The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Ready to Return and The Future of the Aquarium: The Aquatope on White Sand Review and Impressions At The Penultimate Episode

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich

Kukuru and Fūka return to Kamehausu to see Misaki off; here, Fūka learns that Misaki’s love of marine biology stems from her desire to conserve marine ecosystems and preserve the beauty of the natural world. The pair subsequently board a ferry back to Okinawa. Kukuru apologises to Tetsuji for her unsanctioned leave of absence, but Tetsuji isn’t concerned about this and asks Kukuru to focus on the wedding project, noting that there is also an open position for an attendant’s position, and he will act as her reference. Despite struggling, Kukuru ends up envisioning a wedding for Fūka and finds herself drawn into the project. Tetsuji reviews Kukuru’s proposal and decides it’s ready, but at Kukuru’s suggestion, they invite the wedding planner, Miura, over to Tingarla. Although Miura is initially reluctant to deem the venue as suitable, after Kukuru suggests that once the expansion area is finished, newly-weds will be able to celebrate their momentous occasion under the sea, amongst the wildlife, Miura completely comes around and accepts their proposal, before taking up Kukuru’s offer to tour Tingarla. With the successful proposal, Tetsuji thanks Kukuru for her hard work. However, Kukuru’s forgotten about Kai, and when she learns Kai’s taking some time off to look after his father, she immediately sets off to meet him. Later, Director Akira announces a special programme that Tingarla will host in two year’s time; to prepare the staff, he will be sending candidates over to Hawaii for a two-year course. While Fūka is curious to try it, she’s also conflicted because of her desire to be with Kukuru. Nonetheless, she works hard to prepare for the selection process, while Kukuru speaks with Director Akira and learns that Tetsuji had once been working in finance and was sorting out a situation where another aquarium had folded. The animals had suffered, and since then, Tetsuji chose to take a more active role in doing his best to prevent such an incident from repeating. Realising that she has the potential to continue supporting marine life while broadening her horizons, Kukuru decides to remain in marketting. On the day of the selection, Fūka gives a presentation about bottlenose dolphins at the inlet, drawing the interest of several families here. During review, the staff agree that while Fūka might lack the technical experience of the other candidates, her ability to communicate makes her valuable. Fūka ends up getting a spot in the programme, but confesses to Kukuru that she’d only gotten as far as she did because they were together. Kukuru assures Fūka things will be fine, and in that moment, they find themselves whisked into the midst of another vision. We’re now down to the penultimate episode of The Aquatope on White Sand, and it is here where things are beginning to reach their conclusion; a fateful meeting sends both Fūka and Kukuru on a trajectory that they’ve walked together, but to advance further, they will need to make a decision on what their futures entail.

Here at the twenty-third episode, a particularly bumpy chapter for Kukuru draws to a close once she’s had a chance to regroup and gain some perspective; in particular, visiting Kamehausu and speaking with Misaki allows Kukuru to appreciate that her love for marine life is an immeasurably broad, and moreover, there is more than one way to express this love. Previously, Kukuru had believed that she necessarily needed to be at the frontlines, physically handling the animals and directly communicating this to others, much as she had done at Gama Gama. However, by speaking with others, Kukuru learns that the entire staff of an aquarium, from the administrative staff to the attendants, all care for about their charges in their own manner, and all of these approaches are equally important towards the end goal of promoting awareness in the importance of maintaining sustainable relationships with marine ecosystems and preserving the wildlife’s health. Tingarla, being a particularly large and well-funded institution, draws upon both revenue and government funding to keep its doors open; while hosting weddings might have seemed far removed from the goal of raising awareness for ocean life, from a different point of view, celebrating an event as significant as a union can mean being mindful of the world’s natural wonders every time a couple puts on their wedding rings, and this tie to the ocean is a constant reminder that humanity is a part of nature. While Kukuru struggles with this, it is ultimately the sum of her experiences that lead her to this conclusion. In this way, Kukuru is pursuing her dreams in a practical fashion; yes, she loves the animals and greatly enjoys tending to their well-being, but at the same time, being able to work in a position where she can positively influence an entire institution and its staff is just as impactful. If Kukuru is successful in a proposal or an event, increased visitor count would drive more revenue, increasing Tingarla’s operating budget. This in turn would allow for more researchers to be hired, better equipment to be utilised in keeping the animals healthy, and even fuel an increased scale of operations. While she may have not immediately spotted this early on, Kukuru’s experiences have allowed her to grow as a person. No longer constrained by her old desires, Kukuru has found a path that allows her to contribute to her dreams in ways she previously did not think possible; in the process, Kukuru learns that the gap between a child and an adult is simply that while the child receives magic, adults create magic for children and are permitted to find magic of their own, as well.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After watching the sea turtles reach the ocean, Kukuru and Fūka share a heart-to-heart talk. The next morning, they swing by Kamehausu again and have a conversation with Misaki, who mentions that for her, the biggest joy of working as a marine biologist is being able to contribute to conservation efforts. This is inspiring for Fūka, and here, I will note that The Aquatope on White Sand does touch on ecology and conservation in its themes. While some have argued they form the majority of the series’ themes, I disagree – The Aquatope on White Sand weaves many elements into its story, and the Japanese respect for nature is why themes of caring for the environment permeate anime, so environmentalism isn’t a theme that is unique to The Aquatope on White Sand. This is an integral part of Japanese beliefs and is completely unrelated to the politicalisation of environmental destruction from human activities.

