The aquatope on white sand – 06 – Sweet memories

When Kukuru finds an article in the morning paper about Gama Gama closing after 48 years of operation, it’s got to be disheartening. It’s one thing to manage the day-to-day operations of an aquarium, but to also be responsible for bringing it back from the brink? There are times it feels like Kukuru is putting way too much on her slim shoulders.

Still, one thing she doesn’t have to worry about is losing her new sister-from-another-mother Fuuka thanks to her resolving things with her mom last week, so we can move on to what I imagine will be the main thrust of the remaining half of the first cour: Saving Gama Gama.

When contemplating promotions that will increase traffic and buzz, Kukuru and Fuuka settle on cool sweets to fight the heat. They enlist Teruya Tsukimi AKA Udon-chan, who admits that her culinary upbringing by her mom Meisa (who hates sweet stuff despite being so sweet herself) is lacking in the sweets department…but Tsukimi also likes a challenge!

It’s also clear that Tsukimi feels a little stifled in a family diner that she doesn’t run, so while Kukuru and Fuuka feel like they’re asking to much with little in return, Tsukimi is eager for an outlet for her culinary creativity. She starts research immediately by taking Kukuru and Fuuka out to one of the best local ice cream spots.

It’s here where, when Kukuru picks plain but reliable vanilla and Fuuka is a little more adventurous with chocolate pineapple, Tsukimi has a triple-scoop cone piled high with all kinds of strange flavors that somehow mesh well. It’s those “infinite possibilities” with cooking that really get her juices flowing. The ice cream stop is also an opportunity for the three girls to just be three high school girls, joking around, laughing, and enjoying the beautiful summer day.

When Fuuka spots a sign pointing people to the ice cream joint’s insta page, she suggests Kukuru take a look at heightening Gama Gama’s social media presence. It’s at this point we see how old-fashioned Kukuru is when it comes to this kind of stuff; the aquarium might well have been saved years ago had it jumped on the SM bandwagon earlier.

Gama Gama is a treasure trove of content that millions of users are eager to consume and share. And not just the sea creatures, but the human creatures who keep the place running. While the episode interestingly avoids the possible side effects of Fuuka ending up on the aquarium’s Instagram, the fact is Kai and Kuuya aren’t unattractive, and when you’re in as deep trouble as Gama Gama, you use what you’ve got!

When Tsukimi, Kukuru and Fuuka reach out to Karin for an ice cream stall to borrow, she bursts their bubble by stating the difficulty and cost of obtaining the permits to serve food outside, particularly dairy. In an anime continuum full of school festival food stalls, I loved the realism Aquatope infuses into this situation.

Even without dairy, Tsukimi is determined to figure something out. She proposes shaved ice instead of ice cream, the permits for which are much easier to score. As she sits in the corner table of the diner doing research and figuring out flavors, her mom tells her she’s looking a little too serious, and her output as a result is not up to Tsukimi’s usually high standard.

That’s when Tsukimi decides to close the shop for the night, break out the colored pencils and markers, and start having fun. Only through fun can creativity happen, after all. When Kukuru and Fuuka arrive wondering why the diner isn’t open, she sits them down and enlists their help: they’ve got cups to draw on!

The next day, while Tsukimi is setting up out front with help from Kai and Kuuya and Fuuka is once again attending the touch pools, Kukuru is doing her rounds and encounters an old man with whom she’s very familiar. He visits Gama Gama once a year, every year without fail. She approaches him and thanks him for his patronage, and he brings up the newspaper article about the aquarium closing.

This man’s is a sad story about how he lost his older brother (in the war). He vowed to honor that brother by starting a business and becoming successful, but he failed. That’s when he came to the aquarium when it was new, where—and he has trouble explaining it, because it’s so hard to explain—he met his brother again. However it happened, it got him back on his feet, and he succeeded in building a new business.

It’s at that point I expected the old man to whip out his checkbook and ask Kukuru “So how much do you need to keep Gama Gama afloat?”…but of course this isn’t a show about easy or painless answers. Indeed, I was already on the verge of tears when I heard the man’s tale. What a fool I was to think that would be the most goddamn tearjerking moment of the episode.

Kukuru gazes into the tanks, and suddenly the schools of fish part to reveal her departed mother and father. At the same time, the old man sees his older brother, who used to carry him on his back, turning back and smiling before heading to the sea that would likely claim his life. Kukuru tearfully embraces her parents, and then spots a third person, who I’m guessing is her departed sister.

