The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 4 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
Episode 4, “Tropical Fish In Boots,” trades in newborns for more work at Gama Gama, spending most of its time with the cast preparing for some summer events as Fuuka and Kukuru continue to grow close. Immediately, it's clear that Fuuka and Kukuru are much closer: their adventures in birth -and working together, which was really the point- have made their shared dream of caring for the aquarium much more real. While it might not yet be Fuuka's dream in full, she does work quite hard in episode 4 to support her promise to Kukuru to do right by Gama Gama, and honestly y'all? It's sweet, and cements Fuuka as the best character in this series.
All of this plays into their main objective this episode: setting up the interactive touch pools, which are a personal favorite of mine anytime I visited an aquarium in Japan. And of course, Fuuka is thrust into the thick of it as an attendant, which means learning more about the aquariums flora and fauna, as well as continuing to adjust to her new role as an ex-idol turned aquarium worker. Of course, this has some foibles aplenty, but it wouldn't be realistic if Fuuka didn't have some hiccups as she continues to adjust to this episode.
There's a certain seriousness to Fuuka in this episode that I found very in character for her, especially since it heavily ties into her past as an idol. By the end of this episode, it sets up a major growth arc for Fuuka, seeing as she'll eventually have to confront her past in full, though that former life definitely creeps back in this episode. But for now, Fuuka's (mostly) just a girl working at an aquarium, and that's enough for me as a viewer to keep me engaged in the larger, still developing plot. I wish she could stay as “just a girl” for longer, but realistically, aquatope seems to be leaning into helping her move through things. That's ultimately for the best, for sure.
One thing I keep reminding myself of is that aquatope is a two cour series: we're not a third the way through. We're a sixth and that does make a difference I say this because if episode 4 was the fourth out of twelve… I'd be a bit let down: it's slow, and while aquatope excels at its laid-back, relaxed pacing, that has the potential to become frustrating. As the fourth episode out one of two cours, it's… still somewhat sluggish, though it does a lot more in terms of setting up future plot elements, especially around Fuuka. It's tempering my expectations and turning this into the slow burn I crave as the summer heat turns extra balmy ahead of August and even more episodes of aquatope. And as an avid fanfic reader, let me tell you: I love slow burns, and this series has the makings of a slow burn so leisurely that I'll be on tenterhooks until the end of this year since thankfully, aquatope's cours are consecutive. (And it's great!)
In the premiere, I said that I was reading The aquatope on white sand as a yuri: I still readily am, because I personally think that queerness doesn't have to be overt to be queer. Yuri is the same: you can read yuri into a lot of series and contexts, and I'm willingly doing so here. But now, I'm also reading in bits of queerness overall to the cast, especially when it comes to Kuya: I suppose I have the forums to credit for that, to some degree, as well as my engagement with others on Twitter. It's a wonderful reading, and is definitely going to factor into some of my reading of aquatope's character growth and overall development.
That said, I'm starting to see the bond between these two girls (Fuuka and Kukuru, of course) deepen. They actually feel like friends, rather than just roommates who work together at the local aquarium. I can start to see those threads weaving themselves together, and while there's a lot more story to go, my ability to see the potential trajectory for Fuuka and Kukuru has dramatically increased. There's a wellspring of tender moments between the girls, and when Kukuru realizes just how hard Fuuka's trying for her dream, it gave me a case of the doki-doki's so badly that I had to dramatically drape myself on the sofa with a glass of water and Enya playing in the background. It's just so nice to see these two interacting, and even nicer to ven if they end up in a “gal pals” kind of relationship that lends itself to queer readings, I'll be happy. I just want them to be there for one another, in the end.
Overall, episode 4 is a bit of a mixed bag: it's a good episode, but it's surprisingly kind of “just okay” in a way. But… perhaps that's a bit of a disservice as episode 4 really feels like a transition episode and not a plot-forward episode. That's not bad: I think slower episodes in a longer series is inevitable, and honestly, kind of to be expected. Still, if this is a “weak” episode for The aquatope on white sand, I think we'll be okay, especially since aquatope laid the foundation for some serious Fuuka character growth. I'm definitely still excited to be watching, and look forward to seeing where things go next week.
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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