First Impression: The aquatope on white sand

“I guess she wasn’t cut out for it.” With those words from her manager, Fuuka Miyazawa’s childhood hopes of idol fame are soundly put to rest. Truly, she’d tried her hardest to excel as an idol, throwing herself into practices and spending late nights practicing her routines. But she simply wasn’t as good or as popular as the other girls. And when she overheard the earnest pleas of one of the auditioning juniors, begging her manager for a spot on the team, she simply couldn’t help but think that this was her fate: to acquiesce her position to someone more talented, someone more fit to be an idol than her.*

Left with no other choice, Fuuka decides to quit. She packs up her Tokyo apartment, bids farewell to the tearful junior in question, and heads to the airport, her dreams shattered. On a whim, she decides to travel to Okinawa instead of home, fearing the laborious festivities her family and friends have planned for her. And after a series of peculiar happenings, she ends up visiting Gama Gama Aquarium, run by Kukuru Misakino, a high-schooler who’s particularly obsessed with aquatic life. Kukuru gives Fuuka a tour of the aquarium, which, as we eventually discover, is considerably short-staffed. But the sights of the aquarium have captured Fuuka’s heart; and whether it’s the salt in the air or her notable lack of water, she ends up begging Kukuru to let her stay. Maybe, in the expansive halls of the aquarium, she’ll be able to find a new dream for herself.

Before I get to talking about what happened in this episode, can I just take a moment to talk about how gorgeous this show looks? I’m getting Nagi no Asukara vibes, which makes perfect sense, as Aquatope is being produced and directed by the same talent that worked on that show. The attention to natural details, to lighting and shadows, to framing and depthβ€”it’s simply breathtaking. I might run out of drive space for screenshots before this show ends! The music and sound design bears mentioning as well here. I liked how they introduced Fuuka in her silent apartment room; the stillness weighs on us the same way it’s weighing on her, as she reflects on the goals and aspirations that she once possessed but no longer does. That tender attention to detail, for the most part, persists throughout the episode, making this premiere one of the highlights this season.

Now, let’s get back to the story, which also gives me NagiAsu vibes, though not for very positive reasons. I will say that I really like how they’re setting up Fuuka’s character; she reminds me of Kyouka from Remake Our Life, but far more consistent and poignant. You feel the same dejection that Fuuka feels as her dreams deteriorate before her eyes, the same crushing weight of the expectations of those around her, the same longing for freedom and purpose. She was the highlight of this episode, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her character. Kukuru, on the other hand, definitely reminds me of Manaka, or alternatively of every other genki female lead. I didn’t like NagiAsu in part because Manaka’s genuine emotions and her critical role in the story were overshadowed by her generic character. I’m hoping Kukuru doesn’t fall prey to the same fate. And I’m similarly hopeful for the whole show. P.A. Works has a tendency to produce works that look great, with lively and expansive worlds, but that ultimately don’t live up to their own expectations. Aquatope promises to be a hopeful coming-of-age story about conquering one’s regrets and pushing forward for the sake of a brighter future. Let’s see if the show can keep that promise.

*Truly, first impressions are a treacherous business. I’m not exactly sure why Fuuka ended up quitting, but from what I can tell from the first episode, this seems like the reason. Forgive me if my assumption is proven to be widely off-base.

The aquatope on white sand is airing on Crunchyroll. Read our thoughts on all the new summer anime series, in addition to comments from our other writers, on our Summer 2021 Anime First Impression master post.


11 thoughts on “First Impression: The aquatope on white sand

  1. I went into this one because the animation looked stellar and because Yuru Camp and Super Cub have gotten me the habit of watching one “chill” show per season, but that opening episode hit harder than expected. I don’t want to oversell it, but the moment where Fuuka decides that jetting off to Okinawa with zero plan sounds better than going home and having to endure a “cheering up” party- I *get* that.

    1. The classic trope of “All Hope Is Lost So Let’s Do Something Stupid”–except that it feels more poignant here somehow. I’m really looking forward to where this show’s going πŸ˜€

      1. I read it as more of a product of her introversion. She was already physically and emotionally exhausted, so the thought of having to turn around, put on a brave face to avoid looking like a “Debbie Downer”, and deal with large numbers of people was more than she could handle. I also really like how she intentionally turns off her phone- some people need to process things alone first, and even genuine well-wishers can be more of a burden than a benefit if they intrude on that phase of the emotional cycle.

        1. Good points. I think she was probably also overwhelmed by how others were responding to her resignation (her boss dismissing her hard work and her co-worker blaming it on herself), so that unexpected party was probably the last straw. Definitely some lessons to learn about how even our positive intentions can come off as negative if we don’t think about how the other person feels.

          1. Imma hop in on this too because I totally agree with Power Up Or Die that there is a great deal of depth and delicacy going on here, not just in the art (and music), but also in the characterization. I read her manager/agent and the junior idol as being completely disingenuous and all that is worst about the fakery of the entertainment industry, and Fuuka’s decision to flee as a desperate urgency to find something real and genuine, a safe place to heal, without the manipulation she encountered in Tokyo. She’s searching for a place where she can dream again, and following that magical encounter with her spirit fish, maybe she’s found it at the aquarium. I would say this has a much greater depth to it, emotionally, than the typical PA Works s-o-l, which I also love, but I have really high hopes for this one.

            1. That’s super interesting that you read their responses as disingenuous. That definitely explains her impulse to run away, though it’s a little hard for me to see how the junior idol could be faking it (Was that one flashback scene meant to show how she was pushing behind-the-scenes for Fuuka’s replacement? I didn’t pick up on that if it was the case). It also explains the magic realism at the end, which I didn’t mention in the post because I didn’t understand why it showed up…

              1. Maybe I’m just cynical, but yeah, I thought the flashback was hinting that the younger one was gunning for Fuuka’s spot behind her back, and Fuuka just decided it wasn’t worth fighting anymore if that was what holding onto her center spot would require. I think she expected to find the kind of magical experience in being an idol that instead she encounters at the aquarium… Hopefully in time, All Will Be Revealed! I really like how Fuuka gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and treats them as if they are being genuine, even when she’s overheard their backbiting…she seems like a gracious character in that way.

    2. Ikr? So relatable — but also definitely an introvert thing (as you say below). This is my Yuru Camp/Super Cub of the season as well. I really appreciate the details in characterization here — like the moment when Fuuka is essentially laying her dream to rest in her empty apartment, and all that is used to convey the weightiness of the moment is a slight dropping of her eyes. So subtle and yet so powerful.

  2. Great post on this new anime! It certainly looks beautiful, I want to check it out πŸ™‚ Thanks for reviewing it, added to my queue.

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