The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Kukuru Misakino

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.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Three

“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.” –Craig Bruce

Kukuru allows Fūka to help out around Gama Gama Aquarium, and suggests that Fūka stay with her and grandparents in the interim. However, on her first day, Fūka, unaccustomed to dealing with penguins, slips and falls into the pool. Kukuru ends up lecturing Fūka on the importance of their main duty to look after the animals and ensure their safety. It turns out that Kururu had taken up the post of acting director with the aim of saving Gama Gama Aquarium from being closed down – the aquarium is of special significance to her, and while its age, coupled with dwindling visitors makes it difficult to bring their implements up to code, Kukuru is intent on finding a way to make things work out. That evening, Fūka calls home to let her mother know of her rough whereabouts. The next day, a pair of shady-looking loan sharks appear, hoping to rope Kukuru into some sort of scheme. Having heard Kukuru’s story from Karin, Fūka ends up driving the loan sharks off after they destroy Gama Gama’s hand-made sign. Kukuru invites Fūka to meet Tsukimi and Kai at the Teruya’s diner. Kukuru apologises to Fūka for being short with her, and Fūka promises to do what she can for Kukuru. The two also begin to get to know the penguins a little better. However, upon spotting that one of the older penguins, Choko, has ulcerative pododermatitis, Kukuru decides to call an a veterinarian who is on maternity leave. While she consents to come in and have a look, she unexpectedly begins going into labour. Without any available transportation, Karin ends up driving her to the local maternity home, where she gives birth to a baby boy. The veterinarian reveals to Fūka that she had a pleasant dream while at the aquarium and is happy her child’s birth was so memorable. Later, Kukuru spots Fūka with the penguin keychains that she’d designed, and resolves to do something new. Here at the three episode mark to The Aquatope on White Sand, it is evident that this series is going to head down the same route that Sakura Quest once did, while simultaneously combining notions of self-discovery and growing up from The World in Colours and Tari Tari. However, The Aquatope on White Sand simultaneously betrays nothing about what milestones will be hit in this journey, and so, the anime ends up succeeding in creating intrigue within its episodes.

Fūka and Kukuru’s actions in The Aquatope on White Sand lie at the forefront of all present discussion; this is to be expected, given that personal growth and professional development is central to coming-of-age series such as these. However, discussions have been unjustly harsh – when Fūka panics from the penguin’s forward behaviour during feeding time and slips into the pool, Kukuru delivers a tongue-lashing about how any carelessness surrounding the animals is grounds for termination because their aquarium’s first and foremost objective is looking after the animals. Rather than making any sort of effort to understand why Kukuru is as tense as she is, discussions swiftly point fingers at Kururu for not providing proper instructions. However, The Aquatope on White Sand makes it a point to indicate that Gama Gama Aquarium is of personal importance to her, reminding her of the time she spent with her late parents. While it is true that Kukuru is headstrong and stubborn, her intentions are admirable, and being a high school girl, she’s impatient and unlearned in some ways. These are character flaws that exist within all of us at that age, and over time, our experiences allowed us to outgrow them such that we could approach problems more calmly and rationally. Similarly, Fūka herself is being criticised for quitting her idol position on a whim and wandering about without giving her future any second thought, taking on positions she has no background in. However, had Fūka chosen to tough things out and make her idol career work out, The Aquatope on White Sand wouldn’t exist. Instead, her journey is meant to be a story of what experiences, both good and bad, lay ahead on a path whose destination is not clear. Altogether, The Aquatope on White Sand is a story that asks of its viewers a modicum of patience – one does not grow up overnight, and it is precisely by stumbling, making mistakes, and above all else, learning, that one begins to mature. P.A. Works’ stories require that one understand where the characters are coming from, rather than judging them; to do the latter would be to close one’s mind to the possibility of growth, and it does one no credit to be overly critical of the characters’ actions this early on, especially in the knowledge that the characters will be their best selves as things continue.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kukuru is initially reluctant to bring Fūka on board and wonders if working at Gama Gama Aquarium will be Fūka’s jam, but decides to take her home anyways, where Kukuru’s grandparents welcome her. Somewhat uncomfortable with sitting still and letting the Misakinos do everything, Fūka decides to help out in the ways that she can. Small details like these give viewers insight into the characters’ nature, although it is disappointing to see how often viewers overlook these traits.

  • While helping Kukuru’s grandmother make sata andagi (a fried Okinawan confectionary similar to a Timbit, but with things like purple yams inside), Kukuru’s grandmother invites Fūka to try one out, fresh from the hot oil. Immediately, one self-proclaimed expert cried foul that the sata andagi should’ve been too hot to hold, and yet, Fūka was able to receive hers without even flinching from the heat. However, this individual (who spent last season sarcastically lambasting Super Cub down to the last pixel) simply demonstrates that he’d slept through science class and therefore, had never heard of the Leidenfrost Effect. This occurs where a thin layer of vapour will form when a liquid is in contact with a hot surface and provide a brief bit of insulation from the heat. Since Fūka is cooking, her hands likely are a little wet, which provides the liquid that can form the insulating layer of vapour.

