The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 23 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
Community score: 4.4
Episode 23, “The Future of the Aquarium”, starts with Fuuka and Kukuru feeling closer than ever before, a development that feels well-deserved given all that they have gone through together in the past few episodes.
Post-OP, we're back in office with a new announcement: Tingaara will be opening a research facility under the name USTD (“Under the Sea with sea creatures: Totally Devoted!) Aquatope Project, which is a neat way to incorporate the series' title. A research facility dedicated wholly to examining the effects of pollution and microplastics on marine life is already a cool project on its own, but more importantly, they're looking for two people to helm the project, starting with a two-year training course in Waihana Aquarium in Hawaii. As Umi says: it's time for the youth of the staff to step up and consider advancing their careers.
What this sets up is an endpoint for Kukuru and Fuuka: an image of them leaving Tingaara, boarding a plane, and working for the aquarium in Hawaii, together as two people who deeply care about each other. There's a sweetness that permeates their interactions this episode, and while it's definitely a sign of close friends, there's also this romantic undercurrent that continues to be quietly pleasant. Whichever way you decide to interpret their companionship, there's no denying that it's just really nice to witness Fuuka and Kukuru move through this final arc as we prepare to let them go next week.
A lot of episode 23 is spent on beautiful, interstitial moments centering around Fuuka. We see her growing as an attendant, striving for the chance to study in Hawaii, and coming wholly into her own. And it all feels incredibly authentic, largely because there's enough hard work done in previous episodes to make you want to root for Fuuka. The plot isn't just giving her this opportunity: aquatope has demonstrated just how much she deserves to be here, which is what allows the ending of this episode to hit just right.
When Gama Gama's walls fell in episode 20, I thought that we'd end the series with Kukuru making peace with her PR career at Tingaara. I couldn't have imagined her getting the chance to shift to working as an attendant, nor for such a development to come across as completely natural and earned. A two-year study in Hawaii feels like the perfect way for Kukuru and Fuuka to come full circle. While the future isn't completely set in stone just yet, it seems quite clear that that is the aquatope's endgame as well: now it's just a matter of how it gets there next week.
As a penultimate episode, episode 23 is well-executed and expertly demonstrates how far Fuuka's characterization has come. The animation staff has also brought their A-game, filling the episode's twenty-four-minute run time with gorgeous imagery, including a dreamy underwater sequence that feels like the only way to end such a powerful episode. I was moved to tears watching Fuuka give her presentation speech; she's now truly an entirely different person compared to the girl she was in episode 2. And in a way, I feel like something of a proud parent: it's always lovely to see a young woman receive such a complete and well-developed character arc like this. aquatope's characterization of both of its leads has been satisfying, heartfelt, and genuine throughout, and that is all the more evident in the way Fuuka simply shines in the back half of episode 23.
One week remains before The aquatope on white sand closes its doors to viewers. One week before we see how this story ends. There are still a lot of things coming together, though I soundly believe The aquatope on white sand has what it takes to make this one of Fall 2021's strongest finales. The wait until next week will be long, but it's absolutely worth it. Here's to one more time at Aquarium Tingaara.
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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