The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Shiroi Suna no Aquatope

Anime and Real Life, The Intersection of Magic and Maturity on the Shores of Okinawa: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of The Aquatope on White Sand

“If there is magic on this planet, it’s contained in water.” –Lorene Eisley

Readers may recall that a little less than a year ago, I’d hit the white sands of Okinawa’s beaches with the Oculus Quest and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC processor to find where Haruka and Kanata’s quest to become Japan’s top under-18 beach volleyball players took place. During this journey, I most enjoyed the fact that Harukana Receive took viewers to corners of Okinawa that locals would be familiar with. In The Aquatope on White Sand, after Fūka Miyazawa arrives in Okinawa on a spur of the moment, after deciding she needed to get away from things following her decision to quit the idol business, she immediately finds herself in a shopping district in downtown Naha. Fūka ends up meeting a fortune teller who tells her to go east, and after falling asleep near Hyakana Beach, she encounters Karin Kudaka, who recommends that Fūka check out the local aquarium near Nanjō. Here, Fūka has a fateful meeting with Kukuru Misakino; this chance meeting changes both girls’ lives forever, allowing them to pick themselves up from what the anime described as the ruins of shattered dreams. Like Harukana Receive, The Aquatope on White Sand focuses on locations that are a bit more out-of-the way to really convey a sense of authenticity, and during the series’ first half, Okinawa’s eastern coast is lovingly depicted, becoming as familiar and friendly as Fūka and Kukuru were. The region around Gama Gama is faithfully portrayed, although right from the start, it became clear that The Aquatope on White Sand was going to take liberties with locations – Gama Gama is located where Azama Sun Sun Beach stands, and a glance at satellite imagery finds no such aquarium at this spot. However, whereas The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half portrayed Okinawa in such a way as to render viewers familiar with Kukuru’s home, the second half of the series placed a much greater emphasis on Kukuru and Fūka’s professional development as they work for the larger, better-funded and newer Tingarla Aquarium. The intensity of work displaces the wonders of Okinawa, and fewer locations were seen in this series’ second half; like Gama Gama, Tingarla is a fictional aquarium tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand. However, this hadn’t stopped me from keeping an eye on the locations in The Aquatope on White Sand – that the series continues to utilise real world locations speaks to the fact that both Fūka and Kukuru’s experiences are something with a basis on reality, something relatable. Since I’d already been familiar with Okinawa from previous location hunts, as well as the fact that Okinawa has 3D photogrammetry data, I continued on with my location hunt as the series progressed, and in the end, was able to find a few more locations of interest, far removed from the beaten trail that visitors normally tread when they visit Okinawa.

  • Being Japan’s equivalent of Hawaii, or Japan’s equivalent of Heinan, Okinawa is an oft-visited destination in anime: I’d previously done an Oculus Quest-powered location hunt for Harukana Receive, but will note that anime like Non Non BiyoriAzumanga DaiohPuraOre!, Ano Natsu De Matteru and countless others have also hit Okinawa’s tropical beaches and inviting waters during the summer. The Aquatope on White Sand returns things to Okinawa with its own unique spin of things, and utilises the wonderous sights of Okinawa for a new goal: to serve as the backdrop for two journeys of self-discovery and growth.

  • When The Aquatope on White Sand first began airing, P.A Works immediately established that the events would be set around Nanjō, Okinawa. This city has a population of 41000 and was established in 2006 from the merger of several villages in the Shimajiri District, together with the town of Sashiki. Located on the southeastern edge of Okinawa, Nanjō is due east of capital Naha. The fact that Nanjō is only fifty square kilometres meant I had a very manageable search area to work with, and after the first episode of The Aquatope on White Sand, I’d located the roads that Fūka had travelled along, starting with her walk here along Niraikanai Bridge.

  • Following Route 331 north allowed me to find the same spots The Aquatope on White Sand portrays throughout its earliest episodes, and while these are unremarkable in every way (they’re not exactly attractions or points of interest), they do showcase the level of attention paid to details in this anime. Although I had to imagine the tropical heat of Okinawa whilst using the Oculus Quest, every other detail was faithfully rendered, and I could imagine a lost Fūka wandering down the sidewalk along Route 331, wondering what the fortune teller’s advice from the previous day had meant.

  • As with the location hunt I’d done for The World in Colours, there are some spots in The Aquatope on White Sand where the Oculus Quest can’t reach simply because of constraints with Street View data: were one to have boots on the ground, they’d be able to simply walk up to a spot and grab a photo. However, Street View is still sufficiently comprehensive in Okinawa such that I had a reasonable time of finding everything: here, I locate the spots for one of the stills from the first episode’s beginning, which featured several frames of locations along Route 331.

  • A-Coop is a supermarket chain in Japan, and this particular A-Coop is one that visitors recommend: it stocks souvenirs as well as local Okinawan products like seasonings and sweets, selling them for reduced prices compared to more touristy shops in the area. This sort of thing wouldn’t be known to travellers who don’t wander off the beaten path, and it strikes me that, were I to visit Okinawa now, if I were looking for Okinawa specialties, A-Coops would not be a bad choice. I certainly wouldn’t have known about this had a not done a location hunt post, and this is one of the reasons why I’m so fond of location hunts (the effort to write about them notwithstanding).

  • A little further down the road is a post office, general store and travel agency: the travel agency occupies the same spot that Tsukimi’s family restaurant is located, and in the distance, the Minamishiroichi Sight Seeing Information Center can be seen. I’ve chosen not to include sites related to the characters, such as Tsukimi’s family restaurant and Gama Gama itself, because these were locations that were tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand. It is not uncommon for studios to modify locations to fit the anime’s story, and so, it goes without saying that folks looking to do a tour of The Aquatope on White Sand should not expect to find a cozy street-side eatery serving up Okinawan classics.

  • The building seen here is actually a coworking space called Agai Tida, which overlooks the Chinen Peninsula and offers a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. Despite its unassuming exterior, Agai Tida has a beautifully appointed interior. Coworking spaces are a relatively new construct that became popular in Europe during the mid-2000s, and in North America, became popular after Anca Mosoiu established a coworking space in the Bay Area. Presented as a chance for cross-discipline collaboration, coworking spaces allow different companies to share office space and utilities, as well as providing remote workers an office-like environment that working from home cannot provide. In my home town, coworking has seen limited success: my previous employer operated out of a coworking space owned by Aspen Properties, and I absolutely loved the environment the space provided.

  • In late 2019, WeWork had announced they had bought out a few floors in our building, including ours, forcing us to move to a smaller building a few blocks away. This building was removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown and had a lower occupancy, making it feel a little more isolated. However, at the global health crisis’ onset, we would ultimately give the space up and worked from home remotely to cut costs further. I’m no longer with this start-up, but having acclimatised to working from home, I’ve been able to adapt to my new position quite readily. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, I’ve made a right turn off Route 331 down Shining Sun Road, which leads to Azuma Sun Sun Beach, home of Gama Gama Aquarium.

  • It turns out that the driftwood swing set seen in The Aquatope on White Sand is located at Azama Sun Sun Beach, and while it’s probably not the most exciting swing set in the world, there is an appeal about its aesthetic: it conveys a very lonely feeling that mirrors how this early on in The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru is completely alone in her endeavours to save Gama Gama Aquarium from closure. Looking back, I’d gone into The Aquatope on White Sand hoping that Gama Gama would be saved, since this was the magic of fiction, but the series ended up going above and beyond expectations in its portrayal of the transition to adulthood by showing how aspirations and dreams can be realised even if in the moment, it seems like there is no other way.

  • Azama Sun Sun Beach lies at the easternmost end of Nanjō, and its location means that compared to more well-known beaches in Okinawa, it is a ways less crowded. The beach offers basic services like showers and change rooms, in addition to tubing and paragliding. The shallow waters make this a suitable place to bring children, and there are a host of gazebos with picnic tables that are perfect for a day out, although visitors report that fees are charged for everything from parking to toilet paper and towels.

  • It is here, adjacent to the shores of Azama Sun Sun Beach, that Gama Gama Aquarium is located – it appears that the shallow waters east of the beach have been filled in to accommodate an aquarium, and moreover, in The Aquatope on White Sand, this aquarium’s been here for quite some time. Although Gama Gama itself is fictional, it is with some degree of irony that visitors looking to check Azama Sun Sun Beach for themselves will find it quite true to life in that Gama Gama was demolished during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half.

  • While looking around the Nanjō area to see if Gama Gama was indeed real during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first few episodes, I employed 3D imagery to lend a hand to the search process, and in doing so, I came across a pair of wind turbines located a short ways away from Niraikanai Bridge. Fūka and Kukuru aren’t ever shown as coming up here themselves, but during the first episode’s opening moments, a wind turbine can be seen through the grass.

  • The first half of The Aquatope on White Sand offers the lion’s share of the anime’s real-world locations: by the second half, the focus is in Kukuru and Tingarla Aquarium. Tingarla Aquarium itself is fictional, set in an undisclosed location, and after the second half began, I did a naïve search for all aquariums in Okinawa to see if any of them could have inspired Tingarla. If memory serves, nothing came up: DMM Kariyushi Aquarium is the largest in Okinawa and is located at the heart of Naha, but inspection of its exhibits find that Tingarla is an order of magnitude more sophisticated. However, I ended up finding another aquarium at Aeon Mall Rycom, the mall that Haruka and Kanata went swimsuit shopping at. This in turn led me to find the spot where Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment is located. The Aquatope on White Sand has a rental complex on the site, whereas in reality, private residences fill the site.

  • Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment was probably the toughest spot to find in the whole of the location hunt. Like the tougher spots from The World in Colours, finding the apartments that Kukuru and Fūka reside at simply took a lot of hours looking at a lot of locations inside the Ouclus Quest, and in the end, I canvased both the build-up areas east and west of the mall. In the end, I found the apartments, located four kilometres away from Aeon Mall Rycom on foot. It would take around 40 minutes to walk, whereas The Aquatope on White Sand suggests that the apartment is no more than 15 minutes from Tingarla.

  • The pair of Shisa guarding the entry into Route 39 can be found near the Nippon Life Naha Building at the intersection between Routes 39 and 42. Things look a little glitzier in the real world than they do in The Aquatope on White Sand, but the combination of Shisa and palm trees indicates this is indeed the spot, even though there are minute differences between anime and reality. Unlike Fūka and Kukuru’s apartment, these spots were considerably easier to find; after her arrival, Fūka is limited to only a few modes of transportation and ends up at a shōtengai, so a quick search for these shopping districts returned Makisihi Public Market down Route 39.

  • From here, I was able to trace Fūka’s steps from the airport to Makisihi Public Market, a total walking distance of 4.6 kilometres if one travels along Route 331. The building here, behind Fūka, is the entrance to a store and office building of sorts. Adjacent to this is an ice cream shot, Blue Seal: if memory serves, this is where Fūka ends up grabbing an ice cream. Blue Seal was originally an American company that made ice cream for Americans in Okinawa, but by 1963, they served everyone and began integrating Okinawan flavours into their ice cream.

  • This is the entrance to Makisihi Public Market, known to locals as Naha’s Kitchen for its dazzling array of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and fish. The market opened in 1972, and there’s a second floor with all manner of Okinawan eateries on the second floor. For visitors looking to have the most authentic Okinawan experience possible, Makisihi Public Market is the place to visit. It suddenly strikes me that, how these establishing shots were framed really serve to capture the melancholy in Fūka when she first set foot in Okinawa.

  • The incidental music in The Aquatope on White Sand absolutely captures this, and on the topic of the soundtrack, it released earlier today. Yoshiaki Dewa reprises his role from The World in Colour, incorporating the sanshin into songs that convey a sense of longing and sadness. In particular, the tracks that stood out most for me was Fūka’s theme, Sea Turtle Fūka and Farewell to Dolphins. The Fūka at The Aquatope on White Sand‘s end the difference between night and day, being more outgoing and confident. However, every journey began somewhere, and it is amidst one of the smaller shops at Makisihi Public Market where Fūka’s course changes forever, when she meets a fortune teller who sends her eastward, towards Gama Gama Aquarium.

  • Having already shown where Gama Gama is, I see no reason to go back, and instead, will present a shot of Naha’s skyline from Daiwa Roynet Hotel: this hotel opened in 2015 and combines clean facilities, attentive staff and an excellent location with reasonable rates. There’s a restaurant on the top floor that offers an unmatched view of Naha, visible here. From here, the Naha Terrace (another hotel, visible as the building with a stairwell outside) can be seen, as well as the Fuso Building (just above the large apartment complex) and the ocean itself.

  • The building that Kukuru and Tetsuji meet the wedding planner at actually does host a wedding-related company in reality: Bridal House Tutu. They’re located down Route 58, and specialise in wedding attire rental. Bridal House Tutu actually has locations throughout Japan, from Sapporo to Osaka, and besides Western-style dresses and tuxedoes, Bridal House Tutu also rents out traditional kimonos, too. Tutu has access to several venues in Okinawa, and it speaks to the realism in The Aquatope on White Sand that a similar company is looking to expand the variety of places it has available to customers.

  • Looking around, one finds the road Tetsuji and Kukuru stand alone prior to entering the building. Finding this location boiled down to a bit of luck; it was a shot in the dark as to whether or not I would actually be able to locate the building, and I ended up doing a search for a range of wedding-related topics to see if anything would stick. Similarly to Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment, it took a bit of searching using the Oculus Quest to find the location. Standing in contrast with the locations from The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, which were clustered around Nanjō’s eastern edge, the second half’s locations are scattered throughout Okinawa.

  • This spot, for instance, is located along the Hija River in Furugen, and again, was only found because I’d been looking around the shores of Kadena Air Base to see if there were any familiar spots. Given how everything is placed in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, the series’ detractors might argue that the haphazard choice of locations mirror the shift in the story’s focus. Fortunately, it is usually the case that people who tear down anime don’t exactly have the sharpest of minds or the best understanding of literary analysis – no one has yet suggested that the locations of The Aquatope on White Sand parallel the quality of writing. Had this happened, I would counter that in the series’ second half, Kukuru’s focus is narrowed, mirroring how adults often lose sight of the world around them because of their singular devotion towards accomplishing their goals.

  • During my search for other aquariums around Okinawa that might’ve been the inspiration for Tingarla,  I came across Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This aquarium opened in 1975 as a part of the World Expo, and is one of the largest aquariums in the world, being one of the few places that exhibit whale sharks and manta rays in its tanks. In 2002, the original expo facility was replaced by a larger, and more modern installation, leading attendance rates to increase nearly six times. General admissions for adults is 1880 Yen (20.90 CAD), and a glance at the map shows that Churaumi (“Beautiful Ocean”) is vast: besides the main building, the entire area is a park. The pavilion here, where Fūka, Kukuru and Karin often have lunch, is replicated faithfully. Unfortunately for proponents of realism, Churaumi is located some 65 kilometres away from where Kukuru and Fūka live: it is simply not walkable.

  • One location that was almost certainly tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand was the island Kukuru ends up visiting on her unsanctioned break, and a quick look at the topological data found nothing in Okinawa that resembled this island. Conversely, when Fūka returns home, she and Kaoru head down Route 58 just south of Nago. This particular bend in the road is located near Nuchigusui, a coastal restaurant with an impressive menu: visitors report fair prices and large portions for dishes, which are tried-and-true classics with an Okinawan twist. While The Aquatope on White Sand represents one of the more tricky location hunts I’ve ever done, right alongside The World in Colours, I’m glad to have taken the time to do a handful of comparisons between anime and real life: it definitively shows the effort that went into making both series captivating and compelling.

The Aquatope on White Sand presented a different set of challenges for location hunting compared to The World in Colours – the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand had utilised fictionalised spots in conjunction with real world locations, and this has made the process considerably more difficult. For instance, Kukuru and Fūka are shown to live within walking distance of Tingarla, but no landmarks near Tingarla are ever shown. Attempts to do a search of coastal areas comes up short; an aquarium of Tingarla’s size would be located in Naha, and in reality, the largest aquarium in Naha is DMM Kariyushi Aquarium, which is five klicks south of Naha Airport. However, the entire area is flat, and Tingarla is shown as being located near some cliffs. This led me to search for aquariums elsewhere in Okinawa, and although this approach allowed me to find Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which is an established aquarium that does provide some of the inspiration for Tingarla, I was left with no more clues about things, since the nearest town, Nago, is twenty-two kilometres away by car, making it unlikely that Fūka and Kukuru would commute here on foot. Similarly, Rycom Aquarium, inside Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, is located too far inland to be an appropriate candidate. However, knowing that this did show up in the search led me to look around the area, and while it’s not particularly walkable, I did end up finding the area that inspired Fūka and Kukuru’s apartment. I was left to conclude that, while the major aquariums of The Aquatope on White Sand might be fictional, there remained a large number of places that inspired the places seen in the anime; the decision to retain some real world locations and create fictionalised spots speaks to how The Aquatope on White Sand is intended to tell a very specific story, and that there were moments where it was more appropriate to modify things a little so the anime was more effective in its intended aims. This aspect is a common part of fiction, and the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand took this route is to mirror the fact that realism isn’t a given anime’s objective. However, while the largest players in The Aquatope on White Sand might have no real world equivalent, numerous other spots in The Aquatope on White Sand are indeed real, speaking to the idea that the lessons this anime were aiming to convey have a basis in reality, as well. Having now gone through yet another location hunt set in Okinawa, home of my martial arts style (gōjū-ryū), I am left with the conclusion that, should I ever decide to travel to Okinawa in the future, I’d be able to do a three-in-one special: besides experiencing the touristy things that anime often depict, I’d also have a chance to walk the same beaches Haruka and Kanata vie for the beach volleyball championships in, as well as treading the same paths that Fūka and Kukuru take on their journey to becoming fully-fledged members of society. Such a trip is enticing, but as I’d noted in the location hunt for The World in Colours, any journey of this scale is going to have to wait a little while longer. Until the time is appropriate, however, I have access to a tool that will allow me to imitate the experience: Okinawa is only the opening of an app, and the flick of a wrist, away for me in the Oculus Quest.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Whole-Series Review and Recommendation After The Finale

まくとぅそーけ、なんくるないさ

Makutusoke, nankuru nai sa

Do what’s right, and everything will work out.

