The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Kaoru Shimabukuro

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Twenty-One

“When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” –C.S. Lewis

Fūka is surprised to learn that Ruka and members of a film crew will be shooting footage at Tingaara for a nature programme. While Fūka is initially reluctant to be shonw on TV, after overhearing that Ruka is having a bit of trouble with her career, as well as learning that Ruka is facing harassment from her fans, she decides to help out with the filming. Although things go smoothly, the crew are hoping to capture the moment on film, when the juvenile penguin takes to the water for the first time. When Ruka butchers a take, Fūka decides to take Ruka aside for a quick break, where she gives Ruka her old high heels. It turns out that Fūka had wanted to wear them on stage for a performance, but never had the chance to. Rather than discard them, Fūka hopes that Ruka will take them as a keepsake to encourage her onwards. Returning to the penguin enclosure, Fūka gently nudges the penguin forward, and Ruka is impressed with how far Fūka has come as a person. Meanwhile, Kukuru struggles with the work Tetsuji has assigned her. When she learns about a dolphin that has taken up residence in a nearby bay, she hastens to take a look, and encounters her grandfather here. Kukuru learns that Gama Gama is scheduled for demolitions as well. While Kukuru attempts to put together a proposal to a prospective client, a wedding planner, the proposal ends up failing as a result of her lack of preparation. Tetsuji indicates that this is a valuable learning experience, but after Kukuru learns she’d missed the attendant’s dive to check up on the dolphin, as well as Airi’s visit of Tingaara, she begins to wonder what her efforts were for. She decides to visit Gama Gama and is visibly saddened to see that crews have already begun tearing the old aquarium down. The next day, Kukuru fails to show up for work, worrying Fūka and Karin. It turns out Kukuru had wanted a break, and took an unsanctioned break: Karin and Fūka attempt to smooth things over, while Kukuru runs into Misaki, Umi-yan’s wife. The two help clear the beach of garbage ahead of the sea turtles’ hatching. Back at Tingaara, Fūka deals with the aftermath of a penguin fight, and becomes thoroughly irritated after trying to speak to Tetsuji about Kukuru. Having had some time to regroup, Kukuru decides to visit the Kamehausu, a local aquarium whose manager also trained under her grandfather. When the sea turtles begin hatching later, Kukuru attends alongside Kamehausu’s manager and Misaki. She’s surprised to find Fūka here, as well. At this point in time, we are now three episodes out from wrapping up The Aquatope on White Sand: of late, the story has shifted away from the supernatural to focus entirely on the workplace.

While The Aquatope on White Sand indicates that Fūka has settled into her role, Kukuru continues to struggle to find her place in the sun, and while she’s had several wins so far, she’d pulled through on raw determination and spirit alone. This approach has its limits, and the timing of Gama Gama’s demolition, the arrival of a dolphin in a nearby bay, and the fact that Kukuru has missed Airi’s visit at Tingaara, because she’d had a scheduling conflict with her botched proposal to a wedding planning agency, leads her to wonder if she’s giving too much for a job that she’s still wondering about. The sum of these events creates what is known as burnout; Kukuru has been putting her best forward as often as she can manage, but inadequate management, unclear expectations and poor workplace dynamics lead Kukuru’s work-life balance to be thrown out the window. She’d gotten by through her own passion previously, but several coincident events ended up conspiring to completely deplete Kukuru’s motivation. Burnout is a very real problem in the workplace, and although workplace guides suggest that things like practising mindfulness, sleeping and exercising well is a potential means of mitigating it, this doesn’t actually address the root of the issue. In order to develop a viable, long-term solution, Kukuru would need to speak with Tingaara’s director and provide honest feedback so the director is able to work with Kukuru on reaching a compromise of sorts, as well as capitalising on the fact that her coworkers in marketting, especially Akari and Karin, do care for her and would be willing to support her if she’d requested it. Instead, Kukuru’s in-the-moment decision, to go absent without leave, is something that would lead to a reprimand (or even immediate dismissal) in reality. However, there is merit to taking a step back to regroup, as well. By taking time away from her projects, which seem far removed from the aquatic life she loves so dearly, Kukuru is able to gain some perspective and regroup. In Kukuru’s place, I would have pursued a request to take some personal time first, and then schedule a meeting with my supervisor to discuss things. However, we recall that I am a full decade older than Kukuru and have had time to develop professionally. A core part of The Aquatope on White Sand is the fact that Kukuru, despite her intrinsic talents and interests, is still a novice in the workplace. Circumstances lead to her mistakes, but these mistakes provide an invaluable learning experience that will leave her better prepared to handle situations as they come up in the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Ruka, Fūka’s old colleague from their idol group, appears in Okinawa to do a shoot on Tingaara, the team members are excited to appear on camera alongside an idol. However, Fūka ends up overhearing Ruka and her manager sharing a difficult conversation; it turns out that the idol industry is giving Ruka a hard time, as well, and the Tingaara project had been an assignment to bolster her popularity, which has been in decline. Conversely, while the other members of the production team are keen on having Fūka figure more prominently, Fūka is reluctant to take centre stage.

  • For Ruka, her spirits are poor because she’s feeling that even though she’s enjoying the work, things are still uncertain in her career, and that the pressure is endless. When asked, Fūka explains that being an aquarium attendant allows her to focus on the animals and encourage them, giving her joy in ways that being an idol couldn’t. While Fūka doubtlessly found happiness in bringing smiles to her former fans’ faces, being an idol has its dark side, as well; Ruka’s fans are giving her trouble online, and Umi-yan rightly notes that people only see results, not the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

  • As a software developer, for instance, I tend to be a lot more forgiving about bugs in production software that isn’t my own: I understand that no matter how tight a process is, some bugs will inevitably get out. For me, what’s more important is the willingness to fix them; while the customers won’t ever know how much effort went into this, for me, what I care about is delivering the product they came for. While Ruka laments that she hasn’t “made it” in her career yet, I remark that in a given career, I don’t believe that anyone really “makes it” until they’ve got experience backing their decisions and choices, and the confidence to carry things out without second-guessing oneself: only Ruka can answer what this means to her, and for me, “making it” as a software developer means being part of a good team who cares about developing maintainable software that satisfies the customer’s needs.

  • Here, filming is well under way, and a microphone boom arm can be seen in the frame as Fūka and Ruka showcase Tingaara’s café after sharing information about Tingaara’s main tank. I’ve always enjoy watching people trying (or making) delicious foods on TV, to the point where seeing commercials for Food Network programmes is now sufficient to pique my interest in the show. One short segment has a lady become excited about trying some freshly-made cupcakes, and I find myself filled with a urge to watch that show in full so I could see what went into making the cupcakes, alongside the resulting reaction from tasting the love and effort in said cupcakes.

  • The night before, Fūka had come across her old high heels, which she’d bought with the aim of wearing them one day when performing, but that chance never came. Fūka had since kept them to remind herself of what’s possible, and so, when Ruka butchers one of the takes, the pair go off to regroup. Fūka gifts these heels to Ruka in the hopes that she’ll be similarly encouraged. Fūka had mentioned that she’s come to enjoy being able to gently nudge animals forward, but taking a step back, we’ve seen that in The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka’s got a talent for encouraging others. She’d done the same for Kukuru, and now that Ruka’s here, Fūka is doing her best for Ruka’s sake, too.

  • The main highlight in this episode, then, is seeing how far Fūka has come; while she’d been lost before, helping Kukuru out led her to find her own path, and in an environment that isn’t quite the pressure cooker that is being an idol, Fūka’s really come to mature. Watching Fūka support those around her suggests to me that of everyone, she’s managed to find her own path in life and is in a spot now where she’s able to raise those around her up, as well. This is a sign that Fūka is at peace with who she is, and what she’s accomplished.

  • To drive home this point further, Fūka is shown as having no trouble handling the Cape Penguins at Tingaara now: whereas she got a beak to the ass the first time she’d dealt with penguins at Gama Gama, she’s become an expert now and smoothly runs things, being able to guide the penguins out of the way and even pick them up without eliciting any panic. For the filming crew, they’d been really hoping to capture footage of the juvenile Cape Penguin take to the pool and swim for the first time. Throughout the episode, this particular penguin has shown some reluctance in hopping into Tingaara’s pool and joining its compatriots in the water.

