“I never bullshit, Pickle Man. This can only end with one of us dead, and I have never died.”
“That will be your downfall, Jaguar: not being open to new experiences.”
—Jaguar and Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty
On an autumn day, Hikari runs into Kokoro, who is buying Marron Pie for her parents. She subsequently spends the afternoon with him, and they walk under the brilliant autumn foliage of a nearby park together. Meanwhile, Futaba is enjoying a cool afternoon at a café with a book, but falls asleep and has a lucid dream where she’s a witch. She takes another one of the café’s patrons into the skies with a broom and soars over town, before flying to a park, where sakura blossoms are blooming. When Futaba reawakens, she recounts her experiences with Hikari. Later during a dive using drysuits, Hikari notices that Futaba is highly motivated. Futaba panics when she finds herself unable to descend with the others, and is saved by Hikari and Mato; Mato lectures Futaba on the dangers of a rapid ascend. During lunch, the diving club meet Hikari’s younger sister, Kodama, and with encouragement from her friends, Futaba’s motivation is restored. While diving, Mato finds herself in imminent danger of injury, but is saved by the “Black Mermaid”, a gargantuan diver. He signals for them to accompany him; Mato, Hikari and Futaba accepts, so he brings them to a beautiful reef under the ocean. It turns out that the Black Mermaid is Hikari’s grandfather, who is an experienced diver. During Halloween, Futaba and Kokoro compete to earn the prize from a scavenger hunt: a kiss from Prince Hikari. Determined to win, Futaba overcomes her fears of talking to a stranger with a costume beard and pushes for the finish line, tying with Kokoro, who had his sights set on winning the giant octopus stuffed toy. Hikari and Futaba relax an exclusive spa with Mato and Ai, and later, Mato wonders when she lost sight of the magic in the world. Thus, we are at the halfway point of Amanchu! Advance, and by my admission, Amanchu! Advance is a step away from the grounded, ordinary setting of its predecessor. Fantastical escapes are explored, blurring the line between reality and fantasy: Futaba frequently alludes to this message, which is a recurring theme that we’ve seen so far.
One of the greatest joys about sequels are that they offer an opportunity for writers to present different aspects to characters that audiences have already become familiar with. In Amanchu! Advance, Hikari’s character is seen as being more prone to embarrassment: her carpe diem outlook on life has its limits, and she sometimes feels this when things cross the line. However, Futaba has received a more interesting bit of growth in Amanchu! Advance: having long regarded Hikari as a dear friend, her desire to be with Hikari has also manifested a hitherto unexpected side of her character. She’s expressing jealousy now at the prospect of someone else vying for Hikari’s attention, and similarly, has become more protective of Hikari, as well. Futaba’s drive in the scavenger hunt indicates this very strongly, as do her dreams of being the prince to Hikari’s princess. On the topic of dreams, Amanchu! Advance has also given audiences exposure to Futaba’s desires and thoughts through her dreams. While relaxing at a café, the atmosphere leads her to fall asleep. She’s well aware of being in a dream and all the more assertive for it; conjuring a broom and soaring through the skies, Futaba encourages another patron to partake, as well, expressing a confidence and assuredness that we’d previously not seen in her. In conjunction with Futaba’s allusions to the merging of boundaries between the tangible and dreams, I get the sense that Amanchu! Advance intends to convey to its audiences that magical moments are so moving they often feel unreal, and that these magic moments have profound changes, both good and bad, on individuals that experience them; it is clear that Futaba, for whatever other doubts she may possessed, has matured since meeting Hikari.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I continue to find interesting things to talk about in Amanchu! Advance, so this post will have thirty screenshots. We open with Hikari running into Kokoro. Both have their sights set on Marron Pie: having nothing to do with Hai-Furi‘s Maron, Marrons are another name for chestnuts, and in Japan, these chestnut pies are made by wrapping a light, flaky pastry around candied chestnuts. Japanese pastry shops mark this as an autumn specialty, the same way that pumpkin spice has more or less worked its way into everything when autumn rolls around in North America. While some folks find it overrated, the sweet and subtle kick of pumpkin does have a distinctly autumn taste to it.
- It suddenly strikes me that none of the bloggers whom I’m in regular correspondence with, are writing about Amanchu! Advance. I’d love to hear other perspectives on this show, even if Amanchu! Advance might not be the most conducive towards discussions. While Futaba and another patron enjoy their books, hot beverage and sweets, I look back a few evenings, when I finally tried out the Louisanna-style fried chicken from a new place in the area. Their chicken is very crunchy and flavourful, fried differently from the place I normally go, and the cajun fries have a bit of a kick to them. The best surprise were their biscuits, which are moist and buttery.
