The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Kukuru Misakino

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 the things that cause Kukuru to melt down are going to be just another problem with a solution for her.

  • 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. In spite of this oversight, Tetsuji holds Kukuru accountable when 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 cold 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 is content to give 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.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions At The Halfway Point

“No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” –Gandalf the White, The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King

With Gama Gama’s closure fast approaching, Kukuru is desperate to find any means necessary to save the aquarium, even attempting to run a story on social media about the visions that visitors sometimes see, but this is ultimately unsuccessful – Kukuru’s grandfather feels that banking on a phenomenon whose properties are completely unknown won’t be beneficial. Kai watches Kukuru with increasing worry – he’d been there for her since their childhood, and feels worried that he won’t be able to help her out. One evening, Kukuru decides to have Kai help her draw the phenomenon out, and finds himself in the middle of his childhood: it turns out he had provided some comfort to Kukuru after her parents has passed away. However, even with this memory, Gama Gama’s fate is sealed. As a typhoon approaches, Kukuru barricades herself in and adamantly refuses to let anyone help her. Worried about Kukuru, Fūka braves the storm and ends up doing what she can for Kukuru even as the storm knocks out power and blows in windows at Gama Gama. When the emergency generators run out of fuel and the pipes begin bursting, Kukuru wonders why everything she holds dear is being taken from her. Fortunately, Kukuru’s grandfather, Kai, Kūya and Umi-yan are available to help, and they are able to prevent any harm from coming to the animals. Morning approaches, and Kukuru realises that Gama Gama is too old to continue running. On the last day of August, Gama Gama hosts a farewell event for its visitors, who leave behind their favourite memories. One of the visitors includes a manager for Tingaara, a new aquarium: impressed with Kukuru’s experience, he’s interested in bringing her and several of Gama Gama’s staff on board. After celebrating forty-eight years in business, Gama Gama closes down, and Fūka prepares to return home. Before parting ways with Kukuru’s grandparents, the pair learn that Kukuru originally had a twin sister who died prior to birth. At the airport, Fūka comes to realise that Kukuru had given her so much, and she decides to skip her scheduled flight to ensure she and Kukuru part ways with a smile. After boarding her next flight, Fūka declines the offer for the movie, feeling that she’s found another path in life to walk. Here at The Aquatope on White Sand‘s halfway point, Gama Gama has finally shut down, leaving Kukuru and Fūka at the end of one journey. However, as Fūka empathetically states, endings are not necessarily sad things: she hopes that Kukuru will seize whatever lies ahead for her and find her happiness anew.

Kukuru’s last moments with Gama Gama are a bittersweet one, and with this transition, The Aquatope on White Sand speaks to viewers about the importance of being able to find another way when things don’t work out as one had hoped. Reality is harsh; it is therefore imperative that one become accustomed to setbacks and failures – no failure is ever truly final unless one were to give up entirely, and while it can seem like the world has come to a halt when one’s desires end without being realised, there are always alternative opportunities that lie unexplored. When I was an undergraduate student, I had held ambitions of becoming a medical doctor. At the time, I was not confident with my programming skills, and felt that my penchant for spot patterns and understand processes would make me suited in medicine. I thus took the MCAT, altered my remaining course load to satisfy medical school prerequisites and applied – this was met with no success, and I never made it to even the interview stage for any of the schools I had applied to. However, my supervisor saw another route and suggested that I apply for graduate school instead, where I could build out my software development skills and also contribute to the lab I’d already had familiarity with. After working on The Giant Walkthrough Brain and realising that I was indeed capable of learning new systems quickly, solving problems under pressure and managing a small team, the career path of being a software developer no longer seemed so intimidating; indeed, I am now a software developer owing to my accepting and embracing an alternate route. The Aquatope on White Sand is similarly creating opportunities for Fūka and Kukuru alike: Kukuru is initially hesitant about working for Tingaara, but after seeing Fūka pick herself up, determines that she must also find a way to smile again. Fūka decides to pursue a new path and declines an offer to star in a film. While Gama Gama is done, the world hasn’t ended, and that means the opportunity to forge a new way forward still remains – the only question here is whether or not one has the courage and tenacity to take that difficult first step forwards. Both Kukuru and Fūka have dreams they can follow, and with half of The Aquatope on White Sand in the books, it is clear that endings are not always thus; resilience in the face of adversity is precisely what lets people move forward, so it is encouraging to see Fūka and Kukuru make decisions for one another’s sakes that will see them embrace whatever their respective futures hold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • At the halfway point to The Aquatope on White Sand, I’ll open with Kai biking over to Gama Gama. Kai has known Kukuru since childhood, and had been there the day Kukuru had learned of her parents’ deaths. Since then, Kai has done his best to support Kukuru; although this isn’t always shown on screen, the fact that Kai is willing to help out at Gama Gama in his spare time, and his hesitation whenever Maho mentions that he should date Fūka instead of being around Kukuru, suggests that for Kukuru, Kai is willing to go the extra mile.

  • All of P.A. Works’ workplace/coming-of-age anime feature a reliable, stoic male character. This trend started in Hanasaku Iroha with junior chef Tōru Miyagishi, and then in Tari Tari, Taichi Tanaka fills that role. Kakeru Okikura ends up in this position in Glasslip, and he’s the equivalent of Nagi no Asukara‘s Tsumugu Kihara. It is not lost on me that P.A. Works tends to reuse archetypes in their series; I understand that some viewers hold this against an anime, but I’ve also found that having familiar characters in different context allow works to show how environments can impact people.

  • With the end of summer rapidly approaching, Kukuru becomes increasingly desperate to keep Gama Gama open, asking Tsukimi’s mother to give a horoscope reading of Gama Gama’s future. Tsukimi’s mother gives a reading that Kukuru should be patient and not force things. In general, horoscopes are too vague to be effective (they’re ambiguous enough so that they can be interpreted a certain way, meaning that to some people, they look like they’re always right), so I never set much store by them, although purely for fun, I sometimes partake just to see how well reality aligns with fantasy: I admit that I am not adverse to reading horoscopes about what awaits me as far as relationships go.

  • The closing deadline means that Kukuru begins distancing herself from even Fūka. I have heard unnecessary hostility being directed at Kukuru as a result of her choices, but I couldn’t disagree more strongly: people tend to judge anime characters from their own perspective (“if it were me, I would’ve done this differently”) rather than empathise with them, and this creates a highly patronising tone that does little beyond demonstrate how little viewers actually care about the characters. For me, I understand Kukuru’s situation, having been in situations where it did feel like all I had was myself. How I extricated myself from those scenarios were learnings, and I therefore have no trouble with Kukuru stumbling as she learns.

  • The reason why fictional characters make mistakes at all is precisely because it provides a lesson that impacts how they approach things in the future. Thus, when Kukuru goes against suggestion and posts about the visions to social media in the hope of drawing in additional visitors, her coworkers immediately feel that this is a mistake; the phenomenon isn’t easily reproduced, and visitors are likely to leave disappointed because it’s not guaranteed they’d be able to see it. Kukuru’s last-ditch efforts to understand this phenomenon was predestined to failure: as The World in Colours indicated, forcing magic won’t work, because the power behind magic is intention.

  • Quite simply, Kukuru isn’t sincere in her motives behind using the magic, so the magic won’t willingly manifest itself for her. This sort of thing applied to The World in Colours, where Hitomi’s magic becomes increasingly effective because she begins to put intent behind her spells following her experiences with Kohaku, and Harry Potter‘s spells work on a similar principle (visualising the desired outcome and having an intent to have a specific effect makes a spell more powerful). In the end, Kukuru’s grandfather gets in touch with customers and informs them that they’d been a little hasty about the social media postings: no such event is set to take place.

  • Although Kukuru is asked to stand down, she still clings to the belief that the visions at Gama Gama might be instrumental in keeping their doors open. She therefore asks Kai to help her out, and while initially, nothing happens, Kai soon finds himself returned to the time where he’d comforted Kukuru after her parents had passed away. The visions appear to only appear for individuals under duress, and as I’d previously noted, shows what the individual most deeply desires. Fūka had wanted to find her own way, the veterinarian wished for safe delivery of her child, the elderly man wanted to speak with his brother once more, a boy longed to reunite with his dog, and Kukuru’s deepest desire is to be with her family again.