  • Coupled with the fact that the sata andagi has a high surface area to volume ratio, by the time the Liedenfrost Effect wears off, the confectionary’s surface would have cooled down enough for Fūka to eat it. A little bit of science is therefore enough to debunk complaints: I’ve long disliked folks who believe that their capabilities are so far above that of the writers that they can nitpick at small details for internet points. As such, there is a certain satisfaction to be had when the same individuals fail to account for real-world phenomenon that can explain what’s being shown on screen. Now, I could go ahead and break out my old textbooks on thermodynamics and heat transfer to compute this holds true, but all this effort for an internet argument is quite unnecessary. As it stands, this moment is simply here to show that Fūka is enjoying a confectionary distinct to Okinawa: she’s blown away by the flavour, mirroring her exposure to the various aspects of Okinawan culture.

  • Having put off answering calls from her mother, Fūka finally decides to reply, and understandably, Fūka’s mother is worried sick about her, as she’d failed to check in. Fūka attempts to assuage her mother’s worries by stating she’s with a friend. While this is true in a manner of speaking, it’s clear that Fūka is still trying to gain her own bearings, and she’s not quite ready to let her mother know what’s happening. Because Fūka comes across as being kind and considerate of those around her, to the point of giving up the centre role of a performance for a coworker’s sake, it stands to reason that Fūka does not wish for her mother to worry excessively for her sake.

  • When Tsukimi sees the lofty goal that Kukuru has set for herself, she wonders if it’s even possible to raise that kind of money in two months: the total cost of equipment and upgrades totals some three million Yen (around 34118 CAD, the price of a fully-loaded sedan or an SUV with mid-range options selected). However, Tsukimi is more surprised to learn that she has Fūka staying with her. This scene also reveals that the fortune teller Fūka had met during the first episode is Tsukimi’s mother; I’ve previously remarked that anime do not introduce voiced characters without reason, and it can only be described as fate that the fortune teller knows Kukuru.

  • Back in the Shirobako and Sakura Quest days, a great deal of time had been spent inside offices filled with paperwork and other clutter. I imagine that The Aquatope on White Sand will feature this office prominently as Kukuru and Fūka work towards their objectives. However, it’s not all fun and games for Fūka: she’s thrown in the deep end from the start, and in her haste to get Fūka going, Kukuru neglects to mention detail or properly orient her. Again, this is something folks have vociferously complained about, and like the Leidenfrost Effect, people appear to have forgotten that Kukuru is a high school girl, rather than a full-fledged adult.

  • Assuming that the folks making such an aggressive response to The Aquatope on White Sand are a similar age to myself or older, I would find their commentary on Kukuru’s actions to be poor form. Kukuru is a high school student – adolescents possess an ability for reasoning on par with that of an adult, but their brain development means that they are also more prone to impulsive decisions and act on emotion rather than reason as a result of experience. Simply put, Kukuru is inwardly excited by the prospect of having help and is so focused on her own goals that she’s forgotten that Fūka is very much a novice, requiring training to properly perform her duties.

  • That Kukuru mentions nail polish as being harmful to the marine life at Gama Gama so late indicates she definitely knows her materials, but, having worked around folks at least as experienced as she is led her to take Fūka for granted. For this, Fūka slips and falls into the pool in the penguin enclosure after panicking and taking a beak to the ass while feeding a group of energetic penguins. It’s a dramatic introduction to the dangers of the job, and one would imagine that an experienced director would not allow new staff near live animals until they’ve had some training.

  • With this being said, I see no reason not to be understanding of how things got to be; having Kukuru acting in an impatient manner shows that her desire to save Gama Gama Aquarium notwithstanding, she’s not ready to be a director yet despite the title. This leaves The Aquatope on White Sand plenty of room for both her and Fūka to develop as people. A Kukuru with emotional maturity and experience to match wouldn’t need to learn these life lessons, resulting in an immensely dull anime: half the fun in coming-of-life stories is seeing characters develop over time and learn from their mistakes.

  • Similarly, Fūka’s decision appears completely irrational to adults, but had Fūka been mature enough to regroup and seek out a solution to her problems, then The Aquatope on White Sand would have no story to present. The insistent belief that anime characters necessarily must act like real people would is ludicrous; besides degrading or even eliminating a story, people in reality aren’t exactly the best measure of good decision making, and a major part of life is owning the decisions one makes. Conversely, The Aquatope on White Sand hints to viewers that, as bleak as the situation is for Kukuru, there is a way forward. Karin shares with Fūka the story behind Gama Gama Aquarium, helping Fūka to understand Kukuru better here.

