“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.” —Osho
Hikari encounters a boy by the name of Kokoro while helping out at Amanchu, and follows him into the ocean, where she finds him admiring a mother octopus protecting her eggs. When she returns the surface, she calls Futaba about an upcoming fireworks show; Futaba is visiting family, but returns on the same day that the fireworks show is scheduled for. On the evening of the fireworks Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato head to the beach for the fireworks show, and while the area is crowded, filled with other viewers, Hikari reveals that as a result of being one of the volunteers for the event, she’s got a special spot for everyone. The fireworks show leaves the others in awe: Mato recalls a time when she was younger and was given a piggy-back ride so she could see the fireworks better. The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro by the seaside. He missed the fireworks while trying to search for the mother octopus, worried that the eel had killed it, but when Hikari dives down with Kokoro, they find a swarm of paralarva swimming about. During the summer camp, Futaba learns the basics of using a compass to navigate in low light conditions, and manages to apply Hikari’s teachings to return to the others during an exercise. Later, when Ai, Makoto and Mato go diving by night, leaving Hikari and Futaba behind, Futaba becomes worried that she’s holding Hikari back. She speaks with Mato the next morning, who tells Futaba that all of her achievements are real, and later, Futaba announces to Hikari that she’s going to work towards an advanced diving license. Slow, relaxing and beautifully-rendered, Amanchu! Advance continues in the same vein as its predecessors, continuing to entertain viewers three episodes in.
Now that Amanchu! Advance is a third of the way into its run, its differences from the first season become more visible. New characters are introduced, and conflicts (in this case, character-vs-self) begin arising. The approach that Amanchu! Advance has taken is consistent with the continuations of every slice-of-life series I’ve seen previously; I’ve long noted that first seasons tend to establish initial friendships first, to create a status quo that can subsequently see disruption during a continuation. The end result of this is the creation of very life-like, dynamic characters. In Amanchu!, audiences are now introduced to Kokoro, a boy of eleven who counts himself a man of the sea. A chance encounter with him allows Hikari to make a new memory that she was not expecting. It is shown that there are unexpected moments that can surprise even someone as open-minded and alert for adventure as Hikari, and another instance where Hikari can be very mature and capable, where the situation calls for it, is presented. Amanchu! Advance is showing different aspect of the character with the aim of illustrating their complexity. Similarly, in spite of all of the growth Futaba has seen since the beginning of Amanchu!, she occasionally still harbours doubt about herself: all of the memories she’s made since arriving were made with Hikari, and Futaba wonders if the magical moments the two have spent together is a dream. Mato’s words of wisdom eventually motivate Futaba to do something of her own accord, and so, Amanchu! Advance‘s narrative is headed in a direction where Futaba will strive to take the initiative and make her own path, all the while continuing to treasure the time that she spends with Hikari. In slice-of-life anime, character growth occurs at a very slow, natural pace to drive the thematic elements, and it is typically during a second season where the more unexpected and interesting interactions between characters can occur.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Before we dive further into this Amanchu! Advance discussion, I remark that I’ve recently crossed the finish line for Violet Evergarden and so, will be dropping by to do a talk on that before the month is out. There was a surprisingly solid story, and I’m immensely glad to have watched the series. For now, we’ll return the party to Amanchu! Advance, where I’ll open up with Hikari putting up a poster for the local fireworks show.
- While serving some customers, Hikari notices someone sitting on the rocks nearby, and intrigued, makes off to check them out. Located on the Izu Peninsula near the town of Itō, the events of Amanchu! have capitalised on the beautiful weather and quiet scenery in the region to create a highly laid-back atmosphere. While anime like AIR or Ano Natsu De Matteru often convey long summer days and the vastness of the skies as melancholy in nature, series whose focus is not drive by romance tend to give summers as a time of adventure.
- Hikari’s decision to follow Kokoro down is met with the discovery of an octopus protecting her eggs in an enclosed space underneath some rocks. Time and time again, Amanchu! reiterates to viewers that wonderous things can be found anywhere if one knows where to look, and I find that there is value in solitude; being alone means being completely aware of and open to one’s surroundings. While with others, I tend to focus my attention on them: I recall a walk that I took yesterday. Because I walked it alone today, I noticed things that I normally miss when I’m walking there with a group.
- Kokoro is initially reluctant to give up his name, and from what I’ve been hearing, was mistaken for a girl until recently. His bold spirits and declaration that he’s a “Man of the Sea” subtly hint that he is in fact a guy, and while we’ve only seen him appear on a few occasions thus far, series do not introduce characters without reason: viewers will be seeing Kokoro, and his sister, Kotori, with a greater frequency in the near future.
