A baby penguin is about to be born at Tingaara! While there is much excitement to be had, there is also a ton of work to be done. The penguin parents/egg needs to be monitored constantly and that means several members of the staff need to be on night shift. When Kukuru discovers that Chiyu has not taken any of the night shifts, she volunteers for said shifts, seeing this as a way in to act as an attendant. Later on, a secret about Chiyu’s life is revealed and Kukuru has a massive shift in perspective.
Brendan and I had to switch places this week and I swear fate has intervened to give me this episode. I feel like this is the best Aquatope episode to date.
I complained about Chiyu in Episode 13, and like Kukuru, I too had a massive perspective shift after learning her secret. This episode is all about Chiyu, and why she is the way she is. What I love most about it is the way it juxtaposes the difficulties and rewards that come with life at a aquarium with Chiyu’s difficulty/rewards in juggling her job and keeping track of the other most important aspect of her life.
I am not a parent yet, but I truly believe there is still a stigma of sorts around maternity leave. While childbearing is natural and wonderful, to the Corporate Eye it is also a money drain and has caused female employees to be labeled as a “liability”. As such, Chiyu’s struggle feels both real and universal. Any woman (perhaps any single parent regardless of gender) can relate to what is going on here. The struggle is real to straddle both parenthood and wanting to have a career.
Even though this episode is all about Chiyu, Kukuru has a major starring role. In Chiyu’s absence she tries to step in as an attendant, not initially realizing how rude that might seem. Once she understands what’s happening she makes a choice to try something which allows her to grasp just how hard it is to work AND care for a living being (that mostly just cries).
There’s a couple subtle details I want to compliment here. Things like Chiyu having major eyebags after a sleepness night, the wide array of items displayed in a baby bag, and just the simple “Oh thank God, I can go to the hairdresser now” from the veterinarian when she drops off her munchkin. Someone made sure you understood the details of what these characters are going through and it all makes me feel even more attached to them.
I’m glad this show writes its characters like Orange and Irozuku. When Kukuru accidently learns Chiyu’s secret and sees her in immense distress she calls Fuuka and talks out her feeling. She still doesn’t like this woman AT ALL, but that doesn’t mean she can’t show compassion for her burdens, the way any kind human being should. I really felt like Kukuru did some growing in this episode.
Chiyu, on the other hand, learns that you need to ask for help. Her past traumas closed her off to the rest of the cast. Hopefully now she’s going to trust in the Gama Gama crew a little more and be open to the loving friendship this show has in heaping tablespoons. Somehow though, I still expect her to be Smug AF.
I think this is the best episode to date. We get insight into Chiyu’s life and through it both her and Kukuru grow up as individuals. The writing is solid (nobody acts like an idiot or an ass) and I feel so much more connected to all these characters. I cannot compliment it enough how real Chiyu’s struggle felt as a single parent, and I think the writers/artists on this show went the extra mile with little details in this episode.