I knew from the moment this finale episode opened with the OP that we were in for something special. Regardless of the preceding weeks—which had provided some of the most heartfelt, earnest moments of the show thus far—there was an air of something unique here. And while I did privately crave one last cold open, I also couldn’t help but find myself excited to see where episode 24, “The aquatope on white sand” would land us.
We start the finale with a lot of reflection on Kukuru, a girl who has dedicated herself, bodily, to the care and keeping of aquatic animals. When we first met her, she did so with a child’s heart: now, she does so with an adult’s perspective and a bond with Fuuka that simple can’t be broken. It’s a beautiful way to start off a finale that’s wholly about community, which has been a throughline since episode 1 when Kukuru and Fuuka first met. It’s only natural that as viewers prepare to leave this series ahead of a new season, the show would return back to its roots and drive home its most important message.
Once again, Kukuru steps out of her role as just a PR staff member and gets to return to caretaking as she and the staff of Tingaara prepare the wedding space by stocking it with all manner of sea life. It’s a task, but no one’s alone: the entire staff shows up and gently ushers the creatures into their new home. Yet… Kukuru’s no longer an attendant: she’s actually a genuine PR member, combining her own work with animals into making a making a couple’s big day as special as possible.
What her efforts—and the efforts of all the staff members—results in is a gorgeous wedding set in the White Sand Dome, Tingaara’s wedding venue under the sea. It’s the kind of moment that brought me happy tears because it’s just so sweet, and it’s the culmination of so much hard work. It really marks just how far Kukuru has come, and while we won’t see how far she’ll go (because finale), there’s this lingering sense, very early on, that things will be okay, that she’s found her stride, especially when the wedding planner thanks her.
A lot of episode 24 is this: it’s seeing the culmination of growth, and the result of Kukuru’s efforts. It’s seeing her settle in and grow around the grief of Tingaara as she starts to see a brighter future where her work still matters and benefits the animals she loves so much. All of it comes across, clear as can be, because of the entire design of this episode. There’s these gorgeous swells of music as Kukuru and her community navigate their roles, these beautiful piano and string pieces that made my heart swell and my chest tighten as it finally sinks in that this is it: this is my final time watching this show. It’s a hard to describe feeling: joyful, bittersweet, and wholly enjoyable.
All of this builds to the back half of the episode in the White Sand Dome where Fuuka finds Kukuru and they mutually reflect on the previous twenty-three episodes. They realize, together, that this is their new start, that Tingaara is their future… together. That this community matters just as much as Gama Gama, and their mutual love of aquariums is enough. And that’s when our little friend, the kijimuna, appears, providing one of the most emotional moments of the series, and a solid end ahead of Fuuka’s departure.
Episode 24 feels perfect, if I’m being honest: it feels like a natural resolution to a story about two girls, now young women, who have been arcing towards a similar goal. It’s the softest this series has ever been, carrying with it an unflagging optimism and affection that really wraps up the show in a powerful way. You can see that most with Kukuru, who has solidly become my favorite character in the series. Double so when we flash forward two years (you can tell by Kukuru’s hair) and see that yes, Kukuru doing okay: she’s doing very okay, enough that she’s no longer “plankton”, but “nekton”. She can swim now, and can handle her own.
Episode 24 comes full circle on The aquatope on white sand‘s narrative, depicting a story about community, communal care, and love. The latter is especially true in this series: aquatope is a series about love, whether or not that takes the form of queer platonic romance. Much like Korrasami, a queer romance that was quite formative for me, aquatope’s final moments feels impactful and earned: like the build up of a season’s worth of effort. The romantic plot with Kai gone, and instead… we see two young women who love each other on a multitude of levels continuing to love each other, even if that’s necessarily confirmed. I think that’s the beauty of the story we’ve been presented: at base, it truly is about love in all its forms. Readings can occur around that, but the story is still a passionate one with two girls finding their hearts and dreams through being kind to the other.
This is also some of the best animation in the series: sequences are so smooth here, showing that P.A. Works really are some of the best in the business. Aquatope has never been an ugly show: it’s pretty much always been beautiful, but this finale really does its gorgeous animation justice, bringing all the ingredients for a powerful end to one of 2021’s best series full circle. It feels like a proper send off as we step back from Gama Gama, Tingaara, and all of the helping hands that made it possible for both institutions to exist. Standout scenes include the last time-skip which… goodness me, is a real delight.
There’s something to be said about finales that do a title drop: often, I find that they’re some of the most impactful episodes in the cour or season. In the case of The aquatope on white sand, this is a powerful episode that had me in tears. I hate to see it go, but I feel such immense gratitude to have witnessed Kukuru and Fuuka’s arcs. I feel thankful for getting the chance to watch these two young women go from girls to adults who are capable.
In the end, The aquatope on white sand did it: it stuck the landing, and will live rent-free in my head as one of the bright spots of 2021, and a beautiful series about hope and embracing optimism. At times it hurts: achingly so, familiarly so. But so often, this series shines as a reminder that hope truly is the way, and that with hope, we can find ourselves and shape the future we want. Recommend this series to anyone you can because hope is alive, and it exists in The aquatope on white sand.
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Mercedez is a JP-EN localization editor & proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who also writes for Anime Feminist, where she’s a staff editor, and But Why Tho?. She’s also a frequent guest on the AniFem Podcast, Chatty AF. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she’s always up to something.