「迷子のプランクトン」 (Maigo no Purankuton)
I’ve never been in a situation where things have gone from bad to worse. And I hope it stays that way.
The cracks began showing and Kukuru was unable to regulate her emotions, given the stresses of everything around her and it culminates in what looks like one huge burnout.
Was it wrong of her to skive off work to check up on the dolphin? Absolutely. It is extremely unprofessional to be handling such an important project, and do that kind of thing. That would absolutely be a misconduct in most workplaces – which could potentially lead to a sacking.
On the other hand, Kukuru was also being stressed and overworked to no end, to the point where the devastating rejection of her proposal led her to taking two days off unannounced. What she did was wrong – some communication isn’t hard and goes a long way. But her situation really could have been avoided if Suwa was a better manager. Who even showed any iota of empathy, in realising just how down she must have been given her whole set of personal circumstances on top of seeing all her hard work turn to dust.
A competent manager never allows the situation to reach this point. If I’m a manager, any proposal needs to be peer-reviewed by 1-2 other people minimum. Especially when this is the first ever proposal at a corporate level for said individual. Also, instead of blaming said employee if the proposal falls through – offer them reassurances and give my one or two cents on how to improve that proposal into a workable one, while retaining the core elements of the employee’s ideas. He knew better. And if he didn’t, Suwa should have known better.
If I’m a manager and my employee shows signs of struggles in their personal life – that’s the time I step up as a manager, tell them to take time and work overtime to take care of their workload, while allowing said employee to sort out their personal life. It’s not hard. For me, a real team is about every player pulling in the extra weight to cover an individual if they have genuine issues or worries going on. Especially with managers and bosses – who are inherently loaded with extra duties and responsibilities. Not once was I seeing Suwa work overtime the way Kukuru was, and for me that’s an indictment on his pride and dedication as a superior.
I think the extremely surprising thing… Kukuru’s grandfather pulled some strings to tear her away from attendant roles, and thrust her into a corporate office position. All for the sake of rounding her out education as an aspirational aquarium manager!
If I was a professionally successfully grandfather, would I actively contravene my grandchild’s wishes if I believed I knew better than them? That’s a really hard one to say. In an aquarium within modern society, at least how it works in the UK, I can’t imagine some random aquarium attendant working their way to the top through purely attendant duties.
If Kukuru’s dream is to one day run her own aquarium, then yes. This has been a ridiculously harsh lesson – a taste of reality – filled with bitterness and pain. But what doesn’t kill Kukuru will make her stronger, once she’s had the chance to fully pontificate on her situation.
「ブルー・タートルの夢」 (Buruu Taatoru no Yume)
“Dreams of Blue Turtles”
Seeing those penguins fight was very sad, but serves a reminder of what natural fundamentally is. These animals might have feelings of fondness or animosity towards each other. But human emotion and morality should not be readily applied to their context. In the animal kingdom, there are little to no unspoken rules governing conduct. Personal interest rises above all else, when it comes to survival.
Animals have been conditioned through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to be the way they are – being taken into recent human captivity is not enough to erase that fundamental nature. It took an estimated twenty thousand years for humans to domesticate wolves into dogs, so the behaviour of these penguins comes as no surprise.
Kukuru takes a sabbatical from her work. Her experiences were certainly traumatic, and I definitely think this was the right choice. There’s only so much a human can take before they reach the breaking point.
The idea of taking a break is really underrated in modern society, where it feels expected to grind everything out in between parental leave or funerals. In some cases, it’s an unfortunate necessity. There’s bread to win and loved ones to feed.
However, in this case, Kukuru still has a safety net in her grandparents if the worst case scenario unfolded. And having given it some thought, she deserves some serious credit. If I had a boss like Suwa, and if most people had a boss like Suwa, I would quit and wouldn’t be surprised if others did the same. Her pure love for sealife keeps her hanging in there, even when her morale has been reduced to nothing. And that’s actually really admirable – if not sad, because it’s a reflection of industries like gaming and anime where people are hugely exploited for their passion, being worked to the bone on minimal wages.
Misaki-san pops up again. She gives Kukuru a chance to rediscover her bearings and gain fresh perspectives, thanks to the wisdom of time and life on Misaki-san’s side. And the message is loud and clear – don’t litter folks! Beyond that, she reassures Kukuru to give herself time and not worry about the consequences, advice which ends up serving her extremely well.
The small aquarium reminds Kukuru about the magic of aquariums. That they’re a place for learning and to create a life-long passion towards sealife within people, while taking the chance to raise awareness on contemporary environmental issues which might threaten sealife.
Seeing those sea turtles hatching reminds Kukuru about the beauty of life, and how survival is a matter of fighting every living moment. Whereas she doesn’t have to fight so furiously to ensure her existence. What’s more, Fuuka came all this way to make sure that she was okay!
The combined experience heals Kukuru’s soul – restoring her faith. If anyone has determination, it’s her. She has already made her fair share of comeback from dire situations – Gama Gama, the internal politics between Tingarla staff, etc. So I look forwards to seeing who she bounces back this time around.
「覚悟の帰還」 (Kakugo no Kikan)
“Ready to Return”
Aquatope’s endgame is distinctly materialising.
First off, the name drop. Holy shit, now the series name makes sense. I can see it referring to this pinnacle moment when Kukuru’s ideas become realised as an extremely successful wing of the aquarium which will take Tingarla to the next level, for decades to come. The actualisation of her hopes, dreams and legacies. I’m glad that Miura changed her mind – sometimes it takes seeing things with your own eyes to truly appreciate how wonderful they are. For example, a mere photo is unable to fully express the beauty and depth of Iceland’s beautiful landscape. The smell of fresh sea in the air as well as the feeling of cold wind on your skin. From her parting remarks, it’s quite clear Miura came to this realisation too as she developed something of a passion for sealife from visiting Tingarla. I’m glad to see it worked out this time around and that all of Kukuru’s hardwork and tears have amounted to something special.
Honestly, Kukuru’s proposal is a truly fantastic idea that is fairly unique in its conception – simulating a seafloor experience in a way that would be suited for humans. Now that’s the sort of wedding I could get behind for my own personal wedding, especially if my future wife was a huge fan of sealife.
I can already see where Fuuka is going. Her trip to the island has made her cognisant of the crisis coral reefs face, and has impassioned her to the point of studying reading materials during lunch breaks to better her knowledge of the topic. I can see the impetus and drive blazing in her eyes – there’s no doubt in my mind that will be the direction she’ll be walking towards sooner or later.
While Kukuru’s grandfather pulled some strings to make sure she gained experience in a corporate position, while it might be wasted for her to choose going back to attendant work, given the foresight her grandfather would surely have and her recent successes, the choice ultimately comes down to her. Life is simply too short to pass up on doing what you truly want to do. Although if Sakura Quest was anything to go by, I’m under the impression Kukuru will embrace her new calling and realise from a successful project that there’s so much more she can do for an Aquarium from corporate positions, than on the floor as an attendant.
As a side note, it seems poor Kai never really became relevant to the show. Always this unappreciated side character this whole time, it’s sad to see this is how his characterisation has been handled. So much more could have been done about him. Looks like he’s about to become even more irrelevant now that his Dad’s medical issues will be taking him out of the picture for the foreseeable future – very nice of Tingarla to ensure him that he will still have a job when he returns.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post and see you all next week!