  • For Kai, then, it looks like what he wanted most was for Kukuru to be happy, and this memory shows how he’d been there for her that one day; this is likely how the two became friends, and how Kukuru ended up taking such a profound interest in marine biology. It is clear that Kukuru’s love for the aquarium, and for aquatic life, stems from the fact that she feels that this connects her to her family. Kukuru isn’t fighting to keep Gama Gama open for financial reasons or for her pride, but because the place has personal significance for her.

  • Being aware of this highly personal, emotional piece is essential to understanding why Kukuru makes the decisions that she does; courses on economics and psychology won’t be of use here. Her actions may appear irrational, but to Kukuru (in this moment), she believes that what she’s doing will have a positive outcome for Gama Gama even through they’re ultimately futile. For this reason, it is important yo watching Kukuru struggle in her goals because knowing the level of effort she’s put into things will only make Gama Gama’s fate all the more sobering.

  • I’d not given voice to this previously: while watching The Aquatope on White Sand, I originally did not feel that the series possessed the same sense of melancholy and longing that The World in Colours had. However, seeing what’s on the horizon for Gama Gama despite everyone’s efforts has a melancholy to it. As a typhoon rolls in one morning, Kukuru’s barricaded herself in Gama Gama, intent on keeping the place open on her own merits. However, just because Kukuru’s actions might appear irrational does not diminish them, and one cannot help but feel bad for her in this moment.

  • Kukuru’s internal feelings are mirrored in the weather – at least one individual had previously wondered if Okinawa was subject to convenient typhoons such as this, and after some quick reading, it turns out that The Aquatope on White Sand is well within reason to include a typhoon in the story. On average, three to four typhoons hit Okinawa in a given year, mostly between August and September. A tropical system is referred to as a typhoon when its wind speeds exceed 118 km/h (same as a Category 1 hurricane), and the average storm moves at around 16-24 km/h, although fast-movers can hit speeds of 60 km/h. With these numbers in mind, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Nanjō was grazed by a typhoon’s arms.

  • Speaking to Fūka’s concern for Kukuru, she decides to grab some lunch and take it over to Gama Gama for her. However, Kukuru initially refuses to open up, and her facial expression speaks volumes about how annoyed she is, but eventually, she relents, and comes to face with a rather scary-looking Fūka, whose hair is strewn about by the hurricane-force winds. Perhaps as a consequence of my dislike of certain horror movies, I found the scene to be a bit intimidating to watch: I’ve never been fond of onryō, and where given the choice, I wouldn’t watch J-horror movies.

  • Kukuru’s efforts to act tough backfire when her stomach betrays her hunger, and Fūka is all too happy to pass along the food she’d brought. While Kukuru refuses Fūka’s help, Fūka is determined to stay, having promised to help Kukuru see things through to the end. The two thus busy themselves preparing the deserted Gama Gama aquarium for the storm, sticking tape on the windows, securing all of the wildlife and moving the barricades to more vulnerable areas with the hopes of mitigating damage.

  • Watching these preparations brings to mind the sort of thing I read about in books, and watched in National Geographic‘s “Cyclone!”, an hour-long special on hurricanes and tornados. As a child, I was fascinated with extreme weather, and the science behind predicting it, as well as how to lessen its impact on civilisation. The conclusion these specials drew were that storms are a natural part of the world, and that as humans, our survival was contingent on preparing for the worst and being aware of what nature is capable of. In recent times, shifts in global weather patterns have made extreme weather more widespread and frequent: the very thing the books I read some twenty years ago are coming to pass.

  • I’m not too sure if things will only worsen from here on out, but if the wildfires and tropical storms are anything to go by, we’re in for a rough ride. For now, I’ll focus on lessen my personal impact on the world by conserving, recycling and reusing stuff wherever possible, although for the long term, it’ll need to be a collective effort if we’re to turn the tides. This is something that Kukuru has difficulty grasping – she attempts to send Fūka off once the work is done, but Fūka is resolved to remain by Kukuru’s side until the end, even after the power is knocked out.

  • While the storm rages on, Gama Gama Aquarium becomes a visual metaphor for the last of Kukuru’s illusions falling apart around her – while she’d done her utmost until now, the overwhelming power of the storm, standing in for the harshness of reality, gradually seeps its way in, shattering windows and bursting pipes in the building. It is here, at the climax of the storm, that Kukuru understands the gravity of her situation – the emergency generators mirror the last legs Gama Gama is on, and once these deplete their stores of diesel, the power goes back out again. It is here that Kukuru loses all hope and asks why the heavens would take everything from her.

  • In the end, Kukuru alone couldn’t save Gama Gama – even with Fūka’s help, this was a difficult task. However, as the storm winds down, Kukuru’s grandfather, Kai, Kūya and Umi-yan show up to help. Thanks to the work Kukuru and Fūka have completed, the others are able to quickly stablise everything else at Gama Gama. The power is restored shortly after, and seeing everyone in the light serves to remind both Kukuru and the viewer that no, Kukuru hasn’t lost everything even with Gama Gama’s closure; there are many people in her corner, and while she’d been laser-focused on her dreams, she’s forgotten about the blessings that she does have in her life.

  • Walking through Gama Gama, Kukuru is made aware of just how old the aquarium’s infrastructure really is – I’ve got an engineer in the family, and in our conversations, while yes, it’s usually the case that companies will attempt to rehabilitate a structure, there are situations where rehabilitation is more expensive than demolition and reconstruction. Gama Gama appears to have fallen into the second category, and despite Kukuru’s original plan to raise three million Yen for parts, it is likely the case that the building itself is crumbling and requires repairs exceeding the cost it would take to build a new aquarium in its place.

  • Earlier, Fūka had received an offer to star in a film, and one of her former coworkers had informed her of this. This offer led Fūka to realise that after her original failures in Tokyo, she’d latched onto Kukuru’s dream because she wanted to be useful to someone. While Fūka had told herself that this was for Kukuru, it was really for her. Amidst the cold, blue light of the morning after the storm, there is a sense of melancholy in the air: washed out and faded colours in anime have always been indicative of a subdued feeling.

  • Kukuru bawling her eyes out was the surest sign that she’s accepted the fact that Gama Gama is simply not salvageable. Nowhere else does The Aquatope on White Sand compel viewers to empathise with Kukuru more so than this moment; I’ve been around the block long enough to see defeat as total and crushing as this, having seen two start-ups fail during my time. However, failure is not the end, and people like Kukuru are also resilient. As such, one of the important things that The Aquatope on White Sand will need to address is how Kukuru is able to take that next, difficult step forwards; while it is easy to regain one’s confidence once there’s momentum, the greatest challenge always lies in picking oneself back up after a tumble.

  • In this case, The Aquatope on White Sand reminds viewers that Kukuru does have a way forward: on the day of Gama Gama’s closing event, a manager from Tingaara gives Kukuru a surprise offer to work at the new aquarium once it’s opened, citing her previous record and experience as making her suited for the position. While Kukuru is still holding onto her memories of Gama Gama and wishes that every day could be this lively, from a more practical perspective, pursuing new opportunity with Tingaara means that Kukuru could continue to pursue her dreams of bringing the joys of marine life to visitors the same way Gama Gama had done for her.

  • All this would take is a small change in perspective. Here at the closing party, final farewells are said, and Karin announces to the others that she’s taken an interest in working at an aquarium as well, having been inspired by Kukuru’s commendable drive and devotion. With endings, come new beginnings, and during this party, even Kūya expresses emotion at the fact that Gama Gama is closing and can be seen tearing up. However, both Kūya and Umi-yan possess considerable experience, and were promptly offered positions with the new aquarium, as well. It was reassuring to see everyone land on their feet: P.A. Works has always made it clear that while one part of the journey might be over, hard work and effort do not go unrewarded.