  • Besides providing exciting footage for the show Ruka’s been a part of, the little Cape Penguin also acts as a metaphor for transitions in life itself, and I found that the moments ended up reminding me of myself; I’ve always been a bit of a slow-starter, myself. I didn’t take the driver’s exams until I was sure I’d pass in one go, I spent almost six months preparing for the MCAT, and I didn’t even look at owning a home until I had enough in the tank to make a down payment. I’d be the penguin who looks at the water and think, “give me another day, I’d rather come back when I’m over-levelled”.

  • Like the little Cape Penguin that Fūka gently nudges into the water, I’ve always found that, once the moment had come for action, my fears would evaporate, and I simply did what was needed. When the little Cape Penguin hits the water, he finds that it’s actually quite smooth, and glides about in joy, bringing a smile to the film crew and audience’s faces. With this, it becomes abundantly clear that viewers needn’t worry about Fūka: the reason why she’s not had quite as much time as Kukuru is because she was able to find her place in the world anew.

  • Conversely, Kukuru is struggling, and despite her efforts to find enjoyment in her work, overworking slowly seeps in and threatens to sap Kukuru of her spirits; beyond overseeing plans to open a new wing at Tingaara, the new area that Tetsuji was speaking of, Kukuru has fallen behind on her usual assignments. She despairs to Karin and wonders why they didn’t assign some of the work items to her, since Karin would be more experienced and therefore, capable of getting things done faster. However because the full scope of Kukuru’s workload isn’t shown (we viewers only see glimpses of things, and aren’t there for the full length of Kukuru’s hours), I continue to maintain that, in the absence of substantial evidence, saying Kukuru is being treated unfairly is to make a massive subjective leap in judgement.

  • When Kukuru catches wind of a young Bottlenose dolphin stranded in a local inlet after being separated from its mother, she hastens to see it. Kukuru’s grandfather and Umi-yan agree to keep an eye on it, and Umi-yan decides to request that Tingaara’s staff show up to help out. It is here that Kukuru learns from her grandfather that Gama Gama is scheduled for demolitions; from this point onwards in the episode, Kukuru’s work begins suffering: the last connection she had to her parents is being swept away, and this weighs heavily on Kukuru’s mind.

  • This revelation is precisely why Kukuru’s spirits take a hit: it isn’t the nature of her work, the expectations Tetsuji has for her, or the fact that Kukuru still wishes to be an attendant one day, but rather, the fact that what was essentially a second home for her, a reminder of the times she spent with her parents, will no longer exist. Kukuru had embraced the aquarium because it represented a tangible connection to her parents. Kukuru had been unable to save Gama Gama, but with the building set to be torn down, it really drives home the idea that Kukuru’s memories could become lost to time.

  • The next morning, Kukuru takes Fūka to see the Bottlenose dolphin; it turns out the dolphin’s doing fine despite being separated from its mother. Fūka and Kukuru are treated to some jumps, and Kukuru later returns to this spot to find some children here, who promise Kukuru that they won’t be too noisy. In an episode characterised by an overwhelming sense of dreariness, having the dolphin to look forwards to brightens her day up somewhat. However, this does cause Kukuru to lose track of time on several occasions.

  • Whereas Kukuru clashes with Tetsuji fairly often, after learning of Gama Gama’s demolition, the fight is sucked right out of Kukuru. She ends up taking on a project to design a proposal that will impress a wedding planning company, who’s looking to host events in Tingaara’s new wing, which is set to open at Tingaara’s one year anniversary. However, Kukuru’s heart isn’t really in the right place now because she’s so preoccupied, and The Aquatope on White Sand takes the pain of showing this to viewers: the scenes are faded, and Kukuru’s seen speaking with other staff without her usual vigour. It’s clear that Kukuru is only going through the motions and not putting her best foot forward, and this couldn’t come at a worse time – while Tetsuji holds Kukuru in poor regard, he’d assigned her the wedding proposal because he’s seen Kukuru at her best and wishes to spur her forward in his own way.

  • When one’s heart isn’t in the fight, no amount of time will yield a good result. As it stands, the wedding proposal plan was sunk from the beginning; The Aquatope on White Sand is not trying to show what overwork looks like, as some have asserted, but rather, the consequences that arise when working while preoccupied. I don’t mind admitting that I have days like these, too: everyone will inevitably have off days, but on the flipside, someone with experience will be able compartmentalise their troubles and focus on their task at hand. Kukuru is still young and has the time to learn this particular skill, so I’m not going to hold this against her.

  • Even though Kukuru’s grandfather is retired, he’s still involved with marine life: here, he speaks with the director, who thanks him for the advice and remarks the dolphin’s doing fine. Further to this, the director is impressed with the effort that Kukuru has been putting in to her assignments, too. Kukuru’s grandfather implies here that he nudged the director to put Kukuru in a marketting role to broaden her horizons, and this remark has generated a nontrivial amount of discussion on how he’s wrong and should’ve allowed Kukuru to become an attendant in the first place. These individuals are the ones in the wrong: I’m an iOS developer by trade, but since taking up my current position, I’ve also been asked to look at Java, ExtJS and SQL as well. I accepted this position knowing that while I’d be out of my element, it’d represent a fantastic learning opportunity.

  • Had Kukuru been made an attendant, yes, she’d be happier in the short term, but this would give her no chance to advance her skills. The proposal assignment is one such instance where Kukuru is pushed out of her comfort zone, and having done inadequate planning, Kukuru is unable to convince the wedding planner that their venue is suited for hosting weddings, as well as forgetting that the point of a wedding is for the human clients, rather than the animals. As it stands, aquariums do make for excellent wedding venues, and while it is true that flash photography can be harmful to aquatic life, choosing the right species can reduce this risk.

  • While the proposal ended up being a failure, Tetsuji remarks to Kukuru are that this also was a valuable experience, since it gave them insight into what the wedding planner needs. This, in turn, provides them the information they need to put something more suitable together; rather than lay the blame on Kukuru, Tetsuji simply asks her to look at things anew with this additional information. While Tetsuji has been widely reviled, I am getting the feeling that while he’s uncompromising, he’s also genuinely invested in his work (at least, taking it more seriously than Bondo Garandō, the breeding manager who’s got a very laid-back character: a conversation between Bondo and Tetsuji suggest the two have been at odds with one another for quite some time.

  • When Kukuru returns to the office, she attempts to take another crack at things, but finds her thoughts wandering back to Gama Gama. Things hit a tipping point after she learns that she’s missed Airi’s visit, as well. Leaving her work behind, Kukuru rides out over to the site where Gama Gama once stood, only to find a pair of bulldozers and a pile of rubble in its place. It is important to note that while Kukuru has been pushing herself, it was because she genuinely enjoyed the work she’d been doing, and the cosplay event speaks to what Kukuru is capable of achieving when her mind is in the right place. The Kukuru seen in the twentieth episode is a Kukuru whose mind is preoccupied by the very thing she’s now witnessing with her own eyes.

  • Back during the summer, I returned to the site of my first workplace and to my surprise, found it in the middle of being torn down, as well; the site is undergoing some major changes, and the building my startup was in had been around since 1917. Amongst the rubble, I recognised the old fireplace I sat at while waiting for the team to gather for a comedy club event one night. With the building gone, nothing remains of my old start-up, save the old Xcode projects; looking back, things had been very rough back then, especially with respect to finances, but I don’t regret joining because it gave me a chance to develop my iOS skillset to the point where I could work on every step of the process with confidence.

  • Kukuru’s response to adversity is to withdraw and leave her post, something that both parallels Fūka’s decisions when The Aquatope on White Sand first began, would create not shortage of trouble in reality. At the very least, one should go through the proper channels first and inform their supervisors before setting aside some personal time. Looking back, I count myself remarkably lucky in that I am in a field where I love what I do; over the past five years, I’ve only ever taken two weeks of vacation time so I could go to Japan, but beyond this, I’ve not had any other personal time. This was primarily a consequence of how start-ups are, and presently, I have three weeks of paid time off every year. Early this month, my supervisor asked me to use as much of that time as I could, since I can only carry over a maximum of five days into the new year, and since beginning this year, I ended up only using a half day for a home inspection appointment.

