3 Episode Rule – The Aquatope on White Sand

3 Episode Rule is a series in which I watch the first three episodes of a new anime and decide whether to stick with it or drop it based on those three episodes alone.

I decided to take this series on for little other reason outside of it being a slice of life show set within an Aquarium. I don’t know if it comes from growing up in one of the most landlocked parts of the U.K. but I’ve always had this obsession with the Ocean, sea-life and visiting Aquariums.

It was only after picking this series up that I realised it was from P.A. Works; the studio behind another series that someone managed to jump out at me last year: The Day I became a God. While I ended up feeling pretty mixed on that series by the end, it was a genuine personal story that kept me hooked all the way till the final episode.

I think a more direct translation of the Japanese title for this one is “The two girls met in the ruins of damaged dream“, at least that what is says whenever the Japanese title pops up on screen. I guess the people behind the translation didn’t think that title would really strike true with the international audience. Although it gives a much clearer idea of what the nature of this series is than the nonsensical one we did get.

The series stars two girls: Fuuka and Kukuru. Both girls are on the verge of leaving high school and bare a weight on their shoulders. We learn about Fuuka in the first episode, how she moved from Morioka in northern Japan to Tokyo to pursue her dream of becoming an idol.

The first things we learn about her is that she is giving up on her dream and returning home. It’s not really super clear to begin with whether she’s being forced out by the industry or she’s giving up on her own. But when she’s on the phone to her mom, who doesn’t seem too broken up about her daughter’s dream being in tatters, Fuuka makes the snap decision to board a plane to Okinawa instead.

Once there, she stumbles around aimlessly. Bumping into several of the native population, who are all incredibly friendly and welcoming of her. It’s a good thing too.

As the series goes on, It comes to light that Fuuka was on the verge of breaking through as an idol but ended up passing the opportunity on to another girl after overhearing the girl giving a sob story to their manager. I’ve watched enough anime to know that the idol industry is a cutthroat one, and Fuuka just lacks that killer instinct to really drive her forward in the entertainment industry.

She’s just too naïve, too nice. Which all eventually leads her to the Gama Gama Aquarium, she has something of a revelation. Seeing the small fish in the tanks working incredibly hard to maintain the cleanliness of the tanks, but retreating to the background often, left unnoticed in comparison to the bigger, more brightly coloured reef fish. She discovers a kinship with the animals in the Aquarium, which ends up being a common theme amongst many people who have experiences there.

The other side of the story is Kukuru. A local girl whose grandfather owns and operates said Gama Gama Aquarium. We learn that he is planning on retiring at the end of Summer, and has decided to close the place down, as the machinery is too old and the cost of maintaining it all has become too much for the income the sleepy little spot can support.

Kukuru is passionately dedicated to the Aquarium and desperate to take it over from her grandfather, somehow looking for some way bring extra money and keep the place open permanently, taking over as director when she graduates high school.

Which is where the two girl’s stories collide with one another. Fuuka, desperate to do anything that avoids going home and admitting failure to her family and friends, begs Kukuru to allow her to stay and work at the Aquarium. To which Kukuru agrees, as they’re desperately short on staff.

It’s your typical “save the family business” trope setup, something you’d see in a Halmark Christmas movie. Kukuru only has a month to save the business that is her only real connection to her dead parents with nothing but pluck, gumption and a collection of friends around her to do it.

It occurs to me that Fuuka and Kukuru are polar opposites from one another. I get the impression that Fuuka’s broken dreams are all a result of her own inaction, her fear to plunge in headfirst and take her own future by the scruff of the neck. On the other hand, Kukuru has put everything on the line for her dream, missing a whole bunch of school and sacrificing other future prospects, pinning every hope she’s got on the Aquarium.

By the time the second episode is over, the girls have come clean with one another over their personal situations and Fuuka resolves to do everything she can to help Kukuru achieve her dream.

The whole Aquarium aspect of the series isn’t as focused on as I thought it might be. Honestly, they spend more time with Penguins in those first three episodes than they do the fish. But on occasions there are they dream-like sequences where people within the aquarium experience these moments of bliss. Seeing themselves in the water, amongst the serene beauty of the sea-life shimmering around them.

It makes you realise there is something magical about the place that does make it saving. And honestly, I can totally agree. Like I said, I love Aquariums.

Verdict: I am positively charmed and invested in this show already

The slow, slice of life pace of the series is a nice change of pace for me after last season. I like the characters and I love the setting. Okinawa seems like a beautiful place. Although P.A. Works does an amazing job of capturing a time and the feeling of a place in their settings. They did the same thing with The Day I Become a God and the main characters announcement that the world was coming to an end.

It’s actually discovering where this series comes from that that gives me some real sense of unease about where this story might end up going. While their previous show started off as this cute little slice of life, it became a very bittersweet story of lost youth and hope for the future by the time it was over.

Which makes me wonder if Fuuka and Kukuru’s dreams are destined to be shattered by the time this series reaches its conclusion. Surely they wouldn’t pull that same emotional gut punch twice in a row? Would they?

For now though, this is a lovely little slice of life taking place in an environment I love to see expanded upon on screen. It’s strange, when I was shortlisting the series I was planning on watching this season, this wasn’t the one I thought I’d end up feeling the most positively about. Guess this series does prove its worthwhileness to me still doing it.

3 thoughts on “3 Episode Rule – The Aquatope on White Sand

  1. This is the only currently airing series I’ve been following so far (though I might fix that soon) and my thoughts are the same. It’s a beautiful-looking show, and I don’t mind the slow pace — since it’s 24 episodes long, I expected as much anyway, but Okinawa is a great setting and the characters are pretty nice so far. I can also see the potentially heavy ending you mentioned possibly coming up, though I kind of hope we avoid that. I’ve had enough bittersweet regret and all that in my life; I don’t really need to see more to be reminded of it. But it can be done really well too.

    Liked by 1 person

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