The day before Tingarla’s new exhibit is to open, a wedding will be held here. Fūka and Kukuru head off to work in order to prepare for this unveiling, helping to bring in the new marine life, and Kukuru subsequently heads off to manage the wedding preparations. On the day of the wedding, guests are awe-struck at the venue’s scale, and Miura is pleased that everything’s gone without a hitch. The new wing subsequently opens to the public, and visitors are similarly awe-struck. Kai’s brought Tsukimi and Maho to check things out, while the boys who’d been fond of chilling at Gama Gama also show up. Even Kukuru’s grandparents swing by to visit, and Kukuru seeks out some advice from her grandfather; she admits that a part of what made Gama Gama so appealing was the fact it was fun the whole way, but with her current work, things are different. To this, Kukuru’s grandfather replies that living life means to make the most of the hand one is dealt and doing one’s best to turn the results of one’s decision into a path that works. Kukuru and Fūka share a conversation, confiding in one another that when they’d met, it did seem like the world had ended, but meeting one another allowed both Fūka and Kukuru to find their footing anew. Under the magical setting in Tingarla’s new area, Kukuru enters a vision: her parents and unborn sister are both present, both immeasurably proud of everything Kukuru’s become. Later, Fūka prepares to leave Okinawa for Hawaii with Kaoru, and Kukuru bids her farewell. While Fūka studies alongside some of the world’s best, Kukuru continues with her work, earning Tetsuji’s respect. Two years later, Fūka returns to Okinawa, and the first person she wishes to see is Kukuru; at a quiet spot, the pair greet one another warmly. Kukuru comments that Fūka’s name is perfectly suited for Okinawa and prepare to reunite with the others, while the kijimuna chills in a tree nearby, content to enjoy yet another beautiful summer’s day. So ends The Aquatope on White Sand, P.A. Works’ latest title dealing with coming-of-age amidst the workplace setting. Over this anime’s twenty-four episode run, the focus shifted from how fateful meetings can pick one another up, to how growing up means being able to change one’s perspectives and appreciate that the way to one’s future is oftentimes mutable, ever-changing and uncertain. However, a combination of support from those important to one, and an internal willingness to overcome whatever challenge lies ahead allows individuals to right their course and make the transition from being a starry-eyed idealist, to a professional with a proven record for getting things done while remaining true to one’s principals.

Altogether, The Aquatope on White Sand strives to, and succeeds in conveying the idea that there isn’t any one way towards finding fulfilment in one’s life through their careers. This journey entails hard work, perseverance, setbacks, and even pivots. The path is a crooked, winding one filled with unknowns; one’s career can begin in any number of ways, and it can progress in any way, dependent on what one chooses to make of things. Fūka started her journey as a former idol who felt that particular industry was no longer one she was suited with, but after meeting Kukuru and becoming inspired by the passion Kukuru had brought forth, she became completely committed to becoming an aquarist. Kukuru starts out The Aquatope on White Sand devoted to Gama Gama and marine life, but she wavers when she finds that her work in marketting conflicts with her own goals. However, thanks to a combination of support from her family, Fūka and the others, as well as her own innate desire to succeed and resourcefulness, Kukuru determines that the path she’s chosen to follow is one she can make work, as well. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand presents one possible portrayal of how careers begin and progress: things began, as the series’ tagline states, in the ruins of a dream, but like a phoenix, something new and marvelous rises from the ashes of these ruins. Fūka and Kukuru both come out of The Aquatope on White Sand more experienced, knowledgeable and resilient. The Aquatope on White Sand does not hesitate to indicate that the real world is unforgiving, and unyielding. No amount of idealism can change this, but instead, one can nonetheless learn how to adapt to this system and impart on the world one’s own unique flaire and style. Both Fūka and Kukuru end up doing precisely this. When being an idol overwhelms Fūka, she finds a new career and passion to pursue. Kukuru is initially demoralised to be assigned to marketting, but as a result of her work, she becomes more personable and begins relating to people with the same respect and enthusiasm that she does for marine life; the Kukuru at the beginning of The Aquatope on White Sand had virtually no people skills to speak of, but by the series’ end, she’s become an integral member of the marketting team and does enough, well enough for even someone like Tetsuji to acknowledge her improvement. None of this, however, would’ve been possible without that fateful day when a wandering Fūka found herself at Gama Gama. The message in The Aquatope on White Sand is strikingly consistent with stories I’ve heard from graduates of my old Bachelor of Health Sciences programme. Similarly, one of the associate professors who taught my medical inquiry courses was once a high school instructor turned molecular virologist, and last month, I gave a panel alongside two graduates who once held medical aspirations. One of these individuals went on become a molecular biologist and works in culturing lung cells, while the other is a community health specialist. I myself began on a similar path, and after a decade, ended up back in the realm of software development. Careers are multi-faceted, complex and ever-changing: no one can know for sure what their future entails, and The Aquatope on White Sand captures these nuances in full, far exceeding my expectations.

Beyond themes of careers and growing up, one aspect in The Aquatope on White Sand that deserves additional mention is the presence of the supernatural. The first half had Fūka and Kukuru experiencing visions whilst at Gama Gama, and Fūka herself was pranked by a kijimuna. The kijimuna periodically shows up, as do the visions, but over time, these aspects of The Aquatope on White Sand fall away as Kukuru and Fūka both concentrate wholly on their work. While the choice to include such elements in The Aquatope on White Sand sounds dubious at first glance, their presence actually does much to present the idea that as one grows up, where the magic in one’s world comes from changes. At Gama Gama, the visions occur to Kukuru and Fūka because they are still young and naive: the world gives both a bit of magic to nudge them forward. Conversely, at Tingarla, as adults with responsibilities, Fūka and Kukuru deliver magic to others. This is why throughout The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, the kijimuna and visions take a back seat: when one is entirely focused on their work, the rest of the world becomes muted. However, in those rare, but rewarding moments where one has hit their objectives, the magic comes back into the world. This time, the feelings of joy stem from reveling in the fact one has given their best effort. At the end of The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru and Fūka both experience such a vision because both have worked very hard to reach where they stood: Fūka had earned her place on a research programme in Hawaii, and Kukuru had just contributed to Tingarla’s first-ever wedding. Seeing the vision of Kukuru’s sister and parents, proud of who Kukuru and Fūka have become, accentuates to viewers that when doing their best to make magic for others, one might also receive a little magic on their own in return. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand utilises the supernatural not as a catalyst to accelerate the plot, nor is it an element intended to impact the characters in any way. Instead, it is a vivid bit of imagery meant to augment what The Aquatope on White Sand aims to convey to viewers. Reaching such a conclusion solidifies the idea that in life, no higher power will step in and grant one’s wishes, but instead, when people put in their best effort to do right by others, reward is met. The phrase that Fūka and Kukuru repeat prior to stepping into work each day is a constant reminder of this: that one must work for their own futures is an encouraging thought, and in retrospect, it makes sense that the magic here in The Aquatope on White Sand is a secondary element, meant to serve as a metaphor rather than as an actor within the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I delve into the finale for The Aquatope on White Sand, I would first like to thank readers here – it’s been a twenty four week-long journey from start to finish, and a quick look finds that a handful of people have been consistently present for excellent discussions over this half-year period. That’s no mean feat, and through these conversations, I learnt quite a bit, too. This is what makes blogging so meaningful: being able to talk to others and learn of their story allows me to understand them, and their perspectives, better. The comments here are high among some of the best I’ve had in a while, and folks raised the bar very high for what anime conversations can be.

  • For as long as The Aquatope on White Sand has been running, Kukuru and Fūka have been leaving out offerings for the local deities and making a simple prayer: “do what’s right, and everything will work out”. While Kukuru may not have fully appreciated what this meant at the journey’s beginning, it is clear that both she and Fūka do know what this entails at present. Having been absent since the second half started, the kijimuna returns during this finale, and with this, it became clear that the magic in The Aquatope on White Sand is merely a metaphor rather than an active force in the story.

  • Looking back, this approach makes sense: The World in Colours featured magic, but it was a force that Kohaku and Hitomi could control and master. Magic in The World in Colours was presented as a skill, and no supernatural external force was employed push Hitomi to find herself. Instead, Hitomi comes to appreciate magic and its applications as a result of her own experiences. Similarly, in The Aquatope on White Sand, the kijimuna and visions that intermittently show up are imagery. They are not used to alter Kukuru or Fūka’s path in any way, but instead, parallel the girls’ mindset. When they are particularly in need of some magic, the aquarium will offer it to them, but ultimately, they must also learn to make their own magic, in a manner of speaking.

  • Elusive visions and fleeting appearances from a local spirit therefore become less of a magic than being part of a team effort to keep Tingarla running. Ahead of the new area’s opening, the entire attendant staff, along with Kukuru, stop to help out: Tingarla’s taken delivery of a very large collection of marine wildlife to populate the new display, and transferring all of them safely to their new home is a bit of a process. No amount of færie dust will allow this job to do itself, and instead, it is teamwork that carries the day.

  • Once the transfer is complete, smiles dominate the scene. Tingarla’s staff initially were a little cool to one another, both within and between departments, but having worked together for over a year now, it’s clear that everyone’s become closer to one another as a result. A handful of readers will likely have been wondering, “why am I always focused on the good in a given work?”. My answer to this question is simple enough: I tend to pick shows I’m confident I’ll enjoy, and positivity requires a much lower expenditure of effort compared to negativity. This is because I hold the belief that, if I am going to critique something, then I must always be prepared to offer a potential solution. If I am to be crticial, then I also aim to find something that I can be positive about.