  • As a result, I ended up requesting the last two weeks of December off, as well as two more Fridays off. This leaves me with four extra days I’ll bring into 2022, which will be useful on days where I’ll be moving, and with the time off, I plan on shopping for remaining furniture, building the MG Kyrios, going through movies and kick off Halo Infinite‘s campaign. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, being able to speak with Misaki helps Kukuru to regroup; Misaki is a marine biologist who specialises in Chelonioidea (i.e. sea turtles), and after running into Kukuru, Misaki hears her out, suggesting that her actions will have consequences, but for the time being, what’s done is done, and she should at least take the time to relax. I can vouch for the idea that walking away from a problem to regroup: there have been many a case where a bug or feature was defying my ability to solve, so I ended up talking a walk to clear my head and see if I could approach it from another angle.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand has always had gorgeous weather, but the twenty-first episode’s skies are particularly standout; they’re a deep shade of blue that brings to mind the colour of the skies twenty kilometres up, as seen in Mythbusters when Adam flew up to the edge of the atmosphere in a U2 for a special. Weather generally is used to accentuate a given aesthetic or emotion in anime, so to see the skies take on such a hue is meant to remind viewers that while Kukuru is feeling down, there is still beauty all around her worth appreciating, and Misaki is helping Kukuru to gain this perspective.

  • Back at Tingaara, after Fūka runs into Tetsuji and tries to explain Kukuru’s situation to him, Tetsuji remarks that it’s none of Fūka’s concern, and that his team will deal with things. The way Tetsuji phrases things is intrinsically irritating to her, enough to rile Fūka up send her into a Kukuru-like frenzy, in which she nearly punches Kai’s lights out. This moment did remove any doubt in me that, while Tetsuji might excel at his work, his interpersonal skills are lacking. Given that Tetsuji doesn’t get along with a fair number of Tingaara’s staff from what we’ve seen, I am curious to see how The Aquatope on White Sand resolves this, especially considering that even Chiyo and Kukuru end up reconciling to an extent where they’re able to get along from a professional standpoint.

  • By the time Kukuru wakes up, Misaki’s already gone off to oversee research she and her graduate students are conducting. This leaves Kukuru to enjoy breakfast: a pork-and-tamago onigiri. At it’s simplest, these sandwiches consist of an onigiri wrapped around a large slice of spam and egg, but like burgers and poutine, Okinawans have found ways of sprucing things up. The dish is said to remind Okinawans of home, and while Kukuru is surprised that this is breakfast, the moment she sinks her teeth into one, her spirits are immediately lifted. While I’ve never had a pork-and-tamago onigiri before, the Chinese bakery nearby makes a bread version of this, featuring the spam and egg inside a sweet bun, and I’ve always found these quite delicious, a great way to start the day.

  • After breakfast, Kukuru decides to take a walk nearby and check out the nearby aquarium. This excursion takes her through a vast, verdant field under skies of Egyptian Blue, she takes in the quiet world, one that is far removed from her usual worries and activity. This field greatly resembles the field seen in the elderly man’s vision when he’d visited Gama Gama, hoping to see his brother again. That Kukuru is here for herself now holds symbolic value; open plains signify being able to see clearly for miles around, and in a world that seems quite far removed from her own, Kukuru can nonetheless find what she’s looking for.

  • Kukuru arrives at Kamehausu (literally “Turtle House”), the aquarium she’d been seeking out. It turns out Kamehausu is even smaller than Gama Gama, and lacks even the tanks that housed Gama Gama’s marine life. In spite of this, Kamehouse feels very much loved by its visitors: after dropping off the admission fee, Kukuru spots three young boys rush in, finish the day’s challenge and rush off to redeem their free ice cream from the manager. The smaller aquariums in The Aquatope on White Sand are not purely businesses, but they’re also local hangout spots.

  • In this way, Kamehausu feels more like Gama Gama, compared to the commercial, institutionalised vibe that Tingaara gives off. This feeling is accentuated by the fact that the manager quotes Kukuru’s grandfather. At this point, it is worth mentioning that there isn’t a right or wrong approach to running an aquarium, or business in general: smaller businesses can give personalised service, while large companies are more versatile and resilient, but also more bureaucratised. Given what The Aquatope on White Sand is going for, I would hazard a guess that towards the end, the director will push Kukuru to introduce a more cozy, home-like feel to Tingaara in conjunction with Tetsuji, and there is a possibility that Kukuru may take her own experiences and successfully run her own small aquarium, too.

  • After one penguin trespasses on another’s turf and gets beaten up in a fight, Fūka, Marina and Chiyu tend to its wounds before calling in Takeshita to take a look. Fūka’s come to care greatly for her charges and can’t bear the thought of anything happening to the wildlife. Fūka learns that Kukuru is with Misaki and becomes interested in seeing the sea turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. On a night with the full moon, the turtles hatch, and while Kukuru is concerned after the moon gets covered by some clouds, once the moonlight returns, droves of young sea turtles come out of the sand and make their way to the ocean. Kukuru is surprised, but pleased that Fūka is here with her.

  • While the sea turtles hatch and make their way across the beach into the ocean, Yoshiaki Dewa’s incidental music swells to a crescendo, filling the scene with emotion. Dewa’s composition for The Aquatope on White Sand is very similar to that of The World in Colour, featuring a mix of upbeat songs for everyday life, contemplative and melancholy pieces for more emotional moments, and use of shamisen to evoke an Okinawan feel to things. The soundtrack itself is set to release on January 26, 2022, and at the time of writing, there’s no tracklist, but it is known that the soundtrack will retail for 3850 Yen (43.44 CAD) and come with two disks. This brings my current round of discussions to an end, and I will note that The Aquatope on White Sand has continued to keep me guessing on its run. I’m not too sure where this one will land, but as I’ve previously noted, I similarly continue to look forwards to seeing what this series has in store for viewers.

Besides giving Kukuru some breathing room, her excursion also allows The Aquatope on White Sand to really show off what P.A. Works is capable of. Her time with Misaki and the sea turtles shows just how evolved P.A. Works’ craft is: the turtles and penguins are expertly animated and move as their real-world counterparts do. The colours and lighting breathe new life into Okinawa, an already-beautiful locale. The sheer majesty of nature proves to be the tonic that lifts Kukuru’s spirits, and through this trip, Kukuru cannot help but feel amazed at what’s out there. That Fūka joins her for the sea turtles’ hatching further shows that, no matter how their paths deviate, Kukuru will always have someone in her corner. In this area, The Aquatope on White Sand continues to excel. However, with only three episodes remaining, there remains turf that this anime has yet to cover. The visions seen at Gama Gama have not been given any exploration, and similarly, the kijimuna that periodically appeared in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half is nowhere to be seen. These developments must now be fitted into the remaining time, which likely will deal with the elephant in the room: Tetsuji and Kukuru will need to reconcile, even partially, if The Aquatope on White Sand is to be consistent in its themes. If the supernatural elements are to be relegated to the background, it will be disappointing, since The Aquatope on White Sand would imply that Corinthians 13:11 is correct. I’ve never believed in the claims that when “one becomes a man, [they necessarily] set aside childish things”. In other words, omitting the magic would suppose the world of adults to be a very dull and monotonous one, devoid of curiosity and exploration. Instead, I’ve found that the gap between an adult and a child is that a child receives magic, and an adult gives it. C.S. Lewis rightly states that Corinthians 13:11 is in fact childish: the desire to appear grown up by setting aside what is “childish” is in and of itself childish. An adult is someone who accepts themselves for who they are, as well as accepting others for who they are. With this in mind, because the magic has faded from prominence in The Aquatope on White Sand in favour for a tale of interpersonal development and professional growth, at the very least, the remainder of the series must sort out the conflicts between Tetsuji and Kukuru. Such messages would naturally be strengthened by the inclusion and return of both the visions at Gama Gama, as well as the kijimuna, and at this point in time, it’s anyone’s guess as to how The Aquatope on White Sand will wrap things up.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions At The ¾ Mark

“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 Tingaara 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 Tingaara’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 Tingaara. 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 Tingaara 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 Tingaara staff exposition; with their backgrounds out in the open, the series is prepped to enter its final quarter, ready for a big finish as Tingaara 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 Tingaara staff so that she could keep her work without her situation becoming deemed a liability to Tingaara. 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 Tingaara. 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 Tingaara’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 Tingaara 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 Tingaara’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, Tingaara 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 Tingaara’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 Tingaara.