  • Two unscrupulous-looking men barge into Gama Gama Aquarium one day, promising Kukuru the funds she needs to bring the place up to scratch. However, Kukuru kicks them out: while people were so fixated on Kukuru’s treatment of Fūka, they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture, and here, Kukuru demonstrates that she’s an honest, if stubborn individual with a strong sense of integrity. Refusing to take the easy way out means Kukuru’s avoided a potential source of trouble later down the line, allowing The Aquatope on White Sand to focus on what’s important without being swept off by problem that common sense would’ve averted.

  • I’m certain that Hitomi would’ve never doused anyone with the hose, but here, after Fūka watches as the two loan sharks “accidentally” destroy Gama Gama Aquarium’s hand-made welcome sign, she’s pushed past her endurance. The torrent of water is only an irritant, but it’s enough to get the two to leave. In the aftermath, Kukuru notes that soaking customers would almost certainly lead to a termination, but since those two weren’t customers and getting on Kukuru’s nerves, she ends up expressing gratitude instead.

  • While Karin is only seen to be popping in and out of Gama Gama Aquarium, she appears often enough so that it’s the case that she’ll have a larger role to play yet. Her role with the local tourism board, and the fact she’s a ways older than Kukuru and Fūka means that she brings the maturity and experience to the table I’ve been speaking of; Karin is someone who is young enough to be open to new ideas from Kukuru and Fūka, while at the same time, is old enough to know what’s possible and what could potentially work. Altogether, this means Karin will definitely become an asset along Fūka and Kukuru’s journey.

  • That evening, Fūka has a chance to meet Kukuru’s friends, including Tsukimi and Kai: because Kukuru also invited him, Kūya also shows up. He’s said to be uneasy around women, but upon spotting Kai, is immediately relieved. Seeing Tsukimi, Kai and Kukuru together gives viewers a better measure of what allies Fūka have in her corner, and I imagine that between Tsukimi’s family restaurant and Kai’s involvement in fishing, both fields will need to come together to give Gama Gama Aquarium a fighting chance. P.A. Works have always been fond of suggesting that multidisciplinary solutions and people from all walks of life are increasingly necessary in a world driven by constant change, so The Aquatope on White Sand isn’t expected to deviate from this particular message, either.

  • After the gathering, Fūka and Kukuru have a chance to speak one-on-one. Here, Kukuru apologises for having overstepped the previous day, while Fūka mentions she completely understands what Gama Gama Aquarium means to Kukuru. In this moment, it becomes clear that the good times and bad are to be rolled with in The Aquatope on White Sand; conflicts will be inevitable, and the question then becomes a matter of how the two sort out their troubles, both from within and without.

  • The third episode’s opening moments show Kukuru with her mother and father at Gama Gama Aquarium, where Kukuru takes on a particular fondness for one of the penguins, which she ends up naming Choko. It becomes clear that Gama Gama Aquarium, to Kukuru, is home because she’s associated it with memories of her parents, who passed away from an unspecified incident, leaving Kukuru to live with her grandparents. As such, Kukuru’s determination to save the aquarium stems from a wish to preserve the place that meant so much to her and her parents.

  • While Fūka’s beginning to settle in to her life with the Misakinos, she’s very much aware they’re doing her a large favour, and as such, Fūka is more than willing to help around the house as her way of saying thanks. Now, if memory serves, the ending song should release on the upcoming Wednesday, and once that’s done, I rather look forwards to hearing when the incidental music from Yoshiaki Dewa; because we are only three episodes in, there is zilch on when the soundtrack will release. I’ll naturally be keeping an eye on things, especially since Dewa’s composition for The World in Colour was superbly enjoyable.

  • Kukuru is presumably a fair student, but her love for all things aquatic means that she often turns in assignments that feature doodles of marine life. In a conversation with her instructor after class, Kukuru reveals that she has no interest in finishing secondary school and would run Gama Gama Aquarium for the rest of her life if she had a choice. While admirable, the real world can be tougher for people lacking a high school diploma: in rare cases, people have successfully run their own businesses and the like, but it takes the same amount of grit, tenacity and hard work to make this viable as what is required to make one’s way through a post-secondary degree or trades program.

  • While a high school diploma is almost mandatory, I hold that not everyone necessarily needs a degree be be successful, and having a degree alone does not guarantee success. There are people who are very successful in the trades and other occupations without ever having set foot in a Bachelor’s program; as long as Kukuru could finish high school, she’d at least have more options open to her. Of course, I’m not a career counselor, so what I say should absolutely not be taken at face value. Back at Gama Gama Aquarium, Kūya is overjoyed to have Kai on board: his inability to speak to women is something that might be addressed in future episodes.

