The aquatope on white sand
Episode 20

by Mercedez Clewis,

How would you rate episode 20 of
The aquatope on white sand ?

Episode 20, “Lost Plankton”, is definitely about “plankton”, though… decidedly not the microorganism. This is also tangentially an episode about a dolphin who is separated from its pod, but that mainly serves to function as allegory instead of being developed as a plot point. What episode 20 is really about, then, is the bigger, more nebulous feeling of distance and feeling lost as an adult, a feeling that I, on the cusp of thirty, feel almost painfully familiar with. This is coupled with something I've been hoping the series would circle back to: Gama Gama Aquarium, who is now as much of a character of aquatope as any of its cast and something that I've missed sorely, even though Tingaara is a pretty sweet aquarium.

Our return to Gama Gama – not the place in a physical sense, but the place as a concept and location – is bittersweet, tinged around the edges with a grounded sense of inevitability at what's to come. It's a topic that comes up in brief, paired with the mention of its looming demolition. Like the bones we leave behind when we shuffle off our mortal coil, Gama Gama too shall return to the earth as dust and decay. It's, well… like I said, bittersweet, setting the tone and sitting like a lead weight in the back of our minds for the bulk of this episode when we're not with Kukuru, Fuuka, and the (allegorical) lone dolphin.

All of that blends with Kukuru still trying to find her place in Tingaara as she continues an internal – and often external – tug-o-war between settling into her current responsibilities and her desire to continue taking care of sea creatures. And it's not that Kukuru isn't serious about her work, which is an accusation leveraged at her about midway in episode 20: it's that Kukuru still cares deeply about caretaking, and at her core, loves sea creatures enough to always keep them at the forefront of her mind, even to the detriment of her actual staff position. Yet there's that bittersweetness again: she kind of has to focus on her work. She's not an animal caretaker: in fact, she's explicitly not interacting with the animals. Kukuru is soundly part of the PR department, and she'll never settle in if she doesn't give an earnest effort. I think almost everyone can relate to the feeling, and to that particular melancholy that comes with the realization.

There's a lot that happens during this episode, a lot of little big things that pile up as Kukuru really, really tries to step back from being a caretaker and really step into being a part of the PR team. Despite her best efforts, however, Kukuru is adrift in the sea of her workplace, still yearning for that familiar tether that is no longer there. It's wistful, tugging her along like a bit of seaweed in the waves as she tries so, so hard to be enough, to do enough.

It is, like I said, utterly familiar and painfully relatable.

And yet there's hope, because The aquatope on white sand is just that kind of series: there's hope and second chances and trying again. There's never giving up, though sometimes that's not enough, as episode 20 demonstrates in its most heart-wrenching, tear-jerking moment. I won't say what because I do think some things are best experienced for yourself as you watch, but… gosh, there's so much more I want to say about episode 20. I'll settle for this: episode 20 aches and makes me long for those halcyon days when being an adult was a far-off notion, and things were simpler. It makes me wish things were different for Kukuru, that maybe things were a bit easier.

In the end, episode 20 feels like the final bit of growth before the climax and resolution: there are these really thoughtful musical interludes where we see Kukuru struggling to decide how she's going to approach her job and how invested she wants to become, as well as how to untether herself from her previous work as an animal caretaker. There's a seriousness here: it's been here before, but it feels more definitive, setting Kukuru up for a dynamic resolution a few weeks from now. She's got a lot to bounce back from, but I firmly believe this story will make space for her to recover and find her pace. All in all, it makes for a pretty compelling episode that kept me captivated from start to finish, and matched the enjoyment of last week's episode.

Like the ebb and flow of the sea, we've seen Kukuru, Fuuka, and their community grow into who we're sitting with in episode 20. It's been a fascinating experience seeing Kukuru grow as a PR staff member juxtaposed against Fuuka as an animal caretaker. While this series hasn't gone the way I expected, I've truly enjoyed my time with it, high highs, low lows, middling moments and all.

That said, we've still got four more weeks: I'm thrilled to see where The aquatope on white sand actually lands, and if it'll stick the landing that it's angling for. I really think we're in for a special final four episodes as we see Kukuru and Fuuka's community to the end of our time with them, and potentially get a peek into the future they're all mutually and individually working to create.

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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