The aquatope on white sand
Episode 18

by Mercedez Clewis,

How would you rate episode 18 of
The aquatope on white sand ?

Now, I know what you're thinking: how could we follow up last week's delightful episode? Well, episode 18, “When The Light Shines”, dares to soar above episode 17. Question is…did it?

I'd say yes, simply by virtue of getting to see Tingaara staff in fish costumes. Nothing beats that.

Personal preferences aside, episode 18 is about costumes: or more specifically, it's about yet another event. But it's also about workplace dynamics and passion, particularly between Kukuru and part-timer Maeda Akari, who is the originator of said “fish cosplay” idea. A throughline for this back half is that Kukuru is still yearning to work as an attendant, which isn't to say she's not focused on PR Work, but rather… she still dreams of returning to directly working with the animals. She had been an aquarium director after all, no matter how humble Gama Gama was. I think that's important to keep in mind as Kukuru and Akari are put together to work on a project, which causes a bit of friction because Kukuru kind of has to take the bulk of the work since Akari is a part-timer. And as the episode goes on, it quickly becomes apparent that this gleeful, sea-ful event is simply the backdrop to the much more important themes of mutual understanding and work versus passion.

Akari's idea gets picked, and Kukuru backs her up in full, but that's when she comes to realize that Akari isn't particularly passionate about aquariums. She likes her job, but sees it as a job nonetheless. In fact, early in episode 18, Fuuka sums it up perfectly: “I think most people don't find work because it's what they love, the way you do.” Kukuru works at Tingaara because she loves aquariums: Akari works there to get paid. There's a natural, neutral tension there that pulls and pushes at Akari in particular, especially as she starts to get a bit sidelined during the actual costume deciding process. In fact, her opinion isn't taken into consideration at all, at least until the very end of the meeting.

An episode like this would usually go under the radar, especially this late in the game, because it's not necessarily advancing the plot… at least not on the surface. In actuality, this exploration of Akari having to move through a tangle of feelings around Kukuru's passion to do her job is really quite thoughtful, especially in a show about passion. If anything, the fact that Kukuru and Akari have this friction between them showcases aquatope's deep understanding of what it means to be passionate. They're not working in harmony because there's a fundamental difference in the motivations that drive them, though naturally, that's resolved in the end because Kukuru takes notice and reaches out to do the hard work of understanding someone else.

Also, because Kukuru forgets to send an email and ends up really needing to rely on Akari to get the job done, which in turn pushes Akari past her feelings of aimlessness. All of this development feels very natural, which really is a testament to how good The aquatope on white sand has become over the past few weeks.

Episode 18 serves as a pleasant reminder that you can find joy in a job well done, even if it's something that you're not necessarily passionate about. It's a poignant message, especially in a time when many of us are haunted by job insecurity and imposter syndrome. It's okay to not let what you do for a living define you, and others will still see you as valuable even if you're taking up a spot in what may be someone else's dream job.

There's definitely a slight “endgame” vibe to episode 18: it's this distinct feeling that we're starting the first steps towards a proper conclusion. It lends a renewed momentum to what is ostensibly a transition epsiode, not that the second half of the show's lacked for that. If anything, the staff behind The aquatope on white sand has really learned how to utilize its original story nature well, providing pleasantly paced, twenty-four-minute dives into Kukuru and Fuuka's world. Where it's all going is still unclear, and yet each week, I find myself eagerly watching (and almost always rewatching) each episode because they're just so pleasant.

There's a tightness to these episodes, but I think that might be intentional. The first cour had a frenetic energy at times, wavering between powerful episodes and go-nowhere, aimless episodes that didn't necessarily hinder the plot, but also didn't add much to it. Part of that may be because we were following teenagers, and honestly, being a teen is a state of constant flux. Now that Kukuru, Fuuka, and their community are all young adults, there's a solidity and sureness that reflects that.

One gripe I will bring up is the localization of Tingaara, which has changed now to “Tingala”. For everyone's ease, I'm going to stick with “Tingaara”, because that's how it's been since it was introduced in the first twelve episodes. Still, the fact that that's all I really have to complain about this episode says a lot. And in the end, while episode 18 really is hooking us into the final six weeks with this lovely series, it's still pretty dang good, which is all I ever ask anime to be.

Rating:

The aquatope on white sand is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Mercedez is a JP-EN translation and localization Editor & Proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who, when not writing for ANN, writes for Anime Feminist, where she's a staff editor, and for But Why Tho?. She's also a frequent cohost on the Anime Feminist Podcast, Chatty AF. This season, she's devouring Restaurant to Another World bite by delicious bite. When she's not writing and reviewing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she's always up to something.


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