  • Those who demonstrate commitment and loyalty will always find that this is met with repayment in equal measure somewhere down the line. This message is a rewarding one, and I’ve long believed that society should be driven by those with merit (where I define merit as a combination of dedication, perseverance, empathy and adaptivity). As Kukuru’s grandfather puts it in his final speech to the staff, kindness is something that no one can do without, and caring for life tends to bolster one’s empathy. In the end, he reads a poem from a fictional author that speaks volumes about the vastness of the ocean ultimately gives one peace.

  • After the party, Kukuru and Fūka share a moment together to discuss their dreams and how much things had changed since Fūka met Kukuru. Under the gentle moonlight (a waning crescent, true to the lunar phase recorded on August 31 in reality), the pair share their feelings. Fūka notices that Kukuru hasn’t properly smiled since the typhoon and worries that Kukuru won’t be happy after she leaves, while Kukuru implores Fūka to pursue her goals, feeling that seeing Fūka work hard will inspire her to do the same. I get where Kukuru is coming from; being around high-energy, driven people also helps me to do the same whenever I hit a slump, although I will note that for my part, my drive comes from within.

  • There is a tangible melancholy at Gama Gama the next morning: Fūka is busy packing her bags and preparing to Iwate, while Gama Gama’s staff prepare the marine life for transit to different institutions across Okinawa. Seeing the empty aquarium makes it quite visceral that this chapter has concluded, but before Kukuru leaves, the forces at play give her one more vision, a chance to feel reassurance from her sister. It turns out that Kukuru did indeed have a twin sister two died before birth, and right before Fūka leaves, Kukuru’s grandmother feels that the time has come to let her know of this truth.

  • One imagines that, while Kukuru takes this in stride and feels that her sister’s energy might’ve been what kept her going during some of the tougher times at Gama Gama, a part of Kukuru would also be seized with an immediate and powerful sense of longing. Kukuru had long wished for a sister to be with, someone who could be there for her. The reason why she and Fūka get along so well is because Fūka is able to act as an older sister figure for her, although Fūka feels that she’d clung to Kukuru, feeling that if she was able to help Kukuru reach her dreams, she might find her own happiness, as well.

  • Airports are always places of great joy and great sorrow: watching aircraft arrive and the feeling that family and friends are returning typically is a happy matter, similarly to how it can feel lonely to watch the people important to oneself depart for another destination. Fūka’s departure in The Aquatope on White Sand fits squarely into the latter and therefore creates a feeling of melancholy. As is typical of anime, The Aquatope on White Sand leaves a great deal to the last, last second: Fūka only realises that Kukuru would probably be in tears by the time she’d finished boarding and rushes off to make sure she’s alright, even though this means she’d miss her current flight.

  • This is something that one would not do in reality. I know first hand that rearranging bookings is a pain, as I discovered when I was in Amsterdam, and the Brussels bombings caused all of my flights to be delayed, leading me to miss a connecting flight out of Charles de Gaulle to Rennes. Fortunately, the realm of fiction offers tolerances for these things, and the emotional impact of watching Fūka embrace Kukuru, as sisters might, was visceral. It is clear that Fūka knows where her heart lies now, and she’s willing to give up one dream to pursue another. After their emotions settle, Fūka explains that being with Kukuru had helped her to spot this.

  • In the end, Kukuru decides that she will take up the offer to work at Tingaara and see what lies ahead for her future, promising that the next time she and Fūka meet, it will be with a smile on her face. Kukuru’s remarks about living isn’t something to take for granted struck a resonant chord here: death is something that awaits everyone, but not everyone can live on their own terms, so it’s up to oneself to really take initiative and do something meaningful for themselves and others. I have remarked previously that, from my perspective, living well and doing things that have value for others is the best way to live and find meaning. My beliefs are completely at odds with those who believe that living life to the fullest means having fun, but these are merely my core values, and I hold that living fully can have many meanings.

  • Thus, as Fūka and Kukuru part ways for the present, confident that they will meet again, I’ll wrap up this halfway point discussion on The Aquatope on White Sand by saying that with fifty percent of this series done, I have been very happy with what has been presented thus far. The series’ meanings and messages are clear, and it is evident that one doesn’t need any a priori understanding of Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus to fully appreciate the themes. I realise that even in a post of this length, I’m only scratching the surface for what’s happening in The Aquatope on White Sand. This is a series that works well with the episodic review format, but this would demand a time commitment from me that I simply lack. Having said this, the Halo: Infinite open beta is live, and having preloaded earlier today, it’s time to wrap this post up and see whether or not my aging rig can run this game with playable framerates. I’ll return tomorrow to write about Hanasaku Iroha a full decade after the finale aired, and there, I’ll also provide readers an explanation on why my blogging has been a bit spotty since my last post about AI bots in video games.

Speculation about what is to come in The Aquatope on White Sand has been raging nonstop ever since it became apparent that Kukuru was locked in an impossible struggle against the clock, and the general consensus is that The Aquatope on White Sand will take a similar approach to what Nagi no Asukara did some eight years earlier – the series continued five years after the first Ofunehiki, and dealt with the challenges that the characters face after being separated from one another in a chronological sense while at the same time, striving to pursue their original goals. The Aquatope on White Sand is structured in a very similar way, and the second half will likely explore how the characters pursue old goals while working within new environments under different rules. One element that The Aquatope on White Sand still needs to deal with is the presence of the supernatural visions at Gama Gama, and what role the kijimuna will play in things. These aspects had become more common as The Aquatope on White Sand progressed, but the general rule is that, if something is introduced, then it necessarily needs to play a role of significance in the future. Having the additional twelve episodes here in The Aquatope on White Sand means that there is sufficient space to deal with this in a satisfactory fashion: spending half an episode on elements surrounding local folklore and exploring how entities like the kijimuna impact people within the context of Kukuru and her desires would elegantly tie the two elements together. This could go either way for The Aquatope on White Sand. On one hand, Glasslip is an example of how P.A. Works had completely failed to properly incorporate magic into the story, but on the flipside, P.A. Works have proven themselves to be very competent with supernatural elements in The World in Colours. Given how The Aquatope on White Sand has progressed up until now, I would suggest that optimism is warranted, and that the supernatural piece will probably be woven into the story with the same sort of finesse that Nagi no Asukara had demonstrated. Assuming this to be the case, we have what looks to be a captivating journey ahead in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, and I am rather excited to see how this one embodies the learnings of its predecessors to create a current and moving tale of rediscovering one’s path anew.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Nine

“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.” –Anais Nin

When Kukuru’s grandfather suggests that the staff take some down time, Kukuru reluctantly joins Fūka, Kai, Tsukimi, Karin and Kūya on the beaches of Okinawa, where they frolic in the warm tropical weather before sitting down for a barbeque. To Kukuru’s displeasure, Kai’s younger sister shows up, although this does little to dampen the group’s spirits as they enjoy their meal. After Tsukimi breaks out the sweets, Kukuru remarks that it must be nice to have a sibling, someone to go halvesies with and share in experiences together. With thoughts of work lingering on her mind, Kukuru heads back to Gama Gama, overhearing her grandfather and Umi-yan discussing the aquarium’s closure. Although she’s visibly disheartened by this news, Fūka reassures her, and later during the evening, Karin explains why Kūya is bad with women – during high school, he’d rejected a kokuhaku from someone in the popular clique, and they got even by bullying him extensively. Unable to cope, Kūya dropped out of high school and was directionless until meeting Kukuru’s grandfather, who offered him a job at Gama Gama. Later, Kukuru and Fūka are excited to learn from Karin that Umi-yan’s plans for a travelling aquarium are a go at the local hospital; on the condition that no crabs are featured, they are permitted to host an event. Unbeknownst to the group, a single crab snuck into the exhibit, and while Fūka grows worried after losing the crab, the event proceeds smoothly, at least until the head nurse runs into the escaped crab. A young patient, Airi, pulls the crab off the head nurse and rediscovers her joy of aquatic life: she’d distanced herself from the aquarium after becoming hospitalised, and refused to meet Umi-yan until now. As the clock counts down before Gama Gama closes, an aspiring aquarium keeper, Chiyu Haebaru, heads here, hoping to learn from Kukuru’s grandfather. However, she accomplishes little except irritate the living daylights out of Kukuru, and determines that Gama Gama has nothing to offer her. Kukuru is visibly upset by how blasé Chiyu is, and decides to check out the new aquarium being built in Okinawa, while Fūka receives a call from one of her former colleagues. We’re now three-eighths of the way into The Aquatope on White Sand‘s run: the series’ direction is still unclear, as, like its predecessors, The Aquatope on White Sand has chosen to focus primarily on giving the characters a chance to shine in their own right.