  • The reason for this particular mindset is because on a day-to-day basis, people will approach me with problems, and I earn my keep by solving problems. Making new problems or making problems worse is not in my job description, and as such, this mindset carries through into how I approach entertainment. If something is lacking, I find that it is not sufficient to say that and expect people to freely agree with me. Instead, I must also explain what I was looking for, what might’ve worked better for me and finally, acknowledge that different people will approach something differently than I did. This is what proper criticism looks like, and it should be evident that more effort is indeed required to cover all of one’s bases; anything short of this counts as a poor effort not meritorious of consideration.

  • Some readers may wonder about my adverse negative reaction to Glasslip, which similarly had a supernatural piece that is said to have been a metaphor rather than an active actor in the anime. On this reasoning, they would suggest that if I enjoyed The Aquatope on White Sand, I should have no grounds for disliking Glasslip. However, one of the problems with this assertion was that Glasslip ended up venturing into the realm of the abstract: the symbolism of multiple Kakerus and the fragments of the future are disconnected from the idea that relationships can complicate or even strain long-standing friendships. Despite my great dissatisfaction with Glasslip, I can still say that the series could’ve been helped by omitting the magic and any reference to Albert Camus, and that the visuals were gorgeous (thus satisfying the criteria I require for offering a meaningful critical perspective). Conversely, here in The Aquatope on White Sand, the magic piece is plainly used as imagery and never interferes with the story directly, and what’s more, strengthens the themes, so I have no problems with its presence at all.

  • Once the fish are moved into the main tank, Kukuru helps out with preparations for Tingarla’s first-ever wedding. I had wondered if a wedding would make its way into The Aquatope on White Sand; as it turns out, we do get to see one as the show’s way of emphasising how much joy there is when one is able to tangibly see the results of their efforts coming together. Kukuru had sunk in an incredible amount of effort into making things work for the proposal, and now that Miura is satisfied Tingarla is a suitable venue, the true battle begins. Kukuru rises to the occasion magnificently and uses all of her knowhow to craft a one-of-a-kind experience.

  • The guests are surprised at how unusual the wedding’s format is – normally, people attend ceremonies wearing high heels or dress shoes, and all-formal wear. The unique flooring at Tingarla’s new exhibit requires that visitors enter barefoot. Moreover, some guests wonder about what all the different animals are. Kukuru is right in her element when she explains that the bride and groom had given them a list of traits and stories about their guests, and then she’d customised elements of the wedding experience for them, such as picking the animals she thought most resembled the individual. This is a nice touch that shows Kukuru’s attention to detail, and once the surprise wears off, the guests become very impressed.

  • As Kukuru envisioned, an underwater wedding proves to be quite magical, and certainly acts as a memorable venue; while The Aquatope on White Sand had given us an idea of what this would look like, there is no substitute for seeing the place fully prepared and ready to go. Tingarla had some pretty impressive exhibits right from day one, but this expansion really takes the cake by completely immersing visitors underneath the waters. Visuals have always been strong in The Aquatope on White Sand, but the finale manages to take things one step further to show how the aquarium is a place of magic.

  • An aquarium wedding would truly be a one-of-a-kind experience, and curiosity led me to see what such an event would cost. The closest aquarium to me is a province over, about six hundred and fifty kilometres away: this is the Vancouver Aquarium, and a quick glance at their events page shows that at the low end, booking an event for around thirty guests would cost 7500 CAD. The venue does accommodate up to 2000 guests, and at that scale, one could book out the entire aquarium for 54500 CAD. Booking out an area the size of the space seen in The Aquatope on White Sand would probably cost 10000 CAD or so, but since this is the inaugural event, I could see Tingarla offering a discount of sorts for the bride and groom.

  • It turns out the bride and groom already have a child of their own, and it was her interest in the aquarium that prompted the two to have a wedding in such a venue. Ahead of time, Tingarla had a specially-made penguin costume prepared for her, and the end result of this is nothing short of adorable: she ends up being the flower girl and ring bearer for the ceremony, carrying the rings up to the bride and groom in a small basket because the penguin costume’s got no fingers. This penguin costume again speaks volumes to Tingarla’s attention to detail: Cape Penguins are a known attraction here, and the penguins are similarly adorable (even if they do get into bloody fights from time to time).

  • Because The Aquatope on White Sand animates schools of fish in such detail, I cannot help but wonder what tools were used in the process. In the realm of computer graphics, Blender or After Effects’ Swarms plugin would be utilised: these tools are immensely powerful and quite suited for animation. Tools for animation have previously been used for anime, and in recent years, CG effects have improved dramatically. However, I do remember a time when anime would do things the old-fashioned way, and such scenes were always impressive because of how detailed they’d been despite being hand-drawn.

  • Thanks to Tingarla’s staff putting forth their best, the wedding is an absolute success, and here, the photographer makes to capture an image of this momentous occasion, of a new happy family ready to make their start. At this point in time, it’s clear that Kukuru and the wedding planner have made the proper arrangements for photography to be done here; recalling that flash photography can indeed be harmful to the fish when employed at higher intensities, photographers typically use a combination of reduced flash intensity and shot placement to ensure that they can take stunning photos where both the human subjects and marine life are visible.

  • Even more so than Tetsuji praising Kukuru for a job well done, the magic moment for Kukuru is seeing what her work has the potential to do. We recall that Kai and Tsukimi and both remarked that Kukuru seemed more at home with fish than she did people at the series’ beginning, and while this was forgotten after Fūka arrived, it is plain enough that over time, Kukuru has come to care about people, as well. The wedding planner is seen shedding a few tears here, overjoyed at the union of man and woman. In every P.A. Works anime that I’ve seen, one of the recurring motifs is the fact that unlikeable characters become more sympathetic over time: Miura had seemed quite unreasonable earlier, but once there was a chance to sit down with her properly and give her a better proposal, compromises were reached, and she began seeing eye-to-eye with Kukuru.

  • This particular detail is meant to remind viewers that until one fully understands another person, they are in no position to judge them. I’ve heard that people judge others (more formally, make assumptions about their personalities or other traits) as a mechanism to fill in the void where a perceived slight occurs in the absence of additional context. For instance, if one were expecting a call from a friend at a time and said friend did not fulfil that commitment, their mind might be inclined to assume the friend was busy or unavailable. Conversely, if the call was expected from someone one was not close to, they might assume that individual had no respect for obligations and the like. Such behaviours in real life can be problematic, but to do this to anime characters is to be outright imprudent and unnecessary.

  • This is because characters are written in a way as to advance the story. In Tetsuji’s case, I have seen nothing but negativity surrounding him despite The Aquatope on White Sand making a good case for why he is as serious and no-nonsense as he is. However, even Tetsuji appreciates hard work and results: seeing the happiness in the bride and groom brings a smile to his face, as well. Not knowing anything about Tetsuji is, if anything, more realistic – it takes time to get to know people really well, and there are cases where even though one might know someone for years, one still could be surprised by their actions (in both good and bad ways). This speaks to the complexity in people, and The Aquatope on White Sand‘s decision not to show everything is a deliberate, astute decision meant to highlight the series’ most pivotal moments.

  • I have heard (unsubstantiated) claims that Japanese anime fans have taken to voicing their disapproval on social media and refusing to buy BDs solely because of Tetsuji’s portrayal, leading to weak sales for The Aquatope on White Sand. However, I’ve read some studies that have found that there is a correlation between anime fans in Japan (i.e. otaku) and the freeters: the latter is a portmanteau of free and arbeiter, being a word that refers to people who lack full-time employment or are underemployed. Assuming these studies and the aforementioned claims about the reception holding true, it would mean that those criticising The Aquatope on White Sand are also likely those who have not worked in a full-time position previously and therefore, have not dealt with things like professional development, conflict resolution, task management and other things associated with being a white-collar worker. A lack of familiarity with such an environment means that they would likely see Tingarla as a workplace unsuited for them.

  • I am making several massive subjective leaps in judgement when I say this, but the basis for my statement comes from the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand‘s presentation of Kukuru and Fūka transitioning to a full-on career in an aquarium, from a more start-up like environment at Gama Gama, is a very specific experience (certainly not like the anime-focused Shirobako or the more open-ended Sakura Quest). Those whose experiences do not have parallels with what’s shown in The Aquatope on White Sand are less likely to be able to empathise with the characters, hence their reaction. While I understand where the series’ detractors are coming from, I’m not going to say they have a point, either: at the end of the day, it’s up to the individual to make their own call on what shows work for them, but on that token, just because one didn’t enjoy a show does not give them free license to insult those who do enjoy something.

  • Once the wedding’s done, and the venue is returned to its normal state, Tingarla prepares to open the new area to the public. Among the visitors are Tsukimi, whose training at Ohana is drawing to a close, and Kai, whose father is doing better than expected, allowing him to return to work early. Vociferous complaints have been levelled against The Aquatope on White Sand for not pursuing a possible relationship between Kukuru and Kai, or Kukuru and Fūka, more openly, but I counter-argue that as an anime about finding one’s place in the sun, any time spent on romance would be utterly wasted and detract from the series’ ability to tell a compelling story about workplaces. The claims that The Aquatope on White Sand would benefit from yuri are especially egregious – such a relationship adds precisely nothing to the story’s themes, and as it was, The Aquatope on White Sand delivered precisely what it had set out to do.

  • While Kukuru outwardly chooses her path with confidence, a part of her wonders if she’ll have any lingering regrets. During a conversation with her grandfather, Kukuru relays these doubts to him, and he reassures Kukuru that no matter what Kukuru chooses to do, she’ll be fine so long as she does her job with an honest effort, and so long as she does right by those around her. This conversation confirms what I’d been thinking to be The Aquatope on White Sand‘s main theme: during the course of one’s career, dreams and goals change, but those who can reconcile the differences will find themselves successful.