  • 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.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Fifteen

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” –Steve Jobs

It turns out that Fūka and Kukuru are now neighbours, with Fūka having looked ahead to see where Kukuru had moved to before returning. On her first day, Fūka apologises to the director for arriving late, and is promptly assigned as an attendant, where she is to work alongside Chiyu in her duties. Meanwhile, spurred on by Fūka’s return and her determination to ace a test Chiyu tasks her with (memorise the name of all the African Penguins in their exhibit), Kukuru resolves to do her best to and set up the logistics for a behind-the-scenes tour. Despite running into some hiccoughs with the penguin exhibits (Chiyu doesn’t feel the penguins are ready to be shown, since they agitate easily and need time to adjust to their new homes). After Fūka aces the test and demonstrates to Chiyu that she’s serious about excelling in her role, she suggests that certain measures can be taken to keep the penguins happy and go ahead with this segment of the tour. On the day the behind-the-scenes tour opens, only a single family shows up. While Tetsuji is disappointed with the results, the tour had actually gone very well. Later, Tetsuji sets Kukuru up with the goal of quickly designing an exhibit, and to her surprise, approves of the proposal to exhibit sea slugs. While sea slugs are tricky to look after, Kukuru does her best in trying to put the exhibit on, driven by her own passion for aquatic life. One of the species proves especially tricky, and despite orders to go ahead despite not knowing what this species’ diet consists of, Kukuru decides to keep these sea slugs out back until they can figure things out. In the process, Kukuru clashes with Kaoru Shimabukuro, one of the more senior attendants, but once the two get their feelings into the open, it’s clear that the two have more in common than they first thought. Realising this, Kaoru invites Kukuru to check out a section of the shore in search of the food source for the remaining sea slugs, and Kukuru enthusiastically accepts. After I hastily rushed out a talk for The Aquatope on White Sand two weeks earlier, things have settled down a little now as Kukuru and Fūka begin really learning the ropes of their new positions at Tingaara, supporting one another as they had previously at Gama Gama.

While Fūka’s rapidly adjusting to the pace at Tingaara, Kukuru has had a tougher time so far – despite her undeniable passion, drive and devotion, she continues to clash with Tetsuji and other members of the staff as she struggles to delineate her personal and professional worlds. For Kukuru, marine life and aquariums are a part of her as much as it is a job, and consequently, in her eyes, every fight is her fight. However, the exchange she has with Kaoru marks a turning point of sorts in The Aquatope on White Sand; while Kaoru is able to clearly articulate her respect for the ocean and commitment to Tingaara’s success through conservation and education, at her core, she believes in the same things that Kukuru believes in. The only difference is that Kukuru is a bit more raw about how she feels, and is a ways more impulsive: aside from the disparity in how she expresses herself, Kukuru and Kaoru are more similar than unlike, and for Kukuru, spotting this means better being able to empathise with the attendants while at the same time, balancing her duties for the marketting team. Up until now, Fūka and Kai had been Kukuru’s main source of emotional support, and both have already gone above and beyond in reassuring Kukuru, looking after her and giving her a chance to regroup. To see Kukuru slowly realise that there are other people like her, working towards the same long-term goal, then, is to suggest that over time, Kukuru will be able to confidently stand of her own accord. The past two episodes have also shown that Kukuru and Tetsuji most certainly do not get along – Tetsuji is purely concerned with growth and customer retention, values that impress a board during quarterly meetings, while Kukuru is very hands-on and wants to give customers the best possible experience so they’re inclined to return and learn more about aquatic life. While the way Kukuru and Tetsuji express things is drastically different, at their core, Kukuru and Tetsuji actually do have the same objective: bring people to Tingaara so they can learn more about marine biology, and become longtime customers to keep Tingaara’s doors open. Having found common ground with Kaoru, The Aquatope on White Sand suggests that with people she can lean on, learn from and be encouraged by, Kukuru will find ways to strike a balance between reducing customer turnover and doing the hands-on work she’d loved about Gama Gama: knowing P.A. Works, Tetsuji and Kukuru will certainly come to understand one another better, in keeping with what The Aquatope on White Sand has strived to convey thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having impulsively pushed out a post a few weeks earlier, I return to the usual schedule with this week’s talk on The Aquatope on White Sand, which sees Kukuru pleasantly surprised that Fūka is her neighbour. Of everyone, Kukuru is the most honest with Fūka and confides with her that she was having second thoughts about how things turned out. However, now that Fūka’s back, Kukuru is encouraged and resolves to rise up to the challenge. When the second half of The Aquatope of White Sand was about to air, people speculated that the series was going to purely focus on Kukuru, and some even suggested they’d quit watching, here and now, if Fūka weren’t present.

  • While it is true that Fūka is integral to The Aquatope on White Sand, such a statement is indicative of people who are predisposed towards jumping to conclusions. Admittedly, this is why episodic write-ups are always a challenge: since one doesn’t have the full picture in mind, certain things within the moment may not make sense until more context is provided. Here, Akari speaks to Kukuru about Fūka and is surprised the two know one another. While Tetsuji might be about as friendly as a winter storm, The Aquatope on White Sand shows that both Akari and Karin get along with Kukuru well enough.

  • I’ve been where Kukuru was: working with the American computational oncology company put me in contact with a backend team based out of Winnipeg, and said backend team were among the most unfriendly group I’d worked with. In spite of this, I overcame my hurdles precisely by focusing on my tasks and delivering what was asked. As such, The Aquatope on White Sand‘s portrayal of how Kukuru handles Tetsuji is mostly accurate: while she may be dismayed at his unreasonable expectations and lack of empathy, she’s learning how to focus on her duties and deliver what’s asked of her.

  • Meanwhile, since Fūka has been assigned to be an attendant, Chiyu decides to test her ability to pick up new information. A part of me wondered if this was Chiyu attempting to haze Fūka, but this is likewise an unfair assessment to make: generally speaking, the attendant position is more formally an aquarist, and for the most part, people in this field must possess at least an undergraduate degree in zoology or marine biology on top of having field experience with animals and communication skills. For safety reasons, aquarists must also have certification in CPR and scuba diving. The position is a demanding one, and the average pay hovers around 30500 CAD per year in Canada.

  • The behind-the-scenes tours might’ve been delayed, but now that the other departments have had a chance to catch up, Tetsuji determines that the time has come to give guests these tours; Kukuru is given the task of organising the tour and coordinating with the different departments to ensure the tours go smoothly. Fortunately, she also has Karin in her corner, although things mean that Kukuru can come across as a bit immature at times. This is, of course, a part of her growth, and folks like Karin understand what Kukuru is going through; Karin had previous work experience, and for her, things that cause Kukuru to melt down are just another problem that can be dealt with.

  • With Fūka back, the Gama Gama crew can really get together and celebrate now. Kukuru’s foul mood persists into the evening until Karin reminds her that tonight is about welcoming Fūka for the next stage of her journey. The Aquatope on White Sand makes it clear that Fūka is a tonic of sorts for Kukuru: seeing Fūka buckle down and give her best inspires her to do the same. The synergy about the two can only be thought of as how very close friends and close siblings can encourage one another. Tsukimi ends up serving this party, and the group are thoroughly impressed with the food at Ohana.

