When I watched the first episode of Aquatope it definitely piqued my interest enough to keep watching, but it wasn’t at the top of my list of shows that I was waiting for. It just seemed like a pleasant slice of life show with cute character designs. And that is definitely true, but there is more to this show. Let’s dive into the fishtank and explore why this show worked so well.
As usual, these reviews contain spoilers, and I plan to dive quite a bit into the story of this one, so be warned. If you’re just here to see if you should watch it, then yes, yes you should.
The plot of Aquatope is fairly straightforward. Fuuka is a young idol and actress who gets overwhelmed by the job and the city life and flees to the countryside. There she meets Kukuru, who has been running her grandfathers’ aquarium; Gama Gama, for a while. They quickly become friends and Fuuka starts working at the aquarium too. As the season progresses we learn that the aquarium is about to go under because it’s old and no longer profitable. Of course Kukuru and her friends try everything they can to make the aquarium more lively. They think of events, spruce up the front of the building and even visit a local hospital with a small exhibit. Throughout all of this though, the decision to close Gama Gama permanently has already been made.
Maybe one third into the story, Gama Gama is visited by Haebaru-san, an eager employee of Tingaara, a different aquarium. She’s heard stories of the legend that is Kukuru’s grandfather and is eager to learn, but ends up disappointed by having to learn from Kukuru, who is less than happy to help her out. They don’t get along at all. I thought this was just a small arc that never really properly got resolved, but it turns out it was a setup.
You see, what I didn’t realize, and I’ve mentioned this in another post as well, is that this show had 24 episodes, and not 12. So when Gama Gama actually shut down instead of magically got revitalized, I was very surprised by this. I also thought it was a great way to push the story forward. Things don’t always go as planned, and as much as we can dream, some good things must come to an end. Thus Fuuka leaves for Tokyo again, and Kukuru is very sad.
And then the second half of the season starts, and this is where I think the show shines.
Fuuka comes back very quickly, with less than an episode having passed. That was a bit strange, but with a runtime of 24 episodes I’ll cut them some slack. There also wasn’t much story to tell while the characters were separated. The cast then goes to work at Tingaara (I’ve seen different spellings of this aquarium, but this is the one I’m sticking with), where Haebaru-san is also still working. The second half focuses on several of the characters at their new workspace.
Do I think this show is perfect? No, I don’t think so. I’ve seen very few shows that I thought were perfect and even some of my favorite shows of all time (One Piece, Tensura, Kageki Shoujo) have their flaws. But it was very refreshing to watch a drama show where the big issue set up in the first half never actually got resolved. Life isn’t always fair, and Aquatope reflects that. Situations change, things are out of reach and eventually we all have to move on with our lives. And it also shows us that this doesn’t mean everything now sucks. After a rough patch, most of the people from Gama Gama end up in an equal or better place, and by the end of the story everyone is satisfied with their lot in life, having learned quite a lot along the way. I highly recommend you give this show a watch!