- The page quote for Amanchu! Advance thus comes from the notion of being open to new experiences, albeit one made in jest. In general, being open-minded leads to unexpected surprises, and here, Futaba encourages the other patron to fly with her. Futaba is enjoying tea at the Izukogen Rose Terrace café. With its unusual architecture, this cafe is well-regarded in both its atmosphere and menu: locals recommend it as a place to drop by if one is in search of a short breather while exploring the numerous museums in the area.
- The events of Amanchu! Advance and Amanchu are set in the coastal town of Itō. With a population of sixty-nine thousand, most of the locations of Amanchu! are set in and around Itō, although unsurprisingly, some creative liberties have been taken to ensure that the locations of Amanchu! work with the story. Having said this, this aerial depiction of Itō is largely faithful to the real-world incarnation; Nagisa Park is visible in the image.
- In her dreams, Futaba has the same grace and charm as Flying Witch‘s Makoto Kowata: she smoothly mounts her broom and takes flight using the same approach as seen in Flying Witch where she channels her magic into the broom. I invite readers to check out my old talk on Flying Witch; aired some two years ago, I greatly enjoyed Flying Witch, and readers will have noticed that I have a particular fondness for slice-of-life anime defined by a highly cathartic atmosphere. I’ve stated this previously: my enjoyment in these shows come from simply being able to watch them in the moment, and I note that I am never on the lookout for themes or analysis while watching a show.
- While my posts on these anime predominantly feature thematic elements and the like, I only consider these elements once I’ve decided to sit down and write these posts. Back in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Kokoro stroll through an area with red leaves. Kokoro, being only eleven, is a ways younger than the other characters, and his dynamics with Hikari are endearing. He swings between wanting to hang with Hikari and wanting to avoid her at the same time for the latter’s indefatigable spirit.
- The young patron that Futaba befriends is Kotori Misaki, who is Kokoro’s sister. She has yet to be formally introduced to the cast, and is voiced by none other than Ai Kakuma (Brave Witches‘ Hikari Karibuchi): characters in anime are not introduced on a whim, and so, I expect that Kotori will meet up with the main cast in due course.
- A brilliant sunset marks the end of the day: in Japan, sunsets and sunrises come very early. While in Japan last year, the sun began setting as early as 16:00 JST, and it would already be fully up, equivalent to around 08:00 MDT when I woke up at 06:00 JST. I’m a morning person through and through, but waking up to see the sunrise, which is at a reasonable time back home, would be unfeasible for even me. When the sun sets at home, I usually am not treated to such a vivid experience as seen in Amanchu! Advance, either: the most beautiful of sunsets usually occur in late October and early November, when chinook clouds are illuminated by the last light of day.
- The legend of the Jet-Black Mermaid is a story that Mato tells her students: this story is local to Amanchu! Advance and won’t be found anywhere else. Mato describes a beautiful and mysterious entity that roams the oceans, helping divers in need out, moving at quick speeds and also is willing to take them to Ryūgū-jō, a mystical underwater palace that is home to the Dragon God, Ryūjin. While an interesting story, Mato remarks that it is little more than a mere myth, and the diving club thus begins their day’s activities.
- While underwater, Futaba experiences a curious phenomenon when Hikari, Makoto and Ai blow rings of air. I am reminded of folks who can make smoke rings. This is a technique that requires practise, and experienced individuals can create faster or slower moving rings, as well. Having said this, because I am a non-smoker, this is not something I will practise or take up any time soon. The most impressive smoke rings I’ve seen in any context goes to The Lord of The Rings‘ Gandalf The Grey, who created an entire smoke galleon in The Fellowship of The Ring.
- After failing to modify her buoyancy before descending, Futaba finds herself being pulled upwards and risks decompression sickness, informally known as the bends. This is caused by a reduced pressure causing dissolved gases to come out of solution, creating bubbles in the bloodstream. Because these bubbles can form in any part of the body, the effects can be lethal. This is why Mato gives Futaba a stern lecture: the effects of the bends are not trivial.
- While Futaba is a bit disheartened that she got a bit cocky, conversation with her friends allows her to regroup. Futaba is presented as being someone who’s quite hard on herself and doubtful, and while she still occasionally succumbs, it is clear that her friendships have given her a newfound confidence. Mindful of her errors, Futaba learns from her mistakes more rapidly now and seems less bothered by the weight of her errors.
- While manga readers will be familiar with Kodama, Hikari’s younger sister, it came as a surprise to me that Kodama was introduced this late in the game. She’s the opposite of Hikari, being reserved and feeling that Hikari’s boundless enthusiasm is a liability. Despite her not being an active diver, she’s familiar with the basics. The two are as different as night and day, and Kodama thanks the others for looking after Hikari.