  • When Kukuru returns to Tingarla, she apologises to Tetsuji profusely, but Tetsuji seems unfazed and asks Kukuru to pick up her project where she’d left off. Such a minimal reaction perhaps speaks to his experience in the field, but it also leaves viewers with mixed messages, and for me, this meant that I was left wondering if Tetsuji should be regarded as a part of the environment rather than a character, since he’s had no character growth whatsoever – while blunt and unyielding, Tetsuji also mentions that he’ll give Kukuru a recommendation when new attendant positions become available.

  • Although she resolves to hit the ground running, ideas quickly run out for Kukuru, and in the ensuing chaos, she resembles Locodol‘s Nanako once more thanks to Miku Itō’s excellent voice acting. Throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, I found that while Kukuru has a very distinct personality compared to Itō’s previous characters, whenever things don’t go well for her, but not to the extent where her spirits are completely trampled on, Kukuru will sound like Nanako whenever Nanako had been overwhelmed by the things happening around her. I’ve always had a fondness for Nanako, so this isn’t ever a problem, although I doubt many will remember 2014’s Locodol.

  • In the end, Kukuru gains a brilliant idea after recalling a suggestion to act as though she was planning the wedding for someone close to her. She immediately asks Fūka what her ideal wedding would look like and ends up drafting a proposal with feedback from Marina, Chiyu and even Kaoru. To her great surprise, Tetsuji finds the proposal acceptable and even agrees to Kukuru’s suggestion of inviting the wedding planner back to Tingarla so she can see what is possible given Tingarla’s facilities.

  • On the day of her tour, both Tetsuji and Kukuru greet her, thanking Miura for having taken the time from her busy schedule to visit Tingarla. While this method might not always be viable in real life, I have found that allowing people to check something out for themselves is the best way to give them a sense of what’s been done, and what remains to be done. In software, this means putting apps on TestFlight and pushing them out for testing. Some of the best feedback I’ve received as a developer come from these sessions; users are not usually technical and only care that something works, so they bring with them a valuable perspective I may not have.

  • In Kukuru’s case, while she’s unable to fully convey what’s possible at an aquarium in a presentation to the wedding planner, being in her element really allows her to sell Tingarla’s strengths. Kukuru’s clearly cut out to be an attendant, and she naturally enters her routine of showcasing the exhibits to Miura here. However, while some people argue that Kukuru should take the opportunity and ditch being in marketting, I feel that Kukuru’s previous experience as an attendant is what makes her so valuable to the marketting team; she possesses the boots-on-the-ground knowledge that would allow her to convey this in promoting Tingarla in ways that people with a pure marketting and management background might not have.

  • Of course, different people are entitled to different thoughts on Kukuru. My suggestions are motivated by my own experiences; I started out in health sciences and I’m a software developer now, so I appreciate the importance of being multidisciplinary and will make an effort to see where a broad skillset is valuable in the bigger picture. Not everyone will share this background, but I will comment that the harsh dismissals of The Aquatope on White Sand are indicative that some folks do not necessarily understand what a talent stack is – a talent stack is a collection of skills in which one is competent in which, when combined together, give an individual value. One needn’t excel with in any one area to be successful. In my case, I’m an average programmer, I have an average eye for UI and UX, I’m unremarkable when it comes to solving problems efficiently and quickly, I’m middle-of-the-road in verbal communication, and I’m run-of-the-mill in conflict management.

