“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle, as well as your own.” –Henry Ford
While veterinarian Takeshita visits Tingarla to check up on a penguin egg is about to hatch, Chiyu becomes preoccupied with her son and declines the overnight shift, prompting Kukuru to take over and reorganise things, even persuading Tetsuji to allow her to take on the night shift as an attendant. However, Chiyu is displeased about this and openly confronts Kukuru. Later, Fūka visits Chiyu and learns about her son, Shizuku; it turns out that after graduating high school, Chiyu married and took a job at a local aquarium, but when her son fell ill, she was unable to work and was laid off. She returned to Okinawa after a divorce and since then, had tried to keep her child a secret so she would be able to keep her job. Knowing this, Kukuru decides to walk a mile in Chiyu’s shoes and looks after Takeshita’s son, learning that looking after children is no walk in the park. Having now come to terms with Chiyu, Kukuru resolves to be more mindful of Chiyu, who in turn takes her son to the aquarium and arrive just in time to watch the new penguin hatch. Kukuru watches Shizuku and reminisces about when her parents took her to Gama Gama. Later, Kukuru and Fūka organise a get together with their coworkers in an effort to know them better. Kūya, Akari and Marina show up in the morning, while Kaoru and Chiyu show up later and receive massages from Kukuru. Kūya also reappears, having taken off to use the bathroom earlier but never returned until Kai and Eiji show up. They end up having a takoyaki party and light some fireworks before heading home. Kukuru and Fūka settle down with some mango puddings and note they had a fantastic time. When Akari’s suggestion to do a cosplay event to drive visitor counts up is approved, she declines Kukuru’s suggestion to lead the project, feeling that compared to someone like Kukuru, her enthusiasm isn’t quite there to make the event a success. While Kukuru sets about coordinating with the other departments on the event, Akari comes to realise what working an aquarium means to Kukuru when on the eve of the event, Kukuru realises she’d forgotten to place the order for the stickers. While Karin suggests using stamps, Kukuru insists that since they promised stickers, this is what they need to deliver. She decides to work overtime to make it happen, and the next day, the event ends up being a success. Akari herself becomes enamoured with Tingarla’s main exhibit, and Kukuru smiles at the realisation that Akari is one more person who’d fallen in love with aquariums. We’re now three quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and in typical P.A. Works fashion, the anime has given viewers a chance to learn more about the characters.
After Kukuru had learnt that she shared more in common with Kaoru than she’d initially thought, it was a logical step to have Kukuru begin making amends with Chiyu; in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, Chiyu and Kukuru had gotten off to a rough start, and these hard feelings had persisted into their time as coworkers at Tingarla. However, this is not to show that Kukuru is mean-spirited or difficult in any way: to Chiyu, Kukuru is someone afforded the luxury of working in a job that she loves, without concern for practical elements like finances. To Chiyu, having a job is a mission-critical part of her life, as it allows her to support her son. Kukuru’s comparatively nonchalant outlook on work can seem inappropriate. The Aquatope on White Sand reveals that this is not the case, and the moment Kukuru learns of the truth, she turns around. While there might still be some lingering feelings of dislike between the two, the fact that Kukuru knows about Chiyu’s son and the circumstances she’s in helps her to be more accommodating and sympathetic. Moments like these are essential towards appreciating what P.A. Works is going for, and serve as a reminder that it is unfair, disingenuous to judge others without being fully aware of their situation. Kukuru’s decision to look after veterinarian Takeshita’s child to better understand Chiyu shows the extent to which she cares about those around her; having seen a hitherto unexpected side to Kaoru, Kukuru is able to grasp that those working at an aquarium are unified by their love of marine life, and that everyone should work together to accomplish a shared goal, rather than against one another. The growth seen in Kukuru indicates that she is learning and maturing as a result of her experience, and while she still longs to be an attendant, has become more capable in her marketting role. Besides learning how to do her assignments more effectively, Kukuru has smiled more in her duties, as well, showing how her passion for marine life is retained. This is in contrast with Akari, who is working at Tingarla as a part-timer to make ends meet for her post secondary; she initially sees her role as that of a job, and while still finishing her assignments, never goes the extra mile to make things succeed. However, it becomes clear that passion can be contagious: after Akari speaks with Tsukimi and learns about her love for cooking even when things get tough, and when Kukuru is willing to stay after hours to ensure the materials for the cosplay event succeeds, she comes to understand what having a great love for something means, as well. