s actions to be poor form. Kukuru is a high school student – adolescents possess an ability for reasoning on par with that of an adult, but their brain development means that they are also more prone to impulsive decisions and act on emotion rather than reason as a result of experience. Simply put, Kukuru is inwardly excited by the prospect of having help and is so focused on her own goals that she’s forgotten that Fūka is very much a novice, requiring training to properly perform her duties.
- That Kukuru mentions nail polish as being harmful to the marine life at Gama Gama so late indicates she definitely knows her materials, but, having worked around folks at least as experienced as she is led her to take Fūka for granted. For this, Fūka slips and falls into the pool in the penguin enclosure after panicking and taking a beak to the ass while feeding a group of energetic penguins. It’s a dramatic introduction to the dangers of the job, and one would imagine that an experienced director would not allow new staff near live animals until they’ve had some training.
- With this being said, I see no reason not to be understanding of how things got to be; having Kukuru acting in an impatient manner shows that her desire to save Gama Gama Aquarium notwithstanding, she’s not ready to be a director yet despite the title. This leaves The Aquatope on White Sand plenty of room for both her and Fūka to develop as people. A Kukuru with emotional maturity and experience to match wouldn’t need to learn these life lessons, resulting in an immensely dull anime: half the fun in coming-of-life stories is seeing characters develop over time and learn from their mistakes.
- Similarly, Fūka’s decision appears completely irrational to adults, but had Fūka been mature enough to regroup and seek out a solution to her problems, then The Aquatope on White Sand would have no story to present. The insistent belief that anime characters necessarily must act like real people would is ludicrous; besides degrading or even eliminating a story, people in reality aren’t exactly the best measure of good decision making, and a major part of life is owning the decisions one makes. Conversely, The Aquatope on White Sand hints to viewers that, as bleak as the situation is for Kukuru, there is a way forward. Karin shares with Fūka the story behind Gama Gama Aquarium, helping Fūka to understand Kukuru better here.
- Two unscrupulous-looking men barge into Gama Gama Aquarium one day, promising Kukuru the funds she needs to bring the place up to scratch. However, Kukuru kicks them out: while people were so fixated on Kukuru’s treatment of Fūka, they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture, and here, Kukuru demonstrates that she’s an honest, if stubborn individual with a strong sense of integrity. Refusing to take the easy way out means Kukuru’s avoided a potential source of trouble later down the line, allowing The Aquatope on White Sand to focus on what’s important without being swept off by problem that common sense would’ve averted.
- I’m certain that Hitomi would’ve never doused anyone with the hose, but here, after Fūka watches as the two loan sharks “accidentally” destroy Gama Gama Aquarium’s hand-made welcome sign, she’s pushed past her endurance. The torrent of water is only an irritant, but it’s enough to get the two to leave. In the aftermath, Kukuru notes that soaking customers would almost certainly lead to a termination, but since those two weren’t customers and getting on Kukuru’s nerves, she ends up expressing gratitude instead.
- While Karin is only seen to be popping in and out of Gama Gama Aquarium, she appears often enough so that it’s the case that she’ll have a larger role to play yet. Her role with the local tourism board, and the fact she’s a ways older than Kukuru and Fūka means that she brings the maturity and experience to the table I’ve been speaking of; Karin is someone who is young enough to be open to new ideas from Kukuru and Fūka, while at the same time, is old enough to know what’s possible and what could potentially work. Altogether, this means Karin will definitely become an asset along Fūka and Kukuru’s journey.
- That evening, Fūka has a chance to meet Kukuru’s friends, including Tsukimi and Kai: because Kukuru also invited him, Kūya also shows up. He’s said to be uneasy around women, but upon spotting Kai, is immediately relieved. Seeing Tsukimi, Kai and Kukuru together gives viewers a better measure of what allies Fūka have in her corner, and I imagine that between Tsukimi’s family restaurant and Kai’s involvement in fishing, both fields will need to come together to give Gama Gama Aquarium a fighting chance. P.A. Works have always been fond of suggesting that multidisciplinary solutions and people from all walks of life are increasingly necessary in a world driven by constant change, so The Aquatope on White Sand isn’t expected to deviate from this particular message, either.
- After the gathering, Fūka and Kukuru have a chance to speak one-on-one. Here, Kukuru apologises for having overstepped the previous day, while Fūka mentions she completely understands what Gama Gama Aquarium means to Kukuru. In this moment, it becomes clear that the good times and bad are to be rolled with in The Aquatope on White Sand; conflicts will be inevitable, and the question then becomes a matter of how the two sort out their troubles, both from within and without.
- The third episode’s opening moments show Kukuru with her mother and father at Gama Gama Aquarium, where Kukuru takes on a particular fondness for one of the penguins, which she ends up naming Choko. It becomes clear that Gama Gama Aquarium, to Kukuru, is home because she’s associated it with memories of her parents, who passed away from an unspecified incident, leaving Kukuru to live with her grandparents. As such, Kukuru’s determination to save the aquarium stems from a wish to preserve the place that meant so much to her and her parents.
