Episode 17, “Hangout Spot Kuragefuu” is decidedly a Very Adult Episode about matching up your days off with your gal pal. You know, your typical “we’re just friends” stuff which… okay, that’s a joke, don’t close the tab. It really is an episode about matching your schedule with your best friend, which is soundly where Kukuru and Fuuka are, though it does feel like two girlfriends inviting their friend girls, as we say in the South, into their apartments for a day of Netflix and chill, only it’s actually just chilling out. Also, for some reason, the thought of them finally having a day off really resonated with me, which is made even better because this isn’t just a hangout episode with Kukuru and Fuuka: it’s a girls’ day episode which is like, 1000% better.
This episode reminds me of just how beautiful female friendships can be when they’re not telegraphed through engaging with men, but instead through young women being allowed to be wholly themselves in whatever form of femininity that takes. More importantly, it’s a reminder that the lives of young women are as varied as they come, which is admittedly something that’s frequently missing from a lot of heavy-hitters when it comes to mainstream anime.
A lot of this is done through little moments with the girls and Kuuya – vignettes and snapshots of their day of snacking, relaxing, and chit-chat. It’s also done through character studies, which… well, this isn’t the first time The aquatope on white sand has delved into that. We got plenty of character studies with Kukuru, Fuuka, Kuuya, and even Kai in the first half of the series. Heck, Chiyu got an excellent character study a few weeks ago. If anything, character studies are kind of aquatope‘s bread and butter, which I love. But what makes this episode special is how it dips in and out of each girl, giving us “behind the scenes” snapshots into who exactly they are, and who they’ve grown to be after the time skip in episode 13.
Take, for example, Marina Yonekura, a Venezuelan-Japanese girl, and one of my favorite new characters in this season. As a foreigner who’s visibly foreign, Marina stands out in Japan, even in Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture that is not of Japan, but a territory that’s been retained by the country. As a foreigner, Marina had to do something I had to do when I moved to Japan: learn Japanese, a language that’s tricky in the way that all languages that aren’t your own are. Yet, as an attendant, Marina doesn’t need the language to do her job, because the sea creatures under her care don’t recognize those kinds of distinctions. Instead, the language they use is gestural – the language of care, one that’s easy to learn regardless of creed and nationality.
Another example is the skincare lesson Fuuka gives to the girls, which is a wholly feminine moment that’s played seriously. While makeup and skincare just aren’t things I’m into, it’s still a small moment that allows everyone to relax and be themselves. Also worth mentioning is the girls critiquing Udon-chan’s cooking in order to help her grow as a cook and person. Moments like these center the community surrounding Fuuka and Kukuru that the series have cultivated since episode one, which is the real magic of aquatope. The episode becomes even more enjoyable once more of the twenty-something aquarium staff like Chiyu join the party, and left me feeling warm long after the episode ended.
Episode 17 exemplifies all of what makes aquatope great and left a lasting impression on me. It feels like the culmination of weeks of effort, as the strong character foundation that is built up over the past twenty episodes is starting to pay off. Furthermore, all of these beautiful female friendships are framed positively through their tenderness and comfort and femininity, as opposed to cattiness, which The aquatope on white sand has largely avoided.
Like the perfect stew, all of these lovely ingredients come together for a really delightful episode that has me hungry for next week’s episode while still feeling satisfied with what I got this week. That’s not to say that everything is perfect: there’s a few hiccups here and there, and I’m still not too keen on the possibility of Kai being the endgame love interest, but by and large, this episode is deserving of the rating simply because it is exemplary, dings and all.
Come to think of it, episode 18 marks the final six weeks of our time with The aquatope on white sand. Excited as I am to see where all this leads, I also find myself prematurely wistful at its eventual departure. As an original series, it’s had its ups and downs, though thankfully, it’s had more ups than downs, though I might be speaking for myself. Still, wherever it lands, I won’t regret my time with aquatope, and will look back at it fondly.
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Mercedez is a JP-EN translation and localization Editor & Proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who, when not writing for ANN, writes for Anime Feminist, where she’s a staff editor, and for But Why Tho?. She’s also a frequent cohost on the Anime Feminist Podcast, Chatty AF. This season, she’s devouring Restaurant to Another World bite by delicious bite. When she’s not writing and reviewing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she’s always up to something.