The Difficulty of Starting Aquatope
Shirobako is an amazing piece of anime. It captures that energy of why people love making anime while also showing a bit about the behind the scenes of how anime is produced. This feels like the real point where most people at that time period became interested in learning more about that underline. It had a lot of great characters and really interesting and/or dramatic turns that while showing animation studios struggling, never lost how much fun the production staff creating it were having producing anime. When the movie came out, it was an easy decision to just jump in and watch it.
Shirobako was produced under the vision of PA work’s working girl series with the second one being Sakura Quest. A little series about girls working hard in an out of nowhere town trying to get the attention of mainstream japan. You know, tourism. Except for me, the series didn’t wow me at all. It was just kind of ok. I’m not sure if it was because I wanted more Shirobako which this wasn’t or it legitimately was just a meh series. Seeing that Aquatope was the third series in that bunch really made me unsure about it. Even hearing all of the good opinions that came out of it, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it until recently.
Aquatope’s First Cour Story
This is a series that follows two young teenagers. The major character being Fuuka; an idol that quits at the beginning of the series due to not making her dreams come true. She runs away from home after rejecting whatever her mom is playing and shows up in a small town. A small town that has the very fish obsessed Kukuru who is the acting director of an aquarium that is falling apart, Gamma Gamma. Through some miracles combined together, Fuuka works at the Aquarium that Kukuru is currently running for her grandfather.
So that is the beginning of the first half of this anime about this tale of these two girls and everyone around them growing up and chasing dreams. The main focus character is Kukuru because she is leading that charge. What happens if Kukuri leaves behind her childhood she found in Gama Gama, a failing Aquarium without proper maintenance. Will her supposed sister and more worldly figure, Fuuka, be able to help with her dream as long as it can? Because even if this is an episodic show, there is a very clear guideline of nothing is going to save Gamma Gamma from it’s inevitable sort of closure. It’s sad, but it’s always going to happen.
Some Commentary On It
I’m not going to lie, this cour is much stronger and well put together than the second cour. It is a smaller scale kind of story focused on one place and a smaller cast of characters. I mean, the story in general is still Kukuru’s right? She’s driving the entire thing with her childish nature not allowing any bit of it to fail despite everything at work. Then there is Fuuka who ran away from home after failing as an idol and she is the character we follow because she is the outsider. With Fuuka helping Kukuru with her dream, Fuuka starts seeing possibilities for her future as she helps feed penguins and helps out whether she can in Gama Gama. All while the mysterious Tingarla Aquarium looms over everything.
Then the rest of the cast have such a good synergy together whether it being when they are working or out of work. Karin, for instance, works with the tourism industry and is good in that role, but slowly starts to want to help work at an aquarium. Then there is the childhood friend Kai whose dad is a sailor and is there to help at the aquarium when he has the chance. I think the best friend in all of it is Tsukimi who is working hard on her own dream of becoming a professional cook while working at her mother’s diner. She’s honestly my favorite. I still love Kukuru’s grandpa because you can tell he has a lot of knowledge and is honestly the most intelligent person that people ignore or just don’t understand until the right moment. He’s good.
Aqautope’s Second Cour and Kukuru
This cour takes place after the entire cast has graduated highschool and became a member of Tingarla Aquarium. An aquarium that is really huge and much more like the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium compared to a barely functional mom and pop shop. So the beginning does feel disjointed (on purpose I feel) for when Kukuru who has worked with feeding fish all her life is now put into the marketing department. Especially when everyone else, besides Karin who is also in marketing, are doing essentially what they did before only for a very specific sort of department. Even when Fuuka shows up, she works with the penguins.
So the main arc of this section is about Kukuru’s struggle doing something that is out of her element. She has plenty of bad days where she can’t see beyond her former role of being an attendant and that lessens her job there. You know, even if her boss Tetsuji is a dumb ass who isn’t making her transition any easier. I mean, he is a complete jerk that doesn’t even train. Her training is being thrown into the deep end and trying to find her own way to swim. Especially with the building of a wedding venue which is the last piece that Kukuru does after building a behind the scenes tour and costume events. Finding success in that wedding venue was everything for her.
Fuuka and Everyone Else
While Fuuka was kind of there and helping in the first cour, her story was pushed a bit more in the second cour. Almost like everything that was supposed to happen in the first cour regarding Fuuka actually happened now. After all the work of learning about and helping penguins, she fully let go of her idol identity during the shot about Tangirla that featured her former Kouhai. Then Fuuka’s interest in learning about the environment led her to going to Hawaii and study beyond her location. Her first dream failed, but she definitely found another one and Kukuru pushed her towards it.
As for the rest of the cast, there is a lot more of them now. They kind of do their jobs and have some small interactions here and there that define them as more than just puppets that are there. There really is a sense of direction in all of that which makes Tingarla feel like a living breathing Aquarium with a lot of good people working there. Some people who were jerks in the first cour actually had a lot of their motivations of why they were a jerk then. Plus, this is where the show felt a lot more Shirobako in a way because of that goofy sort of relations between each cast member. It was different enough to feel good without it pushing any of that too hard.
Compiling Thoughts of Aquatope
Like a lot of PA works shows, Aquatope is a beautiful looking show. Every inch of it, including some fish and other animal cg, was really good. Some really lavish and wonderful backgrounds showing not only the differences between Aqauriums but how people lived and worked. Some really good facial and great character animation in between them too. This show did a fantastic job of making the world so realistic with some special bits of fantastic that didn’t push any of it too far. Even if the character designs are generally really cute so Fuuka doesn’t stand out as much as she should, I really don’t have many more complaints.
This is a really good show. I don’t think it captures the highs that Shirobako did, but The Aquatope of White Sand stands alone as its own really good show. A show not about characters following their dreams, but seeing their dreams fail and trying to continue onward anyway. It really does feel hard to convey something like that through animation because it would be easy just for characters to have dreams and follow them. Aquatuope does all of this without leaving that realm of positivity. It is a really positive show that just faces the reality that Shirobako only kind of did. Yeah, please watch this one. Don’t be like me and watch it later then I should have.