P.A. Works has never been a studio to shy away from portraying adversity on screen: in Hanasaku Iroha, Ohana receives a slap to the face shortly after starting her time at Kissui Inn, Yoshino ends up injuring Ushimatsu after attempting to renege on her contract in Sakura Quest, and Shirobako sees Aoi in tears as their latest project appears in jeopardy of being cancelled. Challenges appear, pushing characters to their absolute limits to test their resolve and determination, and in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s predecessors, the protagonists had always risen to the occasion. Here in The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru finds herself under mounting pressure to do something substantial for Gama Gama as the deadline draws nearer: she’s unable to relax, and constantly on the edge. Chiyu thus brings out the worst in Kukuru – as someone looking to develop a career as an aquarium keeper, Chiyu is focused, motivated and determined. However, despite the stories she’d heard about Gama Gama, she finds reality disappointing. Chiyu’s animosity for Kukuru is matched by Kukuru’s perception of her as a foe whose existence accelerates Gama Gama’s demise. Where these opposing forces collide, conflict is inevitable. Conversely, this same conflict is what drives growth: Aoi ends up standing up for MusAni after determining the copyright claim has a hole in it, Yoshino embraces her role in helping Manoyama host events that keep the town alive, and Ohana comes to make peace with Minko, before coming to terms with her grandmother’s strict manner and credos on running a good inn. Similarly, conflict in The Aquatope on White Sand is present for a reason. What Kukuru faces now seems insurmountable, but making amends with Chiyu will be an integral part to her own development, preparing her for whatever lies ahead with respect to Gama Gama Aquarium. With under a week left before August draws to a close in The Aquatope on White Sand, time is relentlessly ticking away, and short of a miracle, Gama Gama appears consigned to shutting its doors as they enter September.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While the clock is ticking away, Kukuru’s grandfather suggests that she and the remainder of the staff get some rest: Kukuru initially complains, but in the end, relents, and the entire group hit Okinawa’s beaches together under beautiful skies of azure. Kukuru initially believes that time away from Gama Gama is equivalent to allowing Gama Gama to inch closer to being shut down, and I once shared similar sentiments. However, as I would find over the course of time, it is important to take strategic breaks in order to clear one’s mind and regroup.

  • Fūka is surprised that Kukuru, Tsukimi and Karen didn’t bother bringing swimsuits to the beach – she’s rocking a frilled white bikini, a pleasant fashion statement for the white sands of Okinawa, and grows embarrassed until she spots other beach-goers in their swimsuits, as well. I imagine that the explanation Fūka is offered is to indicate that locals are so accustomed to the beaches that they’re not terribly concerned about needing a swimsuit to enjoy the warm waters.

  • In August, the ocean temperatures in Okinawa is an average of 28.7ºC, making it slightly cooler than Cancún’s temperatures of 29.3ºC – when it’s this warm, one could walk into the ocean without ever feeling cool, and when immersed, it’s like being surrounded by pure bliss. My visit to Cancún was now five years ago: this was for an artificial life conference, and on mornings prior to the conference’s start times, I ended up walking along Cancún’s extensive beaches. The hotel I chose to lodge at wasn’t located along the waterfront, but the nearest beach was only a few minutes’ walk away.

  • I’d love to be able to visit a tropical destination in the future, and Okinawa is a tempting one. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, Gama Gama’s staff set about for a fun-filled day, while Kukuru focuses on trying not to think about work in any capacity. This is easier said than done, however, since they are by the ocean’s edge. After Fūka grabs a snorkel and swims alongside the fishes; she notes that it does feel quite different than an aquarium, being a magical experience. When Fūka and Kukuru share their experiences, the latter’s mind immediately wanders towards how aquariums are magical in this regard.

  • Kukuru and Tsukimi are disappointed that Kai’s younger sister, Maho, has shown up. Maho is voiced by Saya Hirose, and despite being only a primary student, she’s quite mature for her age. Kukuru’s immediate reaction to Maho suggests some longstanding rivalry and a mutual dislike for one another – the two immediately have a go at one another upon meeting. Maho is very similar to Maho Kazami of Please Teacher! and Ah! My Goddess‘ Skuld, fulfilling the role of the adorable but also mischievous younger sister.

  • I’m quite fond of Hirose’s portrayal of Maho, whose soft voice sounds very soothing. While Maho and Kukuru slug it out, I will recall a memory of three years earlier – on this day, I flew out to Winnipeg to continue on with a Xamarin project that I’d been brought on board to prepare for submission to the App Store and Play Store after their mobile developer unexpectedly left. I had spent much of August in Denver, scoping out the project to get a feel for how things were organised, and looking back, this was the easy part of the assignment: by the time my second week in Denver was up, I had a rough idea of where everything was, and moreover, had resolved a few tickets.

  • I thus enjoyed my evening meal under the setting sun before returning to the Hotel Fort Garry for a good night’s sleep. As stressful as the Winnipeg assignment had been, a good meal helped me to stay focused, especially when the backend team was lagging behind and consistently failed to deliver the endpoints I needed to continue on with my work. This assignment taught me the importance of being able to relax during downtime so when it came time to work, I was ready to hustle. Kukuru struggles with this, and here, after sharing some cold sweets with Fūka, begins to wonder what it’d be like to have a sibling.

  • As an older sibling myself, I sometimes wish I had someone above me to show me the ropes. Of course, when the younger sibling demonstrates exemplary wisdom and shows me how it’s done, I’m not too proud to decline help. Here, Fūka reassures Kukuru after Kukuru had overheard a conversation between her grandfather and Umi-yan about Gama Gama’s future. While understandably worried, Fūka manages to help Kukuru regroup, fulfilling the role of an older sibling and helping Kukuru to put things in perspective.

  • As evening sets in, Kūya shares a story with Kai that Karin simultaneously recounts to Kukuru and the others: as it turns out, Kūya had once been a high-achieving and promising student, but after turning down a girl from a popular clique, was bullied relentlessly. He ended up dropping out of high school and ultimately, found a position at Gama Gama Aquarium thanks to Kukuru’s grandfather. While he may not show it, Kūya is definitely grateful to Kukuru’s grandfather, and this moment serves to both indicate that Gama Gama means something to many people, as well as the fact that everyone’s got their own stories to tell.

  • When Karin announces that he’d managed to get approval for Gama Gama’s travelling aquarium, Kukuru is ecstatic; she begins to eat lunch with renewed enthusiasm. This is a fine chance to bring their show to other people and give them a taste of what Gama Gama offers. It turns out that the idea of a travelling aquarium originally came from Umi-yan, and like Kukuru, he’s quite happy that there’ll be an opportunity to show some of Gama Gama’s exhibits at the local hospital.

  • I spent an hour digging around near Nanjo to see if I could find the real world equivalent of Nanjo General Clinic. The closest spot is Okinawa Medical Hospital; it’s located a mere 270 metres from the shore, but the hospital’s design is completely different than what The Aquatope on White Sand portrays. I conclude that the location is probably the one and the same, but creative liberties were taken to create a location unique for the anime.

  • It turns out that the head nurse has kabourophobia (fear of crabs); the very word sends a shiver down her spine, and she prohibits Kukuru from bringing any into the hospital. While kabourophobia is uncommon, it does have a basis in reality, and moreover, fears are not always rationally rooted. For instance, there are some folks who are deathly afraid of garlic, onions, shallots, spring onions and the like. The term for this is alliumphobia, and while to me, there’s no good reason to fear something like green onions, individuals who do have alliumphobia fear it anyways, without any explanation for why this occurs.