  • This is the nature of reality, and as much as I don’t usually like to say it, those who disagree with this message are unlikely to see any meaningful professional or personal growth: successful individuals are those who know how to embrace change, exude positivity and compliment, while unsuccessful people criticise, want others to fail and focus on negativity. In The Aquatope on White Sand, it is clear that while there are demoralising moments, these moments act as stepping stones to something larger. Kukuru’s grandfather has experience in this arena, and his reputation as a legendary aquarium keeper is meant to remind viewers that any advice he offers Kukuru is grounded in decades of having worked in the field: Kukuru can be successful so long as she adapts, opens up to people around her and focuses on the positive.

  • After their conversation, Kukuru makes peace with the fact that no matter what she chooses to do, her future remains firmly in her hands. It is in her power (and her responsibility) to make of her life what she chooses, and this is an encouraging thought. Underneath the newly-opened dome, Fūka and Kukuru take in the sights here, made possible by the fact that Tingarla’s been doing well enough to accommodate an expansion to its facilities. It really does feel as though one were submerged in the oceans here, and what happened next brings The Aquatope on White Sand back to its roots.

  • As Fūka and Kukuru look on, the world suddenly becomes muted, and this time, three apparitions appear: Kukuru’s twin sister, their mother and father. The return of these visions here in the finale clarified what their purpose was in The Aquatope on White Sand for me. While I had entertained the idea that supernatural forces might gently guide Kukuru and Fūka as they work hard to pick up the pieces of their old dreams and pursue something new, the reality was that the phenomenon we observe are simply metaphors: the visions don’t impact the characters in any way beyond acting as a manifestation of how they are feeling. When the visions appear, we can be reasonably confident that this is a moment where emotions are particularly strong.

  • As such, rather than being a reflection of the characters innermost desires, the phenomenon is simply a visual means of expressing what the aquarium means to an individual: while at an aquarium, the unique atmosphere and lighting would evoke memories for an individual. In this way, the visions simply speak to viewers what an aquarium means to each of the characters. For Kukuru, her attachment to Gama Gama and aquarium work comes from the fact that her parents had frequented Gama Gama when she was younger. Being in an aquarium brings back such memories, so for Kukuru, an aquarium is akin to a family, a home. For Fūka, it represents an unknown world that is terrifying but also full of possibility. Similarly, the elderly man is reminded of his brother from the World War Two days, veterinarian Takeshita sees an Aquarium as a place of new life, and Kai is reminded of how he did his best to cheer Kukuru up after her parents passed away.

  • As such, when Kukuru’s vision appears here at Tingarla, the implications are that the phenomenon was not external, and instead, are the memories and thoughts Kukuru carries within her heart. Seeing her sister, mother and father with proud smiles on their faces shows that for whatever challenges Kukuru have previously faced, she’s overcome them by now. The Aquatope on White Sand makes it clear that the phenomenon is indeed real, and while Kukuru is content to enjoy the moment with Fūka, who also appears to be able to see the vision, the kijimuna gleefully does cartwheels in the background.

  • Watching The Aquatope on White Sand helped me to appreciate The World in Colours even more than I had previously: since The Aquatope on White Sand showed how magic is a matter of perspective and mindset, the actual magic in The World in Colours that mages like Kohaku and Hitomi control are no different than skills. There, the true magic was how being able to be given a different perspective helps one to discover themselves, and it suddenly hits me that both The Aquatope on White Sand and The World in Colour do share commonalities in their themes. It would appear that P.A. Works actually got more from Glasslip than I had anticipated: rather than attempting to use magic to drive situations that otherwise simply won’t happen, magic simply becomes imagery to enhance the storytelling, and assuming this holds true, it is unlikely that P.A. Works will produce anything like Glasslip anytime soon.

  • As it was, I was extremely pleased to see the kijimuna and phenomenon return in the finale; that it’d been lying in reserve until the right moment affirms the idea that while children have more magical worlds because they receive magic, adults are often so focused on delivering magic that they forget about the magic in their own world. However, where the opportunity presents itself, one can also find that the magic they’d become too busy to be mindful of has never left their world. This moment, of Kukuru and Fūka enjoying the moment in a place that means the world to them, was a well-deserved one.

  • In the end, Fūka accepts the offer to study in Hawaii; her apartment is cleared out, and she prepares to set off on another journey in life, one that she certainly could not have foreseen on that fateful day she impulsively decided to fly to Okinawa. Readers favoured with a keen memory will notice that Fūka is wearing the same outfit that she did on that day, as well. While she’d lost her original hat, she’s since picked up a new one: this new hat has a blue ribbon rather than a white ribbon. This minor difference is meant to show how this time around, Fūka’s in a completely difference place; she’s still Fūka, but this time, she’s travelling with confidence to a destination of her choosing to seize her future.

  • While both Fūka and Kukuru had been quite tearful the last time they parted ways, their friendship has strengthened to the point where both are able to see one another off with a smile on their faces. This sort of character growth is something that P.A. Works nails in The Aquatope on White Sand, and while some viewers elsewhere are crying foul about the lack of romance, I contend that these individuals completely miss the point of The Aquatope on White Sand. The aim was never to suggest how adversity creates romantic relationships between people, and in fact, having romance here would detract significantly from time spent on the learnings both Fūka and Kukuru go through in their time together.

  • Even though people insist on claims that yuri would’ve helped the story in The Aquatope on White Sand along, when queried, no satisfactory answers are given. The closest was the supposition that “it makes a tremendous amount of sense. They were pretty much living together before Fuuka left, and Fuuka supported Kukuru every step of the way”. I counter that people can, and do live in a shared space without thoughts of romance crossing their mind: Fūka and Kaoru would likely be roommates in Hawaii and spend plenty of time studying together, but this wouldn’t necessarily mean things will venture into the realm of romance. Folks looking for yuri would do better to watch another series, and I further remark that “it makes a tremendous amount of sense” isn’t a satisfactory argument.

  • Over in Hawaii, glimpses of Fūka and Kaoru’s experiences are shown: Fūka dives with sea turtles in the warm Hawaiian waters, and studies alongside Kaoru. This practical field experience will benefit both immensely, and leave the pair more prepared than before to excel in their chosen roles. I was happy to see that Kaoru was also selected for the research programme: like Fūka, she’s determined and motivated, but she also has a far deeper technical background. Akira’s decision to go with both means that when the programme is finished, Tingarla will have gained two capable new staff: Kaoru will have gained deeper research and inquiry skills to communicate with academics and other experts, while Fūka will excel further in scientific communication to a general audience.

  • However, despite the programme putting an ocean between Kukuru and Fūka, it is clear that the two are never separated. Besides the eventual promise to reunite once the program is over, both have matured enough so that they can pursue their futures without needing the other present as a crutch. Both Fūka and Kukuru had come to depend on one another for emotional support throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, but had the two allowed their feelings to get the better of them, it would’ve precluded the possibility of exploring new horizons. As Fūka adjusts to life in Hawaii, Kukuru returns to her work. At this point in time, she’s now fully invested, and her enthusiasm is impacting the remainder of the marketting team.

  • Akari joins full time after graduating from post-secondary, and veterinarian Takeshita prepares to go on a maternity leave, with her second child on the way. The biggest moment of all was Tetsuji, who now refers to Kukuru as Nekton. Eiji explains this for the benefit of those who aren’t in marine biology; Nekton is derived from the Greek νηκτόν (“to swim”) and refers to any actively swimming aquatic organism. The term was originally suggested by German biologist Ernst Haeckel as a means of separating organisms that swam actively and those who were carried around by currents (“plankton”). Today, it’s largely fallen out of use, but its symbolism is clear enough: Kukuru began her journey as someone who allowed circumstances to get the better of her, so by referring to Kukuru as Nekton, Tetsuji is saying that Kukuru is now someone who can swim, who can go where she sets her heart to be.

  • Karin does make the transition over into being an attendant, and is surprised that Kūya is now a chief attendant, whose old fears have evaporated as a result of his work. Meanwhile, Kai is shocked to learn that Choko is now quite friendly with Shiratama. Chiyu’s explanation of African Penguins being polygamous actually somewhat true: while penguins tend to be monogamous, research suggests that circumstances can lead penguins to break this (e.g. if one partner is bringing back less food than desired), and in extreme cases, penguins of the same sex do hang out for extended periods of time. Unlike humans, penguins don’t have the same social systems or labels as we might, so what might be surprising to us is quite natural for other species. This remark has led some to claim that The Aquatope on White Sand does indeed have a romance piece, but this is, again, a misinterpretation of things: Chiyu’s comments simply mean that penguins are a social species and desire companionship, much as how people do their best when they’re together.

  • Tsukimi ends up joining Tingarla as a fully-realised chef and joyfully shares a conversation with Umi-yan: she’s excited by Fūka and Kaoru’s return and promises to whip up a menu to remember. Since two years have passed since Fūka and Kaoru left, Tsukimi enrolled in a culinary arts programme. A look around my local technical institute finds that the culinary arts diploma programme, counted as one of the best in Canada, is a two-year program that exposes students to foundational cooking techniques, garde manger, introduction to global cuisines, patisserie and culinary management. Since then, Tsukimi’s technique has probably improved dramatically, much as how Kukuru is now fully at home in marketting, and how Fūka has the fundamentals to really be an effective attendant. Overall, the epilogue was just right: I’ve never been one to believe that every character must always get full closure, and like real life, one won’t always know how everyone is doing at every moment.