  • Fūka initially struggles to memorise all of the penguin’s names based purely on their tags and any distinct identifying traits. This brings to mind the sort of work I did for my courses during university: I recall memorising the Hiragana and Katakana for Japanese, as well as all twenty of the amino acids (along with their structures). Back then, absorbing information by brute force was my preferred way of doing things; I’ve never really been good with memory tricks or mnemonics. In industry, experience replaces memorisation: I know some systems sufficiently well to apply shared principals for novel problems.

  • Despite her initial struggles, Kukuru’s managed to get the behind-the-scenes tour organised, save for penguins. While Tetsuji is okay with skipping over the penguins for now, and Chiyu has justification for why, Kukuru believes that there is merit to adding this to the tour. Tetsuji reluctantly allows Kukuru to try, and while Chiyu still holds objections, her coworker, Maya, is more receptive to the idea. With everything that’s been shown so far, it really looks like that Tetsuji and Chiyu will be the people that Kukuru must figure out: Maya is friendly, accommodating and more than happy to help make the penguin exhibit a successful part of the behind-the-scenes tour.

  • With her exam upcoming, Fūka still has a few birds left to memorise, and it is with Kukuru’s help that she’s able to get the last few nailed down: Kukuru suggests that in order to really memorise something, Fūka must learn to stop relying on her notes and only count on them to check an answer. Being able to see the penguins for herself also helps Kukuru to understand why Chiyu had been so adamant about not running the tour with penguins: they’re still adjusting to their new home, and visitors would likely only disturb them more.

  • Seeing how Kukuru treats her friends and adversaries alike gives insight into her character as it is now. Since treating people professionally and equally is a part of maturing, this is something that Kukuru will (hopefully) have a chance to work towards. Fūka has undoubtedly been a major asset for Kukuru, helping to keep her spirits up, but their friendship is one of give-and-take: for everything Fūka has done, Kukuru is more than happy to help her out where she needs it. This dynamic is why Kukuru and Fūka had gotten along particularly well during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, so seeing this return for the second half means this particular theme is particularly important to the series.

  • On the day of Fūka’s exam, she aces things. It is here that Kukuru makes one final bid to have Chiyu approve of showing the penguins to visitors as a part of the behind-the-scenes tour, and after some concessions are made, Chiyu finally accepts so long as Kukuru is true to her word. When the tour does begin, Kukuru and Akari are surprised to learn that there’s only one family: Kukuru had been so busy preparing that she’s had precious little time to advertise the event. Since she is on a team, one would imagine that Tetsuji would’ve had the foresight to assign someone else to spread the word and build some excitement.

  • Despite his 牙刷刷 manner, Tetsuji is not infallible. However, in spite of this oversight, Tetsuji holds Kukuru accountable even where it was his failure to assign someone to the task of advertising that resulted in the low turnout. As I saw it, the behind-the-scenes tour was an unqualified success, and the family that does show up come away impressed with both Tingaara’s facility and staff. While Kukuru is still learning the basics surrounding big picture decisions, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, she excels with detail-oriented tasks.

  • I don’t think I’ve mentioned this until now, but The Aquatope on White Sand had mentioned that these are African Penguins. These flightless birds are found in South Africa and primarily feed on fish found in the pelagic zone. Moreover, Fūka did mention that there was a happily-married couple: it is definitely true that African Penguins are monogamous. The choice to have African Penguins at Gama Gama and Tingaara is a logical one: unlike penguins found in Antarctica, African Penguins do inhabit a variety of regions and therefore, can adapt to warmer conditions quite readily compared to their Antarctica counterparts. Although it is never mentioned in The Aquatope on White Sand, African Penguins are colloquially referred to as “Jackass Penguins”, too.

  • While I count Tetsuji as 牙刷刷 (jyutping ngaa4 caat3 caat3, an obscure Cantonese slang that cannot be literally translated and whose meaning is “arrogant”), I am not going to say that I dislike his character: P.A. Works introduces difficult characters for a reason, and it would be most immature to simply develop hatred of a fictional character when said fictional character clearly has a role to play in advancing the story to some capacity. Had Tetsuji been an accommodating and understanding leader, there’d be no conflict: this might be appropriate for something like Koisuru Asteroid or Houkago Teibou Nisshi, but since interpersonal relationships, specifically, dealing with adversity and conflict management, are central to The Aquatope on White Sand, it makes no sense to put Kukuru on easy street.

  • Moreover, the lack of conflict amongst characters would mean that there’d be no chance to showcase Kukuru’s funny faces. In response to whatever Tetsuji asks of her, Kukuru can be seen rocking P.A. Works’ best funny faces since the Shirobako days, and admittedly, I miss them quite a bit; making the characters expressive allows a given series to tell viewers the emotional tenour of a moment without utilising dialogue or other audio-visual cues. Kukuru opens the fifteenth episode dissatisfied with the fact that she has to produce written reports. While they can be tedious, having a paper trail has been shown to save a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • During lunch hour, Kukuru and Fūka enjoy what appears to be shrimp tacos and fries from a local food truck. While Kukuru is so distracted she’s not enjoying her meal, a few words from Fūka gives Kukuru the spirit to slow down for the moment and tackle her latest problem from a new angle. It’s been two years since I’ve been to a food truck, and I fondly remember the days when food trucks would show up on campus with things that couldn’t be had anywhere else: from the legendary “smoked meat hash”, to fried chicken poutine and pulled pork poutine, the food trucks in my city largely contributed to my becoming a poutine connoisseur.

  • As soon as the current fourth wave dies down, I am almost certainly going to go out for poutine with my friends again. Until then, I’ll sit tight and return to The Aquatope on White Sand, where Kukuru is now spurred on to really get creative in finding ways of creating an all-new project that is intended to bring more people to Tingaara. While the assignment had initially stumped her, once she gets into the swing of things, Kukuru is unstoppable, and even works extra hours to create an array of proposals for Tetsuji to review.

  • Tetsuji is the sort of individual who perpetually seems dissatisfied, although in the end, he concedes that Kukuru’s proposal for sea slugs might have merits and approves it. There’s a host of reasons why people are like this, ranging from communication faults to insecurity. I personally give credit where it is due, and even where something might have obvious flaws, I also comment on what was done correctly, as well as what else could be done to improve things, on top of noting the reality of the situation. This approach allows me to cultivate a reputation of fairness, and then when it is necessary, I can be frank with my criticisms without people misinterpreting my intentions.

  • Karin, Akari and other staff in marketting are impressed that Kukuru managed to get something passed. Their pufferfish hats here stand in stark contrast to Tetsuji’s severe manner, and one would suppose that, under a more light-hearted leader, the marketting department at Tingaara would be a pleasant place to work. Kukuru is beginning to hit her stride and approach problems as I do: no matter how unpleasant a leader might be, I’ve found that sticking to one’s assignment and doing a well enough job so that there is no room for large criticisms is fulfilling one’s responsibilities in a satisfactory manner.

  • I’ve not seen Kukuru this happy since the earliest days of The Aquatope on White Sand: with sea slugs being the theme now, Kukuru is allowed to go out and gather species for the exhibit. It was here that The Aquatope on White Sand really begins to solidify what is possible given Kukuru’s skills. Unlike Karin or Akari, Kukuru’s knowledge of marine biology is extensive, and she is therefore able to bring ideas to the table, having an awareness of what would be required to get something implemented. For Kukuru, these sorts of assignments also put her back in her element.

  • Earlier, Eiji had spotted Kai speaking with Kukuru and conjectures that Kai’s got feelings for Kukuru. Drawing analogies to other marine organisms, who signal their desire for a mate in obvious ways, Eiji suggests that Kai be direct with Kukuru, as well. While Eiji is a stoic individual who finds marine biology more relatable than people, he’s actually turning out to be very personable, and his graduate degree allows him to put his knowledge to good use in ways not directly related to his duties. The Aquatope on White Sand has a varied cast, and like Angel Beats!Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari and countless of P.A. Works’ previous shows, this series similarly aims to slowly unveil the characters, who become more likeable as more of their story and nature is revealed to viewers.