  • Naturally, because The Aquatope on White Sand introduces kabourophobia into the episode, it must be utilised later: while preparing the exhibit, Fūka comes across a black crab that was accidentally brought to the hospital. Unfortunately for her, the crab escapes: Fūka has no luck finding it, and quietly lets Kukuru know when the latter returns. Given this setup, what would happen next was inevitable. For now, Fūka and Kukuru focus on getting the setup finished so the patients can have a chance to experience the aquarium.

  • As it turns out, Umi-yan had promised Airi, a little girl who visited one summer, that he’d bring Garra Rufa (Red Garra, more informally, “Doctor Fish”). With an omnivorous diet, the Red Garra prefer oxygen-rich, fast flowing water and have become famous for grazing on dead skin cells. The practise is not particularly sanitary, nor is it effective for dealing with certain skin conditions, but as an aquarium exhibit, this works just fine. Unfortunately for Airi, she became hospitalised and was unable to visit. Since then, she’s tried to distance herself from Umi-yan, unhappy that their promise was never fulfilled.

  • Other children from the hospital are immediately enthralled with the aquarium, impressed with the variety of marine life and their distinct traits. In The Aquatope on White Sand, children are portrayed as being particularly fond of sea animals and possess a curiosity to learn more. However, in spite of its topic, The Aquatope on White Sand never forces viewers to go pick up Sam Ridgeway’s The Handbook of Marine Animals to get: like Koisuru Asteroid, the science is simply used to drive the characters and their goals, keeping the story accessible to viewers.

  • As a child, I was always fond of learning, and one thing I remember particularly vividly was that, after field trips to the local science museums or local exhibits, I would always make it a point to visit the library and pick up books on the topic. In today’s age, a quick trip to academic journals and the online version of Encyclopædia Britannica is all that’s needed to satisfy my curiosity. One of my long-standing weaknesses is that everything related to the sciences, natural and applied, interest me, so I’ve developed knowledge of reasonable breadth by reading.

  • Without fail, the head nurse ends up being the one to find the escaped crab. She lets out a blood-curdling scream of abject terror, but Airi is able to pull the crab off the head nurse, sparing her of further agony. Airi regards the crab with curiosity, and subsequently reconciles with Umi-yan. Admittedly, while crustaceans are a fascinating form of marine life, I see them also as a delicious food source. With this in mind, not all crab species are edible: smaller crabs lack an appreciable amount of meat and are not a worthwhile food source.

  • Encouraged, Airi sticks her hand in the tank and smiles as the Red Garra do their magic. Seemingly disconnected stories are the norm for P.A. Works’ longer anime: they’re to establish the small changes that occur from chance meetings and give viewers a strong sense of who the characters are. Once things become better established, P.A. Works changes gears and gives the characters a concrete objective to focus on. Having been with P.A. Works since Hanasaku Iroha back in 2011, I can say with confidence that I have a good idea of their style.

  • It suddenly hits me that, prior to Hanasaku Iroha, P.A. Works would’ve only had True Tears and Angel Beats! under their belt. The latter was a masterpiece, and the former, I’ll forgive because it was their first work. However, some folks continue to hold True Tears against P.A. Works even to this day. I find this incredibly immature, since P.A. Works has since gone on to produce many solid of series (and only a small number of failures). As the day draws to a close, Karin reflects on Kukuru’s words about wanting to not go quietly into the night: the event had been successful by all accounts, but small victories alone won’t change Gama Gama’s situation overnight.

  • When Chiyu Haebaru shows up from another aquarium for training, Kukuru regards her with immediate hostility, viewing her as an enemy and a competitor whose existence endangers Gama Gama. This is apparent in how much vitriol she cuts the fishes up, and while Chiyu’s aquatic knowledge is impressive, Kukuru cannot bring herself to open up. This forms the bulk of the conflict for the ninth episode, since Chiyu is aspiring for a career as an aquarium keeper; in this role, she’d look after the various animals and ensure exhibits are properly maintained and safe.

  • Because of this goal, Chiyu is very serious about what she does, and out of the gates, she disparages the way things are run at Gama Gama to one of her colleagues. Whereas she had shown up with the wish of learning from a legend (Kukuru’s grandfather), she is surprised that one of Okinawa’s most iconic aquariums is become so run-down and aged. Her disappointment is understandable; while discussions elsewhere have been quick to vilify her, I found that Chiyu’s actions create a situation where she and Kuruku need to reach some sort of reconciliation.

  • This is why the conflict is introduced at all; the fact that Kukuru’s found a foe in Chiyu (and Chiyu’s mutual dislike of Kukuru) means that this is one more thing that Kukuru must learn to deal with in a professional and courteous manner, befitting of a fully-qualified aquarium director. At this point, Kukuru lacks that particular skill, and she goes ballistic when Chiyu slings a few insults her way. A physical fight very nearly breaks out, but fortunately, Fūka’s on hand to diffuse things. The stress and anger Kukuru experiences here creates some of The Aquatope on White Sand‘s best funny-faces, something that was quite absent from The World in Colours.

  • Kukuru’s experiences here bring to mind my own experiences with the Xamarin project I’d mentioned earlier: at the time, I was quite convinced that the hostility I was met with came from my approaches to mobile development being incompatible with HIPA-compliant practises. In retrospect, my conflicts with the Winnipeg team also came from my lack of familiarity with their DevOps procedures, and the fact that delivering an acceptable mobile workflow for onboarding caused them quite a bit of extra work. On my last evening in Winnipeg, after a back and fourth meeting with the Denver and Winnipeg teams, we met halfway, and I left the office for dinner at the Beachcomber: I ended up having a char-grilled Steelhead trout filet topped with salsa on a bed of rice pilaf.

  • While I left Winnipeg a little stressed, I was confident the project would soon wrap up. Unfortunately for me, the Winnipeg team continued to drop the ball with their backend development, constantly changing the JSON responses coming back from each endpoint in an attempt to make it look like the mobile app was failing. The me of now would’ve dealt with this by recording the responses while things were working so I’d have a video demo of my work, and then speaking to management about what I’d need (e.g. communications about endpoint changes) to do my best work. I am speaking from having three more years of experience since then, and looking back, I was no more mature than Kukuru as a developer. Here, Kukuru confides in Fūka, stating that it’d be wonderful to have an older sister like her. As it turns out, Kukuru is aware of her parents having another child, but she’s too worried to ask.

  • The next day, Chiyu is able to get some time to watch the legendary aquarium director, Kukuru’s grandfather, in action. However, Chiyu is completely dissatisfied that he spends more time tending to the customers than the aquarium itself, and feels that the afternoon was a complete waste of time. This is something that Chiyu has missed., but the contrast is readily apparent to viewers; Kukuru’s grandfather wishes to cultivate a sense of home for his visitors, and Gama Gama isn’t merely an institution for marine life, but also a place where people can go to relax.

  • Had Chiyu been aware of this from the start, there’d be no story to speak of. To really drive the stakes up, Chiyu gives voice to all of her displeasure, leaving Kukuru shaking with indignation. This was quite unprofessional on Chiyu’s part: I’ve certainly never felt the need to put down high school students while assessing their work at science fairs, for instance, although I do understand that leaving on such a rough note sets the stage for what is to happen next. A quick glance at the calendar shows that we’re down to a week for things, which means there’s precious little time for fights like these.

  • A week can indeed go by in the blink of an eye, although for Kukuru, time’s standing still – she vents her frustrations after Kai offers to act as a shoulder to lean on (in a manner of speaking). It speaks volumes to their friendship that Kai jokes to Kukuru about wanting hazard pay when she head-butts him. Much as how Fūka has proven to be quite distinct from Hitomi, Kukuru is different than Kohaku: P.A. Works’ characters are often quite similar in appearance and superficial traits, but ultimately, these small differences are enough to alter the look-and-feel of a given work. For instance, Ohana, Minko and Nako from Hanasaku Iroha return as Tari Tari‘s Konatsu, Wakana and Sawa, respectively, but different contexts and personalities mean that the character dynamics are drastically dissimilar.

