The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 12 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
It feels… auspicious that episode 12, “Our Oceans are Endless”, starts with the OP right off the bat. But, given the severity of episodes 10 and 11, it makes a lot of sense, especially since episode 12 is definitely set on August 31, the final day of the month, and the twelfth hour before Fuuka has to fulfill her half of her verbal contract with her mother. It's also, naturally, Gama Gama's final day, and there's this… nostalgic tension, to use a turn of phrase, threaded through the entire episode. You step into episode 12 knowing that it's definitely a finale, and yet you also come in knowing that there's another cour in Fall 2021 that will do something to bring this story full circle another time.
But endings have to end, and episode 12 is wholly about closing down Gama Gama Aquarium, and reflecting. It's bittersweet in a simple, but achingly understandable way. A lot of this is telegraphed through the entire cast commiserating and pondering the future, which feeds my theory of an incoming timeskip even more. I'm fully expecting to come back to episode 13 a bit in the future with Kukuru working at Aquarium Tingaara, eyes and heart set on reopening Gama Gama in all its glory. But more than a finale, episode 12 also serves as a transitional episode, a bridge to the second cour, and it's executed well enough that I genuinely felt like crying quite a few times.
Part of this is because of Kukuru's character growth, who is the strongest character overall in our main cast. While I'm solidly a Fuuka fan, she also hasn't really gotten a lot of her plot threads tied up. That said, I do feel that she's becoming just as dynamic as Kukuru, and though the relationship between the two probably isn't going to ultimately be Yuri, I'll keep reading it as such because I think it's an interesting way to approach this series. Mind you, I went into this knowing that it probably wouldn't be fully queer, or even more than mildly sapphiic, and that's okay. I'm actually quite fond of Fuuka and Kukuru having a queer platonic relationship, or even a filial/found family relationship, versus a romantic relationship. Both are quite powerful, and have carried some of the show's weakest moments.
Besides the end of Gama Gama Aquarium, this episode also marks the end of Kukuru's childhood, in a way. There are no more halcyon days for her, at least not within Gama Gama's four walls. Her time there will, like so many things, become memories, potentially to propel her to work for Aquarium Tingaara, or even elsewhere in Okinawa, if opportunity allows. Things are similarly up in the air for the rest of the younger cast: true, they have their aspirations, but nothing is concrete by the time this episode finishes. Nothing is sure, and sometimes… that's just how life really, truly is.
And yet there is also so much joy and optimism underpinning this episode. Endings are not just about farewells and goodbyes; it's also about celebrating the good times past, and there's plenty of that here, whether it's the message wall, the plentiful guests, or the final moments with the cast. It feels true to life in the way a lot of aquatope's emotional beats have: Kukuru's resignation at Gama Gama closing feels definitive and weighty. Fuuka leaving Okinawa to return back feels like an authentic moment. All of this, and more, comes together in a really solid episode that, while not necessarily perfect, feels quite earnest in its execution.
There's a lot I haven't touched on: the reveal of Kukuru's dead twin, predictions for the other members of the cast, and even a retrospective of what's happened thus far to bring us here. If I had infinite words, I'd touch on it all, but really, I wanted to focus on a more broad perspective for this review. It feels like the only way to send Gama Gama off, and while it hurts to say goodbye, it also feels okay. I credit that to episode directors Chihaya Tanaka and Tomoaki Ota, as well as episode writer Yuko Kakihara. This is a really solid episode, and while it might not be the most compelling that aquatope has offered thus far in terms of intrigue, it is, as I said, quite emotional and rather definitive.
Truth be told, I'm not sure what will happen in the second cour. While episode 12 is good, overall, it doesn't hint at what to expect next week (October 1st) when episode 13 airs. Fuuka is definitely returning to Tokyo despite the rather emotional scene between her and Kukuru right at the end. Whether or not that means we'll get a few Fuuka-free episodes remains to be seen. And while I've certainly got my predictions (tl;dr from previous reviews: a time skip and Kukuru and Fuuka bonding even more, and a potential reopening for Gama Gama right at the end), time will tell, and all that.
For all I know, this series could veer off in a very different direction, though it would be a shame because for as slow as The aquatope on white sand has occasionally been, it's ultimately a really beautiful and thoughtful series, though I fully admit it won't be everyone's cup of tea and definitely don't blame viewers who didn't make it to the episode 12 cour finale. Still, I think if you're reading this review and also have followed the series week to week, you're… probably pretty onboard with the adventure, or at least still curious. aquatope has done well in maintaining a layer of intrigue and mystery that fuels that curiosity, though it's definitely helped by its incredibly lush animation, which is especially apparent in this episode. In the end, isn't that half the joy of following an original anime series as opposed to an adaptation? Regardless, I'm glad that I'll get to cover this series in Fall 2020. I have a feeling that wherever we end up, it'll still result in a satisfying story, hiccups and all.
The aquatope on white sand is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Mercedez is a JP-EN localization editor & proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who also writes for Anime Feminist, where she's a staff editor, and But Why Tho?. She's also a frequent guest on the AniFem Podcast, Chatty AF. When she's not writing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she's always up to something.
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