  • A few days ago, I spotted a promotion on Twitter from the The Aquatope on White Sand‘s feed, which showed Fūka and Kukuru together with Hitomi, Kohaku, Manaka and Miuna. It turns out this is a special collaborative art exhibition to be held in Tokyo and Osaka in November 2021 and January 2022, respectively. The theme that these three anime share in common is their portrayal of the ocean: this is easy enough to spot for The Aquatope on White Sand and Nagi no Asukara, but for The World in Colours, I imagine that the “ocean” acts as a metaphor for the world within our minds.

  • With this in mind, it would appear that The Aquatope on White Sand is a project that brings the workplace piece from Hanasaku IrohaSakura Quest and Shirobako together with the ocean themes of Nagi no Asukara, and the idea that magic comes from within, which was a big part of The World in Colours: thanks to its 2-cour runtime, The Aquatope on White Sand has had plenty of time to explore a wide range of themes. Here, both Fūka and Kukuru are disappointed that the last remaining sea slugs have not been eating at all. The Aquatope on White Sand has evidently done their homework: sea slugs is a broad group of gastropods informally referred to as opisthobranchia: this is not a monophylic classification, a result of the fact that sea slugs are extremely diverse.

  • When Kukuru’s concern for these sea slugs causes her to be late for a behind-the-scenes tour, she and Chiyu almost get into another fight. Fortunately, Fūka is on hand to prevent escalation, and before the tour continues, Kukuru contents herself with giving Chiyu a dirty look, adding another funny face to my growing collection of Kukuru moments. It typifies Fūka’s ability to resolve conflicts that nothing more happens, and I imagine that Fūka will play a role yet where Chiyu and Kukuru are concerned.

  • A close look at Kukuru’s screen finds that she’s rocking Windows 10, but the machine is evidently that of a 2017 21.5-inch iMac: this is made possible by Bootcamp, which is a software that comes with MacOS and allows one to easily partition their hard drive and dual-boot between Windows and MacOS. Back during graduate school, I ended up using Boot Camp for my thesis work: Unreal Engine and Unity ran much more smoothly with Windows than Mac, making it easier to build and run more complex 3D visualisations. I imagine that for P.A. Works, having Tingaara run MacOS Monterey would’ve run afoul of Apple, so they elected to display a genericised version of Windows instead, and here, Kukuru reacts in response to an email from the latest version of Microsoft Outlook.

  • When Kai takes a brief break from his shift, he’s surprised to see Kukuru still going at things, and brings her some salted coffee, a beverage with origins in the US Navy. It’s said that the salt came from the fact that desalination units on WWII-era ships weren’t a hundred percent effective, and some salt remained anyways. Coupled with the fact that salt takes the bitterness from a cup of joe, the tradition stuck. Kai isn’t able to express how he feels about Kukuru to her here, but he does manage to give her some stress relief, allowing her to continue on with her work.

  • Whereas Kukuru is adamant that the remaining sea slugs be properly fed, Kaoru notes that Kukuru’s idealism is interfering with their actual work and in the long term, would be more harmful to the organisms and their ecosystems; by taking organisms from their natural habitats, the aquarium has already subjected the animals to confinement, and the hope is that a few organisms will take one so the knowledge gained can be used to better preserve species in their habitats. This flies over Kukuru’s head, but realising that Kaoru respects nature as much as she does causes a change of heart. Similarly, while Kukuru might not have a post-secondary background in zoology or marine biology, Kaoru comes to see that Kukuru is no different than she is. This argument brings both Kukuru and Kaoru’s feelings out into the open, resolving one conflict.

  • In the end, Kukuru and the attendants determine that they can run the exhibit while the remaining sea slugs are held in storage until their food source can be determined. For visitors, this proves satisfactory, but Tetsuji takes Kukuru to the woodshed for this decision. As the viewers, however, we are deliberately shown that the visitors are satisfied with the exhibit, and even experience the same feelings Kukuru does about the sea slugs, finding them more adorable and interesting than repulsive and dull. I contend that for someone like Tetsuji, it would be important for him to put boots on the ground and see what the customers are saying before jumping to conclusions: understanding the customers’ feelings and desires is how an organisation improves over time.

  • One wonders how I’d deal with someone like Tetsuji, and the answer should not be too surprising. I believe that the work comes first, and as I did with the Winnipeg team, I never complained in front of them. Instead, I did precisely what was asked of me and documented everything extensively, making sure all of my bases were covered. Now that I think about it, three years earlier, we’d be getting very close to the day where I was given approval to submit the completed app to the App Store and Google Play for review. Both ended were accepted, and that brought one chapter of my life to a close. At that point, The World in Colours was also under way, and I found myself really falling in love with the world that was presented.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand has succeeded in capturing my attention for different reasons than The World in Colours, and here at the end of fifteen episode, Kukuru is all smiles after Kaoru invites her to check out a cool place on the shores of Okinawa: the bags under her eyes evaporate immediately, signifying the return of her old energy. Life at Tingaara for Kukuru is full of ups and downs, and right now, Chiyu and Tetsuji are the biggest challenges she faces. Given the themes of previous P.A. Works series, I imagine that Kukuru is no different than Ohana, Aoi or Koharu: while yes, challenges set her back and yes, there are things she doesn’t agree with, her own tenacity and enthusiasm will help her to learn the ropes and work well with the team, as well as bring her own unique set of skills to the table in a manner beneficial to Tingaara. The Aquatope on White Sand continues to impress, and I imagine that in the last quarter of the series, Tingaara will face down the sort of adversity that will force the team to unify; things like these have occurred in P.A. Works’ previous series, and it was really here that a given series’ main themes are presented.

So far, where given the opportunity, Kukuru has begun to meld what she’s learning about large-scale operations together with her own experiences in running things at a more personal level. The idea for a sea slug exhibit demonstrates how Kukuru is very driven, determined to make things work, and Tingaara’s director evidently spotted this in Kukuru – while she had longed to be an attendant, placing her in marketting allows Tingaara to have someone who knows their stuff to guide the others in creating compelling exhibits, special events and promotions to drive interest. Because Kukuru has satisfactory knowledge about marine biology, she is able to come up with exhibits that are feasible, and at the same time, really showcase what about a species or phenomenon is worth studying. Once Kukuru is allowed to do this, her old energy truly begins returning to her – it is fair to say that one can take Kukuru out of Gama Gama, but it is hardly possible to take the Gama Gama out of Kukuru. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and having now seen Kukuru acclimatise to the requirements of her position on top of bringing in her previous experience to make things work as best as she can, it is clear that The Aquatope on White Sand intends to present how people adjust to their work, make the most of things and in time, come to take on a newfound appreciation for what they’re doing. While Kukuru’s got her own challenges, the former Gama Gama staff appear to be doing their best to adjust to life at a larger aquarium. In particular, Kai appears to get along quite well with Eiji, who encourages him to be upfront with his feelings for Kukuru. Similarly, Marina and Fūka are also on friendly terms. The beginnings of new friendships (or at least, improved relationships among coworkers) is beginning to manifest – early on, Karin hears faint rumours that Gama Gama’s former staff are very tight-knit and uptight, but after fifteen episodes, this clearly isn’t the case. As Gama Gama’s old staff adjust to working with the remainder of Tingaara’s staff, new relationships are formed, as is an increased understanding and appreciation of what everyone contributes. The resulting empathy sets the stage for improving communications, and this is where The Aquatope on White Sand could become superbly exciting.