  • When Fūka speaks to two of the boys who’ve come to see the aquarium as a cool hangout spot, they mention that they’ve been here often enough so that they’ve memorised every exhibit. However, Kukuru had heard from one boy that he’d once had a vision of his dog here. The supernatural aspects of The Aquatope on White Sand have been completely set aside for the time being, but the fact they’re occurring for so many people means that there’s a significance to them.

  • As evening sets in, Kukuru decides to head on over to the new aquarium under construction for a look, while Fūka receives a call from an old coworker, ending the episode on a cliffhanger of sorts. The Okinawan skyline here brings to mind the scenery that was seen in The World in Colours, which reminds me of the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand feels like it’s meant to take the magical piece from The World in Colours and add a Hanasaku Iroha component, as well. With this post in the books, I will note that I’ve never been anticipating an episode of The Aquatope on White Sand more, since things cut off very abruptly.

Racing against the clock had always been something P.A. Works had incorporated into their works, whether it was Hitomi doing her utmost to spend time with Kohaku and her friends before returning to the future, the merciless deadlines of anime production, the constraints imposed by the “Queen of Manoyama” contract, the Kissui’s Inn closing, or the drive to put on a performance before their school closes. Each of The World in Colours, Shirobako, Sakura Quest, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari have the central characters fighting a countdown to do the most they can before one chapter draws to a close, and in each case, the series have all structured its pacing smartly, keeping the pressure on to create a sense of urgency while at the same time, giving everyone enough space to achieve their goals before time’s up. Here in The Aquatope on White Sand, a glance at calendars in-show suggest that we’re now down to a week before Gama Gama is set to shutter up for good, but we’re still three episodes away from the series’ halfway point. Pulling a miracle out of nowhere now would be disingenuous, and so, one cannot help but wonder if The Aquatope on White Sand is going to be going in a different direction: previously, P.A. Works’ anime have all hit their stride after their halfway points, with the first half being to establish everything and build the world up, before giving the characters a well-defined goal to pursue. It therefore stands to reason that Gama Gama will likely close as expected, and we might even see the aftermath of things (similarly to how Nagi no Asukara utilise a time skip to portray a story over a longer time frame). Regardless of where The Aquatope on White Sand ends up going, it is clear that this series has a large supernatural piece, as well – frequent mention of the visions visitors see at Gama Gama indicate that this will play a large role in things. As such, as The Aquatope on White Sand moves ahead, it will be important to have the supernatural occupy a more prominent role and affect the story more substantially than it currently has so far, as tying the workplace piece with the supernatural does seem to be where The Aquatope on White Sand is headed.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Six

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” –Jonathan Swift

In order to be more useful at Gama Gama Aquarium, Fūka works hard at learning about the different species that are present and helps Kukuru to host a touch aquarium event, during which visitors are allowed to gently handle some of the aquatic life. Knowing that their audience includes young children, Fūka decides to spice things up and makes displays that appeal to younger visitors. Kukuru decides to make Fūka the attendant, and despite the latter’s reservations, she ends up doing a solid job of keeping visitors engaged. However, some visitors soon recognise Fūka as an idol, and Kukuru pulls Fūka aside to give her some space. In the aftermath, the pair reconcile and return to their duties. Fūka’s mother arrives in Okinawa shortly after with the goal of bringing Fūka home, and although Kukuru suggests that Fūka try to make a break for it, she ends up returning to the aquarium after growing worried about one of the fish there. Fūka’s mother soon sees her working with Kukuru, and happy that her daughter is fine, Fūka’s mother consents to let her stay in Okinawa to help Gama Gama Aquarium out, contingent on the condition that Fūka returns home when term resumes. Hoping to bring in more visitors, Kukuru struggles to come up with an idea, but after Umi-yan brings ice pops into the office after hours, Kukuru feels it’d be nice to offer sweets. Although Tsukimi suggests ice cream, Karin shuts the idea down owing to the health and safety regulation that ice cream vendors must adhere to. Inspired, Tsukimi goes with shaved ice with an aquatic twist, which turns out to be a major success. While looking after the aquarium, Kukuru runs into an elderly man who’d been visiting Gama Gama every summer since it opened. It turns out he had a fantastical, otherworldly experience here and encountered his brother in a vision on his first visit, and curious, he’d come to yearn for another experience. While gazing upon the fish with Kukuru, both she and the elderly man are taken into a vision: he reunites with his brother, and Kukuru spots her family. Kukuru realises that Gama Gama is special because it means something to many people and joins her friends, who are encountering success with their shaved ice stand. We’re now a quarter of the way into The Aquatope on White Sand, a series that combines the workplace detail of Shirobako with the idea of saving an aging entity in Sakura Quest. However, six episodes in, melancholy and magic are much more prevalent than they were in P.A. Works’ previous workplace anime.

The Aquatope on White Sand lacks the same sense of quiet introspection and yearning for direction that The World in Colours presents, or the energetic and upbeat, go-getter attitudes of Shirobako and Sakura Quest had. Instead, the anime exists as a happy medium between the two, combining the supernatural aspects of The World in Colours with the creativity and drive of P.A. Works’ workplace series: Fūka has begun to settle in to life at Gama Gama Aquarium and is applying her own touch on problem solving, proving to be a success in her role as an attendant for the touch pools. Fūka’s natural talent for speaking in front of people and driving excitement makes it such that the children who check out the pools develop an interest in marine life (and in turn, leaves their parents happy), while Tsukimi’s love of cooking means she is able to contribute to finding new ways of breathing life to the dying Gama Gama Aquarium. The solution she reaches, of creating marine-themed shaved ice, is as ingenious as it is effective; it fits with the aquarium theme and at the same time, is inexpensive enough not to demand anything unreasonable from Kukuru. The Aquatope on White Sand thus begins to show the creative spark that P.A. Works’ workplace anime are known for. At the same time, the supernatural takes on a much larger role here than it had previously; by this point in time, it is clear that there is a certain bit of magic about Gama Gama Aquarium, and among the peaceful, surreal environment created by the large fish tanks and the refractive properties of water, visitors experience visions that speak to their heart’s desires. When Fūka visited, she wanted to become lost in a new world. The veterinarian wished most to meet her unborn child. The elderly man greatly misses his brother, and Kukuru herself yearns for nothing more than to meet her family. That these visions are experienced by others clearly indicates that there is a bit of magic at work here, and this acts as a rather clever metaphor for how aquariums and their environment, in providing a glimpse of life in the ocean, also becomes a mirror for what is in one’s heart. Owing to how magic is utilised in The Aquatope on White Sand, it is reasonable to suppose that as Fūka and Kukuru continue to employ their creative (if mundane) methods for saving Gama Gama Aquarium, their efforts will set in motion powerful support from a yet-to-be-seen supernatural force that may be an asset from time to time, suggesting how once people invest the appropriate effort to push something so far, another actor may intervene and provide a bit of help as a reward to those who work hard to realise their dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Like Sakura Quest had done previously, the initial efforts to save Gama Gama Aquarium are small-scale, creative projects that are intended to bring about a small boost in visitors, mirroring how as the characters settle into their roles and become increasingly familiar with their duties, they are able to bring more to the table. The idea of a touch pool is a simple one, and it falls on Kukuru to identify species that can be safely handled. While some species are very adverse to noise and being handled, others can be safely included in such an exhibit.

  • It becomes clear that Fūka is very dedicated, and she makes a considerable effort to familiarise herself with the marine life hosted at Gama Gama Aquarium. Her background as an idol makes her well-suited for this, since Fūka would’ve doubtlessly needed to memorise lines for television spots, commercials and emceeing activities associated with her job. The skillset that Fūka brings to the table is an asset to Gama Gama Aquarium, since having a suitable attendent can really help to engage viewers with what they’re seeing.