- Futaba was once distrustful of secrets, but in the time that she’s known Hikari, she’s become more open-minded and eagerly awaits returning to town so she may see what surprise that Hikari has for her. The changes that Futaba see in her worldview form the core of Amanchu! Advance, and one of the things I’d like to see more of is how Futaba’s had an impact on Hikari. While this has been mentioned in conversation previously, it would be fantastic to see things from Hikari’s perspective, as well.
- While diving down to check on the octopus, Hikari and Kokoro witness an attacking eel. Despite seemingly losing the skirmish, the octopus manages to seize the eel and propels it far from her eggs. There are many marvels (and some terrors) in the depths of the ocean, many of which remain poorly-characterised; the comparison of the ocean to another world in fiction is a reminder that the vast, unexplored places of our world hold many mysteries, giving its exploration a sense of romance.
- Last Friday marked the start of Poutine Week in my city. I’ve been participating since 2016, and the premise is simple: every year, restaurants participate in Poutine week by making unique poutines. People then go to these restaurants to eat said poutine, and proceeds from poutines purchased go to MealShare, a charity that helps youth in need by providing meals. This year, I opened up Poutine Week with Brasserie Kensington’s All-American Breakfast poutine, which is made with cold-press canola oil fries, white sausage gravy and Alberta cheese curds, plus a fried egg, breaded veal cutlet and sausage that was a rich, smokey and garlicky flavour. This is one of the fanciest poutines I’ve enjoyed: I don’t think I’ve had veal before, much less in a poutine. The veal was tender, and the sausage was seasoned well, resulting in a very flavourful poutine. I subsequently took a walk along the river and enjoyed the first rainfall of the year.
- I say “enjoy” because, even though it was quite chilly, being there to see the first rain of the year meant a true return of warmer weather that my area’s been lacking so far. When Mato shows up at the Amanchu Beach House, Hikari invites her to accompany them to the fireworks event. Mato notices that Hikari is chipper, even more than usual, and Hikari responds that she’s been chilling with Kokoro. At this point, Hikari is under the impression that Kokoro is a girl, and viewers continue to be under the impression that this is the case until later in the anime: the manga similarly introduces Kokoro in a manner that readers would think of him as a girl, only for the truth to come out later.
- Once Futaba is back in town, she and Hikari meet up, with Hikari gushing over Futaba’s yukata. Hikari herself is wearing sunflowers, a mirror of her bright and cheerful presence. The moment was bloody hilarious, and I note that people with a yuri perspective are quite excited about what’s happening in Amanchu!. I hate to burst that bubble, but there’s actually not too much to discuss in this area, since friendships amongst females are rather more open and more expressive. Guys tend to be more boisterous with the jokes, but the dynamics are quite different, which is one reason why there might be occasions where some mistake ordinary friendship for romantic friendship.
- With this being said, Hikari’s mention of dates and the like does seem to come across as being more romantic in nature, and when Futaba finds out, she cannot help but feel a little jealous that Hikari is able to befriend people so quickly. These feelings quickly dissipate as Futaba begins feeling that Hikari’s bright personality is her strongest suit, and so, she sets off with the others to find a suitable spot for viewing the fireworks. The venue is absolutely packed, and Mato and the others wonder if they’ll manage to find spaces before the show begins.
- However, it turns out that Hikari’s got an ace in the hole: as a volunteer, she was given access to special seating that puts them directly underneath the fireworks, and when the show starts, Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato are treated to a spectacular fireworks display. I’m particularly fond of fireworks, and every summer, there are a handful of shows around town. The most famous is Global Fest, where dedicated performances are held at Elliston Park every August. Other shows include the nightly performances for the Calgary Stampede and Canada Day fireworks: the best shows are always on Saturdays, I find, since it means that I get to sleep in the next day.
- Of course, as it’s still a ways off until the summer, I will happily accept anime fireworks as the next best option to watching real fireworks. A testament to the solid animation in Amanchu! Advance, the fireworks show was stunning: the animation in Amanchu! is handled by JC Staff, who’ve previously worked on Flying Witch, Urara Meirocho, Tora Dora! and Azumanga Daioh. A sign of a good anime is that it immerses viewers in the universe being depicted, and for Amanchu!, the adaptation has done a spectacular job of creating this immersion, if I am remarking that the fireworks are an acceptable substitution when no real fireworks are available.