- While Fūka’s beginning to settle in to her life with the Misakinos, she’s very much aware they’re doing her a large favour, and as such, Fūka is more than willing to help around the house as her way of saying thanks. Now, if memory serves, the ending song should release on the upcoming Wednesday, and once that’s done, I rather look forwards to hearing when the incidental music from Yoshiaki Dewa; because we are only three episodes in, there is zilch on when the soundtrack will release. I’ll naturally be keeping an eye on things, especially since Dewa’s composition for The World in Colour was superbly enjoyable.
- Kukuru is presumably a fair student, but her love for all things aquatic means that she often turns in assignments that feature doodles of marine life. In a conversation with her instructor after class, Kukuru reveals that she has no interest in finishing secondary school and would run Gama Gama Aquarium for the rest of her life if she had a choice. While admirable, the real world can be tougher for people lacking a high school diploma: in rare cases, people have successfully run their own businesses and the like, but it takes the same amount of grit, tenacity and hard work to make this viable as what is required to make one’s way through a post-secondary degree or trades program.
- While a high school diploma is almost mandatory, I hold that not everyone necessarily needs a degree be be successful, and having a degree alone does not guarantee success. There are people who are very successful in the trades and other occupations without ever having set foot in a Bachelor’s program; as long as Kukuru could finish high school, she’d at least have more options open to her. Of course, I’m not a career counselor, so what I say should absolutely not be taken at face value. Back at Gama Gama Aquarium, Kūya is overjoyed to have Kai on board: his inability to speak to women is something that might be addressed in future episodes.
- While weighing the penguins to ensure they’re in good health, as well as determining which penguins should get a little more or less food to keep them at an optimal weight, Fūka spots one of the penguins as having a limp in his gait. It turns out Choko is afflicted with ulcerative pododermatitis (colloquially “bumblefoot” for birds and “sore hocks” for rabbits), a bacterial infection that results in inflammation. Left untreated, this infection can be fatal, and the proper mode of treatment is to administer antibiotics, as well as a dressing to give the wounds a chance to heal. Uncertain of their best course of action, Kukuru decides to call the aquarium’s veterinarian, who is on maternity leave.
- A long time ago, I would’ve probably smiled at Fūka’s struggles to life a fish tank. However, a year-and-a-half of not regularly hitting the gym and pushing my bench press further means that Fūka is probably in better shape than I am. I’m actually a little nervous about going back and seeing just how weak I’ve become, although I suppose that with enough effort and patience, I could regain my old strength; the key is not to overdo things or rush my routine. At my peak, I was able to consistently lift a hundred and twenty percent of my body weight for five reps and three sets, which isn’t bad, considering I spend most of my time in front of a computer, digging through Swift code.
- It’s therefore going to take a bit of training to get back to this level, and I’m looking forwards to the day when my preferred gym reopens; things have been a bit inconsistent, with some places choosing to remain closed for a bit longer for safety’s sake, and others re-opening earlier. Fortunately for Fūka, even though she struggles to lift the fish tank, Kai has been working as a fisherman and has no trouble picking it up. He recounts that Kukuru’s the sort of person who can drag anyone into anything aquarium-related, what with her boundless love of marine life, and upon hearing that Kukuru needed help, volunteered to do so.
- Karin and Tsukimi share a conversation during lunch; Tsukimi is pleased enough with Karin’s kindness that she gives her a complimentary mango slice, although Karin insists that Gama Gama is a part of the community. There’s definitely a bit of foreshadowing going on here in The Aquatope on White Sand, and I’m curious to see where this journey is headed – the twenty-four episode runtime really allows the series to do what a twelve episode runtime cannot, and with the longer runway, there will likely be more space to really create a sense of community as the characters get to know one another in upcoming episodes.
- Midway through her look at Choko, the veterinarian’s begins to go into labour. She mentions that her water’s broken, a phrase which means that the sac containing the amniotic fluid has ruptured as the body begins undergoing contractions. A quick glance at the documentation indicates that it’s actually hard to access whether or not a woman’s water has broken without medical expertise (and a quick test to determine if the fluid is amniotic) and women often mistake other phenomenon for their water breaking, so one cannot be sure if the veterinarian’s water broke. However, this turn of events prompts Kukuru and Fūka to give her some space, and while resting she suddenly finds herself swept into an ocean.
- The kijimuna is spotted again in the ocean, and this time, it’s a peaceful scene where a child’s laughter can be heard. A young boy can be seen swimming alongside the kijimuna, but upon spotting the veterinarian, he swims towards her and embraces her. Upon awaking, the veterinarian finds herself at peace, excited to meet her child, and while the others have had a little trouble in getting a taxi on station, Karin arrives just in time to give the veterinarian a ride.