  • After Fūka becomes versed with the different aquatic animals at Gama Gama, she figures she’s got a few suggestions to try out for really raising interest among visitors; although she may not have years of experience in running an aquarium as Kukuru does, Fūka nonetheless does know how to keep a group’s attention. Her suggestions to spruce up the touch pools is well-received, and Kukuru becomes excited to see what Fūka has in mind.

  • In a moment reminiscent of the “I DON’T MONEY” scene in Tari Tari, where Wakana had attempted to evade a stalker who turned out to be an old friend of her mother’s, Fūka is surprised by Umi-yan’s presence and initially takes her to be a suspicious individual, as well. In the escape, Umi-yan pulls his back, and it turns out that he’s no stalker, but rather, an older member of Gama Gama’s staff who also happens to be an idol otaku.

  • Fūka’s previous occupation becomes a talking point among Kukuru, Tsukimi and Karin; there’s always the chance that, owing to how quickly news travels, people might hassle Fūka owing to her fame. The three are surprised that Fūka is somewhat famous, but since things have been fairly quiet in Okinawa thus far, the three agree to keep things under wraps for the time being so they don’t worry her. The outside of Kamee Café has quickly become one of my favourite sights in The Aquatope on White Sand: its food and cozy ambience makes it a comforting place to be.

  • P.A. Works excels with water effects and reflections; here at the tide pools, Kukuru and Kai collect wildlife for their touch pools. Having known Kukuru since their childhood, Kai and Kukuru are close friends, and Kai often finds himself dragged off to do whatever Kukuru asks of him. However, while Kai is outwardly reminiscent of Taichi and Tsumugu from Tari Tari and Nagi no Asukara, respectively in appearance, his personality is quite different. This is a common criticism that P.A. Works faces in their works; for some of their best titles, character archetypes and designs are recycled. However, appearances alone do not tell the whole story, and the cast size in The Aquatope on White Sand is small enough so that everyone will likely get screen time.

  • On the day of the touch pools’ opening, visitors are very pleased with the exhibit and Fūka’s solid job. However, things quickly go south when a couple of visitors notice that Fūka is here. They make to photograph her, only for Karin to step in and state that photographs of the staff are prohibited. Fūka’s fear gets the better of her, and so, Kukuru decides to pull her aside, asking Umi-yan to substitute in while Fūka regroups. While Kukuru might not have been the most sympathetic to Fūka early on, moments like these indicate that Kukuru is the sort of person who reciprocates those who help her.

  • Once the shock of being recognised wears off, Kukuru and Fūka share a tender moment. The problem of Fūka’s fame is thus resolved for the present, and I imagine that with time, as well as a little support, Fūka will no longer be immobilised by people knowing who she is. Smaller problems in The Aquatope on White Sand are swiftly dealt with because there is something larger at play in this anime; rather than dwell endlessly on the minutiae, the story is written in such a way so that easier challenges are sorted out early on, allowing for the larger problems to be presented and solved over the space of several episodes.

  • This approach may result in a choppier start (if memory serves, Sakura Quest was a little disjointed during its beginning), but once the main story is reached, one can expect The Aquatope on White Sand to really captivate. Here, Fūka and Kukuru prepare to retire for the evening, and while they’re not family (at least, nothing has yet been shown to say this is the case), the two are gradually beginning to become as close as Hitomi and Kohaku did. Their futons, separated by a few feet of space early in the episode, are now placed closer to one another, acting as a pleasant metaphor of their growing friendship.

  • The question of when Fūka’s mother would arrive was a matter of when, rather than if; by introducing her early in the game, The Aquatope on White Sand establishes that the series is going to be about Gama Gama Aquarium and not matters that some fans tend to fixate on. Fūka’s mother has every intention of bringing Fūka home, even though Fūka herself has now become attached to the aquarium and wishes she could stay for longer. Fearing that she won’t be able to continue with her journey of self-discovery, she decides to take Kukuru and Kai’s suggestion of running off.

  • Of course, lesser minds immediately turned towards criticising Kukuru and Kai. Despite my saying so for the umpteenth time (and to my general irritation, falling on deaf ears), high school students do not always make the most rational decisions when faced with a crisis. An adult would easily understand that this is the time to sit down and be frank, then work out a compromise of some sort. However, we have already established that Kukuru can be a bit impulsive and doesn’t always think things through, so it should hardly be surprising that her first thought is to get Fūka out of the aquarium and get her to make tracks.

  • Fūka had noticed the blenny was unwell, but her own circumstances push her to continue on with her journey. Travelling along Route 331, I was able to locate the path that Fūka took, right down to the very bushes she jumps into in an attempt to hide from a car passing by; Kukuru phones ahead to let Fūka know of this so she can continue with her escape. I imagine, then, that owing to the fact that Fūka ends up at Kamee Café, the café must be located along Route 331, as well, although it is a fictional location that was purpose-made for the anime (a cursory search up and down Route 331 turns up nothing).

  • To help buy Fūka time, Kukuru had decided to bring Fūka’s mother home to meet her grandparents, and while Fūka’s mother is initially reserved, once Kukuru breaks out her family’s homemade plum wine, Fūka’s mother has a sudden change of heart. Fūka and her mother hail from Tohoku, the northern part of Honshu; the last time I wrote about idols from the Tohoku region, it would’ve been Wake Up, Girls!, a series I came to enjoy very much despite the below-grade animation and art-style. A quick glance at the wall calendar shows that The Aquatope on White Sand is set in 2021, although in their world, there is no global health crisis, with people are coming and going as they normally would.

  • This admittedly makes me a little restless, since case numbers are still surging in my neck of the woods owing to undisclosed circumstances. The prospect of enjoying a good chanpurū, as Fūka does here, seems out of reach for the present. Unsure of where to go, Fūka ends up heading for Kamee Café under the hot tropical sun, noting that she now feels as lost as she did when she’d first arrived in Okinawa, and after enjoying lunch with Tsukimi, who loves to cook and experiment with different recipies, Fūka learns that Tsukimi’s mother is none other than the fortune teller she’d met when she had first arrived.

  • Since hoofing it limited Fūka’s options, Tsukimi’s mother offers to drive her over to Naha, where she can stay with Tsukimi’s aunt until things blow over. However, en route to Naha, Fūka longs to get another look at one of the beaches, and in doing so, runs into some children who’d had a great time at the touch pool. They ask Fūka what new things Gama Gama have in store for them and wonder if Kukuru could be convinced to put sharks in. There is actually a reason why sharks don’t go well in touch pools: smaller species can easily be stressed by constant touch and won’t be in good health as a result.

  • Seeing the children leads Fūka to realise that there are things she’d left unfinished, starting with the blenny, and that her place is with the aquarium now. It turns out Kukuru had also spotted this and isolated the blenny so if it’d been afflicted with a pathogen, at least the disease won’t spread to other fish. Kukuru explains that life and death are part of the job at an aquarium, and in the process, learns from Fūka that she’d taken a liking to the blenny for having reminded her of herself.

  • To prevent any pathogens from contaminating the water and other fish, Kukuru explains that there’s a special process for disposing of aquatic wildlife that die from disease. At this time, Fūka’s mother returns to the aquarium, and comes across Fūka cleaning the blenny’s tank with Kukuru. This moment speaks volumes to Fūka’s mother; seeing the dedication and effort Fūka’s put in to her duties here at Gama Gama allow her to appreciate what’d happened since Fūka had gone to Okinawa. Sometimes, silence speaks more loudly and words, and this is one of those moments.

  • Thus, when Fūka and her mother finally have a proper conversation for the first time since her mother arrived in Okinawa, the entire conversation is one of compromise and understanding. Fūka is permitted to stick around in Okinawa until term starts, giving her and Kukuru a chance to make further progress with Gama Gama. Like Sakura Quest and The World in ColoursThe Aquatope on White Sand operates with a limited timeframe, and P.A. Works’ propensity for imposing constraints on a series speaks to their belief that people are often at their very best when faced with some sort of deadline, determined to make the most of every moment.