  • While weighing the penguins to ensure they’re in good health, as well as determining which penguins should get a little more or less food to keep them at an optimal weight, Fūka spots one of the penguins as having a limp in his gait. It turns out Choko is afflicted with ulcerative pododermatitis (colloquially “bumblefoot” for birds and “sore hocks” for rabbits), a bacterial infection that results in inflammation. Left untreated, this infection can be fatal, and the proper mode of treatment is to administer antibiotics, as well as a dressing to give the wounds a chance to heal. Uncertain of their best course of action, Kukuru decides to call the aquarium’s veterinarian, who is on maternity leave.

  • A long time ago, I would’ve probably smiled at Fūka’s struggles to life a fish tank. However, a year-and-a-half of not regularly hitting the gym and pushing my bench press further means that Fūka is probably in better shape than I am. I’m actually a little nervous about going back and seeing just how weak I’ve become, although I suppose that with enough effort and patience, I could regain my old strength; the key is not to overdo things or rush my routine. At my peak, I was able to consistently lift a hundred and twenty percent of my body weight for five reps and three sets, which isn’t bad, considering I spend most of my time in front of a computer, digging through Swift code.

  • It’s therefore going to take a bit of training to get back to this level, and I’m looking forwards to the day when my preferred gym reopens; things have been a bit inconsistent, with some places choosing to remain closed for a bit longer for safety’s sake, and others re-opening earlier. Fortunately for Fūka, even though she struggles to lift the fish tank, Kai has been working as a fisherman and has no trouble picking it up. He recounts that Kukuru’s the sort of person who can drag anyone into anything aquarium-related, what with her boundless love of marine life, and upon hearing that Kukuru needed help, volunteered to do so.

  • Karin and Tsukimi share a conversation during lunch; Tsukimi is pleased enough with Karin’s kindness that she gives her a complimentary mango slice, although Karin insists that Gama Gama is a part of the community. There’s definitely a bit of foreshadowing going on here in The Aquatope on White Sand, and I’m curious to see where this journey is headed – the twenty-four episode runtime really allows the series to do what a twelve episode runtime cannot, and with the longer runway, there will likely be more space to really create a sense of community as the characters get to know one another in upcoming episodes.

  • Midway through her look at Choko, the veterinarian’s begins to go into labour. She mentions that her water’s broken, a phrase which means that the sac containing the amniotic fluid has ruptured as the body begins undergoing contractions. A quick glance at the documentation indicates that it’s actually hard to access whether or not a woman’s water has broken without medical expertise (and a quick test to determine if the fluid is amniotic) and women often mistake other phenomenon for their water breaking, so one cannot be sure if the veterinarian’s water broke. However, this turn of events prompts Kukuru and Fūka to give her some space, and while resting she suddenly finds herself swept into an ocean.

  • The kijimuna is spotted again in the ocean, and this time, it’s a peaceful scene where a child’s laughter can be heard. A young boy can be seen swimming alongside the kijimuna, but upon spotting the veterinarian, he swims towards her and embraces her. Upon awaking, the veterinarian finds herself at peace, excited to meet her child, and while the others have had a little trouble in getting a taxi on station, Karin arrives just in time to give the veterinarian a ride.

  • WIth the unerring skill of someone who’s lived in Okinawa all her life, Karin safely delivers the veterinarian to the local maternity hospital, taking a little-known shortcut to bypass the traffic jam. Fūka takes the initiative and chooses to accompany the veterinarian, since this is something she can do (whereas Kukuru is better equipped to look after Choko, and indeed, she does dress his infection to help him along). Karin’s knowledge allows her to get the veterinarian to the hospital, and once she’s arrived, her husband is notified, as well.

  • Later in the evening, in the middle of a lecture from her grandfather about not taking on everything herself, Kukuru gets a call from the veterinarian: her baby boy was safely delivered, and both are doing well. While it is conceivable that the veterinarian might’ve gotten to the maternity hospital earlier without the detour Kukuru’s request brought about, the moment shows that there are some things that occur serendipitously. The Aquatope on White Sand will need to reconcile the things happening as a result of fate, and the characters’ own learnings, as well. As it stands, Kukuru will certainly need to learn to lean on others and have faith in those around her to realise her dreams.