- Hikari and Futaba prepare to enter the water. When Futaba expresses doubt at performing a back roll entry, Hikari suggests the giant stride. One of my impediments is that I cannot tumble at all, so when I was younger, the rolling entry into water was something I never could execute for swimming classes. The stride dive is usually employed when one is on a larger vessel, while the back roll is used if one is on a small boat or RHIB.
- Yesterday, I went ahead and watched Avengers: Infinity War at a local cinema before returning home to a dinner of roast beef and peppercorn gravy and cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon and sour cream. This particular theatre has fancy, comfortable reclining chairs, and the film itself was superb. Like Girls und Panzer Der Film and Strike Witches The Movie, this is an experience that requires some knowledge of the previous entries in the film. It was a thrill to see all of the MCU characters bounce off one another, and despite being darker than some of the other MCU films, Infinity War does have its humourous moments, such as when Stark and Strange clash. References to earlier films are also made, and it is this a priori knowledge that makes some of the moments more enjoyable. The film is the first part of two, and the latter releases next May.
- This is about as far as I’ll go in talking about Infinity War: my readers, who may or may not be fans of the MCU, are likely hear about my thoughts on anime, so I’ll return the discussion to Amanchu! Advance, where Mato’s just been rescued from a nasty bump to her dome by a gargantuan diver whose proportions defy normalcy. After this mysterious diver saves Mato, he invites Mato, Hikari and Futaba. With Mato’s story about the Jet-Black Mermaid still fresh on their minds, the girls accept the new diver’s invitation.
- Swimming at a speed much faster than previously thought possible, the massive diver takes Mato, Futaba and Hikari into a beautiful coral reef under the ocean. While not Ryūgū-jō, this area is beautiful, being populated by colourful corals and schools of fish. With its vivid colours and volumetric lighting, Amanchu! Advnace has gone the full ten yards in creating a scene that captures the majesty and wonder of the oceans.
- The result is a truly magical moment that stands amongst the miracles that Akari, Aika and Alice encounter on Aqua: Amanchu! Advance manages to accomplish this without any supernatural or otherworldly forces. Initially, the mysterious black-clad diver’s identity is not known, but his benevolent actions and calming presence is reminiscent of ARIA‘s Cait Sith, who appears to Akari occasionally and is considered to act as a spiritual guardian of sorts for Aqua. However, in the absence of supernatural, it is not particularly rational to consider this diver as Amanchu! Advance‘s equivalent of the Cait Sith. Instead, subtle bits of foreshadowing hint at who this diver is.
- As it turns out, the diver is Hikari’s grandfather; he’s a big guy for you. The clue I refer to is the vast towel that Kodama brings to Kino, which the others immediately find curious for its dimensions. Despite his build, Hikari’s grandfather is evidently a skilful diver.
- During a Halloween festival of sorts, Futaba dresses up in a vivid red dress and finds the scene surrounding her so unreal that she has to convince herself that it is not a dream. She and Hikari enjoy the festival, later running into Kokoro. When Hikari heads off to buy some drinks, an uncomfortable silence arises between the two, but the pair nonetheless draw a crowd.
- While walking around the Halloween festival, Hikari and the others run into Ai and Makoto, who are handling a scavenger hunt. No one’s shown up, and Ai wonders if they’ll need to up the ante for prizes. The group brainstorm some prizes, landing on “a kiss from the prince (Hikari)”: this draws the interest of a little girl, and word spreads, hauling in a large group of participants. Feeling that Hikari is threatened, Futaba decides to join the scavenger hunt and win it to protect her. Kokoro can be seen here in a lilac cat costume, and he joins because the original prize caught his eye.
- The scavenger hunt’s participants quickly hit impediments that slow them down for good. Kokoro’s assignment is to find a handkerchief, which he considers straightforwards, but he’s scared off by the principal and decides to ask a lady instead. His plan backfires when the woman asks him what kind of trick he might play on her should she decline his request, but the outcome later suggests that he managed to overcome his fear.
- Futaba initially has trouble finding the courage asking a man dressed as a kangaroo for his beard, but like Kokoro, succeeds. It was unexpectedly adorable to watch Futaba squeal in panic when her prize was so near and simultaneously so far: we recall that she’s voiced by Ai Kayano (Chisaki Hiradaira in Nagi no Asakura, Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takabe and Mocha Hoto in GochiUsa), who excels at gentle voices.
