Amanchu!- Review and Reflections After Three
July 30, 2016
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“He who would search for pearls must dive below.” —John Dryden
Futaba Ooki is a reserved and quiet girl who moves to a town by the seaside from Tokyo. She meets the free-spirited, energetic Hikari Kohinata on her first day of classes, and despite missing her old friends in the city, finds herself drawn to Hikari’s seemingly boundless spirits. Later, when Hikari challenges their homeroom instructor, Mato Katori, to a race, she learns that the latter is in fact a scuba diver. Hikari manages to convince Futaba to join the school’s diving club, and as she begins learning the basics under Mato’s guidance, Futaba realises that maybe diving is something that she might be interested in taking up as her school activity. Amanchu! is being touted as being this season’s iyashikei (healing anime), and in keeping with the format, the three episodes seen thus far emphasise the details in each moment that might otherwise go unnoticed. Things as simple as a race to school, putting on a drysuit for the first time or learning about the fundamentals to diving are depicted in loving detail, acting as a reminder that there can be great joy and meaning in the things that we ordinarily take for granted as we pursue our goals.
Amanchu! brings together two polar opposites in character in order to emphasise a point: Hikari mentions that life is worth living when one is living in the moment and making the most of everything in the now. While Futaba is taciturn and greatly misses her old classmates, longing to be with them, Hikari is a bundle of excitement who sees wonder in everyday life. This unique friendship is intended to act as the force that drives Futaba to live in the moment and grow to appreciate her current circumstances as she discovers new wonders through diving. Amanchu! wastes no time in making the series’ main theme clear, suggesting that with this apparent, the remainder of the series can therefore be focused on presenting the adventures and experiences that Futaba experiences with Hikari and the diving club. Ergo, the magic of Amanchu! will lie in what sort of things Futaba will encounter now that she’s taken the first step towards becoming a diver.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Futaba Ooki is one of two protagonists in Amanchu!, being quite shy and introverted at the series’ start. Her name translates literally to “pair of leaves”, and she’s from the city. She’s shown to be glued to her mobile device, constantly checking for updates from her old friends. As is the usual order of business for these introductory posts, I’ll keep to the usual standard of having twenty screenshots, aiming to cover a wide spread of moments from the anime.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum is Hikari Kohinata, a diver native to the area. Her spirits and vigour stand in stark contrast with Futaba’s closed nature. A capable diver, she learned under her grandmother and is rather fond of pork noodle soup.
- One of the more notable aspects about Amanchu! is the fact that the characters take on a flattened art style when their personalities come out full force. This particular aspect is reminiscent of the styles seen in Your Lie In April, but here in Amanchu!, it’s used primarily for comedic effect. Such moments are rather common and while they do seem a little off-putting at first, acclimatising to their frequency was not a particularly difficult endeavour.
- Mato Katori is the girls’ homeroom instructor: she presents herself as a rather easygoing teacher who encourages the students to explore their options and make the most of their days as high school students. I have remarked that depictions of Japanese high school instructors in anime may come across as being a bit more flamboyant compared to what high schools in Japan are like, but in Canada (at least, my high school), the instructors I know are at least as open as those seen in anime.
- One of the joys about Amanchu! is that seemingly trivial events are given a special emphasis, turning them into something spectacular. After Hikari runs into Mato on her way to school, the two break into an open race to see who will arrive first. It’s hilarious but not over-the-top, possibly hinting at the notion that even seemingly minor things can precipitate into something quite meaningful later.
- The artwork and animation in Amanchu! is of a high quality, capturing the moods and tones surrounding this seaside city. The use of colouration presents a remarkably calm locale that serves as a quiet backdrop that accentuates the notion that Amanchu! is intended to be highly relaxing in nature, and here, Hikari leaps off a precipice, seemingly into the vast blue skies and city below, in a bid to best Mato to the finish line.
- As Futaba makes to capture a picture of the blue skies, as though fate willed it, Hikari enters the frame. Besides the visual aspects, the aural components in Amanchu! are also quite impressive. In particular, I have taken a liking to the soundtrack, which sounds rather similar to the music of ARIA The Animation (although in the case of Amanchu!, the music is composed by GONTITI): the light acoustic guitar elements serve to convey a sense of tranquility.
- That “something meaningful” turns out to be the revelation that Mato is a diver herself, and the two immediately bond. As to whether or not Amanchu! can really be considered a “spiritual successor” to something like ARIA, I imagine that there are enough similarities for this claim to be made by versed-viewers. I myself will decide how well this assertion holds after I’ve seen ARIA in its entirety.
- Later during the day, despite Futaba’s protests, Hikari enters the diving club’s room and decides to try on their drysuits. Amanchu! is presented from Futaba’s perspective, and because she is a complete beginner to diving, Hikari explains terminologies to her, simultaneously informing viewers of what they are seeing on screen. It’s a clever means of familiarising viewers with limited background in diving (such as myself) to the basics, such that they may at minimum, follow the anime more readily.