Tingaara in the Far Away Ocean: The Aquatope on White Sand Thirteenth Episode Impressions

“When you like your work, every day is a holiday.” –Frank Tyger

Seven months after Gama Gama closes, Kukuru begins her position at the newly-opened Tingaara Aquarium. To her surprise, she’s made a project manager in the marketting department: the director believes that Kukuru’s past experience at Gama Gama would make her suited for promoting Tingaara, but Kukuru had originally wished to work as an attendant. Most of Gama Gama’s former staff have also taken up positions at Tingaara: Umi-yan, Kūya and Kai are also working in preparations, while Karin is in marketting with a different department. Kukuru is overwhelmed with the orientation materials, but resolves to do her best after Karin takes her on a tour of the facilities, which are an order of magnitude more sophisticated than those of Gama Gama’s. However, to Kukuru’s displeasure, she also runs into Chiyu. When Kukuru’s supervisor berates her for over-stepping and attempting to go ahead with a preparation exercise that was not communicated to the staff, Kukuru begins to wonder if she’s cut out for work in the real world. She declines a dinner invitation from Karin and wanders over to the beach to consider her situation, and here, she meets with Fūka for the first time in seven months. Overwhelmed with emotion, Kukuru tearfully embraces Fūka. Having just passed the halfway point to The Aquatope on White Sand, I was not expecting to write about the series again so soon (I scheduled a post for the sixteenth of October), but the events in this episode were immediately relatable – today marks a bit of a milestone for me, as I’ve been with my current position for precisely a half year now. It is worth noting that Kukuru starts at Tingaara on April 1, 2022, and I started my current position on April 1, 2021. These have been busy and uncertain times for me, but it’s also been exhilarating: I feel my happiest when I am completely focused on an objective, whether it be devising a solution for a new workflow or hunting down a bug I was assigned. At my age, I am old enough to know when to take a step back and regroup, but remain young enough to completely understand how Kukuru feels about her new employment at Tingaara. Right out of the gates, Kukuru is assigned to a position she feels that she has no experience with: whereas Kukuru had been a very hands-on individual at Gama Gama and participated in everything from cleaning and feed preparation, to acting as an attendant and devising ways of raising attendance, here at Tingaara, Kukuru is given a very specific position with very specific duties. For someone who had been accustomed to a wide range of roles, following a set of procedures she’d grown familiar with, this is understandably a bit of a unpleasant surprise.

When I graduated from university, I joined start-ups, and there, formalities and processes were secondary: the goal had simply been to develop a functional product, and I wrote iOS apps with no checks and measures in place. On one hand, this gave me the freedom to implement an app however I saw appropriate, and I was able to address issues on the spot. However, the lack of procedure also meant that tracking bugs could be tricky, since the app was moving along so quickly, it was difficult to tell which build introduced a regression. Moreover, the lack of formalised testing meant that every release had the potential to break mission critical pieces. In my role with start-ups, I was involved in every part of app development, from sketching out workflows and requirements analysis, to implementation and acceptance testing. Six months ago, I began working for a larger software company in my hometown: this company has thirty years of history, and being well-established like Tingaara, has an extensive, well-defined set of procedures. Issues are assigned to developers and broken out over two-week sprints. We meet daily to provide progress updates, and completed work is peer-reviewed before being sent over to QA. App releases are structured so they are thoroughly tested before ever entering the customer’s hands. On day one, I was provided with a document that outlined my training, and to my surprise, I noticed that I was already assigned several tickets dealing with JavaScript related work items. Like Kukuru, I was shocked – my assignment had been for mobile development (and my experience was with iOS apps: I’ve never built complete Android apps from scratch before). However, here was also a learning opportunity – I accepted this offer precisely because the job description entailed learning about new systems, and I’ve longed to gain experience with DevOps processes. As I settled into my work, the team taught me the basics of JavaScript, and I brushed up on my old programming knowledge. While I’m not a competent JavaScript or Android developer at the time of writing, I am able to add new features and address bugs that are found. The key here is that willingness to learn, adapt, and more importantly, accept the rules within the new workplace: today, I cannot just start work on a bug I found. Instead, I call someone in QA, we review the issue and then I log a ticket. The project leaders and QA team then determine how critical the issue is and what the appropriate timelines are, and then I pick it up when entering a new sprint. While quite unlike my start-up experiences, I fully understand why such a process exists. In practise, it offloads the pressure from me, allowing me to focus on my tasks (previously, I had to triage everything myself, on top of doing development and testing). Having said this, I do have a chance to offer my feedback during meetings, as well. This is the reality of working with a larger organisation, and while Kukuru is young and inexperienced, I find that the biggest thing for her in this second half of The Aquatope on White Sand is going to be learning about teamwork, collaboration and understanding why things are done the way they are, as well as capitalising on chances to provide feedback and improve processes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I am aware that this post comes completely out of the blue – I was originally set to write about Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, but the latest The Aquatope on White Sand episode was particularly relatable in that it took me a few weeks to get used to life at a larger company after I switched positions from my startup. Throughout this thirteenth episode, Kukuru does the sorts of things that would cause anyone who’s been in the workplace for a few years to roll their eyes. The intent of this post, then, is also a chance for me to show how I view Kukuru’s actions.

  • On my first day of work, the office was largely empty save for the IT head and HR head – with the global health crisis ongoing, it does feel like this is going to drag on indefinitely. I normally prefer working out of an office, since my desk has more space (enough to accommodate a second monitor), and I have enough plugins for the iPad and Android tablet I need for testing. Moreover, there’s a bit more leg-room, and there are whiteboards around. Kukuru doesn’t have this problem: The Aquatope on White Sand‘s world has clearly not been afflicted, and it’s business as usual.

  • However, for Kukuru, she’s devastated to learn that she’s in marketting now as opposed to being an attendant and spends her first hours at work wearing one of the best funny faces I’ve seen in a while – she looks like the living dead. While I’m (ostensibly) a professional who does what is asked of them, I also completely understand why Kukuru is feeling the way she does: she feels like she’s being asked to do the sort of work that she has no experience in and isn’t comfortable doing, versus working with the aquatic life in a hands-on fashion, which is what she loved doing most at Gama Gama.

  • The inevitable consequence of this is that Kukuru has the most funny face moments of anyone in any P.A. Works series since Shirobako, when Aoi similarly expressed her frustration and shock in response to unreasonable deadlines or unexpected setbacks. This did bring back a moment during my orientation training: when I read the list of introductory work items I was to take on, I noticed that there were several Android, JavaScript and SQL related things there, as well, and my heart stopped. After all, I entered with five years of Swift and UIKit experience, but otherwise had no practical Android or web development experience.

  • However, I’d studied SQL back in university and can still write basic queries, and recalling that I taught myself C# within the space of a week so I could do the Giant Walkthrough Brain, my shock abated. I thus sat down with another teammate and kicked things off, slowly (but surely) learning the systems. While today, I’m still a novice with the systems I’m working on, it’s a little easier to get around, and at the very least, I now know enough to ask the right questions that get me on track whenever anything comes up. I am aware being a full ten years older than Kukuru means unlike her, I have had plenty of time, both in university and industry, to gain professional development, which means I regard the same situations with a different approach. Having this professionalism also means I’m not going to disparage Kukuru for how she acts on her first day on the job, nor will I badmouth Tingaara’s staff for the way they treat Kukuru.

  • Kukuru’s supervisor, Tetsuji, is the assistant director and is a no-nonsense sort of fellow whose stern manner is indicative of someone who’s been around the block for a respectable amount of time and knows what he’s doing. The reason he gives for working at an aquarium: to preserve and promote marine life, is precisely the sort of thing I would say about my career in software development (e.g. “the implementation and deployment of software that simplifies a user’s experience, allowing them to achieve their tasks more efficiently”), and out of the gates, he hands Kukuru a massive pile of orientation documents to look over.

  • When Kukuru asks the director about her assignment, his response is reasonable – someone as experienced as he is would have seen the potential in Kukuru, and he did not hire her to stagnate in a position. Instead, the director has spotted something about Kukuru, determining that giving her a new position would help her to grow and mature, as well. Indeed, it is by taking on new challenges that one is able further themselves and truly understand what they are capable of accomplishing. The end result of this route is what is known as a T-shaped skillset, in which one exhibits mastery of one area, but also has enough breadth to do other things competently. In Kukuru’s place, I certainly wouldn’t have done the same thing, since I understand that higher-ups have a bigger picture, although I don’t begrudge her actions, either.

  • While Kukuru studies the orientation manual, Karin attempts to gain her attention. The computers seen here are 2017 model iMacs: I know this because I’m rocking one as my secondary home computer, which was my work machine until recently. The base 21.5 inch iMacs from this era sport a 2.3 GHz i5 processor and comes with 8 GB of RAM, as well as a 1 TB HDD. I souped up my machine so it has a 3.0 GHz processor, 16 GB of RAM and a Fusion drive. A Magic Keyboard and a Magic Mouse can also be seen, although I will note that, likely for copyright reasons, P.A. Works didn’t go with a proper Magic Keyboard: this one is raised and sports a pair of USB-A ports on the side, whereas the Magic Keyboards of that time have a single Lightning adaptor for charging.