  • However, because I’m passable in each of these areas, together with an eye for spotting patterns and knowing how to learn and acquire knowledge as a result of my multidisciplinary background, I can combine these skills together to be effective in my roles. Kukuru similarly has a broad enough spectrum of skills to succeed in what she does – she knows her animals, she’s outgoing and a good communicator, and she knows how to get people excited about the aquarium. She may not be as experienced as Tetsuji in business, and both Kaoru, Kūya and Eiji surpass her in knowledge, but Kukuru is able to combine her skills to form a unique talent stack that lets her be successful when she puts her mind to it. I would wish that rather than superimposing their own experiences in life onto Kukuru or Tetsuji and declaring The Aquatope on White Sand invalid, people would instead make an attempt to understand why the series has taken the path that it does.

  • Although Miura is not initially convinced, once Kukuru suggests that the bride and groom will be able to have an extra-special wedding because it would feel like they’re surrounded by the ocean and its inhabitants, their wedding would come to symbolise a celebration of life, she’s able to paint a compelling picture in Mirua’s head. Suddenly, Miura is able to visualise how Tingarla could be a wedding venue, and she accepts the proposal, after which she requests a full tour of Tingarla and its facilities. The smaller details, such as what kind of photography will be allowed, what the scope of decorations will be, and how the banquet will be handled, can be ironed out in more detail later because Kukuru has shown that they can be accommodating.

  • In the end, besides convincing Miura of the merits of hosting weddings at Tingarla’s newly opened areas, Kukuru also makes a fan out of Miura. This is an incredible, commendable and praise-worthy achievement on Kukuru’s end – even the stoic Tetsuji gives Kukuru a “well done” after Miura leaves Tingarla with a plushie in her hand and a promise to visit again soon. When Kukuru puts her mind to things and applies her talents, she is able to make things happen, but more importantly, this win came from Kukuru speaking up and getting help from those around her.

  • What I find disappointing is how in discussions elsewhere, no one was willing to comment on how Tetsuji praises Kukuru for having nailed their first proposal. Instead, people continue to complain that Kukuru only ended up where she was because of nepotism, that her actions earlier should’ve been met with reprimand, and how The Aquatope on White Sand is attempting to sell the idea that “horribleness and drama [makes one] a greater person in the near future”. To me, it is evident that this negativity stems from people being unable to relate to Kukuru because the portrayal of things in The Aquatope on White Sand is so divergent from their own experiences. While there’s nothing wrong with drawing on one’s own experiences to evaluate an anime (considering how often I do this, I wouldn’t be one to talk if I said otherwise), one must also be able to compartmentalise their own feelings and make a sincere effort at working out what the creators are trying to say, as opposed to declaring The Aquatope on White Sand a “poor anime” simply because it’s not progressing the same way it did for an individual in their life.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand is Kukuru and Fūka’s story. It is not my story, and it certainly isn’t the critics’ story. Everyone has a different path in their careers; some people have a smoother path than others, some may take a meandering route before reaching their goals, and some people may never reach their goal. This is the justification for the stance I’ve taken – I’m not here to judge Kukuru for her mistakes, but rather, to discuss the milestones in her career that are portrayed and what my impressions of The Aquatope on White Sand‘s message is given these moments. Here, viewers are treated to Kukuru’s smile after a good day’s work; while perhaps not quite as adorable as Nadeshiko’s smile from Yuru Camp△, it was heartwarming to see Kukuru happy again.

  • However, as P.A. Works is wont to doing, things suddenly take a turn for the unexpected when Tsukimi mentions that Kai’s running into problems of his own. Kukuru realises that she’s been so wrapped up in her work that she’d never even stopped to check in with Kai and see how he was doing. Part of being a productive and well-balanced member of society means being able to set boundaries between one’s work and personal life; one must consciously act to prevent one from overtaking the other, and it is clear that Kukuru has forgotten about those around her as a result of her work. Maintaining this separation is also a skill, and while Kukuru is making strides in some areas, she has much to learn.

  • Moments like these therefore act as instruction for Kukuru – after leaving Ohana and returning to Tingarla, Kukuru has a chance to speak to Kai, who explains that because his father recently collapsed, he will take a leave of absence to ensure his father is doing well, and then return to his duties once his father has recovered. Kai’s taken a remarkably mature stance on things, and he assures Kukuru that things are going to be fine. Because of how Kai was portrayed when passing this news to Kukuru, one can suppose that Kai’s got a plan he can execute, and this instance is more meant to remind Kukuru that she should be more cognisant of not allowing her work to push out the other aspects of her life.