- A sharp-eyed viewer will note the attention to detail in Amanchu! for the lighting; here, an effect similar to the shadows seen in Crepuscular rays can be seen in different moments. Although it’s a rather minute aspect, that the animators chose to illustrate them is a subtle reminder that seemingly minor or mundane details can be utilised to enhance a particular moment.
- After being persuaded to try on a dry suit, Hikari ups the ante and manages to convince Futaba to join her in the school pool. The interactions between Futaba and Hikari represent the sort of harmony yielded by yin and yang: the opposites complement one another. In this case, Futaba’s slower pace leads Hikari to better express things, while Hikari’s energy provides Futaba with the motivation to try out new things.
- Floating in the school pool with sakura blossoms all around, Futaba begins to feel compelled to take up diving after Hikari explains the magic behind diving: there is very little in the way of sound, and the vastness is both a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Besides the ocean, there is only one other environment where such an experienced can be achieved — beyond the reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere, in the void of space.
- The end result of Futaba’s decision to join Hikari is an incredibly peaceful moment that sets the stage for which directions Amanchu! is going to take in future episodes. Rather than immediately dropping Futaba (and the viewers) into the ocean for diving, Amanchu! eases into things in a gentle fashion in a manner befitting of what has been called the Second Coming of ARIA.
- While Hikari may present herself as being excited and appreciative of all things in life, she shares with Futaba that in spite of apperances, she’s actually quite unsure as to how she should share her thoughts with the world in an effective manner. This is why she brings a whistle with her wherever she goes, as it helps her gather her thoughts.
- Hikari is voiced by Eri Suzuki, who had also provided the voice to Chinatsu Kuramoto of Flying Witch: I’m most impressed at how well Suzuki plays both roles. Futaba, on the other hand, is voiced by Ai Kayano (Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takebi, Nagi no Asukara‘s Chisaki Hiradaira and GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto). That I’m now recognising voice actors a little more readily is a reminder of the duration that I’ve been around in the anime community now.
- Futaba and Hikari enjoy a stroll under the cherry trees that are in full bloom. The exact number of how long I’ve been around anime is “nearly ten years” as of this moment; I was introduced to anime during high school by a friend who managed to convince me to join the anime club. After we finished watching Ah! My Goddess The Movie, I picked up Ah! My Goddess and later that year, Gundam 00. Given that Ah! My Goddess The Movie was my entry into a hugely enjoyable and relaxing hobby, I will likely do a special post on Ah! My Goddess The Movie at some point in the future.
- Hikari is punished after admitting that she had infiltrated the diving club’s facilities and gets a flipper jammed in her face. In a predicable but amusing nonetheless moment, Hikari tanks the punishment for Futaba after Futaba reveals that she too had been in the diving club room.
- Mato’s personality feels like an amalgamation of OreGairu‘s Shizuka Hiratsuka and Azumanga Daioh‘s Minamo Kurosawa; she’s quite open with the students and also has familiarity with diving, so Hikari and Futaba are in good hands as they learn the basics behind diving. I’m looking forwards to seeing how their time in the diving club will allow Futaba to open up.
- Among the first of the fundamentals that Futaba must learn about diving is the impact of pressure on the body as one dives deeper, along with the different techniques used to ensure a safe descent and ascent. While not explicitly given here, Boyle’s Law makes an appearance: described by the expression V₁P₁ = V₂P₂, this law merely states that the pressure that an ideal gas exerts on its container is inversely proportional to the volume that it occupies. Further to this, the values that Mato put on the board are consistent with those obtained from using hydrostatic pressure expression (p = p₀ + ρgd): it’s around 1.9975 atmospheres (~202.4 kPa) at a depth of 10 meters, and the rest of the numbers check out.
- All of this stuff is high school physics, so it shouldn’t be too hard to conclude that aside from the relaxation element, Amanchu! does make a reasonable effort to present diving in a plausible sense. Taken together, I’m enjoying Amanchu! and look forwards to seeing what sort of experiences that await the diving club. With this post reaching its end, I look into the future, where I will post a full-series review on Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero and an after-three talk on New Game.
It will be interesting to see what treasures and memories-in-the making lie in store for Futaba and Hikari: Amanchu! presents itself as a fun anime about self-discovery through exploring the world around oneself, so I imagine that future episodes will continue to act as a highly relaxing series that doubles as an animated beginner’s guide to diving: through Futaba’s perspective, she’s still a newcomer, so it is logical that Amanchu! continues explaining the fundamentals of diving through its run. Coupled with a gentle soundtrack reminiscent of Aria’s, and crisp visuals, Amanchu! will fulfil the role of this season’s slice-of-life anime. As with Flying Witch of the previous season, I will return at the season’s end to provide an overall impressions of Amanchu! and which aspects made it particularly worthwhile to watch.