「傷だらけの君にエールを」 (Kizu-darake no Kimi ni Eiru o)
“Shout-Out to The Tattered”

Haebaru’s character arc finally came to fruition as a deeply touching Ode to Motherhood regarding a mother’s eternal love for her child, reminiscent of Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms) and Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children). My heartstrings were pulled and tears were shed. Yet my question is this. Does this episode actually absolve her from past transgressions?

The Case For

Let’s cut to the chase. Being a single mother is ridiculously hard. Perhaps even more so in Japan. For all my love for anime, gender inequality is rampant in Japan. According to the OECD in 2017, as cited by Wikipedia, while women hold 45.4 percent of Japan’s bachelor degrees, they only make up 18.2 percent of the labor force, and only 2.1 percent of employers are women. Even with good education, it’s clear women there are not having the same access to opportunities.

According to the UN’s Human Development Records in 2017, the country still lacks female voices in parliament, compared to similar Asian countries: Japan ranks as fourth lowest within the 51 highest developed countries. In terms of women in the labour force, Japan has the sixth-lowest score. They have the same education level and skill as their male peers – sometimes even higher as shown by the medical exam rigging fiasco – but somehow can’t find their way into the workforce. I’m not saying Haebaru is completely locked out of finding a job. Rather, she has these unique societal conditions which turn the pressure on her up to eleven on top of the burden of being a single mother to a young child.

Haebaru lost her original job because as clearly shown by the anime, a group of men pressured her manager to fire her. Additionally, Japanese societal expectations for mothers to be disproportionately involved with the upbringing of their kid. Why couldn’t the husband do his fair share of work, before choosing to divorce her? Why divorce her when she got put into that horrendous situation from his lack of support? That’s not love. That’s just evil and it’s too bag there are many male scumbags out there. They exist. My ex-coworker’s father is a ridiculously wealthy man who never paid a penny in child support to his struggling mother.

That makes what Kukuru did before even worse. A desperate Haebaru came to Gama Gama, hoping to learn what she could to improve her job security in a field she loves, knowing her child is totally dependent on her. And Kukuru essentially tried to pull the rug from beneath her – it’s no wonder Haebaru doesn’t like Kukuru one bit.

The Case Against

One’s own trauma does not justify being nasty towards other people. I understand Haebaru’s insecurities are deep-seated based on psychological trauma, and knowing she is everything her child has in this world. But Haebaru could have been more patient and way less dismissive of Kukuru’s grandfather as well as Gama Gama. Before this reveal, we were all pissed off at her bitchiness and way of looking down on Gama Gama.

Even if she believed Kukuru was born with a Silver Spoon in her mouth, being handed the Aquarium on a platter, she could have been respectable to an eminent elder within the Aquarium community. Not to mention for all of Kukuru’s faults, it’s hard to overlook that girl’s quality of caring so much and giving it her all. As the older one in this situation, she also could have been so much more mature in her way of handling things. As a senior member of staff in a completely unrelated division, she could have simply chosen to ignore Kukuru rather than make life difficult and escalate tensions. Surprisingly, you can justifiably dislike someone without trying to maliciously spite them.

What About Kukuru?

We can all agree that what Kukuru did was indefensible. However, in a similar vein, we can also all agree she did not come from a place of malice – and immediately exhibits huge guilt when she comes across the truth. That her actions and selfish desire to become an attendant again could very well have compromised Haebaru’s employment situation, and potentially put Haebaru’s son in a precarious position.

What do mother animals do when their babies are in peril? Activate their defence mechanisms and become aggressive. Haebaru’s spiteful reactions suddenly become understandable. She was exhibiting the natural defence mechanism of protecting her baby chick. In one fell swoop, I no longer dislike her and just feel really really sorry for her. Being kind and well-meaning for all her immaturity, this is the same understanding Kukuru comes to as well. Having lost her parents at a young age, she knows just how much a parent’s love matters to a young child. Just how much a parent is the whole world to their child. We can clearly see how much it punches Kukuru in the guts as the guilt gleams through her eyes, knowing just how much of a villain she has been – even if unintentionally.

I think most normal people would try to hash out the differences upon discovering the truth. Kukuru? She demands to have a baby so that she can understand Haebaru’s experience. Which is truly some one of a kind response that undoubtedly comes from a place of good faith. Kukuru learns that handling a baby AND holding down a full time job is ridiculously hard, allowing her to gain respect for Haebaru and the doctor. That resolution alone allows her to rest her grievances and seek out amnesty. Only Haebaru is the first person to make an apology – which just shows to me she is capable of being a bigger person.

My Conclusions

For me, Haebaru is a single mother who has done everything to ensure her child turns out okay despite the burdens she bears. Even though Tingaara has some internal issues to iron out, it’s clear to see the director has a heart of gold, seeing how he reassured Haebaru that she was a valuable part of the task force and wouldn’t need to worry about hiding her child and mothering needs. That kind of leadership makes me hopeful the teams have a capacity to reconcile and become a cohesive, functioning unit without petty strife.