  • Karin’s tour of Tingaara is what brings the life back into Kukuru: while exploring Tingaara’s facilities, Kukuru is reminded of why she’d chosen a career in the aquarium to begin with, and owing to the fact that Tingaara is brand-new and state-of-the-art, the facilities are world-class. Even the secondary tanks are larger than Gama Gama’s main tank, and the exhibits are innovative and engaging, completely drawing Kukuru in.

  • During said tour, Kukuru regains her old energy and enthusiasm, being like a child in a candy store. The purpose of this tour was to show that Kukuru retains her old passion for all marine life and the ocean – The Aquatope of White Sand will merely need to show how Kukuru’s passion and her new duties at Tingaara will intersect. I count myself immensely lucky in this particular respect, as I greatly enjoy my work as a software developer. Looking back, one of the main reasons I’ve not taken any time off to travel was precisely because for me, going in to work every day isn’t work to me, and I feel at my happiest when there are things to work on and problems to solve. With this being said, I am glad to have a large number of vacation days: they come in handy for various appointments that need to be attended to.

  • As quickly as Kukuru’s spirits are restored, her mood sours the instant she encounters Chiyu again. Chiyu’s attitudes towards Kukuru can only be described as passive-aggressiveness, the practise of conveying hostility in an indirect manner. In this way, she’s the opposite of Kukuru: Chiyu is able to maintain a professional facade and insult those she disagrees with without raising eyebrows, whereas Kukuru is very direct about how she feels. It appears to take all of Kukuru’s self-control to keep her from slugging Chiyu during their first encounter at Tingaara: throughout the entire scene, Kukuru is positively shaking with indignation.

  • Since the first half ended, Tsukimi has decided to work at other restaurants to further hone her craft, and after Kukuru and Kai’s first day at Tingaara, they head on over to a comfortable but low-profile establishment called Ohana (a not-so oblique reference to Hanasaku Iroha). Seeing Kukuru disheartened leads Kai to remark that he’d taken up a career in the aquarium because Kukuru had inspired him, and working at Gama Gama the previous summer had really opened his eyes to what was around him. This perks Kukuru up a little, and she heads to work the next day resolving to do her best and pick new things up.

  • However, things aren’t always so simple: while Tetsuji had assigned Kukuru to organise a mock sessions for the different departments, the preparation team had not even read the emails indicating such an event was planned, stating they’d been too busy to check. This sort of justification is flimsy and wouldn’t fly so well with me, but it also indicates that Tingaara’s communication protocols are still in development. Every solid company understands that communication is the lifeblood of its operations, and a part of onboarding includes getting hires used to the tools and procedures for communicating.

  • Kukuru’s weakness at this point is taking it upon herself to get everything set up. This had worked at Gama Gama because they’d been so small, but here at Tingaara, the large number of staff keeping things running means there’s a process to follow. I am reminded of a training exercise I read through, which explained why all work items are assigned version numbers. This is based on a task’s importance, determined by a triage system, and attempting to push work items out of order can create problems in the version control, especially if there are merge conflicts. By breaking procedure, Kukuru could introduces new problems for the other staff, who must clean up after her mess.

  • Seeing that no one’s prepared for the exercise, Tetsuji determines that it should be rescheduled instead, and swiftly sets Kukuru with a reprimand – at Tingaara, she’s starting from the bottom anew. Kukuru is holding herself back, but finally snaps and demands to know if he’s referring to phytoplankton or zooplankton (the chief difference being their cellular makeup: the former possess chloroplasts for photosynthesis and cell walls, whereas the latter do not). The other staff are seen suppressing what appears to be laughter: assuming this to be the case, I imagine that the others will probably warm up to Kukuru on short order, and even Tetsuji might become more understanding of Kukuru.

  • Meanwhile, Kai has a chance to speak with the graduate Eiji Higa, who states that his preference for marine life stems from a dislike for how messy things are between people. In this way, he is similar to Kukuru, and when Kai shares his background as having come from a family of fishermen, Eiji feels that he will likely get along with Kai just fine. While Eiji’s comments come across as being a bit blunt, I understand where he’s coming from; in software development, I am not dealing with the complexities of human interactions, but rather, with the cold, logical outputs of a microprocessor. When things go wrong with a function I’m working on, I can be assured that it was a fault of mine, which means said fault can be fixed, but people problems aren’t anywhere as straightforward.

  • Chiyu is seen requesting a book for further reading, impressing her supervisor. Although she’s outwardly friendly and professional, Kukuru does seem to draw out her true nature. P.A. Works, however, is not known for writing characters for viewers to dislike; people like Chiyu have their own reasons for acting the way they do, and a part of their character growth comes from opening up and making an active, concerted effort to make amends. This was the case in Angel Beats!, Hanasaku IrohaTari TariShirobako, and Sakura Quest, so it stands to reason a similar route will be taken here.

  • Kukuru leaves her second day of work more dejected than before, and declines Karin’s invitation to grab some dinner together. Seeing Kukuru’s day leads one to sympathise with her: starting out any job can be challenging, even for senior people who’ve been in the industry for decades. In fact, when asked, most people report that it takes around two to three months to really get used to a new job, although for some people, it can take up to a year. For me, I’ve found that it takes a month to get used to anything new, although it takes a bit more time for me to fully learn a system.

  • Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, even assuming the low end of things, Kukuru’s got time yet, and I imagine that she’ll find her footing yet, especially as Fūka’s made a big return. The Aquatope on White Sand had shown that Kukuru had come far precisely because of her time with Fūka, and at this critical juncture, she’s returned at the perfect time to support Kukuru during the middle of her transition. Being a core part of The Aquatope on White Sand, it was always the case that Fūka would return, and having her back means the next chapter of their journey together can begin.

  • Fūka’s arrival comes out of the blue, so I’m hoping we’ll get some insights into what Fūka had done during the past seven months, before focusing fully on Kukuru and Tingaara. I assure readers I won’t be breaking schedule again and will return after fifteen episodes to write about The Aquatope on White Sand then. With this being said, this is the fastest I’ve ever put out a full post (a shade under two hours): it’s time to catch some sleep so I’m rested for the day’s assignments.

While I am quite old now, I fully appreciate that Kukuru is only eighteen or so: her youthful naïveté and lack of experience with large-scale operations has resulted in conflicts right out of the gates at Tingaara. Thus, one of the most important things for The Aquatope on White Sand is to give Kukuru a chance to properly learn and appreciate both protocol and teamwork. Kai and a new coworker have spotted this, as well: while Tingaara is a state-of-the-art facility staffed by the best and brightest, having a dream team means nothing if no one can cooperate and communicate. The muck-up with the emails pertaining to the first training event shows that Tingaara’s staff have yet to find their chemistry and act as a true team. Once Kukuru sorts out her own conflicts about working at Tingaara, the larger question of unifying the different departments to act as one and providing the public with the best possible aquarium experience will become a major storyline in this second half. It does appear that magic and the supernatural could be sidelined in the next few episodes of The Aquatope on White Sand as Kukuru learns the ropes, and with P.A. Works’ track record of introducing cold, unfriendly characters, my experience tells me that there will be plenty of opportunity for Kukuru to get to know her new coworkers better, understand the processes and become an indispensable cog in the machine that is Tingaara. I’ve long held that individuals and society is at its best when every individual understands that they are part of a whole. This can mean making personal sacrifies, but in the end, seeing the sum of teamwork is an immensely rewarding and meaningful experience – with this being the route that The Aquatope on White Sand appears to be taking, I am very excited to see where this series is headed, and moreover, now that Fūka’s back, Kukuru has a very powerful source of support and encouragement in her corner: together, Kukuru and Fūka are quite ready to take on whatever lies ahead for The Aquatope on White Sand, and viewers can be confident that I’m going to be here following this journey, as well.