I still don’t know if I should be ashamed or not of that pun. It’s very bad, don’t get me wrong. But it made me very happy. Especially as I unintentionally wrote it down. This is probably the first time that my maiden tongue being typo was actually useful for something. Depending on your definition of useful that is.
- Titles: Aquatope of White Sand, The two girls met in the ruins of damaged dream
- Genre: Drama, slice of work,
- Episodes: 24
- Studio: P.A. Works
Kukuru is a spirited orphan girl who was raised by her grandparents who run a small aquarium. She loves that place. I guess I would too. It is a little bit magical after all. But it’s also old. And potentially too expensive to upkeep. That’s what her grandfather thinks but Kukuru is not going to listen. She’ll save Gama Gama aquarium herself if she has to. Maybe not just herself. Fuka, a young lady who has just given up her dream to be an idol has just arrived in town. And what better way to get over the heartache of a broken dream, than to help someone else with their own. This is the story about two girls trying to understand that sometimes, dreams are just dreams. There’s also a lot of fish. It’s pretty.
The subtitle of this series is The Two Girls Met in the Ruins of Damaged Dream. I love it. It’s kind of poetic, the idea of meeting in the ruins of a dream. There’s something very evocative about that sentence. But the way it’s worded is very odd and overdramatic. Exactly what you want out of an anime title. Personally, I like it better than Aquatope. Although I was fooled into thinking it was a real word for a while. So I guess they win this round.
Aquatope looks pretty good. It occasionally gave me KyoAni vibes but not quite. I’m not sure if that’s what P.A. Works were going for. But I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the character designs. They aren’t bad but just not that memorable. They also lack a bit in detail but don’t make up for it in cuteness. So I wouldn’t say it’s a beautiful anime in that regard.
However, it has some stunning backgrounds. Aquatope on White Sand was one of those anime that made me long for a vacation. Okinawa looks stunning in this show. The tiny and slightly dilapidated Gama Gama has so much presence and later the ultra-modern Tingarla creates an awesome contrast. It’s one of those shows where I found the settings had much more visual personality than the characters.
But there’s also the light. I was going to mention that characters do look attractive in certain scenes and then I realized, they look great in shadows. Whenever the light is not a simple flat illumination, the images come to life. There’s so much depth in those scenes that I almost wish the entire series was set in twilight somehow. Shadows are handled beautifully.
Story & Characters
Sometime throughout the second cour of this show, I wrote this amazingly profound note: This show is kind of mopey. And it is. It’s kind of mopey.
The subtitle of the series really tells you what the show is about. Friendship and letting go of your dreams. And you know, I kind of like that messaging. We rarely see that in media. It’s always never give up, chase your dreams to the edge of the world but in Aquatope, we explore a story about letting dreams die. And that wording may sound a bit harsh but it is how they put it in the show.
Sometimes, the dreams we have just don’t pan out. Maybe reality doesn’t match up to the ideal in our heads. And our dreams change but it’s still painful to let go of something that was your whole life. Sometimes dreams are just too big, too hard too impossible or at least impractical. Sometimes dreams hurt us and sometimes they hurt those around us. There are plenty of reasons to let go of a dream and Aquatope explores a lot of them without judgment. I think that’s a fairly unique message and I enjoyed seeing it. But let’s face it, it’s not super cheery.
What’s more, at 24 episodes, I think it’s a bit long. The second cour dragged a bit for me. The thing is, I was really looking forward to that second cour. Without giving anything away, it marks a very important change in the flow of the story and I thought that seeing the characters within this new context was going to be really interesting. And it was, for a few episodes. It’s just that after a while, the last third or so felt aimless. Or rather, it felt like the story was going around in circles. The characters seem to be experiencing one type of setback or conflict, resolving it and then resetting and going right back to the same conflict.
There are also a lot of new characters, and they just never got a chance to get developed as much as those we had known since the beginning. Obviously. But since these characters play a central role in the latter part of the series, while the older characters get pushed to the sidelines, the fact that we don’t get to know them as much makes the action feel shallower.
In a lot of ways, I am not the intended audience for Aquatope. I’m a little passed being either elated or depressed about dreams for my future career. I can relate to the idea and maybe I’ll muster up enough passion to have that sort of dream again but for now, I’m in a comfortable and much calmer place. I’m also very easily annoyed by drama. We get it, your sad… This post is not making me sound like a very nice person.
And Aquatope really is mopey. Not only is the subject matter kind of a downer, but we also spend a lot of time watching either Kukuru or Fuka be depressed about something. Sometimes both of them at the same time, but rarely. They take turns usually!
On paper, I’m likely to enjoy Aquatope on White Sand way less than the average anime fan. Although I think there are some weaknesses in the show that are going to show up even for huge drama fans with a passion for aquariums.
Also, in my opinion, Aquatope is not a show that should be binged. The emotional impact of the episodes (which is key to this show) has some serious diminishing returns if you watch too many in a row. It also exacerbates the pacing issues of the second cour.
However, I found that if you space out your viewing experience a bit, and you know what you’re in for, it can be a pretty nice way to spend an evening. I enjoyed Aquatope for what it was. There’s a pretty good chance I will forget it but I don’t regret watching it in the least. And even though I think the story would have been better served with a tighter episode count, like 16, it wasn’t a chore watching all the way to the end.
You might like this anime if:
You’re looking for a workplace anime that has tons of beaches. You really like aquariums. You can’t find a better anime for aquarium lovers.
My favourite character:
It’s between Udon-san, Ojii and Kuuya…
- Every time anyone says Fuka is pretty – take a sip
- Every time Kuuya complains – roll your eyes
- Every time anyone drinks – join them
- Every time anyone experiences aquarium illusion – you’ll know it when you see it
- Every time there’s a rainbow – cheer
- Every time we see an Idol – clap
- Every time red shoes make an appearance – take a sip
- Every time anyone prays to the seaside shrine – take a sip
- Every time Gousuke hurts his back – oh no!
- Every time Ojii is wearing a massager – stretch
- Every time we see the red-haired seas sprite(?) – what is that thing?
- Every time Kukuru and Kai practice punches – take a sip
- Every time Kukuru gets called plankton – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.