With Kukuru and Haebaru finding mutual ground and putting their past behind them, things are looking extremely hopeful going forwards. If it continues like this, to answer my beginning question, I would consider the past transgressions resolved. Easily the most beautiful and excellent episode of Shiroi Suna no Aquatope to date and I must really praise the masterful storytelling PA Works managed to create, giving us mischievous sparkles of their hey days.

Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post and see you all next week!

Note: Apologies for the delays. I was in attendance of London MCM Comicon throughout the weekend – post coming soon!


  1. > Haebaru’s character arc finally came to fruition as a deeply touching Ode to Motherhood. My
    > heartstrings were pulled and tears were shed. Yet my question is this. Does this episode
    > actually redeem her from past transgressions?

    I owe the writer a deep and honest apology for my disrespect for Haebaru. Where I said she was a horrible character in S1 before getting to know the character’s backstory. I didn’t think I was going to cry but I shed a few tears. I never gave Haebaru a chance, now we know why she is so insistent on getting the best training possible. She has an extra mouth to feed and a desire to work with sea animals.

    I think seeing Haebaru being a single mother struggling to parent a child while being present at work and feeding her interest in aquarium makes her an even more interesting character than Kukuru. (Just a bit) Parenting isn’t easy even with both spouses available let alone one.


    > One’s own trauma does not justify being nasty towards other people. I understand Haebaru’s i
    > nsecurities are deep-seated based on psychological trauma, and knowing she is everything
    > her child has in this world. But Haebaru could have been more patient and way less
    > dismissive of Kukuru’s grandfather as well as Gama Gama. Before this reveal, we were all
    > pissed off at her bitchiness and way of looking down on Gama Gama.

    It sounds like Haebaru is SO jaded that she’s become cynical of people and employers to the point that she doesn’t mind snide remarks, a jab at someone’s faults. It is easy for someone to become this way after watching their personal and professional life melt down about 25%…each.

    Haebaru is now my second favorite character in this Anime next to Kukuru.

    1. While it might be easy to become jaded, I’m saying an individual can hate and consider Gama Gama’s staff people for taking their opportunity for granted and having it easy, without letting it become unprofessional. Without intentionally letting bygones seep through and ultimately impede and jeopardise jobs being carried out.

      She let her personal feelings get in the way of her work and other people’s work.

  2. So it’s actually Tingarla not Tingaara. I was like why did the subs change. Then I saw the sign. Is this a Ls and Rs being the same in Japanese thing?

    I couldn’t believe they made that character a single mother. That really hits home because my mother was single and raised 3 of us while working.

    That chick hatching scene at the end was really sweet too. I love this show’s attention to detail.

    1. For all her faults, Haebaru has done the best she can in a difficult situation for the sake of her kid.

      While I felt she’d been acting up for a reason, I definitely didn’t expect this plot twist. Think this definitely teaches us all a lesson in not making early judgements.

      1. What’s crazy is that this is as bad as it get’s, being late to pick up her child, and tending to her child’s fever. Imagine how bad it would be if the child has a chronic disease, chronic disorder (On the Father’s side.) and require near 24/7 attention. Couldn’t maintain her position in Tingarla/Tingaara and is forced to consider putting her boy up for adoption.

  3. To answer your question about why Haebaru’s ex-husband didn’t do his share of the work to care for his son, the short answer is simply misogyny; while stay-at-home dads are extremely uncommon (maybe even rare) in Japan, it’s more-so the stigma towards men doing “feminine tasks” makes them be seen less masculine compared to their peers. I could be wrong about the last part but I do know that Japan has an issue when it comes to treatment towards women in the workforce and in general (such as the Tokyo Medical University scandal reported in 2018 as an example). There are definitely activists out there hoping to change the stigma, but it’s also engrained in their culture that it’s difficult to see if there will be any drastic change to be progressive.

    That aside, I do think the reveal of Haebaru being a single mother was surprising since episodes prior showed no hint to say that she was. Though perhaps that’s also a reflection on how she made sure to keep quiet about the fact that she was a single mother because of the stigma and treatment she once received at her previous workplace. While it does give some insight on how she behaved towards the Gama Gama staff, it doesn’t really excuse her behaviour during her time training with them for a short while; especially when her actions reflect Tingaara as a representative, and if Kukuru’s grandfather wasn’t as kind as he was then it could have done more harm than good.

    I’m glad that the two parties found mutual ground, even if Kukuru has yet to apologize to Haebaru (though maybe it’s just something to be expected since she’s still young compared to the latter), and hopefully the staff at Tingaara and the former Gama Gama staff will be able to continue getting along this way to ensure Tingaara’s future.

  4. While I can see where Haebaru is coming from to an extent, I still think she acted very childish while dealing with Kukuru in the last few episodes. It’s obvious Kukuru is trying to do her best in the situation she’s been thrown in and with the people she has to work with. Haebaru just refuses to see that Kukuru is not acting like the brat she was back at Gama Gama.

    Also no, Kukuru did nothing wrong to try to take over the shift Haebaru herself said she was going to be unable to make. Not only would it show that she is willing to help out when her coworkers need it, but it also gives her a chance to do what she loves and try out something different in the company which is always a good thing for people looking to move up or around. Haebaru’s reaction was extremely childish and for me made the reveal around her less impactful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *