“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.” —Christopher Reeve
With Hikari’s encouragement, Futaba gradually takes the steps towards joining the former in diving; she grows accustomed to being in the water with time. Later, Futaba and Hikari meet the club’s senior members Ai and Makoto Ninomiya. As Futaba continues training towards her goal, she continues opening up to Hikari and the others, realising that her doubt has vanished with everyone’s continued support. On the day of the diver certification, Futaba passes her exam and deeply cherishes the memories that she’s now got with her friends, thanking Hikari for having the audacity to break the ice when they’d first met. So passes Amanchu!, an anime that was touted to be this season’s spiritual successor to Aria, and while such a comparison does not hold upon scrutiny, Amanchu! manages to be a reasonably entertaining anime that strives to show the impact that determination can have on altering the course of one’s experiences: were it not for Hikari’s efforts to befriend Futaba, Futaba would have likely continued through high school without making the most of her time there. In a sense, Hikari’s selfishness ultimately ends up being a remarkably selfless act, allowing Futaba to experience things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Because Amanchu! has Futaba diving in the ocean only in the season finale, it stands to reason that Amanchu!‘s overall theme is about the value of the living in the moment and making the most of what hand one has been given, to the best of one’s ability. Amanchu! depicts Futaba as someone who deeply treasures her memories, but this characteristic also results in her longing for the past, failing to take sight of the blessings in her present environment. She’s quite withdrawn and constantly checks her phone for messages from her old friends, signifying a desire to return to a more comfortable time. As Futaba’s antithesis, Hikari’s energy leads Futaba to notice more about and appreciate her surroundings. Through Hikari’s propensity to find wonder in everyday things (such as the blooming of hydrangeas or the girls’ discovery of a kitten), Futaba learns to live in the moment. In the presence of Hikari’s often-overwhelming drive to move forwards, Futaba’s world-view is transformed, and she learns to enjoy the moment much more profoundly. As evidenced in her heartfelt thanks to Hikari in the finale, it’s quite clear that Futaba has longed to enjoy the present, but in the absence of a catalyst (such as Hikari), she was unsure of how to take that first step. Having done so, Futaba is able to create new memories that are as enjoyable and meaningful as her old ones.
Consequently, with the main theme focused on being mindful of one’s present and learning to capitalise on it, Amanchu!‘s central message differs substantially from that of Aria. Granted, Aria and Amanchu! both make use of environments rich in the blues of the sky and ocean, and both anime feature acoustic guitar in their soundtracks that together, create a highly cathartic environment. Similarly, cats share a highly stylised design and play a more noticeable role for both anime: Amanchu!‘s Advisor Aria and Aria’s President Aria have a mascot-like role in their respective organisations, even sharing the same name. While these references may appear to suggest a commonality between the two, ultimately, that Amanchu! and Aria have substantially different goals. Whereas Amanchu! focuses on Futaba’s journey to become a diver and join Hikari in exploring the joys of the ocean, Aria speaks more about the fleeting nature of everyday and extraordinary miracles on Aqua: Akari’s open-mindedness and warmth allows her to observe many things that otherwise go unnoticed. Akari might be seen as bearing characteristics from both Futaba and Hikari, being both quiet and reserved, while maintaining an optimistic and open outlook; her presence in Aria is not to drive the growth of other characters, as Hikari did for Futaba, but rather, she acts as a conduit of sorts for viewers to experience Aqua’s magic. In a way, Aqua and Neo Venezia is the main protagonist of Aria, a timeless locale filled with miracles, and audiences experience it to the fullest from Akari’s perspective. These differences mean that Aria and Amanchu! are quite distinct from one another, and while Amanchu! does not project a sense of calm quite to the same extent as Aria, its depiction of Futaba’s road to becoming a diver is nonetheless one that is very rewarding to watch.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In contrast with my New Game! discussion, the image quality for Amanchu! is higher. While the source images were 1920 by 1080 in both cases, the images from Amanchu! are much sharper, resulting in a better image. For this discussion, like New Game!, there were many things to talk about and as such, the post will feature a larger number of images (thirty, as opposed to the usual twenty).
- One element that will be immediately noticeable in this post is the sheer volume of images where much of the pixels are a blue colour. Save a few episodes where it was overcast, Amanchu! is a very sunny anime, and as it’s set by the ocean, the sea seems to merge with the sky, creating a vast expanse of azure that seems endless. As I’ve mentioned in my Strike Witches reviews, this is one of the reasons why I’m so fond of anime: while shows like Futurama, Rick and Morty and The Simpsons are excellent, they lack the same finesse in their artwork.