  • Seeing the veterinarian with her child leads both Kukuru and Fūka to recall their families. Kukuru is shown as finding her mother’s maternity books (in plural), and since the veterinarian remarks that all mothers-to-be receive such a handbook, this led to an explosion of speculation. At this point in time, there is little evidence to suggest that any of the speculation will hold true – even though there is a supernatural piece to The Aquatope on White Sand, this series is aiming to combine elements from The World in Colour and the career-oriented anime like Sakura QuestShirobako and Hanasaku Iroha. Consequently, unless there is a good reason to introduce dramatic and cliché twists (e.g. that Fūka and Kukuru are related), I anticipate that The Aquatope on White Sand will not be going in such a direction unless it contributes to the theme in a meaningful manner.

  • If the speculation turns out correct, I’ll surrender my blogging license at first convenience – when it comes to being right about an anime speculation, I’m a wet blanket :p Jokes aside, I do hope P.A. Works will put up a better showing than this in The Aquatope on White Sand, and here, after hearing the veterinarian’s words, she decides to get in touch with her mother and presumably, let her know of what’s going on. As the episode draw to a close, it turns out that Fūka had taken a liking to the penguin keychains Gama Gama sells and picked up one for herself. Matching keychains in anime have long been a sign of friendship, and while the path forwards will be a difficult one, it’s not hard to see Fūka and Kukuru learning more about themselves as they learn about one another in the episodes upcoming.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand is probably more similar to Hanaksaku Iroha in terms of pacing at this point in time, albeit with a trace of magic. To be sure, it’s an entertaining series, and if we are able to see that balance between personal growth and coming together to do something bigger than oneself, this anime will succeed in its goals. We’re now entering the last little bit of July, and I only have one more post planned out for Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru Churuto! – as August and the Heritage Day Long Weekend approaches, I have a number of large posts I aim to share with readers. As such, it’ll be one more post on a light-hearted series to round off the month before heading on to the fun stuff.

The slower pacing of The Aquatope on White Sand means that additional time can be spent on really allowing the characters to make discoveries – like Sakura Quest, Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha, The Aquatope on White Sand will utilise this space to have the characters make mistakes, properly learn from them and enjoy the results of their effort to better themselves. As such, I anticipate that the road ahead is going to be a bumpy one, but also one where the prize for overcoming adversity is well worth it. Three episodes into The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka and Kukuru’s personalities have also been better established; cursory comparisons to The World in Colours‘ Hitomi and Kohaku are no superficial, and it becomes clear that The Aquatope on White Sand is going to present something new to viewers. While Fūka and Kukuru begin the first steps of realising a dream to save Gama Gama Aquarium alone, it is fortunate that they have some friends in their corner. Tsukimi and Kai will almost certainly be steadfast allies in helping the pair to save the aquarium, and where opinion from an adult is required, the group can count on help from Karin, the town’s tourism association manager, whose knowledge of the area and experience will serve as a guiding light for the youth as they seize the initiative. While Fūka herself might be a complete novice in zoology, viewers must recall that she also brings a very distinct skill-set to the table as a former idol. The Aquatope on White Sand reintroduces the idea that applying one’s skills from a new perspective can have large benefits, and I look forwards to seeing Fūka become more confident as she gets to know Kukuru and the others better. At this point in time, I’m still weighing the matter of how frequently I should write about The Aquatope on White Sand; on one hand, publishing my thoughts every three episodes would allow me to adequately cover both big-picture elements and smaller details, but the flipside is that I could grow stale very quickly if I write often for the series. For now, as we are still early in the series, I will likely make a decision after the sixth episode – if there’s enough to consider every three episodes, then readers can reasonably expect to enjoy more talks The Aquatope on White Sand in the future!

The Tropical Fish Ran Away: The Aquatope on White Sand First Episode Impressions

“When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It’s all a matter of perspective.” –Harvey Mackay

After suffering from a series of setbacks as an idol, Fūka Miyazawa runs away from Tokyo and decides to visit Okinawa, the southernmost island prefecture in Japan. She runs into a fortune teller, who suggests that she head south. Fūka ends up falling asleep on the beaches and the next day, very nearly succumbs to heat stroke from the hot tropical sun. While walking along the road, Fūka encounters Karin Kudaka; she’s an office lady working with the area’s tourism board to drive up travel. Karin suggests that Fūka head on over to the Gama Gama Aquarium. While looking at the different exhibits, she spots a Yaeyama blenny, which prefers to keep to itself but also feeds in algae and weeds to keep aquariums clean. Moved by the fish’s thankless efforts, Fūka begins to cry in earnest after remembering how hard she’d worked to make her dream of becoming an idol come true, and finds herself swept away by the aquarium’s water, eventually encountering a whale shark and schools of tropical fish in the ocean’s depths. When she comes to, she finds herself face-to-face with Kukuru Misakino, a high school girl who is Gama Gama’s deputy director and works countless shifts to keep their aquarium afloat. Kukuru is pleased to meet Fūka and mentions that the aquarium is hiring, but had considerable difficulty with applicants. Fūka decides to seize this opportunity, surprising Kukuru. This is The Aquatope on White Sand (Shiroi Suna no Aquatope), the latest addition to P.A. Works’ venerable catalogue. In this production, director Toshiya Shinohara, writer Yūko Kakihara and composer Yoshiaki Dewa make a return: these three had previously collaborated on 2018’s Iroduku: The World in Colours.