  • In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand eliminates yet another source of potential conflict by encapsulating things to the space of a single episode. Fūka had never really intended to run off, and Kukuru’s suggestion had come in the heat of the moment, rather than from the result of rational thinking. Running away from one’s problems have never served anyone well, but much as life suggests, it is a common theme in anime to have characters come to a discovery while attempting to escape their problems, leaving them with a different perspective of how to go about solving it. Tsukimi’s mother, and Kukuru’s grandparents assure Fūka’s mother that her daughter is in good hands, and later that evening, Fūka and her mother share a conversation, during which the latter praises Fūka’s boots (a subtle but clear sign that Fūka’s mother loves her very much).

  • While the touch pools have been quite successful, Gama Gama continues to struggle to bring in new visitors, and Kukuru grows quite worried, especially when a local news article suggests that Gama Gama is consigned to being closed at the end of the summer. A host of ideas enters her mind, but none of them seem viable, at least until Umi-yan enters with his favourite popsicles, giving Kukuru an idea. She thus summons Tsukimi, who remarks that Kukuru seems to have a lot of requests of the lifetime. In the end, however, since the request deals with food and cooking, Tsukimi consent to help out, seeing an opportunity to further her skills.

  • To research potential ice creams to serve at Gama Gama, Tsukimi suggests a field trip to an ice cream shoppe located a ways away – the three require a bus ride to get here, and at the time of writing, I’ve had no luck in finding the shop. However, upon arrival, the girls find the ice cream solid. Tsukimi is busy working out the complex flavours in her order here, and later, she sets off to check out what other shops are doing. In the meantime, Kukuru notices an ad for Instagram and suggests that they could give Gama Gama’s social media accounts some updates to generate some excitement.

  • Whereas The World in Colours had been very moderate with its facial expressions, The Aquatope of White Sand brings back the funny faces that Shirobako and to a lesser extent, Sakura Quest, were best known for. While Kukuru initially finds it difficult to take photographs of Gama Gama and its staff, she does get into things and comes away with several photos worthy of Instagram. A good Instagram account can do wonders for a business, although I’ve long found that the Instagram API to be particularly nightmarish to use because of how tough it is to gain approval to access even the most basic of functions.

  • When Tsukimi and Kukuru share their idea with Karin, she promptly shoots it down – securing a permit to sell ice cream is almost as difficult as being approved to use the Instagram API, and this makes sense because of the fact that ice cream is prone to spoilage and food-borne illnesses. Tsukimi’s mother suggests something simpler, and this leads Tsukimi to try shaved ice out; this simple desert is produced by grinding down a block of ice into shavings and mixed with flavoured syrups. Shaved ice dates back to the twelfth century in the Heian period, during which it was a desert for the upper echelons of society owing to how tricky ice was to make and store.

  • By the Meiji Restoration, advancements in technology meant that shaved ice became more widespread. The dessert was introduced to Hawaii in the 1900s by Japanese immigrants. Here, Tsukimi demonstrates that shaved ice is a viable alternative, acting as a frosty treat for visitors. While she’d used a simple device here to shave the ice, Karin’s set off to find a commercial-grade shaver to make it easier. However, Tsukimi struggles to find a way of making the flavours more exciting, until she realises that since it’s going to be for Gama Gama, she can keep the flavours simple and do something aquarium-themed instead.

  • Speaking to Fūka’s adjustment to life on Okinawa, she joins Kukuru in a prayer for a smooth day each and every morning: I believe that this is called uchatou-mintou, which is performed by making an offering of water or tea to the gods. Kukuru definitely believes in the Okinawan concept of mabui (similar to life energy), as she steps her game up by offering a fish head in place of tea or water; mabui can be lost, causing misfortune and ill health, so Okinawans have rituals for minimising its loss.

  • While Fūka and Tsukimi get set up, Kukuru checks in on a guest who she’d noticed had been visiting every summer for as long as she could remember. When she speaks to him, Kukuru learns that the aquarium is special to him because long ago, he was able to reunite with his deceased brother here: he’d started a business that failed, but seeing his brother (who had likely died during the Battle of Okinawa given the imagery) gave him the courage to pick himself up and keep going. In the moment, the elderly gentleman encounters the vision he’d sought to see anew, and Kukuru is swept in, as well, although she spots her family, including a girl her age.

  • The visions at Gama Gama Aquarium appear to speak to the individual’s deepest desires, bringing back memories of the Mirror of Erised and the fact that dwelling endlessly on what is only a possibility is not healthy for the mind (it’s better to focus on what one can work towards). The fact that these visions are so prominent in The Aquatope on White Sand, and the fact they’ve happened several times now, indicate that they no longer can be chalked up to metaphors or imagery – there is almost certainly a significance to their occurrences. The use of magic and the supernatural in a workplace anime is new territory for P.A. Works –they’ve previously been very successful with workplace series, and The World in Colours demonstrated that P.A. Works evidently learnt their lessons from Glasslip, using magic in a meaningful capacity to drive the story.

  • The elderly man is overwhelmed with emotion, and Kukuru herself only just manages to hold her tears back. His dreams fulfilled, the man is at peace, and Kukuru only asks him to come back next year. P.A. Works has a history of seeing things close or come to an end in spite of the characters’ efforts (Kissuiso closes, as does the school in Tari Tari, Musani operates at reduced capacity by the events of the movie, and The Kingdom of Chupacabra is decommissioned). However, these endings were not met with sorrow, so it is conceivable that P.A. Works speaks to the beauty of endings and the possibility they bring.

  • For now, however, viewers are treated to crowds enjoying the themed shaved ice that Tsukimi has made: she’s got clownfish, turtles and penguins, which are a smash-hit with the children, but when some youth ask her for something not on the menu, Tsukimi impresses them with an on-the-spot creation. There is a journey to be had ahead, and I expect everyone to bring their best to the table in what’s left of the summer as Kukuru works hard to save her beloved aquarium, with Fūka similarly lending her best before she has to return home in time for term to start.

  • Having spent its first quarter acclimatising viewers to things, The Aquatope on White Sand is now ready to kick into high gear, and I am rather looking forward to the interplay between magic and creativity. With this talk six episodes in, I believe that I now have enough information to make a decision – I will continue to write about The Aquatope on White Sand every three episodes, as the series continues to offer much to talk about, and there are many moments that are worth discussing: between comparisons with older series and things unique to The Aquatope on White Sand, I anticipate having a great deal of fun watching this, especially as the anime will run from the hottest months of the year well into December, offering something to look forwards to for the next eighteen or so weeks.

Of course, what I’ve stated about where The Aquatope on White Sand could go is purely speculation, and with the remaining three quarters of the anime still on the table, P.A. Works has plenty of room to explore and impress. One thing about P.A. Works that I’ve enjoyed, which The Aquatope on White Sand employs, is the fact that the series is paced such that lingering questions of practicality are eliminated from the get-go. Much as how Tari Tari had Konatsu and Sawa singing with a full choir in the second episode to show that they could put a group together if they felt so inclined, The Aquatope on White Sand has Fūka’s mother appear early on to clarify that Fūka’s continued stay in Okinawa is one with reluctant approval (and a hard time limit). Rather than leaving things to linger for drama’s sake, both Tari Tari and The Aquatope on White Sand cut straight to the chase in dealing with the proverbial elephant in the room, allowing the series to focus on what is central to their story. For this reason, I’ve always enjoyed P.A. Works’ coming-of-age and workplace stories – they address problems directly early on so that the real hurdles are given enough time to be fleshed out and solved. With this in mind, The Aquatope on White Sand has proven to be very solid, and this time around, it is clear that P.A. Works has applied lessons from Shirobako, Sakura Quest and The World in Colours to their latest work, combining the creativity and resolve of those with a job to do together with the idea of introspection and self-discovery, aided with a little bit of magic. Six episodes into The Aquatope on White Sand, this anime has done a superb job of the workplace side of things, and as the anime is hinting at the fact that the visions that Fūka, the veterinarian, Kukuru and an elderly vistor have are more than just creative metaphors; they’re real enough to the characters, so there is now a very tangible expectation that P.A. Works will give this particular element sufficient exposition and detail, much as they had previously done with The World in Colours.