- Before Futaba can dive in the vastness of the ocean, she must first master the basics. Thus, the earlier episodes detail Futaba learning the basics about how to operate the necessary equipment to carry out a dive successfully. With some assistance from Hikari, she is able to traverse the deepest parts of the pool: this region is, on average, around 3 meters in depth and typically used to practise diving, as well as deep-water manouvers, such as water treading.
- I’ve had swimming lessons in my youth, and while I never did finish the programme on account of my inability to roll into the water, I’ve got the basics down such that I can swim short distances (under 500 m) relatively efficiently. I imagine that rolls are important to prevent equipment from crushing a user, hence their inclusion in the curriculum, but one of my deficiencies is that I can’t tumble to save my life.
- Futaba is depicted as being below average for physical activity, and since diving is a more taxing activity, she undergoes training to boost her endurance and stamina. While on a run, Futaba and Hikari run into Ai and Makoto, their seniors in the diving club. Ai’s got a fiery personality, in comparison to her more reserved twin brother, but genuinely cares about those around her. Upon learning that some alleged ruffians were responsible for using the diving club’s gear without authorisation, she resolves to hunt them down.
- Dramatic irony thus forms the basis for some of the comedy in Amanchu!; the viewers know that Futaba and Hikari had utilised the diving club’s equipment and consequently, their attempts to flee from Ai’s wrath becomes hilarious. It results in Futaba stripping down, although ultimately, Hikari steps up to the plate and admits that they had entered the clubroom without permission. Ai lets them off the hook, typifying the sort of resolution that usually arises in anime such as Amanchu!.
- In the aftermath of their first meeting, which was originally to be about the preparation that Futaba would need to take before she could undergo the diving certification exam, the diving club produces a chalkboard full of their colourful visions of what diving could be like. While Futaba is somewhat embarrassed with the outcome, she also appreciates the effort that went into making the drawings, prompting her to photograph it before the clear off the board.
- Clearing her mask of water is something that Futaba struggles with: visual clarity is reduced underwater, and the sensation of water on the eyes can be somewhat unpleasant. Futaba’s discomfort underwater thus signifies her own doubts: she fears the lack of visibility underwater much as she fears the uncertainty of her future, and consequently, when Mato and Hikari help her overcome this fear to clear her mask properly, until she can no longer do it incorrectly, this similarly reflects on how their support allows Futaba to mature, as well.
- Mato is particularly proud of her ride, which she dubs Pokoteng III: it’s named after President Aria of Aria. Despite Mato’s boisterious personality, her driving skills far surpass those of Tamayura‘s Sayomi Hanawa and Azumanga Daioh‘s Yukari Tanizaki; Mato follows the rules of the road and does not leave Futaba or Hikari with any sort of trauma. I’m looking at my first vehicle at some point within the next year, and I’m eyeing a four-door sedan of some sort.
- Mato is probably my favourite character in Amanchu!, representing the youthful instructor who inspires her students and influences them in a positive manner, imparting advice and discipline as appropriate. Several of my most memorable secondary school instructors bear these traits: my junior high computer science instructor, plus my senior high basic science, biology and art instructors have left a profound impact on who I am and the career choices I’ve made today. I’m slightly closer in age now to her than I am to the protagonists, to give an idea of how long I’ve been around the block for.
- While the pacing of Amanchu! is very languid (of the pleasant variety), each episode proceeds at a nominal pace and would be over before I knew it. Throughout Amanchu!, Futaba occasionally finds it difficult to properly express her gratitude towards Hikari for befriending her and introducing her to the world of scuba diving; some of these exchanges come across as sounding like love confessions, leaving both Hikari and Futaba flustered.
- Hikari’s talents for finding the joys in everyday things is unparalleled; on a rainy day, one of the few in Amanchu!, she boards a train with the sole intent of watching some blooming hydrangeas, tailed by Mato, who is blown away by the sights when they pass the flowers. People tend to be very focused on their own worlds and consequently, sometimes lose sight of the great beauty out there; I’m not immune to this, so I’ve made it a point to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. For instance, just this past weekend, the weather was fantastic and I took a walk under the golden aspen groves of a nearby park.