Whereas P.A. Works appears to be setting The Aquatope on White Sand up as a coming-of-age story about discovering one’s calling through open-mindedness, The Aquatope on White Sand does have one abberent element – throughout the first episode, small wood spirits known locally as kijimuna (木の精) can be seen. These spirits are thought of as tricksters who love pranks, and while they appear receptive to humans, oftentimes cannot maintain long-term friendships with them. In reality, they are relegated to the realm of folklore, but in The Aquatope on White Sand, kijimuna are visible on several occasions and presumed to have pranked Fūka after she’d fallen asleep on the beaches. P.A. Works’ track record with magic has been dicey, but with The World in Colours, the studio’s writers appear to have finally found their footing: The World in Colours had successfully and wholly embraced magic as a part of its plot, making it a central element in driving Hitomi’s growth while at the same time, ensuring that any constraints surrounding magic were clearly defined such that it wasn’t the sole driving force behind Hitomi’s development. While the extent of magic in The Aquatope on White Sand remains unknown at this time, being limited to Fūka experiencing a life-like vision, the outcomes from The World in Colours suggests that if magic is to be an integral part of The Aquatope on White Sand, there is precedence from which to establish the extent and scope of magic as a driving force behind the experiences that Fūka and Kukuru will share throughout The Aquatope on White Sand.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Within the first few seconds of The Aquatope on White Sand kicking things off, it is immediately apparent that this is going to be a series with top-tier art and animation: like The World in Colours, P.A. Works is fond of showing what they got, and both series open with a stunning set of visuals that really draw the viewers in. One could say that The Aquatope on White Sand is the second coming of The World in Colours, with twice the runtime and a focus on the workplace this time around, so I am curious to see if this series will be able to weave in magic and supernatural elements together with the sort of thing that made Hanasaku Iroha and Sakura Quest work.

  • Fūka begins her journey after quitting her previous occupation as an idol: having watched the likes of Wake Up, Girls!, I’ve seen previous portrayals about how tough the entertainment industry is, and how being a centre is a big deal for idols (they’re equivalent to a project lead or squad leader). While Fūka put her all into her work, this effort never seemed to correspond with results, and her handlers think that Fūka is making a mistake in quitting. It’s clear that the agency Fūka is working for do not get along with her or have much faith in her talents.

  • One of the other idols who’d been assigned to replace Fūka is tearful about her departure: while her superiors may not view Fūka favourably, this scene does suggest that with her peers, she got along with them. Fūka’s decision to quit, however, is final; The Aquatope on White Sand is not a story about making it big as an idol unit, and the sort of melancholy that accompanies Fūka is reminiscent of how Hitomi had started The World in Colours sullen and downcast. Because there is precedence for what is to happen, I have a feeling that the events of The Aquatope on White Sand are cast in stone already. However, merely because a story’s direction is clear doesn’t make a work any less enjoyable: a work’s success comes from how an outcome is reached.

  • After Fūka ends a call with her parents, it is clear that they still love her very much and in fact, look forward to her return home. However, on the spur of the moment, Fūka longs for some space, to lose herself somewhere, and spotting an advertisement, she decides to head for Okinawa. A one-way ticket can be had for as little as 70 CAD, and within moments of landing at Naha Airport, Fūka takes an interest in a tank housing tropical fish, including what appear to be several Paracanthurus hepatus (Blue Tang, or colloquially “Dory”).

  • There is a sharp contrast between the warm, inviting atmosphere surrounding Naha and Fūka’s melancholy, but in spite of this, she’s still enjoying herself somewhat: she’s seen eating a Blue Seal ice cream while strolling along a shōtengai. Blue Seal has an interesting history: it was originally founded to provide Americans stationed in Okinawa flavours of home via ice cream, and later on, incorporated Okinawan elements into their ice creams. With temperatures today hitting a balmy 31°C, I’m glad to have spent the morning mowing the lawn and backyard, before cooking up pizza-style double cheese dogs for lunch, accompanied by a tall glass of lemonade to ward off the heat of the summer sun.

  • For the first time since arriving in Okinawa, Fūka smiles after speaking with a fortune teller who calls out to her. While Fūka is impressed with how much the fortune teller seemingly knows about her, clever use of camera angles and framing indicate to us viewers that fortune tellers are uncommonly observant people and can spin vivid stories from only a few prompts. After giving Fūka a general overview, she also spills her heart out and is grateful that Fūka had been around to listen to her. The fortune she gives Fūka is to head towards the direction of Sagittarius, a centaur.

