Every so often, P.A. Works does a "girls at work" show. The first two were Shirobako (excellent) and Sakura Quest (intelligent, nice and not as good as Shirobako). This is the third and it's a lot like Sakura Quest, both in tone and quality. It's not up there with Shirobako, but it's thoughtful, attractive and drawing our attention to some mildly depressing aspects of the world of work.
I enjoyed it. Misaki did too and would regularly demand The Show With The Penguins.
The show's subtitle is "The Two Girls Met in the Ruins of Damaged Dream". Fuuka Miyazawa loses hers first, before the show's begun. She wanted to be an idol and she'd been doing well for a while, but now that's over and she's got to fly home to her family... no, wait, she doesn't. On a whim, she flies to Okinawa instead. It's tropical. It's far away from her mother. She's got no idea what she's going to do next when she stumbles upon a little local aquarium. It's called Gama Gama and it's being run by a schoolgirl (Kukuru Misakino) who's standing in for her grandfather.
Gama Gama is Kukuru's dream, but grandad has said that it'll close at the end of the summer and indeed has already started finding new homes for all the fish. It's old. It doesn't have enough customers. Kukuru refuses to accept any of that, though.
Visually, it's beautiful. The aquarium is rendered in loving detail, letting you identify all the species if you're knowledgeable enough. You'll spend 24 episodes luxuriating in aquariums, which is what made Misaki a fan of the show. It's also educational, teaching you surprising details of wildlife and how to look after it, not to mention environmental problems like overfishing, microplastics, coral bleaching, etc. They mention the great Pacific garbage patch and we see the hatching of sea turtles.
As a character piece, it's about work choices. Both Fuuka and Kukuru will face disappointment, denial, significant decisions and more. The two characters reflect each other, which is appropriate given how attached they become to each other.
The characters are thoroughly likeable... except for the ones who aren't. Chiyu and the Tingarla Assistant Director need slapping. They're usually right in their disagreements with Kukuru, mind you, but they're still jerks. We'll have more sympathy for them after hearing about their difficult pasts... but no, personally I don't think their past backstory is enough to outweigh their current behaviour. Chiyu is an idiot. I have no sympathy for her not telling everyone the obvious thing. I understand her reason for keeping it secret, but I don't agree with it.
As for the Tingarla Assistant Director, he's a prick. What happened to him was bad, but... he's still a prick.
I loved the kijimuna. He's that child with outrageous volcano hair who'll occasionally wander past in the background. Humans never see him. Kijimuna are actually wood spirits in Okinawan mythology and it sounds as if Fuuka and Kukuru did the sensible thing in regularly leaving offerings for this one.
I don't imagine I'll ever rewatch it, but I like this show. It's likeable, pretty and sometimes funny, but it's also got those other thematic elements that stop it from being merely relaxing and nice. I certainly wouldn't call it a downer, but it's wiggling its toes in those waters. Also, it taught me that sea slugs are amazing.