  • Altogether, it is fair to say that I’m probably in the minority of people who like Kukuru because of her flaws. The reason for this is simply because Kukuru’s shortcomings are what make her human; while she’s prone to unprofessional decisions and making rookie mistakes, we must recall that she’s only nineteen at this point. To expect a nineteen-year-old to conduct themselves with the level of competence and proficiency as that of a thirty-year-old is to be downright unreasonable (especially without the ten extra years of learning how to fail gracefully and both being mentored and mentoring). Assuming that the critics are probably in their late twenties or early thirties, this is all the more disappointing and speaks to their immaturity, not Kukuru’s.

  • All told, discussions on The Aquatope of White Sand have generally not been an accurate assessment of what this anime is like; I get that everyone will have their own experiences when it comes to how their career unfolded, but to decry one particular portrayal as being lacking, disingenuous or unrealistic is to demonstrate a disregard for the fact that differences among people mean that different people will inevitably take different paths to reach an outcome. This idea is reiterated in The Aquatope on White Sand through the fact that Tingarla only works if all of the departments are marching in unison towards a shared goal.

  • While the methods that marketting take will naturally be different than those of the attendants, they are all unified by a common love for marine life. Towards the end, Director Akira announces a bold new project Tingarla will be undertaking, and he’s dubbed it the USTD, Under the sea with Sea creatures: Totally Devoted (海と水棲生物とても大好き, Hepburn Umi to Suisei seibutsu Totemo Daisuki, literally “Totally love sea and marine life”). It’s actually quite clever how well it works in both Japanese and English, bringing to mind a quip I had regarding the Magic and Photography Club from The World in Colour. Akira presents how this project will be referred to as the Aquatope and deal primarily in conservation: Tingarla’s vision is to be a world leader in this area, and with this revelation, we finally know how the Aquatope relates to The Aquatope on White Sand.

  • Akria closes off with an exciting opportunity: a two-year program in a Hawaiian aquarium, which Kaoru notes as being one of the most cutting-edge on the planet. Immediately, Eiji and Kaoru are all ears. Chiyu and Marina are curious about the research programme, but in the end, decide to stay behind to tend to the penguins. Umiyan and Kūya have their own reasons for not applying, and for Fūka, she’s feeling a little conflicted about whether she wants to go. On one hand, she’s become considerably more interested in conservation, but on the flipside, she doesn’t want to leave Kukuru behind, either.

  • The next day, Kukuru shares a conversation with Akira; this is more of an informal discussion rather than an interview, and while Kukuru admits that she’s probably not suited for marketting based on Tetsuji’s evaluation of her, Akira counters by mentioning Tetsuji’s reason for working at Tingarla. This story was precisely what I was looking for: I empathise with Tetsuji in this area, having worked for two start-ups that ended up failing despite the effort I’d put into keeping the companies alive, both with my apps and the entrepreneurial side of things. While I’d been hoping that Tetsuji would tell Kukuru this himself, Akira chooses to disclose it to Kukuru, taking the awkwardness out of the moment and giving Kukuru a chance to similarly understand why Tetsuji is the way he is. However, by telling Kukuru himself, this indicates that Akira also trusts Kukuru. This conversation acts as the turning point for Kukuru, who now realises that looking after the sea can take many forms.

  • That Tetsuji remarks Kukuru’s latest proposal was accepted further speaks to the fact that while she’s not seeing it herself, Kukuru is indeed becoming more effective in her role. Kukuru’s path is reminiscent of the discussion I shared with students in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme during a career panel two weeks ago – my career path hasn’t been exactly a sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. However, because I had been armed with the multidisciplinary background and possessed the inquiry know-how from that programme, I was able to right my course and find a path I would be happy walking. I said as much during the panel, and these thoughts were mirrored by the two other panelists (a PhD in medical research, and a health policy specialist). It takes time to figure out what one is good at, but finding something one is happy with is an even bigger challenge, so it is worth the effort to explore different paths early on, when there is the flexibility (and support) to do so.

  • The discussion out there surrounding The Aquatope on White Sand are completely contrary to the messages from the Health Science career panel, and were one to listen to that commentary, one would suppose that being happy in a job one were good at is an impossibility. This is untrue; finding such a path requires a strong understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, as well as an open mind and the ability to compromise. For Kukuru, despite the fact she’s in marketting, she has no trouble getting up close to the animals, and here, she’s overjoyed at Choko and the other Cape Penguins’ return, so it’s not as though marketting would prevent her from being with the marine life: here, Kukuru warmly greets the penguins she’d grown so familiar with at Gama Gama. Kai’s also doing well; his father is on course to recovery, so this leaves Kai in good spirits. It suddenly hits me that the Cape Penguins of The Aquatope on White Sand happen to be the same penguin species that show up in Telus’ iPhone 13 commercial, so now, I can’t see Choko and the others without thinking of Freddy Mercury’s introduction to the 1985 Live Aid Concert.