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand has spent time in giving the Tingarla staff exposition; with their backgrounds out in the open, the series is prepped to enter its final quarter, ready for a big finish as Tingarla prepares to deal with something unprecedented.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It’s great to have veterinarian Takeshita back in the swing of things: since the events of The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, her son has grown and is now several months old. Here, the old Gama Gama team meet with Takeshita after having her over to check up on a penguin egg that’s about to hatch. Looking back, it’s been a little surprising to see how quickly time has passed; we’re now three-quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and when the series began airing, the sun sets at 22:00. So much has happened in the past eighteen weeks, and besides the fact daylight savings ends tomorrow, my possession date is also coming up very quickly on my end. All of the i’s are dotted, and t’s are crossed, so I’m quite excited to be crossing another milestone in my journey.
- The fact that Chiyu has a son came completely out of left field for viewers – it turns out that her hours are somewhat inflexible because he needs to pick him up after work and look after him, but because her previous workplace was completely unsympathetic to her situation, Chiyu ended up losing her marriage and her job. Since then, she’d been desperate to find work and ends up keeping her son a secret from the Tingarla staff so that she could keep her work without her situation becoming deemed a liability to Tingarla. I’ve long felt that workplaces are unfriendly towards mothers in general: companies are profit-driven and productivity-driven, so when people require maternity leave or have children to look after, they’re often forced to make that difficult choice.
- My country has suggested a ten-dollar-a-day daycare plan, but overall, this approach is not sustainable in the long run. A long-term solution would be to accommodate parents in general and provide them with more flexible hours and work arrangements so they can still get enough work done while being able to look after their children, but this is no trivial task, requiring sweeping changes to the workplace in order to yield a healthy work environment. At this point in time, Kukuru is quite unaware of things and in her usual manner, suggests that she’d be able to pick up the slack in Chiyu’s place. Kukuru’s actions here are not spiteful in any way: having been an attendant previously, Kukuru wants the newborn penguin to arrive as smoothly as possible and imagines it’s better to have all hands on deck.
- The arrangement she makes comes as a shock to Chiyu, resulting in a confrontation: Chiyu is so frustrated that she’s actually crying, and while Kukuru had always regarded Chiyu with hostility, it turns out there’d been a reason why Chiyu had been so unreceptive towards the Gama Gama team: for Chiyu, having a job in her area of expertise is the difference between being able to pay the bills and put food on the table for her son, but for Kukuru, working at an aquarium is a dream job that she’s passionate about, and one where Kukuru seemingly needn’t worry about financial matters.
- Once the truth gets out, Kukuru is absolutely disheartened to learn that Chiyu had been going through such difficult times as a result of her having a child and feels downtrodden at having acted so tactlessly around her. While Kukuru might be stubborn and has difficulty empathising with others, it is the case that once she’s made aware of things, Kukuru is actually quite understanding and professional, as well. It typifies P.A. Works’ ability to write multi-faceted characters that require patience to get – in reality, one will not always have the luxury of getting to know people better and understand them when a large deadline approaches, but in the realm of fiction, I do make an effort to appreciate why characters are the way they are before passing any judgement.
- In reality, I aim to strike a balance between getting things done and being accommodating. The same cannot be said for discussions elsewhere; the immaturity surrounding how people are interpreting Chiyu and Kukuru is disappointing and frankly, juvenile, showing no effort to understand why things are what they are. Here, Fūka decides to visit Chiyu and ends up easing the story from her: individuals with empathy will realise there is an acceptable reason Chiyu is as serious and difficult as she is, but at least one individual has tried to argue this isn’t sufficient justification.