- WIth the unerring skill of someone who’s lived in Okinawa all her life, Karin safely delivers the veterinarian to the local maternity hospital, taking a little-known shortcut to bypass the traffic jam. Fūka takes the initiative and chooses to accompany the veterinarian, since this is something she can do (whereas Kukuru is better equipped to look after Choko, and indeed, she does dress his infection to help him along). Karin’s knowledge allows her to get the veterinarian to the hospital, and once she’s arrived, her husband is notified, as well.
- Later in the evening, in the middle of a lecture from her grandfather about not taking on everything herself, Kukuru gets a call from the veterinarian: her baby boy was safely delivered, and both are doing well. While it is conceivable that the veterinarian might’ve gotten to the maternity hospital earlier without the detour Kukuru’s request brought about, the moment shows that there are some things that occur serendipitously. The Aquatope on White Sand will need to reconcile the things happening as a result of fate, and the characters’ own learnings, as well. As it stands, Kukuru will certainly need to learn to lean on others and have faith in those around her to realise her dreams.
- Seeing the veterinarian with her child leads both Kukuru and Fūka to recall their families. Kukuru is shown as finding her mother’s maternity books (in plural), and since the veterinarian remarks that all mothers-to-be receive such a handbook, this led to an explosion of speculation. At this point in time, there is little evidence to suggest that any of the speculation will hold true – even though there is a supernatural piece to The Aquatope on White Sand, this series is aiming to combine elements from The World in Colour and the career-oriented anime like Sakura Quest, Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha. Consequently, unless there is a good reason to introduce dramatic and cliché twists (e.g. that Fūka and Kukuru are related), I anticipate that The Aquatope on White Sand will not be going in such a direction unless it contributes to the theme in a meaningful manner.
- If the speculation turns out correct, I’ll surrender my blogging license at first convenience – when it comes to being right about an anime speculation, I’m a wet blanket :p Jokes aside, I do hope P.A. Works will put up a better showing than this in The Aquatope on White Sand, and here, after hearing the veterinarian’s words, she decides to get in touch with her mother and presumably, let her know of what’s going on. As the episode draw to a close, it turns out that Fūka had taken a liking to the penguin keychains Gama Gama sells and picked up one for herself. Matching keychains in anime have long been a sign of friendship, and while the path forwards will be a difficult one, it’s not hard to see Fūka and Kukuru learning more about themselves as they learn about one another in the episodes upcoming.
- The Aquatope on White Sand is probably more similar to Hanaksaku Iroha in terms of pacing at this point in time, albeit with a trace of magic. To be sure, it’s an entertaining series, and if we are able to see that balance between personal growth and coming together to do something bigger than oneself, this anime will succeed in its goals. We’re now entering the last little bit of July, and I only have one more post planned out for Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru Churuto! – as August and the Heritage Day Long Weekend approaches, I have a number of large posts I aim to share with readers. As such, it’ll be one more post on a light-hearted series to round off the month before heading on to the fun stuff.
The slower pacing of The Aquatope on White Sand means that additional time can be spent on really allowing the characters to make discoveries – like Sakura Quest, Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha, The Aquatope on White Sand will utilise this space to have the characters make mistakes, properly learn from them and enjoy the results of their effort to better themselves. As such, I anticipate that the road ahead is going to be a bumpy one, but also one where the prize for overcoming adversity is well worth it. Three episodes into The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka and Kukuru’s personalities have also been better established; cursory comparisons to The World in Colours‘ Hitomi and Kohaku are no superficial, and it becomes clear that The Aquatope on White Sand is going to present something new to viewers. While Fūka and Kukuru begin the first steps of realising a dream to save Gama Gama Aquarium alone, it is fortunate that they have some friends in their corner. Tsukimi and Kai will almost certainly be steadfast allies in helping the pair to save the aquarium, and where opinion from an adult is required, the group can count on help from Karin, the town’s tourism association manager, whose knowledge of the area and experience will serve as a guiding light for the youth as they seize the initiative. While Fūka herself might be a complete novice in zoology, viewers must recall that she also brings a very distinct skill-set to the table as a former idol. The Aquatope on White Sand reintroduces the idea that applying one’s skills from a new perspective can have large benefits, and I look forwards to seeing Fūka become more confident as she gets to know Kukuru and the others better. At this point in time, I’m still weighing the matter of how frequently I should write about The Aquatope on White Sand; on one hand, publishing my thoughts every three episodes would allow me to adequately cover both big-picture elements and smaller details, but the flipside is that I could grow stale very quickly if I write often for the series. For now, as we are still early in the series, I will likely make a decision after the sixth episode – if there’s enough to consider every three episodes, then readers can reasonably expect to enjoy more talks The Aquatope on White Sand in the future!