  • While Kukuru stays overtime to work on her projects, Fūka decides to push forwards with her application to the research overseas programme. She initially struggles to fill out the sections asking her what about marine life is the most important to her, but after thoughts of her time with Kukuru come rushing back, Fūka is able to pour her soul into things and produce a very strong application. Writing strong applications (or cover letters) is a skill that one can cultivate over time, and while I’ve only attended a handful of career-related sessions during my time as a university student, after I began working for my first start-up, I began approaching presentations and pitches to clients and prospective customers as a chance to show them what our products could do for them. When it comes to cover letters and applications, I am the product, and therefore, the goal is to show how whatever I can bring to the table will help the company achieve their visions and goals.

  • After hours, Kukuru sits down to a late dinner at Ohana and shares a conversation with Tsukumi – Kukuru and Fūka’s living arrangements are such that the pair share meals together, and Kukuru mentions she’d like to not trouble Fūka quite as much. It is plain that Kukuru and Fūka are very close as a result of their shared experiences, but I hold that those who are asserting The Aquatope on White Sand has a significant yuri component are making massive subjective leaps in their analysis. Such a relationship ultimately contributes nothing to the story, and P.A. Works historically has not focused on yuri in their titles, preferring to omit romance entirely if it was not necessary to the story. Shirobako and Sakura Quest dispensed with romance entirely to focus on career progression among the characters, but like The Aquatope on White Sand, they don’t particularly suffer for it.

  • On decision day, Akira, Bondo and the other members of the leadership team prepare to assess the short-listed candidates by asking them to give their presentation on a species of their choice, in the manner of their choosing. This does come out of the blue for viewers, but I imagine that candidates would have already been notified of this ahead of time, since Eiji and Kaoru are particularly well-prepared, and Fūka is seen eying some animal costumes earlier. Eiji decides to do a very visceral presentation on how the ocean’s bounty is an immensely valuable resource for humans by preparing a tasting menu for the adjudicators, and presenting on how our society evolved to live in harmony with the ocean, such as by finding ways of preparing even poisonous species for consumption. He concludes that conservation efforts are vital to preserve the resources that has allowed our species to come as far as it has.

  • Conservation takes on a more significant theme during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half; it was present during the first half, but more prominent here now that professionals are speaking about it to Fūka. Something like The Aquatope on White Sand shows the hows behind conservation – it’s easy for politicians and uninformed speakers to call others out on social media about their contribution to rising global temperatures but then not action their own words. However, when the process of how one is to be more eco-conscious is portrayed, it gives a sense of credibility. This is where The Aquatope on White Sand excels: Misaki studies sea turtles to understand their behaviours and better determine how people can live in harmony with them, without disturbing their lifecycles, and similarly, Tingarla’s staff study various species to better characterise them and in turn, identify which human activities are most harmful to them so that policy changes can be suggested, and better practises can be implemented.

  • When it comes to Fūka’s turn to present, she dons a dolphin costume and gives an interpretive presentation on dolphins. She trips when starting out, but after regaining her composure, manages to draw an audience: children and their parents take an interest in things. The results are adorable and creative: it is clear that Fūka has not lost any of her old skills when she’d been an idol, and it speaks to how capable Fūka is when she’s properly motivated. While she may no longer be an idol, she’s still finding clever ways of using her skills to differentiate herself from Eiji ,Kaoru and the others; unlike them, Fūka uses simpler vocabulary and attempts to make certain she is understood by all audience, not just specialists in marine biology. This particular method of scientific communication is an incredibly valuable skill to have – not very many can explain complex topics in terms that are meaningful to laymen, and even fewer can deliver such conversations in a manner engaging to children.

  • For the leadership team, Eiji, Kaoru and Fūka’s applications are standout. Eiji or Kaoru would be the evident choices owing to their strong experience and background with marine biology and ecology, but Akira puts his backing behind Fūka: Fūka’s strongest point is that she is able to captivate and excite children with her ability to present information, and Akira suggests that being able to inspire children, to the point where some of them might consider a career in conservation, is completely in line with Tingarla’s objectives to leave a positive legacy for the world’s inheritors. From this standpoint, sending Fūka to Hawaii makes sense, since she’d be able to learn more and make the most of things. By comparison, since Eiji and Kaoru are already skilled, I imagine that while the experience would still be one-in-a-lifetime, they wouldn’t gain quite as much from it as Fūka.