- In the end, after Kukuru agrees to babysit Takeshita’s son, she comes to understand precisely what challenges Chiyu faces. With his mother absent, the baby ends up crying the entire time Kukuru is present and only stops once Takeshita returns, rendering Kukuru exhausted. I’ve heard that infants are particularly sensitive to smell, so when they lose their mother or father’s scent, fear kicks in, leading them to cry and communicate this concern to those in their environment. Kukuru’s attempt to understand Chiyu better leads her to drop the hostility and be more accommodating, although their past history means things still remain a little cool after.
- After Fūka hears her out, Chiyu decides to be honest with her situation and brings her son, Shizuku, to Tingarla. At Fūka’s suggestion, Shizuku is given a tour of the facilities and has a wonderful time: the director and other staff are more than accepting of things and resolve to do what they can so Chiyu remains a part of their team. While watching Shizuku, Kukuru cannot help but be reminded of her younger self, who had similarly been captivated by the sights of an aquarium.
- One small qualm that crossed my mind is that Tingarla’s attendants don’t appear to have the requisite Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, zoology or equivalent; Chiyu’s said to have gotten married and started a family shortly after finishing high school, then worked for several years afterwards, so she’s in her early twenties in 2022, and Fūka comes to Tingarla as an attendant straight out of secondary school. While not realistic by any stretch (having the degree implies a satisfactory level of theoretical and practical knowledge of marine life and ecology), P.A. Works could simply be skipping these requirements to accommodate the story, and as such, this is something that I do not count against The Aquatope on White Sand.
- In the end, the penguin hatchling arrives safely, and Tingarla’s staff are overjoyed. While this event isn’t going to be sufficient for Kukuru and Chiyu to reconcile, putting things into the open helps both Kukuru and viewers understand what’s been going on, acting as a reminder that jumping to conclusions is unproductive and giving the characters one more stepping stone towards being more united – the supernatural visions have all but gone silent in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, and generally speaking, story elements are not introduced without reason, so I’d hazard a guess that they will be the final aspect to deal with in this series’ climax.
- The seventeenth episode is a breather from the daily routine, representing a chance to take the pedal off the metal as the characters unwind and take some time to know one another better outside of work. While Fūka and Kukuru provide the day’s activities, Tsukimi provides the food. Contrary to discussions saying otherwise, such episodes are necessary in a series such as The Aquatope on White Sands the same way vacations are necessary. Earlier in August, I had written about how I was itching to go to a ryōkan in the near future, but it looks like my plans have now changed. Being a new homeowner means I will prioritise where my funds go, and travelling inevitably falls to the back of the queue; the mortgage, insurance, utilities, groceries and furniture come first, but after some preliminary calculations, I should still be good for a couple of dinners out here and there, and still have a good amount left over to save and invest.
- With this being said, I still appreciate the importance of having vacation time: I only took a half-day for a home inspection visit, and still have almost a full three weeks available to me. As such, I intend to take at least a week off towards the end of the year so I can recharge and hit 2022 strong, but leave a few days to carry over so I can tend to things like moving day; my supervisor recommended I do a few Fridays off in December on top of this since I can only carry over five days at most. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, after everyone settles down and gives Tsukimi some feedback on her cooking, they end up playing cards. Kukuru is thrashed, and because Miku Itō voices her, Kukuru sounds a great deal like Locodol‘s Nanako Usami whenever she’s frustrated or dejected as a result.
- Fūka and Kukuru had the whole day off, but Akari and Marina do not. However, when they head off for their shifts, Kaori, Chiyu and Shizuku show up to keep the party going. Kūya had appeared earlier and reluctantly stayed after taking a few drinks, but left to hit the bathroom and never returned. Kai and Eiji show up and haul him back to the party, but now that guys are around, Kūya is able to relax.
