I went into this show cautiously optimistic. I was like “Just because currently more popular yuri content creators bought into the hype does not mean I will be as ecstatic to see it though I am not pessimistic either.”. Question is whether the show is not only good but worth watching as a yuri fan. Let us find out as we take a look at Aquatope of White Sand/The Aquatope on White Sand.
Alternate Title: Shiroi Suna no Aquatope
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Office Lady (Kinda), Slice of Life, Supernatural (Kinda)
Themes: Aquarium, Coming of Age, Marine Biology, Yuri
Plot Summary: Gama Gama Aquarium is a small aquarium in Okinawa, an hour’s bus ride from Naha. Kukuru Misakino is an 18-year-old high school student who works there, and she knows about the “secret” of the aquarium: sometimes you can see mysterious things. One day Kukuru meets Fuuka, standing in front of a water tank with flowing hair and a tear rolling down her cheek. Fuuka has given up on her dream of becoming an idol and she has run away from Tokyo to Okinawa. Wanting to find a place to belong, Fuuka earnestly asks to work at the aquarium.
Put simply Aquatope is a pretty good work life anime with decent yuri. Let us talk about the work stuff first. The anime is split in two halves. Without spoiling much the first half can be seen as what a youngster aspiring for a dream job imagines working there is like while the second half is a bit more accurate description. Throughout the show viewers learn a lot about marine life, working in aquariums big and small, connecting it to other jobs involving animals like veterinarians or zookeepers and of course each character on the show has a dramatic backstory be they brief or spanning across the entire anime. These range from family issues, feeling aimless/directionless, discomfort at the workplace, personal secrets that might affect your work life, meaningful life lessons about caring for the environment and of course feelings toward coworkers. In a sense watching Aquatope felt like watching SHIROBAKO. Yes they are two entirely different jobs but aside from the difference between making anime and caring for marine life a lot of the behind the scenes jobs are similar such as marketing and human resources to name a few examples. It is all quite fascinating.
There are some supernatural elements in the form of aquatic visions which serve their purpose well in the first half but are almost entirely absent in the second half. As mentioned above the first half is more youthful while the second is grounded in adulthood.
Moving on to the presentation. The underwater effects are all excellent. It perfectly captures the aquatic ambiance aquariums are going for, specifically medium and large ones though small ones have their own charm too as shown in the anime. The various sea creatures shown from the smallest of fishes to the impressive whale shark are all well animated in 2D and CG. The character designs are nice too, especially the ladies of both light and tan skin. The soundtrack does its job of being calm and atmospheric like an aquarium while the two OPs and EDs are all nice too.
Before we get to our main duo let us briefly go over the side-characters. Most are likable, some are fulfill a role and not much else and a few are intentionally hard to like. To be precise one is hard to like at first but mellows down a bit whereas the other is meant to be disliked and does a good job of being unlikable that by the time the truth about them is revealed it is not enough to change many minds. Then there is Udon’s sexy fortunetelling mom who I would LOVE to have seen more of.
Oh right. At one point it may look like there is “hetero danger” but worry not. This guy mainly serves as part of one of our heroines’ character growth than a love interest so that is not an issue.
Finally we have our main duo of Kukuru and Fuuka. Their whole journey can be summed up as “coming of age”. Some teenage angst but not carried away. Their growths are both very cool and worth watching the show for that reason. As for the yuri…this kind of soft yuri was done better in other anime. The journey was nice but again I have seen this particular destination done better elsewhere. Let me use school progression as an example without spoiling anything. The student got good grades for the most part but in the final year BARELY got enough to graduate. I will say it was done better than in Carole and Tuesday, but not by much. Well, in the penultimate episode I hoped the writers would end their story with a bang and I suppose they gave us something. Better than nothing.
Overall Aquatope of White Sand is a pretty good work life anime with okay yuri. The supporting cast all do their jobs well, the drama and educational portions of the story are all interesting and the main duo’s coming of age journeys are a highlight. While their road to yuri is undeniably good I have seen a similar destination done better in other anime. Maybe they can get away with more in the manga adaptation. In any case it is worth checking out at least once as an anime and maybe the yuri too so long as expectations are kept to a minimum.