- When I was a high school student, I wondered why anime would depict youthful high school instructors as being quite playful and, barring their roles, are otherwise indistinguishable from the students. As it turns out, while possessing more wisdom and life experience, twenty-somethings aren’t significantly more reserved than high school students; here, Mato decides to join in on a game of red light-green light.
- The opposite personalities in Hikari and Futaba allow the two to complement one another very nicely; as it turns out, Hikari is able to draw out a side of Futaba hitherto unseen. During physical education, Hikari learns that Futaba has a small competitive streak and can stand toe-to-toe with her peers, but generally lacks the confidence to express this side of her personality.
- Futaba’s penchant for photographing moments in her life is reminiscent of Tamayura‘s Fū Sawatari, who likewise carried a camera with her to photograph memories. However, Futaba keeps her photos in her phone’s local memory and uses them as wallpapers, recalling her favourite elements, and as such, when her storage limit is reached, she begins feeling a little pensive.
- In recalling her past with old friends from middle school, it’s shown that one of Futaba’s friends is named Akane Mizunashi. She even shares the same voice actor as Akari Mizunashi of Aria, who was played by Erino Hazuki. In giving Akari a soft, gentle voice, her character accentuates the sort of person that Akari is, and it was such a pleasant Easter Egg for fans of Aria. Notice the vivid colours in this moment: they do much to capture the heat of a summer’s day.
- This is yet another image that portrays the vast blue skies and oceans in Amanchu!: the nearest ocean to me is roughly 880 kilometres away, but I do have an unending expanse of prairie to marvel at. While feeling despondent over her phone’s depleted memory, Futaba returns to the coast and runs into Hikari’s grandmother. It surprised me to know end to learn that Kikou Inoue voices her, as her voice here is rather different than her voice as Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy and CLANNAD‘s Kanae Furukawa.
- As friends are wont to do, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato purchase a digital photo frame for Futaba, so that she may continue to cherish her memories while making room to continue capturing more. Most photo frames store their images via a memory card of some sort, and the larger 128 GB cards cost a relatively inexpensive 50 CAD. Assuming Futaba’s phone has an 8 MP CCD, a 128 GB memory card will store roughly 4567 photos, which should be more than sufficient for Futaba’s memories.
- Hikari’s life motto, “let’s a-go!”, is a decidedly simple but effective one: doing things on the spur of the moment, she charges headlong into things without much thought, leading even Ai to admire her. Here, Hikari, Futaba and Ai pick out diver’s logbooks and subsequently go swimsuit shopping in light of their exorbitant prices.
- After their shopping trip draws to a close, Hikari, Ai and Futaba hit the beaches to enjoy the warm ocean waters. That they are able to frolic in the ocean waters without freezing suggests that they are further south in Japan: I vaguely recall mentioning that the beach waters in some parts of Japan are comparable to those of Cancún in temperatures, being comfortable enough to wade through without inducing any chills.
- The cumulative experiences that Futaba shares with Hikari and Ai slowly but surely lead her to continue pushing forwards despite her own doubts. The resolve and courage needed to continue walking on despite not knowing what the next step entails is a critical skill for those transitions in different stages of life, such as the gap between school and work. I’ve found that every day is a new opportunity to make new discovery and challenge new problems. There’s not really a chance to worry about things because of the pace, so the only way is to handle things one step at a time.
- Futaba and Hikari find a stray kitten while following Advisor Cha around. After chasing off a crow, they realise the kitten is hungry and set off to buy the provisions to feed her. The cats in Amanchu! are rendered in a very distinct style, and this here kitten gives off an overwhelmingly adorable, helpless air, leading Futaba to take her in for the evening as they try to figure out a new home for the kitten.
- As it turns out, Advisor Cha is the principle’s cat and is named Aria. The principle is quite knowledgable about cats, and notes that the kitten is female (hence my usage of “she” earlier in reference to the kitten). Offering to take her in, the principle remarks that he’s been looking for a female companion for Aria for quite some time, and later, Hikari names the kitten Ohime (“princess”).
- Amanchu! waits until the finale to show Futaba diving for the first time. This serves to portray Futaba’s first dive as the culmination of all her effort, illustrating how far she’s come with the help of her friends since the first episode. The sea floor proves to be a magical place, with plenty of aquatic life to marvel at.