  • A fantastic poutine and watching Kukuru reunite with Fūka proved to be the perfect countermeasure against the frigid air; this past December had been positively mild, but now that the Arctic air is here, meteorologists are suggesting that the remainder of December will be below seasonal (i.e. quite cold). My area is forecast to be a very likely candidate for a white Christmas, which is exciting, and now that I’m on (paid) vacation, I get to sleep in and relish in the fact that I don’t have too many places to be. I look forwards to wrapping up the remainder of the posts for this year and making some headway into Halo: Infinite in the downtime I’ve got from overseeing furniture delivery. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka and Kukuru joyously embrace upon seeing one another for the first time in two years near the spot where they make offerings to the local deities.

  • Fūka and Kukuru share a conversation in the post-credits scene (since I missed something critical back during the three-quarters mark, I’ve been making sure to watch episodes of The Aquatope on White Sand to the end to ensure nothing of that sort occurred again), and because this conversation speaks to how Fūka’s become a part of Okinawa and its spirit, it does speak to the idea that for the present, The Aquatope on White Sand is drawing to a close. As the two head back to Tingarla, where a reunion party is planned, the scene cuts over to an older-looking kijimuna, who is enjoying the macadamia nuts Fūka had brought and nonchalantly throws a paper airplane into the skies, bringing back yet another memory of The World in Colour, where Hitomi practising her magic on a paper airplane leads her to Yuito. I imagine this symbolises that the kijimuna is pleased with where things end up with Fūka and Kukuru and is now setting sights on another adventure.

  • With the whole of The Aquatope on White Sand in the books, I have no qualms issuing this series a strong recommendation and a perfect score of ten out of ten (A+, or 4.0 on a four-point scale). While I didn’t cry during the finale, or at any point in The Aquatope on White Sand, the lessons portrayed here parallels the stories and experiences that my colleagues and peers described as alumni of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme. We encourage people to try things out, keep an open mind and be aware that while the journey may be crooked, perseverance and effort yields meaningful results. For capturing what I learnt in the health sciences programme in an engaging and highly visual manner, The Aquatope on White Sand is a masterpiece that embodies the path that my peers and I have taken. Watching this anime would be equivalent to watching how some of our careers unfolded, and for me, this anime holds a special place in my heart for one more reason – it accompanied me as I navigated the path to become a homeowner. Now that The Aquatope on White Sand has reached its conclusion, I am going to be sad to see this one go.

Because The Aquatope on White Sand speaks so vividly about the values I hold, and parallel some of my own experiences, there should be no surprises that I enjoyed P.A. Works’ latest title immensely. However, outside of a compelling story that portrays the importance of hard work, determination, open-mindedness and having the right support as one begins their career, The Aquatope on White Sand also provides viewers with a treat from an aural and visual perspective. The artwork is especially solid: contemporary animation techniques and tools allow for entire aquarium tanks to be rendered in unmatched fidelity, bringing the interiors of both Gama Gama and Tingarla to life and give viewers a taste of the natural splendor that Fūka and Kukuru experience at their work. Every animal’s movement, from the floating jellyfish and waddling penguins, to the streamlined fish and plucky sea turtles, is similarly faithful to their real-world equivalents. The attention paid to detail extends to virtually every part of the anime, from the cityscapes to quiet bays located far from urban centres: such a vibrant setting enhances the feeling that the events that happened in The Aquatope on White Sand could plausibly happen in reality. In conjunction with the sound engineering to make everything from city streets and coastal beaches, the the heart of every aquarium, The Aquatope on White Sand masterfully blends sight and sound together in order to create a world that is as every bit as magical and alive as our own. It is therefore unsurprising that The Aquatope on White Sand scores perfectly in the technical department, as well. With everything said, I count The Aquatope on White Sand a masterpiece for its optimistic and thoughtful presentation about the realities of following one’s dream and pursuing one’s career path: it’s not an easy road, and failure is a natural part of this process, something to prepare for and learn from, rather than avoid. Those who have the resilience and determination to make things work out will also experience the results of this effort, and The Aquatope on White Sand posits that knowing one’s done their job well is its own reward. With The Aquatope on White Sand‘s finale, the question of whether or not a continuation will occur is likely the first thought on reader’s minds. P.A. Works does not have a history of making continuations, with movies for Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako being the exception rather than the rule; it is therefore unlikely that we will see more of The Aquatope on White Sand as an anime. Having said this, stories from P.A. Works’ anime have previously received novel adaptations, or even a manga, so it is possible that folks looking to learn more might have the opportunity to do so in the future. I will be sad to see this series go: for the past twenty-four weeks, it’s been a comfort to know that each and every Thursday evening, Kukuru and Fūka’s story would advance a little bit towards something bigger and inspiring me to put my best foot forwards when I get up in the mornings.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle, as well as your own.” –Henry Ford

While veterinarian Takeshita visits Tingarla to check up on a penguin egg is about to hatch, Chiyu becomes preoccupied with her son and declines the overnight shift, prompting Kukuru to take over and reorganise things, even persuading Tetsuji to allow her to take on the night shift as an attendant. However, Chiyu is displeased about this and openly confronts Kukuru. Later, Fūka visits Chiyu and learns about her son, Shizuku; it turns out that after graduating high school, Chiyu married and took a job at a local aquarium, but when her son fell ill, she was unable to work and was laid off. She returned to Okinawa after a divorce and since then, had tried to keep her child a secret so she would be able to keep her job. Knowing this, Kukuru decides to walk a mile in Chiyu’s shoes and looks after Takeshita’s son, learning that looking after children is no walk in the park. Having now come to terms with Chiyu, Kukuru resolves to be more mindful of Chiyu, who in turn takes her son to the aquarium and arrive just in time to watch the new penguin hatch. Kukuru watches Shizuku and reminisces about when her parents took her to Gama Gama. Later, Kukuru and Fūka organise a get together with their coworkers in an effort to know them better. Kūya, Akari and Marina show up in the morning, while Kaoru and Chiyu show up later and receive massages from Kukuru. Kūya also reappears, having taken off to use the bathroom earlier but never returned until Kai and Eiji show up. They end up having a takoyaki party and light some fireworks before heading home. Kukuru and Fūka settle down with some mango puddings and note they had a fantastic time. When Akari’s suggestion to do a cosplay event to drive visitor counts up is approved, she declines Kukuru’s suggestion to lead the project, feeling that compared to someone like Kukuru, her enthusiasm isn’t quite there to make the event a success. While Kukuru sets about coordinating with the other departments on the event, Akari comes to realise what working an aquarium means to Kukuru when on the eve of the event, Kukuru realises she’d forgotten to place the order for the stickers. While Karin suggests using stamps, Kukuru insists that since they promised stickers, this is what they need to deliver. She decides to work overtime to make it happen, and the next day, the event ends up being a success. Akari herself becomes enamoured with Tingarla’s main exhibit, and Kukuru smiles at the realisation that Akari is one more person who’d fallen in love with aquariums. We’re now three quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and in typical P.A. Works fashion, the anime has given viewers a chance to learn more about the characters.

After Kukuru had learnt that she shared more in common with Kaoru than she’d initially thought, it was a logical step to have Kukuru begin making amends with Chiyu; in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, Chiyu and Kukuru had gotten off to a rough start, and these hard feelings had persisted into their time as coworkers at Tingarla. However, this is not to show that Kukuru is mean-spirited or difficult in any way: to Chiyu, Kukuru is someone afforded the luxury of working in a job that she loves, without concern for practical elements like finances. To Chiyu, having a job is a mission-critical part of her life, as it allows her to support her son. Kukuru’s comparatively nonchalant outlook on work can seem inappropriate. The Aquatope on White Sand reveals that this is not the case, and the moment Kukuru learns of the truth, she turns around. While there might still be some lingering feelings of dislike between the two, the fact that Kukuru knows about Chiyu’s son and the circumstances she’s in helps her to be more accommodating and sympathetic. Moments like these are essential towards appreciating what P.A. Works is going for, and serve as a reminder that it is unfair, disingenuous to judge others without being fully aware of their situation. Kukuru’s decision to look after veterinarian Takeshita’s child to better understand Chiyu shows the extent to which she cares about those around her; having seen a hitherto unexpected side to Kaoru, Kukuru is able to grasp that those working at an aquarium are unified by their love of marine life, and that everyone should work together to accomplish a shared goal, rather than against one another. The growth seen in Kukuru indicates that she is learning and maturing as a result of her experience, and while she still longs to be an attendant, has become more capable in her marketting role. Besides learning how to do her assignments more effectively, Kukuru has smiled more in her duties, as well, showing how her passion for marine life is retained. This is in contrast with Akari, who is working at Tingarla as a part-timer to make ends meet for her post secondary; she initially sees her role as that of a job, and while still finishing her assignments, never goes the extra mile to make things succeed. However, it becomes clear that passion can be contagious: after Akari speaks with Tsukimi and learns about her love for cooking even when things get tough, and when Kukuru is willing to stay after hours to ensure the materials for the cosplay event succeeds, she comes to understand what having a great love for something means, as well. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand has spent time in giving the Tingarla staff exposition; with their backgrounds out in the open, the series is prepped to enter its final quarter, ready for a big finish as Tingarla prepares to deal with something unprecedented.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s great to have veterinarian Takeshita back in the swing of things: since the events of The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, her son has grown and is now several months old. Here, the old Gama Gama team meet with Takeshita after having her over to check up on a penguin egg that’s about to hatch. Looking back, it’s been a little surprising to see how quickly time has passed; we’re now three-quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and when the series began airing, the sun sets at 22:00. So much has happened in the past eighteen weeks, and besides the fact daylight savings ends tomorrow, my possession date is also coming up very quickly on my end. All of the i’s are dotted, and t’s are crossed, so I’m quite excited to be crossing another milestone in my journey.