- Spoiler alert: because fireworks are essentially explosions, they distribute their metallic fuels in a near spherical pattern, so independently of where one views a fireworks display, one will always see the disk facing them. I have plans to write about the upcoming film Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?: unlike some folks, whose home countries screened the film, I live in a dead zone where only the biggest anime films are screened, and as such, will need to wait for a bit longer in order to check this film out for myself.
- The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro trying to make his way back to the spot where the mother octopus was and tries to dissuade him, telling him that death is a natural part of life. Dealing with death is a very tricky topic, especially when communicating it to children, and a part of properly addressing things is to be honest. This was dealt with in Non Non Biyori Repeat, surprising some viewers; a good slice-of-life series explores the everyday, and while it’s a topic some might be uncomfortable with contemplating, death is very much a part of our reality.
- While having missed the fireworks of the previous evening, Kokoro bears witness to a swarm of paralarva glistening in the ocean waters with Hikari: it’s a miraculous sight that indicates the mother octopus had ultimately fulfilled its duty and ensured the survival of her offspring. These paralarva will consume other small copepods, zooplankton and larvae as they mature into adult octopi. Octopi tend to have shorter life spans, with some living for only a half year, while longer-lived species can push five years.
- Hikari’s constant encounters with the extraordinary are very much presented as a strength in Amanchu! – she’s seemingly always in the right place at the right time to enjoy the present. Kozue Amane’s work illustrates that she’s someone who believes that miracles can be found in both the small of moments and most momentous of events. I’ve previously stated that this is the reason why I am particularly fond of iyashikei anime: people who are very task-oriented and goal-driven often forget to stop and smell the roses, and anime such as these remind me of the merits of doing so.
- A qualified pilot must be able fly a plane with only the instruments and no visual cues of what’s outside, and similarly, divers must train to ensure they are able to navigate in low-light conditions. Futaba is practising how to navigate using a compass and manages to succeed in her simulated run on dry land, perfectly moving in the direction she intends to. After passing her trial run, she moves into the water to put her learnings to the test.
- Unsurprisingly, the techniques outlined in Amanchu! Advanced are correct: compasses designed for scuba diving have a lubber line (pair of red lines) clearly marked, and this is first set to be oriented with the target. The bezel is then adjusted so that 0º is oriented to the north. Once underwater, turning in a direction so that the compass’ north marking lines up with 0º indicates that one is facing their intended direction, and revolving the bezel 180º will allow one to travel back the way they came from.
- There’s always a degree of challenge when doing something in the actual environment, as opposed to in a training environment, and when Futaba sets out to put her navigation learnings to use, she becomes unsure as to whether or not she’s done things correctly and considers throwing the towel in when she loses sight of Hikari. However, while alone in the ocean, several thoughts return to Futaba, and spurred on, she makes her way back to the others with the techniques that she’s picked up.
- When she’s doubtful of whether or not she set her compass up correctly, Futaba recalls bits of advice from Hikari, from various landmarks and species of fish she’s seen, to the orientation of ripples in the sand as a result of waves propagating through the water. This scene was intended to illustrate that, even if Futaba and Hikari are separated, their presence will endure in one another’s hearts, and moreover, it appears to be a powerful enough motivator as to bring them back together, if Futaba’s exercise was meant to be a metaphor of thus.
- Futaba thus completes her test successfully, and Hikari is thrilled to see Futaba returns on her own without any assistance. To illustrate the lightening mood, the ocean water become much brighter, with lighter shades of blue returning into frames that were previously dominated by black. I’ve noticed that elsewhere, discussions on Amanchu! Advance have been rather minimal despite the near-universal positive reception to the sequel. This phenomenon is primarily a consequence of the slow pacing of Amanchu!, which is even more languid than the likes of K-On! or Yuru Camp△.
- As a result, some bloggers have found it challenging to write about this series, much less on an episodic basis. It would be quite vapid to simply react to things as they occur in the anime, and Amanchu! isn’t the sort of thing where “deconstruction” can be performed, considering how open and clear the themes are: the messages that Amanchu! strives to convey are the sum of the events in the series, with individual episodes being snapshots and an example of how events drive the theme.
- In the aftermath of Futaba’s exercise, they freshen up and relax under beautiful summer skies. The question that remains is, if writing for something like Amanchu! Advance presents unique challenges, then will I be continuing with posts after six and nine episodes as planned? The answer to this is that I will continue: my big picture discussions allow me to take a look at how the progression of an anime align with the overarching themes (or more appropriately, what I’ve interpreted to be a suitable theme), while the “screenshots and commentary” give me some space to simply react to moments and have fun with my writing.