After Kukuru steadfastly invites the old man to “come back next year”, as there’s no way she’ll let Gama Gama close, I paused the episode briefly to blow my nose and dry my eyes enough to continue watching. Seeing that old man see his brother as she saw her lost family, reminded her that she’s not the only one for whom this place is precious, special, and irreplaceable.

From there, things get more lighthearted and fun, as Tsukimi’s shaved ice stand is up and running, and it’s revealed what she and the others were up to last night. Rather than just sell the same old familiar flavors, Tsukimi makes use of her own creativity and the unique aquarium setting to create little shaved ice masterpieces that resemble creatures at Gama Gama.

The little kids are wowed. Their parents are wowed. Older kids request a frogfish flavor and Tsukimi happily obliges. The entire enterprise catches momentum on Instagram. Tsukimi’s diligence, preparation, and artistry not only provided a much needed promotional shot in the arm for Gama Gama, but reminded her that she wants to fulfill her own dream to open her own eatery where she can do crazy fun stuff like this all she likes.

When she and the others celebrate at the diner, her mom surprises her by ordering the mango pork belly her daughter invented. And even if it’s still far too sweet for her taste, and she’s convinced Tsukimi won’t be able to run her own place, she still eats it. I’ve no doubt that beneath the criticism she’s truly proud of her daughter, and looking forward to watching her achieve her own precious dream. What a beautiful, fun, tearjerking, colorful, sweet episode. This show is too damn good.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 08 – The Kids Call It “Tsundere” These Days

When Iino Miko finally gathers the courage to enter the StuCo office and take her place as financial auditor, she immediately starts auditing the other members’ disgraceful conduct. The only one immune to her scolding is Chika, whom Miko idolizes as the perfect student.

Having the other members’ backs, Chika uses her influence to get Miko to lighten up, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balance between good and bad cop. To that end, she must learn to let some things slide sometimes, since if those she scolds don’t feel they’re being heard, then they won’t listen in turn.

Yuu proceeds to put his feet up, break out the snacks, and play a Mario Kart-style video game with Miyuki as Kaguya watches (quietly rooting for the president). She’s soon roped into a funny face Insta session with Chika and Miko, resulting in some of the weirder faces we’ve seen in a show chock full of ’em! Since Chika gets what she wants—a new “toy” in Miko—she wins this round.

This segment finally establishes a dynamic of Miko beyond merely reacting to rule infractions, while illustrating how Kaguya and Miyuki’s love for each other has organically created an extremely casual environment, lending at least some credibility to Miko’s worries about setting a bad example for the rest of the academy.

If Kaguya and Miyuki are getting away with proverbial murder in the hallowed StuCo office, there’s no telling what they’d get up to if they found themselves locked in a storage shed. Wait; that’s exactly what the next segment tells!

When the door won’t open, both assume the other arranged it that way in order to compel the other into some kind of romantic act that exposes their feelings for them. In reality, it’s just a branch stuck in the door track. But neither knows this, and soon both fall victim to the “suspension bridge effect” neither of them actually intended.

It’s as if the universe were conspiring to not only lock these two in a dark room together, but get Miyuki on top of Kaguya on a gym mat! Soon their expectations of what the other person is trying to accomplish merge together and they come this close to a kiss.

That’s when that same universe snatches the chance away, like Lucy taking the football from Charlie Brown, and Miko opens the door. Disoriented by the sudden cessation of passion, Kaguya runs sobbing into Miko’s arms, and she declares Miyuki a scumbag. But let’s face it: both Miyuki and Kaguya lose this one, since the kiss they both wanted to experience didn’t happen.

The third and final segment takes place in the wake of that almost-kiss, as Kaguya suddenly passes out after Miyuki removes a piece of lint from her hair—gently touching her cheek in the process.

When Kaguya is rushed off in an ambulance, and the other StuCo members discuss her weak constitution around changes in season, a segment steeped in drama wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Still, just after using the storage shed bit, LIW takes things in a much different and more hilarious direction that further demonstrates just how much of a dummy falling in love has made these two.

The Shinomiya family doctor is one of the ten best physicians in the world (he even has his own awesome theme music!) yet when he determines her symptoms are the result of nothing more than lovesickness, she insists on further (and extremely expensive) tests, and still calls the guy a quack!

Hayasaka is present for all of this absurdity, and vows never to set foot in the hospital again, so embarrassed she is by her mistress’ inability to grasp reality. Still, she’s not so heartless she’ll betray Kaguya by reporting the medical results to Miyuki…

Carole & Tuesday – 02 – Discovered by Fate

The narrator again refers to the “Miraculous 7 Minutes” before we return to the story of how Carole & Tuesday got there, starting with Tuesday’s first morning waking up somewhere other than her mansion. While Carole is out of there not long after 7, it takes much longer for Tuz to wake up, and when she does, immediately demonstrates her utter ineptness when it comes to cleaning.

