The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 3 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
Episode 3, “Life Begins in the Ocean,” starts with penguins, which serves as a mildly comedic callback to Fuka's less than stellar meet 'n greet last episode. While this is just table setting to the episode's overarching plot, there's a very hurt old penguin in this episode named Choko who I want to feed all the fish to.
Over the course of the episode, Fuka and Kukuru continue to grow into their own, both as characters that we're meeting near the end of their youth and as two young women learning to be around one another. It's really engaging, in part because both girls are so darn likable. I suppose that's what makes it nice to watch Fuka fall into her role of feeding penguins and working as an amateur caretaker for them. She's not perfect, but the show—and presumably the viewers as well—don't expect her to be: half the enjoyment of this episode is seeing her slowly come into her own.
The same can be said of Kukuru, especially when it comes to her developing relationship with Fuka. A lot of that is because they're now bound together by the Gama Gama Aquarium and their new life as roommates—Kukuru bluntly refers to Fuka's residency in her home as “freeloading”—as well as their desire to care for the creatures at the aquarium. The future of Gama Gama Aquarium probably hinges on this relationship, and though I get the feeling that there's no chance the plot would actually let the aquarium close, it's this dynamic that makes watching aquatope so enjoyable.
This all culminates in one of the most powerful scenes of the episode: vet Dr. Takeshita's sudden delivery. It's all hands on deck as they try to get her comfortable as the labor pains kick in. Everyone gets roped into helping her as Fuka and Kukuru try to help her relax. It's a scene that is both authentic and otherworldly, and the recurring fish motif reminded me of episode 1's gorgeous water scene with Fuka. That same scene also brings back the magical realism quietly permeating this series, and honestly… moved me to tears. I'm not sure what it is, but perhaps it's just how beautifully aquatope depicts emotions and the smaller moments in life. I know that's certainly been one of its strengths thus far: elevating simple scenes into tense, emotional moments. It echoes how those very same emotions feel in real life, and honestly, will probably be what brings this series from “Aquarium Girls the Anime” to something truly special.
The episode ends with Kukuru and Fuka jetting off towards the aquarium on Kukuru's scooter, the sun catching on their shared penguin keychains. As the credits rolled, I found myself thinking of how dreamy this anime is, of how perfectly it captures living in a rural part of Japan. It tugged at my own memories of living in rural Tohoku, which while not Okinawa, had a similar vibe. Given the events of episode 3, the scene is remarkably peaceful and quiet in its own way, leaving viewers to vibe with the seaside as its "back to business as usual" ending felt just right. Consider me hooked like a fish. I'm here for this series: I'm ride or die.
The stunning thing about The aquatope on white sand isn't the story—honestly, the story is pretty straightforward—but how well it's executing the plot and the tropes it's playing with. Sometimes, simple is best, and aquatope is proving that having solid characterization, beautiful animation, excellent music and sound design, and solid pacing (for now) can make even the simplest story feel out of this world. I'd much rather have a simplistic narrative over a complex story that ultimately can't deliver. Thankfully, aquatope seems to be willing to show its hand while deftly mixing the mundane with the otherworldly. I love it when shows take their simple premise and execute that well. It's better than watching big-budget series with sprawling plots juggle their multiple plot threads and character arcs, though that's just personal preference speaking.
I think there's a lot of joy in watching a series that wants things to work out and is ultimately optimistic for all the characters in its world. That's what keeps me enthusiastic when reviewing this series, and is certainly what has me excited for next Aquatope Thursday.
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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