The aquatope on white sand
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 1 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
The aquatope on white sand ?
I would like to begin by telling you that for the sake of my watch —and subsequently, my reviews— I will be considering The aquatope on white sand to be a yuri series. Whether or not we'll get actual yuri in this original story or not is still up in the air, but I can't help but see this as yuri-coded right from the start. After all, aquariums and water-themed places are known hangouts for women who love women, so… we'll just see how things go, starting with episode 1, “The Tropical Fish Ran Away.”
We start off in balmy, sunny Okinawa on a clear blue day. It solidly establishes the island—a former kingdom turned Japan's southernmost and westernmost prefecture—as the setting for the story of two girls: blue-haired Kukuru, and fallow brown-haired Yuka. The opening is quite pleasant: it's beautifully scored with the distinct sound of a sanshin paired with simple piano melodies that meander their way into an upbeat song as the girls move through the world, one already in Okinawa, the other heading there. In fact, the score elevates the rest of the premiere for me, filling the anime with gorgeous sound design that evokes the feeling of being in or around water. Those two elements make the Gama Gama Aquarium where Kukuru and Fuka first meet feel otherworldly, which is kind of how aquariums naturally feel.
What ensues is a meet-cute of sorts that matches two girls on opposite ends of the spectrum with one another: a pair who I immediately cottoned to and found myself liking. I get the feeling I'll be more a fan of Fuka—who matches my own personality—than the brash, often quick-tempered Kukuru, who's raison d'être is fish, fish, and more fish (that is, fishing, eating fish, or the care and keeping of fish at the Gama Gama Aquarium). This is both good and bad: her tunnel vision for all of the creatures of the sea have landed her in extra summer lessons, though she's rather unfazed by anyone's opinion of her behavior.
Yet this is only the beginning of their subsequent “friendship”, which develops further in Episode 2, “Getting Wet is Part of the Job.” A lot of episode 2 is more character building and critical tidbits of info that establish just what kind of young folk Fuka and Kukuru are. It's easiest to start with the latter: Kukuru is soundly, by the end of this episode, an absolute aquarium nerd dead set on rehabilitating parts of Gama Gama Aquarium on her own terms. She's not afraid of hard work, especially when it comes to the maintenance of the aquarium, which while commendable, also makes her quite strict and unforgiving, even if she's just looking out for the animals in her care. Her diligence towards the aquarium feels earnest, despite her age, and she's not unyielding: that's important to remember as Fuka grows into her position at the aquarium.
On the other end of the spectrum is our former idol, Fuka. Fuka is a bit harder to puzzle out, but that feels intentional, given how she starts this series. She's still quite reserved, but starting work at the aquarium will most likely force her to be a bit more playful down the line. That air of quiet seriousness from the first episode ends up coming back full force, resulting in a pitifully comedic scene in the middle of episode 2 that reinforced Fuka's intense feelings of loneliness. However, Fuka is also deeply loyal and has her morals about her: that's largely why I really found myself liking her more, even though it's quite apparent how much backlash Fuka's overt kindness and constant consideration of others has brought to her.
Because of this dynamic, it's easy to get swept up in The aquatope on white sand's premiere episodes. Easier still to close your eyes and listen to the soundtrack, to the bubbling, babbling water sounds and just… let go. The blend of strings and sea creature noises create this wonderful atmosphere all throughout the premiere that's hard to put into words. It's special, and I certainly look forward to experiencing more of it. To make a pun, I want to dive right into aquatope's depths. There's something special here: I can really feel it.
Yet it's hard to say why exactly. Overall, I enjoyed these first two episodes very much. They're not breaking any molds, nor are they revolutionary. In fact, I would say that the power of these first two episodes is the fact that they aren't shock and awe or over-the-top dramatic, which is why they're so impactful. It helps that aquatopehas two very strong leads in Fuka and Kukuru, who —despite a rocky start— seem primed to have a really tender and meaningful relationship. They're intensely relatable characters, especially Fuka, who's grieving the end of a chapter of her young life.
It's still too early to make any predictions about aquatope's the larger story. What we get in episodes 1 and 2 is compelling; it's clear from certain events so far is that there will definitely be a magical, otherworldly element to this series, but I just hope that it won't come at the sacrifice of Fuka and Kukuru's tender, tentative friendship and potential relationship.
More than anything, I hope The aquatope on white sand will focus on Fuka and Kukuru finding themselves through one another, as well as through their lives in Okinawa. This, when paired with the fluid, gorgeous animation—it made me think of the better parts of Wonder Egg Priority at times—makes me hope aquatope can deliver on its pleasant combo of magical realism, aquariums, soft sapphics searching for themselves, and introspective, realistic character growth.
Mind you, we're only at the beginning of adhesion: Fuka and Kukuru are nowhere near a true friendship, nor even a romance. They've only just become acquaintances, and that hinges on Fuka becoming good at her job as an animal keeper at the aquarium. If she messes up like she did in episode 2, things might fall apart. On the other hand, Kukuru is only just starting to understand Fuka, and Fuka still has a lot of distance between connecting with Kukuru on a deeper level. Fair, I think, given this is only the beginning of something new for both girls.
Yet what Fuka and Kukuru do have is a dream: a shared dream of something more, of something bigger for the aquarium, and perhaps… themselves. That potential for “something more” is more than enough to get me hooked on aquatope. I've got high hopes for this series. If everything comes together, it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful new series this season.
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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