- While awaiting the others, Kukuru has arranged for an aromatherapy massage for both Chiyu and Kaoru. While Chiyu critiques Kukuru’s technique, Kukuru herself realises that she’d never been particularly good with giving massages after recalling her grandfather ends up picking up an electric massager. Still, the moment is important in allowing Kukuru and Chiyu a chance to speak with one another outside of work. On the other hand, once Chiyu’s session wraps up, Kaoru is next, and she vehemently objects to being subject to a massage.
- Shizuku feels quite at home with Fūka, who reads him a story while the others are gearing up for dinner. The Aquatope on White Sand had made Fūka’s story a major part of the premise, but by this point in the series, Fūka’s settled into her new career more readily than even Kukuru. While the old dreams might be gone, Fūka has worked hard to find a new future for herself. At the same time, she’s also supporting Kukuru as well, having found new purpose ever since they’d met. Life has a habit of surprising us, and I’ve found that it’s a matter of rolling with things as they occur and making the most of things.
- Once the takoyaki grill is hooked up, Eiji proposes a fun way of making dinner more interesting: they’ve got a few things to put into the takoyaki beyond octopus, and there’s a challenge to guess what the takoyaki contains based purely on texture and flavour alone. Eiji and Kūya immediately set about the challenge, indicating that Kūya is very much one for competitions, and since Eiji possesses a graduate degree, he competes because he feels his pride is on the line. In the end, Shizuku breaks the protocol, leading the others to drop the competition and enjoy dinner normally.
- The use of a tabletop cooker brings back memories of raclette parties I used to attend: the last time I went was probably back in 2019, and since the global health crisis began, I’ve not been back since. I do miss evenings of being able to sit down with old friends and sharing conversation while waiting for various sausages, seafoods, mushrooms, peppers and cheese to grill properly. In fact, three years earlier, I remember heading out to a raclette at this time of year, where I met with friends even as I was going through a particularly rough spot with my first start-up. That evening did much to help me relax and regroup; my fortunes would turn around subsequently, and I accepted an offer to work with another company.
- After dinner is done, Chiyu makes to go home, but Shizuku is excited and wishes to stay longer. Fūka suggests that after lighting some fireworks, it’ll really be time to head home, and Shizuku accepts; seeing Chiyu spend time with Shizuku allows The Aquatope on White Sand to show her best side. Hanasaku Iroha and Nagi no Asukara had done something very similar previously, where unlikeable characters had reasons for acting in the manner they chose to. Once their stories became known to the protagonist and viewers, audiences begin to empathise with the characters and root for the protagonist as they try to make things better for those around them.
- Seeing the stoic Eiji so expressive this episode was also pleasant. Eiji typically isn’t fond of people because of how much drama can occur when things don’t line up, and this is something I relate to; whereas human interactions are tricky, computer programs either work or do not, making them far simpler to debug. When it comes to conflict, there isn’t a manual to follow, or a debugger where I can step through execution, line-by-line and print out values to a console. Instead, there is nuance and subtlety that must be observed. With this being said, having other people around is absolutely vital to a healthy mind, and being able to resolve conflicts and manage stress is an indispensable part of life. For Eiji, as he warms up to Kai and Kūya, I imagine that he too will come to respect people as much as he does marine life.
- With the day’s events at a close, the others head home and prepare for the next workday, while Kukuru and Fūka unwind with a mango pudding that Tsukimi had made just for them, reflecting on how much fun the day had been, and how they got to see a side of their coworkers that were unexpected. This is the joy of team building events; ordinarily, we are accustomed to seeing coworkers, supervisors and subordinates in the workplace, focused on their duties, so to gain a measure of what everyone is like outside of office hours means understanding a little more about them.
- When Akari’s proposal is accepted, Kukuru feels that Akari should take charge of the project to gain a sense of satisfaction from a job well done, but Akari declines, feeling that as a part-timer, she won’t be able to do quite as good of a job as Kukuru and the others. This leads Kukuru to puff up her cheeks, and marking the first time I’d seen someone do what I’d always wanted to do, Akari pokes Kukuru’s cheeks. It took me a little while to get used to Kukuru; while she’s similar to The World in Colours‘ Kohaku in some ways, it is clear that both Kukuru and Kohaku have notable differences that make them unique.