  • It is therefore unsurprising that Fūka is offered the spot. While this should be an exciting moment, Fūka reveals to Kukuru that she’s not ready to be apart from her yet, and that the only reason she’d made it this far was because Kukuru had always been there for her. The Aquatope on White Sand had shown time and time again how Fūka is always around to lend a shoulder to Kukuru, but Kukuru’s contributions appear more minor by comparison (the only instance I can readily think of as being shown on-screen was when Kukuru helps Fūka to memorise all of the penguins’ names). However, this isn’t to say that it’s all give and no take; for Fūka, Kukuru is a reliable, constant presence, a source of encouragement. In this sense, I’m similar to Fūka in that I am able to be my best when I know there are people in my corner.

  • Signifying how far Kukuru has come, she is able to reassure Fūka and suggests that this time, she gets to be the older sister. Fūka learns that Kukuru intends to stay in marketting – Kukuru’s decision is commendable because it shows how she’s been able to learn and adapt, even if she herself isn’t aware of this. In the end, Kukuru implies that no matter where Fūka goes, they won’t be separated, and subtly nudges Fūka to take this opportunity to further her skills. As they converse, the dolphin jumps into the air, and suddenly, Fūka and Kukuru are swept into a vision. Both are able to see this vision, and this moment was meant to signify that the phenomenon is no longer mysterious: in this instant, both Fūka and Kukuru have given one another a bit of magic that is happiness.

  • With this post in the books, I have no qualms admitting I will be sad to see The Aquatope on White Sand wrap up next Thursday. When I began writing about this series, the daily high was 26ºC, and the sun set at 2150. Today’s high is projected to be -2ºC, and the sunset is at 1629. It is ludicrous as to how much time has passed since The Aquatope on White Sand started, so much that I’m now set to take my first full day off since I started work in my current position today. It feels a little strange to have a Friday off, and where I’m normally giving updates, attending meetings, debugging or developing something, I now have open time. I think I’ll get started on the MG Kyrios I picked up a few weeks ago, make a little more headway into Halo Infinite‘s campaign (I’m enjoying it immensely so far: shooting and movement respectively feel visceral and responsive) and perhaps work on the drafts to other posts I’ve got lined up for this month.

Whereas things have focused on Kukuru towards the end of The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka’s development has been more subtle. Kukuru is very vociferous about her problems, while Fūka is more apt in compartmentalising things and counting on the presence of those around her to reassure herself that things will be fine. For Fūka, so long as Kukuru is around, she feels as though she’d have the confidence to go ahead and pursue whatever her heart desires. However, after meeting Misaki and learning about the significance of wildlife conservation, Fūka begins to be pulled in a new direction; she empathises with the animals that she’s come to look after every day, and care deeply for the circumstances affecting other members of a species. This in turn fuels her desire to learn more and push her knowledge ever further. Fūka might believe that she has Kukuru to thank for this path and therefore, cannot leave her side, but in reality, Kukuru was only really the catalyst that allowed her to find another path forward. Everything that follows subsequently is a result of Fūka’s own hard work and determination. Moreover, while the time Fūka and Kukuru may spend together is finite, the learnings, experiences and memories resulting from the time they do have will endure. Moving into the finale, it becomes imperative to address this remaining element before things wrap up. Fūka has a wonderful opportunity ahead of her, and she’s evidently demonstrated that she has what it takes to be successful. Both Fūka and Kukuru have made considerable strides since they’d met one another, helping to raise one another up to the point where they are each able to face the future’s challenges. In this final moment, when Fūka wonders if she could ever leave Kukuru’s side, Kukuru smiles and mentions it’s now her turn to be the older sister, assuring Fūka that following her dreams won’t mean they’ll exit one another’s lives. I’ve remained consistently impressed throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, and entering the finale, the only expectation I have is that the series has both Fūka and Kukuru rising out of the ruins of a shattered dream more resilient and knowledgable than before, ready to face whatever lies ahead with not only enthusiasm, but confidence as well.

8 responses to “Ready to Return and The Future of the Aquarium: The Aquatope on White Sand Review and Impressions At The Penultimate Episode

  1. folcwinepywackett9604 December 10, 2021 at 08:18

    The Infinite Zenith has a remarkable maturity and insight into real people and real life situations.

    Those individuals making critical remarks about Aquatope are in all likelihood as you suggest, very young and without much life experience. The Aquatope on White Sand would appeal to a much older demographic than your average anime. One has to live a lot of these events in this story to fully appreciate the power and depth of “real” magic, a very human process of melding emotions to actually building this world. Nobody is an island, entire to themselves, we need to work together with sincere cooperation in order to make this world a better place. The heart of this in Aquatope is the relationship between Kukuru and Fūka, a very serious Sormance, which has allowed both to grow in very positive directions. The hope is that we always attempt to help each other, rather than to degrade those around us, under the mistaken belief that life is a zero-sum game, i.e for me to gain you must lose, etc. Working to help each other increases value for all which enriches one’s own self. Win-Win is real, and that’s the real magic.