- While it might be fun and games, Futaba is diving in the finale for a reason; Mato begins administering the open diving certificate examination, and aside from several other components, Futaba is made to clear her mask repeatedly. Succeeding on each attempt, as well as on the remaining exam components, Mato passes her, but also makes it a point to clear her own mask without a respirator. In being able to clear her mask now on top of carrying out the other basics readily, this signifies that Futaba has overcome her doubts and is ready to take on the challenges ahead.
- Owing to the fact that they are diving a bit deeper down into the ocean, caustic effects and volumetric lighting are not present in Amanchu!: closer to the sea floor of a continental shelf, water absorbs an increasing amount of light, so that the light blue of the regions near the surface gives way to a darker blue, and eventually, pitch black when one reaches the abyssal plains or deep ocean trenches. I’m not sure how difficult caustics or volumetric lighting would be to accomplish in animation, but modern rendering engines can achieve these effects with reasonably good quality.
- The soundtrack for Amanchu! released more than a month ago, on August 24. Performed by GONTITI, the only similarities between it and the Aria soundtrack is that both make use of acoustic guitar. However, the Amanchu! soundtrack feels more down-to-earth, speaking of the characters’ personalities and the beauty behind the everyday environments that Futaba and Hikari frequent. Conversely, Aria has a more ethereal soundtrack that conveys the mystique and calm of Aqua and Neo Venezia. Both soundtracks are enjoyable in their own right, contributing substantially towards their respective show’s atmospherics.
- Upon returning to the surface, Futaba is overjoyed at the sights and sounds of the world beneath the waves. On an unrelated note, I’ve now punched across the finish line for Kimi no na wa, and although I won’t be putting out a review until the Blu-Rays become available, nor will I be unkind enough to divulge spoilers openly, I can say for certain that the movie was a rather enjoyable one that offers a markedly different feel than did Five Centimeters per Second: it’s got elements inspired by both Garden of Words and Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below.
- Futaba passes her exam, and standing in stark contrast with Hikari, Ai and Makoto, who are exhausted by their day’s diving, Futaba is filled to the brim with energy and is jotting down everything that crosses her mind into her diver’s journal. This difference from her mien at Amanchu!‘s beginning is rather pronounced, a pleasant reminder that meeting the right friends can mean all the difference in the world.
- Consequently, Amanchu! ends on a very high note: Futaba’s found new joys in life worth exploring, and Hikari finally encounters someone who shares her interests without being put-off by her forward mannerisms. With this post now complete, I’ve finished reviewing all of the shows I’ve been actively watching for the summer season. The autumn season is upcoming, and there are three shows on my radar: Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season, Shuumatsu no Izetta and of course, Brave Witches. I am definitely going to be doing episodic reviews of Brave Witches because I foresee that there will be plenty to talk about in this Strike Witches spin-off. With this in mind, I will be releasing my reviews on Saturday or Sunday: with episodes coming out on Wednesdays, I cannot commit the time to do same-day reviews, so I’ll do the reviews on weekends instead. Hibike! Euphonium will likely be reviewed following a similar format as I’ve done for Flying Witch, New Game! and Amanchu! (i.e. two posts, one after three episodes and one for the whole series). I may also return to write about Shuumatsu no Izetta in a similar manner if the anime offers a sufficient number of topics worth considering.
When everything is said and done, Amanchu! presents a familiar but warming story about Futaba’s friendship with Hikari and how it leads her to fantastical experiences. A technically excellent anime with superior artwork, animation and sound, Amanchu! brings to life the minor, subtle details surrounding Futaba and her friends; her story is one with a conclusive and appropriate ending, reflecting on the impact Hikari and the others have on her self-discovery. While being quite different than the atmosphere conveyed by other Iyashikei, it nonetheless manages to stand on its merits; my findal verdict is that Amanchu! earns a recommendation for being able to offer a simple but relatable narrative about facing the unknown and how this challenge becomes more manageable in the company of good friends. While folks expecting something to the calibre of Aria might be a trifle disappointed, on the whole, Amanchu! is remarkably relaxing. I’ve heard that the anime adaptation only covers a small portion of what happens in Amanchu!, and this could pave the way for a continuation where Futaba continues exploring the wonders of the ocean, although with a decisive ending, Amanchu! ends on solid terms— additional installments would be a superb bonus, and if there is a continuation, I’m quite positive that I would certainly enjoy watching them.