The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 15 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
Episode 15, “The Great Sea Slug Debate” opens with a track so whimsical, I kind of figured we'd be in for Slug Stuff™ or something equally lighthearted and comedic, but of course, that's not at all what The aquatope on white sand threw at us. In fact, I'd argue that episode 15 is pretty serious.
This episode continues to settle viewers into Tingaara, and showing us how starkly different it is from Gama Gama. If Gama Gama was a lemonade stand, then Tingaara is a whole dang lemonade factory with samples after your tour: it's got this polish that Gama Gama never hand. While I still found myself longing for the cozy comfort of Gama Gama, and can't help but wonder if Gama Gama will come back into play in some capacity, narratively speaking it's better to let Kukuru, Fuuka, and the rest of Team Gama Gama grow at Tingaara, and maybe inject a bit of that Gama Gama flavor into Tingaara's very polished presentation.
Speaking of bringing that Gama Gama flavor into the mix, I think it's important to point out how Kukuru's growing as a character. Episodes 13 and 14 were largely spent with her kind of fumbling into her role, but now, in episode 15, Kukuru has grown to be quite confident, using her experience as the director of Gama Gama to complement her PR work at Tingaara. Naturally, it also causes her to ruffle a few feathers, and eventually lands her in hot water because once again, Kukuru isn't staying in her lane like Tingaara wants her to. But this, of course, is the heart of the episode: it's seeing Kukuru do the right thing.
On the other hand, Kai is also growing into a different role: that of being Kukuru's potential romantic partner. It's something that was definitely hinted at in the first half of the series, but is much more prominent here, especially towards the end of the episode. The music leans in hard on pitching them as the series' lead partnership, and it wants you and I as viewers to do the same. Will it “pay off”? I don't know. I don't actually know if The aquatope on white sand will have any romance. I'm kind of hoping that it won't, and will instead just let everyone be friends and lean on that as a catalyst for their own individual development.
And this isn't a matter of wanting to read the series as a Yuri either; I just don't think The aquatope on white sand is a good place for that particular story, especially in a series with the potential to tell a human story about queerness. At this rate, since that's pretty much dead in the water, I'd just like to see a series where a female lead and her male best friend aren't triggering flags for a romantic end, and while it seems to mostly be Kai realizing his affection for now, I get the feeling it won't be long before the story shifts Kukuru towards considering romance as well.
So often, that's the only way (cis) men and women are allowed to telegraph relationships in media: there has to be a romantic tension, whether that's one-sided or mutual. As such, aquatope's handling of Kai and Kukuru's relationship here feels like a lost opportunity to have genuinely platonic inter-gender friendships be represented in anime, to demonstrate that for once, (cis) men and women can, indeed, just be friends, which I think would actually fit into the world aquatope is trying to shape.
That particular quibble aside, episode 15 was solid enough, leaving viewers on a “cliffhanger” hook that will presumably be followed up on the next episode. I'm really grooving on the more mature vibes of The aquatope on white sand, and while I certainly didn't cover everything that happened this week, it does enough to preserve the same momentum from the previous two episodes. There's something delightful about seeing Kukuru grow into a more complex version of herself, in part because this is just the twenty-something millennial experience, and while Kukuru and Fuuka aren't my age in the least, I found myself frequently relating to their growth as they continue to settle into life at Tingaara. It's nice to have a “working women” kind of series, even if the women here are still growing into that womanhood.
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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