    It is going to be hard to say goodbye next week, to a story that is simply wonderful magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith December 15, 2021 at 22:19

      It’s always encouraging to encounter folks who believe that in life, win-win is a possibility on the table 🙂 While it is the case that some situations are zero-sum, where possible, I find it much more productive and worthwhile to produce an outcome where everyone walks away happy. P.A. Works has successfully done this in the past, and this is my precedence for thinking the way that I have regarding The Aquatope on White Sand.

      The finale to this series is one I’m greatly anticipating, and I’m certain that we’ll be treated to a showstopper of a finale; I therefore look forwards to your thoughts on The Aquatope on White Sand when the finale airs, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Kerpan December 13, 2021 at 11:10

    This series started off incredibly strong — and (for me) it has only gotten better and better as it progressed. Almost every episode I think — “this is the best one yet”. And this one was no exception. It never seemed rushed — yet it covered so much. Kukuru and Suwa still don’t communicate well (or understand each other adequately). She really thinks he does not have confidence in her — and that is why he is willing to recommend a (temporary) transfer to the attendant corps. But I am pretty sure that he (perhaps with Grandpa and the Director) understands she needs to be given the freedom to choose between marketing and being an attendant. Now that she has scored a major success and seen what she can accomplish, she has earned the right to choose. Surely, he would now prefer her to stay in marketing (he gives her a new task for a children-oriented program) — but won’t constrain her choice. Thus, the Director’s seemingly-mystifying characterization of him as a “real sweetie” (or was it “softie”) is finally shown to be warranted (not that lots of online commenters will ever forgive him).

    I have been predicting (ask my wife for proof, if needed) that Fuuka at least would be leaving Tingarla at least temporarily for more education at the end of this season. Her response to her meeting with Misaki in the previous episode made me even more certain. Moreover, all of PA Works’ shows about young working people have involved a motif of separation to one degree or another — as part of the process of character growth. As it turns out, Tingarla itself creates the opportunity of a separation that is not really a separation (but only a temporary parting in order to allow even closer connection in the future). My next prediction — the new Aquatope research facility will be built at or near the site of now-gone Gama Gama — and both Kukuru and Fuuka will work together there — as experienced colleagues. Will we get a flash forward timeskip in the last episode — or will we have to wait for a movie follow-up (like Shiorobako: the Movie). Time will tell.

    Liked by 2 people

    • infinitezenith December 15, 2021 at 22:32

      Historically, P.A. Works have never been too good with sequels: Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home and Shirobako: The Movie are probably the only examples I can think of off the top of my head that were actual continuations. Both were superb, of course, but among their repertoire of anime, very few were written with an open ending, enough to accommodate a movie. Tari Tari or Angel Beats! are worthy candidates for a continuation, but we’ve eclipsed a decade on the latter, and the former turns ten in the summer of 2022. Neither have received an official continuation, either (in the case of Angel Beats!, it did get a light novel, and Tari Tari was continued in a novel). As such, I imagine that whatever awaits us in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s finale, it will probably resemble how Sakura Quest turned out.

      Regarding Fūka, fear not, for I believe your speculations have merit. Separation is never really final, and people become stronger when they take that step towards pursuing their future whole-heartedly, so I anticipate that The Aquatope on White Sand will also go down this route. From what we’ve seen of Tingaara, the aquarium is plainly successful, and the Aquatope Project that Akira mentions is right in line with their goal of conservation. To have Fūka and Kukuru return to the site and continue on with their futures would be especially spectacular, and an ending where both work together as professionals would be a fitting close to the series. Thematically, this makes sense: both love the marine life, both care for their duties and one another, and both have proven competent in their roles. Having this outcome means the series is aiming to show the winding path one takes to a career they’re fulfilled by, as well as speaking to the importance of being there for one another.