  • The fact that Chiyu has a son came completely out of left field for viewers – it turns out that her hours are somewhat inflexible because he needs to pick him up after work and look after him, but because her previous workplace was completely unsympathetic to her situation, Chiyu ended up losing her marriage and her job. Since then, she’d been desperate to find work and ends up keeping her son a secret from the Tingarla staff so that she could keep her work without her situation becoming deemed a liability to Tingarla. I’ve long felt that workplaces are unfriendly towards mothers in general: companies are profit-driven and productivity-driven, so when people require maternity leave or have children to look after, they’re often forced to make that difficult choice.

  • My country has suggested a ten-dollar-a-day daycare plan, but overall, this approach is not sustainable in the long run. A long-term solution would be to accommodate parents in general and provide them with more flexible hours and work arrangements so they can still get enough work done while being able to look after their children, but this is no trivial task, requiring sweeping changes to the workplace in order to yield a healthy work environment. At this point in time, Kukuru is quite unaware of things and in her usual manner, suggests that she’d be able to pick up the slack in Chiyu’s place. Kukuru’s actions here are not spiteful in any way: having been an attendant previously, Kukuru wants the newborn penguin to arrive as smoothly as possible and imagines it’s better to have all hands on deck.

  • The arrangement she makes comes as a shock to Chiyu, resulting in a confrontation: Chiyu is so frustrated that she’s actually crying, and while Kukuru had always regarded Chiyu with hostility, it turns out there’d been a reason why Chiyu had been so unreceptive towards the Gama Gama team: for Chiyu, having a job in her area of expertise is the difference between being able to pay the bills and put food on the table for her son, but for Kukuru, working at an aquarium is a dream job that she’s passionate about, and one where Kukuru seemingly needn’t worry about financial matters.

  • Once the truth gets out, Kukuru is absolutely disheartened to learn that Chiyu had been going through such difficult times as a result of her having a child and feels downtrodden at having acted so tactlessly around her. While Kukuru might be stubborn and has difficulty empathising with others, it is the case that once she’s made aware of things, Kukuru is actually quite understanding and professional, as well. It typifies P.A. Works’ ability to write multi-faceted characters that require patience to get – in reality, one will not always have the luxury of getting to know people better and understand them when a large deadline approaches, but in the realm of fiction, I do make an effort to appreciate why characters are the way they are before passing any judgement.

  • In reality, I aim to strike a balance between getting things done and being accommodating. The same cannot be said for discussions elsewhere; the immaturity surrounding how people are interpreting Chiyu and Kukuru is disappointing and frankly, juvenile, showing no effort to understand why things are what they are. Here, Fūka decides to visit Chiyu and ends up easing the story from her: individuals with empathy will realise there is an acceptable reason Chiyu is as serious and difficult as she is, but at least one individual has tried to argue this isn’t sufficient justification.

  • In the end, after Kukuru agrees to babysit Takeshita’s son, she comes to understand precisely what challenges Chiyu faces. With his mother absent, the baby ends up crying the entire time Kukuru is present and only stops once Takeshita returns, rendering Kukuru exhausted. I’ve heard that infants are particularly sensitive to smell, so when they lose their mother or father’s scent, fear kicks in, leading them to cry and communicate this concern to those in their environment. Kukuru’s attempt to understand Chiyu better leads her to drop the hostility and be more accommodating, although their past history means things still remain a little cool after.

  • After Fūka hears her out, Chiyu decides to be honest with her situation and brings her son, Shizuku, to Tingarla. At Fūka’s suggestion, Shizuku is given a tour of the facilities and has a wonderful time: the director and other staff are more than accepting of things and resolve to do what they can so Chiyu remains a part of their team. While watching Shizuku, Kukuru cannot help but be reminded of her younger self, who had similarly been captivated by the sights of an aquarium.

  • One small qualm that crossed my mind is that Tingarla’s attendants don’t appear to have the requisite Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, zoology or equivalent; Chiyu’s said to have gotten married and started a family shortly after finishing high school, then worked for several years afterwards, so she’s in her early twenties in 2022, and Fūka comes to Tingarla as an attendant straight out of secondary school. While not realistic by any stretch (having the degree implies a satisfactory level of theoretical and practical knowledge of marine life and ecology), P.A. Works could simply be skipping these requirements to accommodate the story, and as such, this is something that I do not count against The Aquatope on White Sand.

  • In the end, the penguin hatchling arrives safely, and Tingarla’s staff are overjoyed. While this event isn’t going to be sufficient for Kukuru and Chiyu to reconcile, putting things into the open helps both Kukuru and viewers understand what’s been going on, acting as a reminder that jumping to conclusions is unproductive and giving the characters one more stepping stone towards being more united – the supernatural visions have all but gone silent in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, and generally speaking, story elements are not introduced without reason, so I’d hazard a guess that they will be the final aspect to deal with in this series’ climax.

  • The seventeenth episode is a breather from the daily routine, representing a chance to take the pedal off the metal as the characters unwind and take some time to know one another better outside of work. While Fūka and Kukuru provide the day’s activities, Tsukimi provides the food. Contrary to discussions saying otherwise, such episodes are necessary in a series such as The Aquatope on White Sands the same way vacations are necessary. Earlier in August, I had written about how I was itching to go to a ryōkan in the near future, but it looks like my plans have now changed. Being a new homeowner means I will prioritise where my funds go, and travelling inevitably falls to the back of the queue; the mortgage, insurance, utilities, groceries and furniture come first, but after some preliminary calculations, I should still be good for a couple of dinners out here and there, and still have a good amount left over to save and invest.

  • With this being said, I still appreciate the importance of having vacation time: I only took a half-day for a home inspection visit, and still have almost a full three weeks available to me. As such, I intend to take at least a week off towards the end of the year so I can recharge and hit 2022 strong, but leave a few days to carry over so I can tend to things like moving day; my supervisor recommended I do a few Fridays off in December on top of this since I can only carry over five days at most. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, after everyone settles down and gives Tsukimi some feedback on her cooking, they end up playing cards. Kukuru is thrashed, and because Miku Itō voices her, Kukuru sounds a great deal like Locodol‘s Nanako Usami whenever she’s frustrated or dejected as a result.

  • Fūka and Kukuru had the whole day off, but Akari and Marina do not. However, when they head off for their shifts, Kaori, Chiyu and Shizuku show up to keep the party going. Kūya had appeared earlier and reluctantly stayed after taking a few drinks, but left to hit the bathroom and never returned. Kai and Eiji show up and haul him back to the party, but now that guys are around, Kūya is able to relax.

  • While awaiting the others, Kukuru has arranged for an aromatherapy massage for both Chiyu and Kaoru. While Chiyu critiques Kukuru’s technique, Kukuru herself realises that she’d never been particularly good with giving massages after recalling her grandfather ends up picking up an electric massager. Still, the moment is important in allowing Kukuru and Chiyu a chance to speak with one another outside of work. On the other hand, once Chiyu’s session wraps up, Kaoru is next, and she vehemently objects to being subject to a massage.

  • Shizuku feels quite at home with Fūka, who reads him a story while the others are gearing up for dinner. The Aquatope on White Sand had made Fūka’s story a major part of the premise, but by this point in the series, Fūka’s settled into her new career more readily than even Kukuru. While the old dreams might be gone, Fūka has worked hard to find a new future for herself. At the same time, she’s also supporting Kukuru as well, having found new purpose ever since they’d met. Life has a habit of surprising us, and I’ve found that it’s a matter of rolling with things as they occur and making the most of things.

  • Once the takoyaki grill is hooked up, Eiji proposes a fun way of making dinner more interesting: they’ve got a few things to put into the takoyaki beyond octopus, and there’s a challenge to guess what the takoyaki contains based purely on texture and flavour alone. Eiji and Kūya immediately set about the challenge, indicating that Kūya is very much one for competitions, and since Eiji possesses a graduate degree, he competes because he feels his pride is on the line. In the end, Shizuku breaks the protocol, leading the others to drop the competition and enjoy dinner normally.

  • The use of a tabletop cooker brings back memories of raclette parties I used to attend: the last time I went was probably back in 2019, and since the global health crisis began, I’ve not been back since. I do miss evenings of being able to sit down with old friends and sharing conversation while waiting for various sausages, seafoods, mushrooms, peppers and cheese to grill properly. In fact, three years earlier, I remember heading out to a raclette at this time of year, where I met with friends even as I was going through a particularly rough spot with my first start-up. That evening did much to help me relax and regroup; my fortunes would turn around subsequently, and I accepted an offer to work with another company.

  • After dinner is done, Chiyu makes to go home, but Shizuku is excited and wishes to stay longer. Fūka suggests that after lighting some fireworks, it’ll really be time to head home, and Shizuku accepts; seeing Chiyu spend time with Shizuku allows The Aquatope on White Sand to show her best side. Hanasaku Iroha and Nagi no Asukara had done something very similar previously, where unlikeable characters had reasons for acting in the manner they chose to. Once their stories became known to the protagonist and viewers, audiences begin to empathise with the characters and root for the protagonist as they try to make things better for those around them.