- Similarly, Fūka is a ways more active and makes herself heard more readily than Hitomi does. After hours, Kukuru confides in Fūka that she still wants to be an attendant. Kukuru has definitely matured and is now comfortable with her role, enough to want to consistently do a good job of what is asked of her: even if she’s not in her ideal role, Kukuru now understands that there can be new learnings and discoveries. I’ve not shown any screenshots until now, but here, Tingarla is visible in the background. The landscapes and interiors in The Aquatope on White Sand are excellent and really serve to bring things to life.
- The topic of being in a job one legitimately enjoys, versus being in a job to make ends meet or accrue experience, is the topic of the latest episode; Akari feels like, because she’s a temporary worker, her obligations end at doing a satisfactory job of her assignments: she doesn’t cut corners or slack off, but she doesn’t go the extra mile, either. This stands in contrast with Kukuru, who moves heaven and earth to ensure she accomplishes her goals to a satisfactory manner. The gap is cleverly illustrated when Kukuru and the marketting team speak with the attendants: while Kukuru, Karin and another full-time employee sits at the table to discuss ideas, Akari is off in the corner.
- On my end, I count myself as incredibly lucky in that I’m working in a field that I am passionate about: I began my university career as a Health Sciences student and ended up in graduate school for computer science. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I hold that it isn’t too late, even in post-secondary, to do this. Akari has a little bit of trouble with this and is envious that Kukuru’s already found her calling in life, but even in university, one still has enough versatility to switch disciplines: a few of my old classmates in health sciences ended up in different fields after finishing, from geology to political sciences, and one of my seniors in bioinformatics even became a lawyer. Suddenly, my becoming a mobile developer doesn’t seem quite so unusual: Fūka becomes an aquarium attendant after her old dream of an idol faded away. Generally speaking, people can walk different paths in life, and so long as they find a calling they can perform in, that’s a win.
- Conversely, other folks can often find their calling quite quickly; Kukuru has long possessed a love for marine life, and Tsukimi is similarly into cooking. Later Akari receives a call from Tsukimi and asks her about her passion: Tsukimi replies that while it looks like she’s got things in hand, there are days where she feels miserable, but knowing that all this effort leads somewhere meaningful makes everything worthwhile: experimenting with different sandwich designs was back-breaking, especially when iterations are rejected, but to see something she make get approved was superbly rewarding. As such, neither Karin nor Akari are particularly surprised by how tasty dinner is, and for Akari, a good meal does wonders in lifting her spirits – today, I ended up having an unexpected lunch of A & W’s grass-fed beef burgers, and the surprise ended up making my day a little more exciting, as well.
- When Kukuru realises she left an order in her drafts, she suffers another Nanako Usami moment before determining that hell or high water, she will deliver the experience she promised, with Karin staying behind to help her. This isn’t the first time Kukuru has worked overtime; The Aquatope on White Sand has not established what Tingarla’s overtime policy is, but in general, overtime work varies depending on the company. In my province, regulations state that overtime pay is owed to all full-time workers who exceed eight hours a day, to the tune of 1.5 times the worker’s regular hourly rates. In lieu of this, companies may choose to give time off in place of overtime pay.
- For me, I’m technically not supposed to work overtime without having declared it ahead of time, so when I do go over hours on a given day, I’m permitted to do less hours on another day so that the monthly total is not exceeded. This doesn’t stop me from occasionally thinking about work after hours, or if something is really bugging me, poking around on my own (although I rarely do this, since I tend to do better if I can step back from a problem and regroup, then come back to it). Akari had left for the day, but when her friend cancels their evening plans at the last minute, Akari decides to return and help out, feeling that if she’s got nothing better to do, she can lend a hand to Kukuru and Karin, who welcome the extra pair of hands. Akari might not feel fully connected to her work per se, but she does enjoy working with the people in her department.