      If such is the outcome, I believe I am permitted a moment in uncharacteristically gloating about this to The Aquatope on White Sand‘s detractors. Before we reach such a point, there remains the finale, and I think a handful of conflicts need to be addressed. The major one is persuading Fūka to accept the opportunity, and then there’s the matter of having Kukuru properly reconcile with Tetsuji. I highly doubt the remainder of the internet will come around: people have an aversion to being wrong, and at AnimeSuki, the moment the series cut Tetsuji some slack, and basically showed that our speculations held water, people immediately jumped to “Kukuru felt forced” and “yuri is the most important part of this anime” to deflect from the fact that things didn’t pan out as they’d expected. That’s ultimately on them, and I’m personally hoping The Aquatope on White Sand doesn’t go down the yuri route, if only to see the ensuing reactions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael Kerpan December 16, 2021 at 13:06

    We will talk more about Aquatope — and what might come afterwards — after you write up your thoughts on the (fantastic, IMHO) last episode.

    As to Hanasaku iroha, there is (reportedly) a novel series set several years later — which not only has not been adapted but has not even been fan-translated.

    Like

    • infinitezenith December 16, 2021 at 13:07

      Will do: I had to cut a bit of work to watch the episode today, and a full post won’t be out until later tomorrow. With that being said, I took a Friday off for the express purpose of working on the finale post, and I look forwards to hearing your thoughts on things 🙂

      Like

  4. jsyschan December 18, 2021 at 23:01

    Watching all the character growth in this show really makes for a strong series.

    Like Kukuru, I suppose sometimes, we all need a break, though I certainly wouldn’t go about it like how she did. It’s nice to see her put in effort into her campaign again, getting perspectives from her coworkers to make up for her lack of experience. Plus, it was nice to see her boss compliment her on her results and hard work.

    While I understand that we didn’t know the full story about Tetsuji and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge, I think the anime could have done a bit more with his background here, like in a show/don’t tell kind of way. With Chiyu, her actions show that she has a reason for her motivations and goals, and it was shown in the episode focused on her. I think that made the experience more empathetic when we think about her now that we know her back story. In the case with Tetsuji, while we get his backstory (in only a few lines of dialogue), I don’t really feel it was totally effective. Nothing against his background, but we didn’t see him struggle or act out emotionally in a way that led to an understanding of how he is now compared to how he was in the past (like in a flashback). Plus, while Kukuru understands him a bit better, there’s no real reconciliation between the two that kind of made it worth it (though given how he’s the boss and Kukuru’s the subordinate, I can understand why there wouldn’t be any interaction).

    I liked how Fuuka thought deeply about branching out and gave it a shot. I also understand why she didn’t want to leave Kukuru. It’s tough to move on away from people who have helped you so much, but I suppose that’s a thing about growing up. We can’t just stay the way we are now without someone giving us a push. It’s like how Shikamaru motivated Naruto after Jiraiya died. Someday, they’ll be the ones teaching the younger kids about the wonders of the aquarium, like how Fuuka tried to invoke in her presentation. Plus, it’s not like she’ll be gone forever. Fuuka and Kukuru will still be working at Tingaara, so there’s always something to look forward to.

    Makes me wonder about myself and whether I’m mature enough to move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith December 22, 2021 at 10:30

      At age 19, I did some pretty bone-headed things. I imagine that many people, when looking back to their early adulthood, would similarly recall some dumb things they did. That we grow out of these things and make decisions based more on logic and reason, rather than emotion, as we age, is something that is acquired over time and through experience. Kukuru will get there, and The Aquatope on White Sand shows she’s on this path, making her experiences compelling.

      I think you’ve presented the most well-reasoned case for why Tetsuji’s character is not well-received: I concur that the amount of time spent on him was limited, and even something like a half episode might’ve been more helpful. With this being said, it is the case that, even when they might not get along at a personal level, subordinates and superiors can nonetheless cooperate and work together well at the professional level. The Aquatope on White Sand might’ve been trying to go for this, and per the remarks from one of my other commenters in my finale post, The Aquatope on White Sand is presented from Kukuru’s perspective. She might not have a need to become friends with Tetsuji, and being able to work with him is sufficient. As it was, I found the portrayal we got to be satisfactory, although I do appreciate hearing a better-explained side of things (versus people from other communities, who’ve slung around insults at both P.A. Works and Tetsuji).

      The fact that Fūka is set to go on a two-year programme meant that it is inevitable that she and Kukuru would return to one another one day, so I was rooting for Fūka to take the opportunity. More so than ever, people can be connected even when they are apart, and the benefits conferred by such an opportunity are immensely valuable. Shows like The Aquatope on White Sand have the power to drive us to look at ourselves in the mirror, and this is one of the joys about the career-oriented series P.A. Works have done. I think that there’s a little Fūka in all of us, but whether it be our own resolve, or through support from those around us, I would tend to believe that everyone can find the maturity to move ahead and seize whatever lies ahead in the future.

      Like

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