  • This is a clever touch: because people under the Sagittarius sign are said to be particularly open-minded, free-spirited and fun, the fortune teller is hinting at how Fūka will meet someone precisely like this during her travels. After consulting an astronomy app on her phone, she begins heading off in search of this fated encounter. Fūka is seen rocking an iPhone 12 Pro, evidenced by its distinct triple-camera setup. I’ve actually been meaning to buy a new iPhone, but my previous company had loaned me an iPhone Xʀ, and this loaner has served me quite well. I do plan on returning it at some point, but since it remains a solid phone, it allows me to hold out until the iPhone 14 is announced; the iPhone 13 looks like it’s going to be a underwhelming device.

  • I only need a satisfactory device to test apps on, so I’m in no particular rush to upgrade. With this being said, if I were still rocking my iPhone 6, an upgrade would be mandatory, since the iPhone 6 only supports iOS 12. Returning the discussions to The Aquatope on White Sand, at least one kijimuna can be seen wandering the island at his own pace. This small detail makes it clear that there is going to be a magic piece in this anime, and while P.A. Works’ track record with magic had previously been questionable, its inclusion in The World in Colour was superb. I imagine that kijimuna will become more commonplace later on, along with the supernatural, so it will be curious to see how this plays out with the more conventional workplace story.

  • Yoshiaki Dewa’s composition in The Aquatope of White Sand bears the same style as the music that was composed for The World in Colours, although unsurprisingly, since this anime is set in Okinawa, sanshin are utilised for the soundtrack. However, the piano pieces bring back memories of watching fireworks over the Nagasaki harbour, and after Fūka falls asleep on the beach, she awakens the next morning with a start: someone (or something) has pranked her by placing what appears to be bleached coral in a circle around her.

  • Kukuru is the polar opposite of Fūka, being optimistic, friendly and energetic. She enjoys a breakfast of fried gurukun (double stripe fusilier, or Pterocaesio digramma) before rushing off to school on her bike. Whereas Fūka’s movements are slower, Kukuru is positively bouncing around the place: she brings joy into The Aquatope on White Sand, and anyone who’s been around the block long enough will immediately spot that she and Fūka are destined to meet precisely because, like Kohaku and Hitomi, their opposite personalities will create new adventure.

  • Predictability has never been an issue for me in entertainment: what matters most is the experience it takes to get a given destination. This is similarly why I never tire of first person shooters and burgers; while the central elements are common to all, it’s the small (or not-so-small) variations that make each stand out. However, this isn’t something that all anime fans share; well-known detractors of P.A. Works have finally come out of the woodwork and immediately set about critique every single aspect of The Aquatope on White Sand, down the to the last pixel, citing similarities to previous works and familiar character designs as rendering this series unwatchable.

  • I’d been hoping that The Aquatope on White Sands would launch in a low-profile manner, but in retrospect, this was a pipe dream at best. However, unlike Super Cub, this time around, I’ll steer clear of external discussions surrounding The Aquatope on White Sands so I can watch and enjoy this series at my own pace. Here, Kukuru speaks with her friends, Tsukimi (shown here) and Kai; Kukuru’s been fishing with Kai since forever, and Tsukimi wishes that Kukuru would be more focused on the human world; her latest assignment submission completely misses the project’s objectives, being about squid when she’d been tasked with mathematics.

  • Fūka quickly wears out as the morning sun beats down on her, and those favoured with a keen eye will see the air shimmering from the heat. Temperatures in Okinawa are no joke; during the summer, the average high is 32°C, and at night, it only drops down to 27°C. A few weeks ago, the heat in my area hit a record-breaking 36°C for several consecutive days in a row. The heat has dissipated now, and temperatures are more seasonal, but the blistering temperatures have sparked wildfires in the province over, and the instability created some of the largest thunderstorms I’ve seen in a while.

  • Every meeting in a given anime is important, and here, Fūka meets Karin, who works with the local tourism board. Karin quickly deduces that Fūka is a visitor, and after giving her a bottle of water to cool down, offers to drive her to the nearby aquarium. Knowing that P.A. Works is driving means that a part of me was inclined to go location hunting even this early in the game, and so, armed with the power of Google Maps, as well as the knowledge that The Aquatope on White Sand is set in Nanjō, I decided to have a look around to see if I could find the aquarium.

