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.
17 thoughts on “The Aquatope on White Sand – Dreams can be so Shellfish”
“I’m a little passed being either elated or depressed about dreams for my future career.”
Wait until you hit your mid-life crisis…you’ll suddenly discover a whole new relevance in slice-of-life anime….
Or is that too mopey?
well unless I live a very long time I’m pretty sure I’m there
Oh please…a young ‘un like you???
I liked Aquatope, but I agree that there was a lot of mopeyness (mopiness? no idea) to it. Since you bring up the binge form of watching anime, I’ll say I think it helped that I watched it as it aired, once a week — spacing it out helped me take the downer parts of it more easily. I didn’t mind the slowness of the series, but again, that might have to do watching it as it aired.
As for the drama, I thought it was done pretty well, and I’m really not the kind who usually goes for this interpersonal drama sort of stuff especially in anime. But that also means it’s not exactly a relaxing show to watch either. Definitely not for everyone!
I think weekly watching would have changed my experience a lot. Probably for the better
You made a rad review, very detailed. I never heard of this anime or even knew about it, but it seems like it would be a good watch. Something I will need to add to my backlog of anime. :3
I feel your pain. Anime backlog monsters are scary
Yup. Anime backlog monsters are too strong. We can only hold them at bay.
Another one to check out. I’m intrigued by the message. I agree with you. It’s something we don’t see very often.
I suggest you don’t binge it like I did. I think it will make for a better watch
I quite liked the show; not favourite level, but good mid-tier for PA Works, and I like PA Works. The studio is quite similar to KyoAni in quite a few respects (they also have their inhouse properties that tend to be recognisable in style – this is one of them, I think). The character designs are very reminiscent of Iroduku – the World in Colour (or what the name was; I didn’t google). They tend to use the same type of designs for a few shows.
I must admit the mid-season development was quite a welcome surprise. I didn’t mind switching to other characters. My favourite character was without a doubt Kukuru’s Grandpa. A passionate, kind, layed-back old man with both eyes open to reality.
I probably wouldn’t have wanted to marathon the show either. I do imagine the drama would have gotten exhausting all in one go.
Oh yeah, grandpa needs his own show. It’s not a binging show
I like fish and aquariums so I might give this a try purely on “oooo pretty” basis. I never had that huge passionate dream that just had to happen – always been pretty pleased just to survive and find some happiness and beauty in life and love (and I’ve been VERY fortunate in that regard). Thus I find this insistence in fiction on the dream that crushes all barriers a bit – almost not a good idea – because sometimes you DON’T get your dream – and sometimes, that’s a good thing. I was just listening to a podcast interviewing a woman scientist who is clearly really happy with her research specialty and her life – yet her dream when young was to be a vet. In college, after so much focus on all the pre-cursors you need for vet school (and it’s no joke) and even qualifying for vet school (again, not easy), she took an opportunity to work in a wildlife rehab, which led to an interest in turtles, which led to reading research on them, which led to an internship helping turtle research. When she later took an opportunity to intern at a vet lab, she discovered she didn’t really like it. She missed doing the field work. She switched to a focus on research and is clearly super happy. There’s this country song by Garth Brooks named “Unanswered Prayers” that kinda says it all. Sometimes you don’t get your dream (or prayer) but what you do get actually is what is right for you and what makes you really happy in life. I just said all this and I dunno if the girls end up happy in this anime… LOL. But, it can happen.
I take it you haven’t seen the show, but you mentioning turtles and research in the comments made me chuckle. If you ever watch the show the show, you’ll know why (I think).
Now I really have to watch it…
I do think it’s a nice anime to watch on just oooohhh pretty basis. As for dreams, these are teens so there’s some intensity of youth there but it’s actually nice how they balance out passion with realism and how one’s idea of happiness grows with them