  • Seeing the stoic Eiji so expressive this episode was also pleasant. Eiji typically isn’t fond of people because of how much drama can occur when things don’t line up, and this is something I relate to; whereas human interactions are tricky, computer programs either work or do not, making them far simpler to debug. When it comes to conflict, there isn’t a manual to follow, or a debugger where I can step through execution, line-by-line and print out values to a console. Instead, there is nuance and subtlety that must be observed. With this being said, having other people around is absolutely vital to a healthy mind, and being able to resolve conflicts and manage stress is an indispensable part of life. For Eiji, as he warms up to Kai and Kūya, I imagine that he too will come to respect people as much as he does marine life.

  • With the day’s events at a close, the others head home and prepare for the next workday, while Kukuru and Fūka unwind with a mango pudding that Tsukimi had made just for them, reflecting on how much fun the day had been, and how they got to see a side of their coworkers that were unexpected. This is the joy of team building events; ordinarily, we are accustomed to seeing coworkers, supervisors and subordinates in the workplace, focused on their duties, so to gain a measure of what everyone is like outside of office hours means understanding a little more about them.

  • When Akari’s proposal is accepted, Kukuru feels that Akari should take charge of the project to gain a sense of satisfaction from a job well done, but Akari declines, feeling that as a part-timer, she won’t be able to do quite as good of a job as Kukuru and the others. This leads Kukuru to puff up her cheeks, and marking the first time I’d seen someone do what I’d always wanted to do, Akari pokes Kukuru’s cheeks. It took me a little while to get used to Kukuru; while she’s similar to The World in Colours‘ Kohaku in some ways, it is clear that both Kukuru and Kohaku have notable differences that make them unique.

  • Similarly, Fūka is a ways more active and makes herself heard more readily than Hitomi does. After hours, Kukuru confides in Fūka that she still wants to be an attendant. Kukuru has definitely matured and is now comfortable with her role, enough to want to consistently do a good job of what is asked of her: even if she’s not in her ideal role, Kukuru now understands that there can be new learnings and discoveries. I’ve not shown any screenshots until now, but here, Tingarla is visible in the background. The landscapes and interiors in The Aquatope on White Sand are excellent and really serve to bring things to life.

  • The topic of being in a job one legitimately enjoys, versus being in a job to make ends meet or accrue experience, is the topic of the latest episode; Akari feels like, because she’s a temporary worker, her obligations end at doing a satisfactory job of her assignments: she doesn’t cut corners or slack off, but she doesn’t go the extra mile, either. This stands in contrast with Kukuru, who moves heaven and earth to ensure she accomplishes her goals to a satisfactory manner. The gap is cleverly illustrated when Kukuru and the marketting team speak with the attendants: while Kukuru, Karin and another full-time employee sits at the table to discuss ideas, Akari is off in the corner.

  • On my end, I count myself as incredibly lucky in that I’m working in a field that I am passionate about: I began my university career as a Health Sciences student and ended up in graduate school for computer science. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I hold that it isn’t too late, even in post-secondary, to do this. Akari has a little bit of trouble with this and is envious that Kukuru’s already found her calling in life, but even in university, one still has enough versatility to switch disciplines: a few of my old classmates in health sciences ended up in different fields after finishing, from geology to political sciences, and one of my seniors in bioinformatics even became a lawyer. Suddenly, my becoming a mobile developer doesn’t seem quite so unusual: Fūka becomes an aquarium attendant after her old dream of an idol faded away. Generally speaking, people can walk different paths in life, and so long as they find a calling they can perform in, that’s a win.

  • Conversely, other folks can often find their calling quite quickly; Kukuru has long possessed a love for marine life, and Tsukimi is similarly into cooking. Later Akari receives a call from Tsukimi and asks her about her passion: Tsukimi replies that while it looks like she’s got things in hand, there are days where she feels miserable, but knowing that all this effort leads somewhere meaningful makes everything worthwhile: experimenting with different sandwich designs was back-breaking, especially when iterations are rejected, but to see something she make get approved was superbly rewarding. As such, neither Karin nor Akari are particularly surprised by how tasty dinner is, and for Akari, a good meal does wonders in lifting her spirits – today, I ended up having an unexpected lunch of A & W’s grass-fed beef burgers, and the surprise ended up making my day a little more exciting, as well.

  • When Kukuru realises she left an order in her drafts, she suffers another Nanako Usami moment before determining that hell or high water, she will deliver the experience she promised, with Karin staying behind to help her. This isn’t the first time Kukuru has worked overtime; The Aquatope on White Sand has not established what Tingarla’s overtime policy is, but in general, overtime work varies depending on the company. In my province, regulations state that overtime pay is owed to all full-time workers who exceed eight hours a day, to the tune of 1.5 times the worker’s regular hourly rates. In lieu of this, companies may choose to give time off in place of overtime pay.

  • For me, I’m technically not supposed to work overtime without having declared it ahead of time, so when I do go over hours on a given day, I’m permitted to do less hours on another day so that the monthly total is not exceeded. This doesn’t stop me from occasionally thinking about work after hours, or if something is really bugging me, poking around on my own (although I rarely do this, since I tend to do better if I can step back from a problem and regroup, then come back to it). Akari had left for the day, but when her friend cancels their evening plans at the last minute, Akari decides to return and help out, feeling that if she’s got nothing better to do, she can lend a hand to Kukuru and Karin, who welcome the extra pair of hands. Akari might not feel fully connected to her work per se, but she does enjoy working with the people in her department.

  • In the end, with Akari on station, the stickers are completed in time ahead of the big event: Kukuru retrieves some assets they’d already had and print them to sticker paper.  In discussions, I am aware that where The Aquatope on White Sand is concerned, my tone is decidedly positive; this stands in stark contrast with the highly negative discussions elsewhere, which erroneously assert that hiring Kukuru and Fūka amounts to little more than nepotism, and that the series has invalidated the buildup from the first half. Neither hold true: regarding complaints about nepotism, the director picked up staff from Gama Gama because they had an established record of knowing their work, meaning they could get to things without requiring extensive training to catch up and be effective from the get-go, which would be important at a new institution like Tingarla.

  • Similarly, the elements from the first half, P.A. Works still has an entire quarter to explore these elements, which I imagine are an integral part of the themes and logically, would be left to the end. It is evident that discussions elsewhere surrounding The Aquatope on White Sand are making no sincere effort to understand what the anime is doing and, for the lack of a better phrase, complaining for the sake of complaining. These individuals wouldn’t last long in any competent workplace, so I’ll make no further mention of them as this post come to an end. Instead, I will comment on the fact that Chiyu, Fūka and Marina look quite dashing in their outfits, and Shizuku is adorable.

  • As a result of these extra efforts, the event is a big success: on the day of the cosplay event, the teams break off to carry out their intended roles, and things go very smoothly: Kukuru’s efforts means Shizuku has a solid experience, and even Tetsuji participates by donning a pirate costume, although he dares Fūka and Kukuru to criticise his get-up in response to their initial reaction of shock, creating a bit of humour. While Tetsuji continues to address Kukuru as “Plankton”, Kukuru seems less affected by this now and gets her work done. Moreover, her conflicts with Tetsuji appears to have lessened of late, so I do wonder if things might be addressed in as little as one episode before The Aquatope on White Sand enters its endgame.

The reason why I am confident that only a handful of conflicts remain to be resolved, before The Aquatope on White Sand gears up for the storyline that will likely give the anime its main theme, is because P.A. Works has not previously deviated from their modus operandi. While The Aquatope on White Sand has been full of surprises insofar, P.A. Works’ strongest anime have traditionally followed a very similar pattern. Once Ohana figures out life at Kissuisō in Hanasaku Iroha, Sui announces she’s closing it, leaving the staff determined to go out with a bang for one another’s sake. Sakura Quest sees Yoshino putting in everything she’s got in making the Mizuchi Festival a success as her year-long contract comes to an end. Hikari and his friends are determined to rescue Manaka from the wrath of the sea gods with another Ofunehiki festival after coming to terms with their own conflicts and unspoken feelings during Nagi no Asukara. We are now at a point in The Aquatope of White Sand where something similar is about to happen, and while I cannot speculate on any specifics, it is evident that this anime will present one final event that brings all of the characters, even Tetsuji, together as they work together in order to accomplish a goal, one that was chosen to convey the series’ main theme. The lingering question now is whether or not The Aquatope on White Sand will being back the kijimuna and visions spotted at Gama Gama: in this second half, the supernatural has all but taken a backseat as the series focused entirely on Kukuru and Fūka adjust to their new workplace and support one another, as well as those around them. As heartwarming and uplifting this may be, stories don’t typically introduce an element unless it has relevance to the narrative. Consequently, with two critical pieces still having to make an appearance yet, I am curious to see what sorts of challenges and surprises will unfold as The Aquatope on White Sand enters its final quarter. While it is possible these elements could be completely discarded, I would prefer to think that P.A. Works has learnt from the aberration that was Glasslip; The World in Colours has shown P.A. Works can incorporate magic and the supernatural in a seamless fashion into their worlds, so I am hoping that for The Aquatope on White Sand, elements that were briefly touched on in the series’ first half can be interwoven into the second half’s narrative in a complete, coherent fashion to really augment the messages this anime is striving to convey.