  • A single still in the anime, portraying a gazebo overlooking a beach, led me to do a search along the coasts near Nanjō. In moments, I had my location: this is Azuma Sun Sun Beach, located to the east of Nanjō. Visitors can expect to pay 500 Yen for parking, but beyond this, visiting is free, and it is here that Gama Gama Aquarium is located. A look around shows that there is no aquarium at the site, and more Google-fu finds that the largest aquarium in Okinawa is DMM Kariyushi Aquarium, located 25.8 kilometres away by car. Further to this, with this location as the starting point, I was able to trace back the path Fūka had been walking along prior to meeting Karin.

  • The choice of location was almost certainly done for convenience’s sake, so Kukuru could get there easily from home and school. With this knowledge, I’ll begin poking around and see if I can locate more spots seen in The Aquatope on White Sand as they are presented. Having Azyma Sun Sun Beach as a starting point is an incredible asset, and I imagine I’ll have more time to search for locations in the near future, so for the present, we’ll return to Fūka, who is absolutely enjoying the magical sights within the aquarium. When she reads about the Yaeyama blenny (Ecsenius yaeyamaensis), she learns the fish is low-profile but does an important job of eating moss and algae, keeping the tank clean.

  • Out of the blue, Fūka feels under-appreciated and dissolves into tears. The tanks suddenly seem to engulf the space, and Fūka finds herself in the middle of the ocean with schools of fish, even spotting a whale shark in the process. This is probably an illusion cast by the elusive kijimuna, although as it is early in the game, how much magic there is in The Aquatope on White Sand will remain to be seen. This scene, however, does show how sophisticated P.A. Works’ craft have come over the years; their anime consistently impress from a visual perspective.

  • When she comes to, she finds herself face-to-face with Kukuru, whose remarks to Fūka suggest that the phenomenon she’d just witnessed might very well be real. Like Kohaku, Kukuru is comfortable with speaking with people she’d just met, and she offers to take Fūka on a tour of the aquarium, which is named after Chibichiri-Gama Cave, which is known for being the site of a horrific and tragic mass suicide. As Kukuru says, during the final days of the Second World War, a hundred and forty took shelter hear, but out of fear that the American Marines would subject them to torture upon capture, began killing one another to escape such a fate. In the end, eighty-four died in this cave.

  • It’s not often that anime mention the horrors of World War Two, and Okinawa did see some of the fiercest fighting as Allied forces prepared to use Okinawa as a staging area for invading the home islands themselves. The Aquatope on White Sand is not a World War Two anime, and as Kukuru takes Fūka deeper into the aquarium, the magic of such institutes becomes apparent. Because I live in a land-locked area, there are no aquariums, and the last time I went to one would’ve been Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. Perhaps in the future, I will consider a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium.

  • At the first episode’s end, Fūka suddenly takes an interest in working at the Gama Gama Aquarium and implores Kukuru to allow her a position on the team. While I’d considered Fūka to be quite like Hitomi, that Fūka seizes the initiative here suggests that while she might be saddened by turning away from her old job as an idol, a part of Fūka still wants to do something meaningful. Hitomi, on the other hand, needed a bit more guidance to begin seeing the world in a new light, so I imagine that, as The Aquatope on White Sand progresses, viewers will have a chance to see the real Fūka. It’s a strong start to P.A. Works’ latest title, and I’m definitely looking forwards to seeing where this one is going.

Immediately out of the gates, the aesthetics that Shinohara and Kakihara bring to the table are noticeable: The Aquatope on White Sand feels distinctly like The World in Colours, possessing a sense of gentle melancholy and subtle longing for something unknown. Fūka takes on the same role that Hitomi did – both had suffered setbacks in their lives and lost their direction. Similarly, Kukuru’s enthusiasm for aquatic life and her extensive knowledge of the local aquarium parallels Kohaku’s energy and proficiency with magic. Where these two different personalities meet, the end result is an inevitable journey of self-discovery. However, a retread of The World in Colours wouldn’t be particularly enthralling. Fortunately, The Aquatope on White Sand introduces one additional element into its story – Gama Gama Aquarium appears be undergoing challenges. Kukuru is working so many shifts there that it’s negatively impacting her studies, and her grandfather is always out and about speaking with people. Moreover, Kukuru’s remarks to Fūka suggest that the aquarium is having trouble finding new staff. This workplace component is reminiscent of Sakura Quest and Hanasaku Iroha, both of which involved newcomers making a fresh start at a workplace. While the job initially seems above what Yoshino and Ohana, their series’ respective protagonists, can handle, both mature into their roles and come to greatly enjoy what they do. The extended runtime in The Aquatope on White Sand thus suggests that this anime is going to be an amalgamation of The World in Colours and P.A. Works’ anime on the workplaces: this is a bold and ambitious melding of the two genres I’ve always felt P.A. Works to excel in. Consequently, between P.A. Work’s track record and the fact this first episode has been very strong, expectations for The Aquatope on White Sand are going to be correspondingly high.