Meanwhile, Angela finishes up a photo shoot at a studio where everyone applauds and gushes over her, something she’s obviously taken for granted all her life. When she arrives at Artience Lab, she doesn’t get that treatment she’s so used to. If anything, Tao (voiced most imperiously by Kamiya Hiroshi) treats her like a nuisance. But as long as he creates the perfect song for her, she doesn’t care.

If Tuesday is terrible at cleaning, Carole proves equally terrible at holding down jobs. Hired as a professional mourner at a funeral, she ends up laughing hysterically when a butterfly lands on the priest’s head, earning her her second pink slip in as many days. It’s clear if Carole can catch a break with her music, she’d be a better fit for that than either crying or serving burgers to misogynists.

That night, Carole remarks that if she goes to bed in the wrong state of mind she’ll have nightmares, so she and Tuesday exchange mentions of things that they like, and find they’re both big fans of both Cyndi and Crystal. Carole also learns Tuesday is a total rich girl, complete with a limitless black credit card—but Tuz can’t use it or her family will find her.

The next day, Carole and Tuesday are out on the town on a mission: use the real grand piano at the Martian Immigrant Memorial Hall’s main stage, where DJ ERTEGUN is already setting up a future show with one of his producers, Roddy.

On the way, Tuesday sees her mom on TV—turns out she’s the governor of Herschel state, and potentially running for president—but doesn’t let Carole in on that nugget of information.

Back at Artience, the rocky road continues as Angela is subjected to a mechanical chair of torture as she sings scales for Tao to analyze. When she hits the chair in anger, Tao seems to have more compassion for the machinery than her, whom he calls “a bigger piece of junk than expected” under his breath but over enough for her to hear.

When she asks if he’s really human an AI, he replies that he gets that a lot, then gives her a bone-chilling smile that proves her point all the more. This is a dude who has been surrounded by technology, he’s basically lost the basic skills that make us a social species. At the same time, he’s not wrong that 99% of music is AI-generated and most people can’t tell the difference, so Angela is at a distinct disadvantage trying to force her way into the industry.

C&T arrive at the music hall, and when they’re turned away by an assistant, they barge in anyway, take the stage, tune up, and play their first song, “Lonliest Girl,” with full lyrics and much grander acoustics. It’s a lush, soul-stirring sequence, reminding me of the performances in Your Lie in April. The animation is G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Like the OP, it gave me goosebumps.

More importantly, it pretty much destroy’s Tao’s assertion about “the warmth of humanity” being a lie. Roddy records the guerrilla performance on his phone, basically falling in love with the duo in the process. Moments after they finish, security starts to chase them around the hall, and Roddy captures that too! None of Tao’s fancy AIs can hope to replicate the anarchy or spontaneity of two young women eager to make a name for themselves.

Running off once more, C&T have no idea what just happened, but are simply enjoying the adrenaline rush of getting in, playing on the big stage, getting out, and getting away with it. Roddy uploads the footage of them, and the video quickly goes viral, making me wonder when Tuesday’s brother will see it (because there’s no way she’s going to stay hidden from them for long).

Even the drunken ex-music producer hears it. He’s so drunk, he initially yells at the woman at the bar to shut it off, and very nearly gets into a fight with her man. But when he stops and listens some more, he’s absolutely smitten, and apologizes for his behavior before running off and getting his old friend Roddy on the horn.

Through Roddy we learn this guy’s name is Gus, and he wants to know who those two girls were. Thankfully for him, Roddy has The Mad Internet Skillz, and in less than half a minute has not only found C&T’s Insta, but pinpointed their address as well, as the location data of their rooftop photo wasn’t hidden. Oops!

The next morning unfolds much like the previous one: Carole getting up and Tuesday…not. Carole punishes her laziness by placing guitar picks on her eyes, but before she can snap a funny photo Gus starts trying to knock her front door down, bellowing like a loon about the “gig being up” and ordering them to let him in.

Turns out this is yet more evidence that not everyone in this world knows how to properly express their intentions, as he ends up coming off as way more of a threat than a boon to the girls, who are scared out of their wits until he mentions he’s their new manager, and their fear instantly turns to bewilderment. And that’s how Carole & Tuesday were discovered! It happened pretty damn fast too, considering there’s twenty-two episodes remaining! This is going to be epic.