- In the end, with Akari on station, the stickers are completed in time ahead of the big event: Kukuru retrieves some assets they’d already had and print them to sticker paper. In discussions, I am aware that where The Aquatope on White Sand is concerned, my tone is decidedly positive; this stands in stark contrast with the highly negative discussions elsewhere, which erroneously assert that hiring Kukuru and Fūka amounts to little more than nepotism, and that the series has invalidated the buildup from the first half. Neither hold true: regarding complaints about nepotism, the director picked up staff from Gama Gama because they had an established record of knowing their work, meaning they could get to things without requiring extensive training to catch up and be effective from the get-go, which would be important at a new institution like Tingarla.
- Similarly, the elements from the first half, P.A. Works still has an entire quarter to explore these elements, which I imagine are an integral part of the themes and logically, would be left to the end. It is evident that discussions elsewhere surrounding The Aquatope on White Sand are making no sincere effort to understand what the anime is doing and, for the lack of a better phrase, complaining for the sake of complaining. These individuals wouldn’t last long in any competent workplace, so I’ll make no further mention of them as this post come to an end. Instead, I will comment on the fact that Chiyu, Fūka and Marina look quite dashing in their outfits, and Shizuku is adorable.
- As a result of these extra efforts, the event is a big success: on the day of the cosplay event, the teams break off to carry out their intended roles, and things go very smoothly: Kukuru’s efforts means Shizuku has a solid experience, and even Tetsuji participates by donning a pirate costume, although he dares Fūka and Kukuru to criticise his get-up in response to their initial reaction of shock, creating a bit of humour. While Tetsuji continues to address Kukuru as “Plankton”, Kukuru seems less affected by this now and gets her work done. Moreover, her conflicts with Tetsuji appears to have lessened of late, so I do wonder if things might be addressed in as little as one episode before The Aquatope on White Sand enters its endgame.
The reason why I am confident that only a handful of conflicts remain to be resolved, before The Aquatope on White Sand gears up for the storyline that will likely give the anime its main theme, is because P.A. Works has not previously deviated from their modus operandi. While The Aquatope on White Sand has been full of surprises insofar, P.A. Works’ strongest anime have traditionally followed a very similar pattern. Once Ohana figures out life at Kissuisō in Hanasaku Iroha, Sui announces she’s closing it, leaving the staff determined to go out with a bang for one another’s sake. Sakura Quest sees Yoshino putting in everything she’s got in making the Mizuchi Festival a success as her year-long contract comes to an end. Hikari and his friends are determined to rescue Manaka from the wrath of the sea gods with another Ofunehiki festival after coming to terms with their own conflicts and unspoken feelings during Nagi no Asukara. We are now at a point in The Aquatope of White Sand where something similar is about to happen, and while I cannot speculate on any specifics, it is evident that this anime will present one final event that brings all of the characters, even Tetsuji, together as they work together in order to accomplish a goal, one that was chosen to convey the series’ main theme. The lingering question now is whether or not The Aquatope on White Sand will being back the kijimuna and visions spotted at Gama Gama: in this second half, the supernatural has all but taken a backseat as the series focused entirely on Kukuru and Fūka adjust to their new workplace and support one another, as well as those around them. As heartwarming and uplifting this may be, stories don’t typically introduce an element unless it has relevance to the narrative. Consequently, with two critical pieces still having to make an appearance yet, I am curious to see what sorts of challenges and surprises will unfold as The Aquatope on White Sand enters its final quarter. While it is possible these elements could be completely discarded, I would prefer to think that P.A. Works has learnt from the aberration that was Glasslip; The World in Colours has shown P.A. Works can incorporate magic and the supernatural in a seamless fashion into their worlds, so I am hoping that for The Aquatope on White Sand, elements that were briefly touched on in the series’ first half can be interwoven into the second half’s narrative in a complete, coherent fashion to really augment the messages this anime is striving to convey.