Last post, I went over a few of the very long, involved games I’m currently playing. But when I’m way too tired to play a game (because I am so old, after all, and I work long hours sometimes, so this happens all too often now) what can I do to entertain myself? I’m still watching a ton of anime, including two currently airing series that are longer than the standard one-cour 11-14 episode setup. These two are very different in tone, which is nice because it means I can watch whatever better suits my mood at the time.
The Aquatope on White Sand
Starting with the more dramatic, serious stuff, because from its first six episodes, I can tell that The Aquatope on White Sand is going to deal with some heavy subjects.
This series starts out with two lead characters, opening with Fuuka Miyazawa, an aspiring pop idol forced out of her position by her agency. With her dreams destroyed, Fuuka is set to return home from Tokyo to her family, but she can’t bear the thought of going back a failure. While on her way back, she sees an Okinawa advertisement, and in a spur of the moment decision she instead boards a plane down there without telling her family what she’s up to.
After arriving in Okinawa, Fuuka aimlessly wanders the streets with her luggage in tow, since it turns out she doesn’t know anyone on the island and has nowhere to go or to stay. After falling asleep on a beach and nearly getting dehydrated, she’s helped by a friendly tourism department official who takes her along to her destination, a local aquarium.
This is where we meet the other lead: the director of Gama Gama Aquarium, Kukuru Misakino. Despite still only being a high school student, Kukuru has taken on the position of acting director in place of her grandfather. She has both the knowledge and the drive to keep the aquarium going, but unfortunately she’s struggling to make it turn a profit, and rumors are flying that Gama Gama will be forced to close soon.
While exploring the aquarium and staring into one of the tanks, Fuuka is taken by a strange vision in which she’s in the ocean, surrounded by the fish. Kukuru notices her dreamlike state and snaps her out of it, telling her that the aquarium can have that effect. After introducing herself, being shown around, and hearing that the aquarium is desperately looking for help, Fuuka suddenly decides that she wants to work here and asks Kukuru to take her in. Kukuru is naturally taken aback, but she sees the conviction in Fuuka and accepts her offer.
Aquatope is produced by P.A. Works, the same studio that made Shirobako, so I had extremely high expectations going in. And so far, those expectations are being met. I was first struck by how damn good everything looks — I’ve never been to Okinawa, but I want to go even more after seeing it depicted here. The same goes for the characters and all the animals they take care of in the aquarium; everything is high-quality.
But then even the most beautiful anime can be trash if its characters and story suck. Fortunately, Aquatope is also doing well in those areas. The central “save the aquarium” plot is pretty mundane, but I actually like that — it’s obvious that this place is extremely important to Kukuru, her family and friends, and to a lot of their town’s residents. Fuuka’s involvement as an outsider also mixes things up in an interesting way as she deals with the fact that she’s running from her old life to pursue a new one.
There’s also an element of magical realism in Aquatope, with a few characters now having had visions in which they’re in the ocean along with some kind of spirit/local god hanging around who seems to be involved in these experiences. It’s still too early to tell where that’s going, though.
The only aspect of this show I can see being a sticking point for some viewers so far is the nature of the Fuuka/Kukuru relationship. Most of the discussions I’ve seen online include some kind of “will this be yuri?” debate. From what I can tell Aquatope is an original anime, so there’s no source material to reference, but a lot of this talk honestly seems like people are reading too much into things. I may be a totally inept idiot, but I don’t see two girls holding hands and immediately jump to conclusions like that.
That’s not to say Fuuka and Kukuru’s relationship couldn’t take a romantic turn — if it does, the show is admittedly building a pretty solid base for that so far. But I don’t see any real evidence that it will go in that direction yet. If that’s a hangup for you, either because you’re not into yuri or because you are into yuri and might get frustrated at what you see as “yuri-bating”, then you might have some issues later on with this show depending on where it takes their relationship.
Personally, I don’t care if it’s yuri or not as long as Aquatope maintains its current high quality. It’s a relaxing show, and its slow pace works well for that reason. I get the impression that life in Okinawa moves at a pretty slow and relaxed tempo anyway, or certainly compared to life in the massive metropolis of Tokyo, so the pace fits in that sense too.
Though it does deal with those emotionally heavy subjects I mentioned, I’m finding Aquatope to also be a nice escape from the current chaos and bullshit and everything in life, and I’d recommend it to just about anyone based on the quarter of the show that’s aired so far. It’s scheduled to run for 24 episodes from what I’ve read, so plenty of time to relax as well.
The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!
And now on to the somewhat less serious.
Our protagonist and titular character, the great Jahy-sama, is an extremely powerful demon lord from an alternate dimension that was destroyed when a magical girl shattered the mana crystal maintaining its stability. As a result of this, Jahy got reverse-isekai’d, being thrown into our world and losing almost all her power save for whatever magic she can squeeze out of a small crystal shard she managed to keep.
Now living in a shitty slum apartment and working a job as a waitress, Jahy has vowed to find the remainder of the crystal and restore the Dark Realm — that is assuming she can keep making enough money to eat and not get thrown out into the street.
If you want an explanation for why Jahy usually looks like a kid, there it is: she doesn’t have enough magical power to maintain any other form for very long. It’s somewhat annoying to me that she’s in this form most of the time (so far at least) because she does use her magic to turn back into her adult-looking form while working as a waitress at her landlord’s sister’s restaurant. And her adult form is pretty damn hot, but we don’t get to see it that often. On the other hand, Jahy’s diminished form emphasizes just how much power she’s lost and how difficult it will be for her to achieve her goal, so I guess it works on that level.
Aside from that, I’m liking the character interactions so far. Jahy is still extremely haughty — she is a demon lord, after all — but she’s forced to deal with humans on an equal level, which she finds she doesn’t necessarily completely hate. Though she does still try to avoid paying rent, much to the irritation of her landlord. Some of the best moments so far have been in her relationship with her boss, an extremely kind woman who accepts Jahy’s explanations about the Dark Realm and her quest to collect the mana crystal shards but also asks her to use her crystal’s power to clean the drains in the kitchen.
Jahy is currently only three episodes in. It had an unusual kind of staggered start a few weeks into the summer season and will run for 20 episodes. More than I expected for a light comedy/slice-of-life series like this, but I won’t complain if it maintains the stupid fun and the general quality I’ve seen out of these initial episodes. No wonder I like the show; I get a real Disgaea vibe from it — Jahy herself feels like she’d fit right in with the cast of one of those games, and the story is in a similar vein with all its slapstick and immature jokes.
But it’s the kind of self-aware immaturity that works for me, just the kind you’ll find in a Disgaea game. There’s also all the underworld demon lord stuff that obviously fits as well. Maybe Jahy will show up as a DLC character in Disgaea 6? That kind of crossover would make a lot of sense.
Anyway, I’m going to keep watching Jahy as well, because it’s also a nice break from all the usual bullshit that life serves up. Maybe watching Jahy getting kicked around by life after having it easy so long is cathartic in a way, but I’m also rooting for her. Even if she was kind of a jerk as a demon lord, vaporizing her minions and all that. Hopefully the lessons she learns in the human world will stick with her if or when she ever gets to restore that Dark Realm.
That’s all I’m watching this season, at least for the moment. I’d planned to also watch Remake Our Life!, but it seems like keeping up with three currently airing series is just too much work for me. Usually I barely have the drive to watch even one. But if it’s really amazing, I’m open to being convinced to pick that up as well. Either way, next time I write about anime, it will be in the form of a proper review, so until then!