- Returning the focus back to Amanchu! Advance, here, Ai manages to elicit a squeal out of Futaba that sounds strikingly similar to Finn’s screams from Adventure Time. Having completed the navigation tutorials, Futaba feels she’s one step further along in acquiring the skills that divers require, even if there is quite a bit for her to learn, and is feeling particularly happy about things.
- Ai notes that things only really get exciting once one has an increased skillset: I am brought back to my experience in martial arts. I teach occasionally, and there are some students who occasionally wonder what the point of doing all of the basics are. The basics (e.g. stances, techniques, discipline) are essential before one can properly learn kata, and as such, we place a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that our basics are satisfactory. Even though I am a ni-dan now, I feel that my basics could definitely use improvement still, but I know enough so that I’m able to do the more advanced things, which, as Ai says, is where the fun begins.
- Ai and Makoto highlight some of their new gear, including a high-intensity flashlight and glowsticks, that allow them to safely descend and view the ocean by nightfall. Back on the surface, Hikari mentions to Futaba that night diving has its own charms: the use of white light allows for wildlife and structures underwater to be viewed with a more natural colour, and Hikari expresses a want to eventually try this out.
- Futaba feels that she’s holding Hikari back in some cases, and that her achievements feel a little unreal at times. Futaba ends up waking up early and gazing at the ocean; after Mato joins her, Futaba decides to share with Mato the doubts that she has. While Mato has been shown to be energetic and similar to her students at times, even participating in a game of red light, green light, back during the first season, she is also reliable, mature and helpful towards her students.
- One minor detail in Amanchu! Advance is the presence of Aria and Ohime’s antics, which subtly occur in the background while the characters converse. These dynamics add life to a scene, and while Aria was noticeably absent in Amanchu!‘s first season, it’s quite pleasant to see Aria getting along with Ohime now. Their interactions bring to mind Maa and Aria’s interactions from ARIA: Maa is quite fond of Aria and expresses her affection for him in a manner that is quite painful. Here in Amanchu!, Ohime often is seen kicking Aria around even though she’s much smaller than he is.
- Mato reminds Futaba that all of her memories and accomplishments are very much real: while Futaba’s more mature and open now than she was at the very beginning of Amanchu!, personal growth is a life-long journey, and she still occasionally stumbles. Fortunately, it is with her friends that she’s able to slowly, and surely, develop a stronger sense of confidence. While Futaba provides this monologue, she is shown diving with Hikari, and in this sequence, animation of the world underwater is superb. Details in the anemone and clownfish are remarkable, illustrating to viewers what Futaba and Hikari see.
- Futaba declares that she will be going for her advanced diving certification, which gives Amanchu! Advance a clear focus as we continue into the season. As mentioned earlier, it would also be nice for Amanchu! Advance to focus on how Hikari has seen personal growth since meeting Futaba. This brings my Amanchu! Advance post to a conclusion, and looking ahead into the future, I’m surprised that April’s almost over. I will be working on a Violet Evergarden post, since the anime seems to be the hot topic, and on top of that, with the upcoming Fireworks movie, I also will see if I can write about that in a timely fashion. Battlefield 1 and The Division also have exciting things in store: the latter is getting new weapons and content, while the latter is running a Global Event starting tomorrow. With all of this stuff on the table, and having gotten some feedback surrounding my prospective Your Lie in April talks, I’ve decided not to write about Your Lie in April until I know I can do the series justice.
With its cathartic pacing and focus on the minor details, Amanchu! Advance has hit its stride, acting as this season’s go-to anime for relaxing after the work week. Continuing to remind audiences that there is great value in taking things slowly and making the most of every moment, Amanchu! is also considered to be a series that can be difficult to write for owing to the rate of progression: a few activities that Futaba, Hikari and the others partake in are rendered in great detail, with Futaba and Hikari’s monologues informing audiences precisely how they are feeling about things. Amanchu! is very direct as to what audiences should take away from the anime, and consequently, some have expressed that episodic reviews of Amanchu! Advance could be quite tricky. With this in mind, my approach, to return every few episodes to offer some thoughts as to where things are going, is quite suitable for series like Amanchu! — dropping in to see where the story and characters are headed while considering the messages from a big picture perspective offers just enough to write about without things becoming repetitive, and as a second season, Amanchu! Advance will certainly offer something distinct from its predecessor precisely because the series is now open to introducing new characters and exploring hitherto unexplored interactions between different subsets of characters. These have always added a new dimensionality to the characters and augment the enjoyability of a show, so I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how Amanchu! Advance‘s journey will unfold.