- The conclusion of the scavenger hunt is a thrilling one, and it ends up a draw between Futaba and Kokoro, when Kokoro trips and ends up in Futaba’s arms. This outcome was not particularly unexpected, and from a narrative perspective, is done to indicate that both Futaba and Kokoro were motivated by their own, non-intersecting reasons for winning.
- Futaba began Amanchu! with a graceful but distant expression that gradually shifted to one of wonder, warmth and happiness when she met Hikari. I believe this is my first time seeing Futaba wear such an expression on her face, when she remarks to Kokoro that she’s not about to let anyone steal Hikari from her. The afternoon soon gives way to evening, and after receiving a kiss from Hikari, Futaba declares that she’d like to be Hikari’s prince.
- I’ve been enjoying Amanchu! Advanced considerably thus far, but even in a series as cathartic and laid-back as Amanchu!, it seems the deep places of the internet can still find criticisms to level against this series. In this case, accusations of discrimination against Amanchu!‘s author, Kozue Amano have been made because some entitled, ill-read individuals on Reddit cannot differentiate between different kinds of friendships. I’m normally accepting of Reddit discussions since they tend to be useful, but some parts of their anime community are about as credible and useful as that of /a/, which is to say, their discussions are a load of bollocks. Having said this, if there are people reading this who think that Redditors and /a/ have value, however negligible, then by all means, make it known to me. I welcome it.
- I’ve also heard that one chapter of Amanchu! is controversial, and having taken a look, I can say with total confidence that this is a gross overreaction. The chapter in question might be adapted into Amanchu! Advance, and while I think nothing of it, the lesser parts of the internet apparently find it to be srs bsns. Quite personally, I hope they adapt this chapter into Amanchu! Advance so viewers can make of things for themselves, rather than leaving it to the sensitive and narrow-minded folk out there to shape perceptions on things. Here in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Futaba share a dance in one of Futaba’s dreams.
- Enjoying their fancy spa experience, Futaba and Hikari share another moment of joy following Futaba’s recounting of her dream to Hikari. Lucid dreams were mentioned in this post, but I’ve not mentioned them in too much detail until now: these dreams are defined as when the individual is aware of their being in a dream and may be able to exert varying degrees of control over how things unfold. A few people I know, both in real life and among my fellow bloggers have such dreams – I am a bit envious, since the most amount of control I can exert in my dreams is to exfiltrate when I feel a situation is unfair or dangerous. Beyond this, my dreams are very mundane and ordinary for the most part; I’ve flown on a couch over my home town and duelled a Balrog of Morgoth once, but more common are dreams where I’m involved in my daily routine or treading familiar ground.
- Outside, Mato walks about. Hearing the conversation that Futaba and Hikari share leads her to wonder when she stopped looking around the world for the magical and began viewing it in more practical, mundane terms. The presence of a routine tends to do that: adults tend to be a lot more boring in this regard.
- With this final screenshot of Mato looking over a cluster of Jack’o-Lanterns, my talk for Amanchu! Advance after the halfway point draws to a close. We’re nearing the halfway point of May, and having another Amanchu! post in the books, the third and final part of my Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey series will be completed in the near future. We’re also closing on the release dates for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?: Dear My Sister – I intend to write about Dear My Sister as soon as it becomes available, and will be saving Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai for June. Finally, Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment still needs to be watched and written about, so there is that to look forwards to, as well.
The past three episodes of Amanchu! Advance leading us to the halfway point have moved the series in a direction where it feels more like ARIA; magical moments are more common and suggest that miracles can be found in life’s smallest details. This is a welcome step for Amanchu! Advance, giving the show the chance to portray characters outside of their activities as divers. In doing so, Amanchu! Advance reiterates to viewers that while diving might be what brought people together, people (and not diving) are ultimately at the forefront of everything in Amanchu! Advance. Slow and calming in its pacing, Amanchu! Advance has shown that in spite of its presentation, there are definitely things worth considering. The anime continues to impress with its visual quality, and the music has also taken a step forwards, playing a more visible role in setting the emotional tenor for a moment. The sum of these elements come together to create an atmosphere not unlike that of ARIA, and even though Amanchu! is set in the real world, with a different premise and aims, the similarities between the two series in terms of atmosphere are evident. As we move into Amanchu! Advance‘s second half, I expect that audiences will continue to see different aspects for the characters that give them a more credible feel and make the show increasingly enjoyable. I further speculate that Amanchu! Advance will advance in a direction that sees Futaba working hard for, and earning her advanced diver certification. The rationale for this is that Amanchu! Advance‘s tile, in incorporating the word “Advance” to signify both the act of moving forwards and a higher level of knowledge, is leading Futaba down a path where she is able to do both and mature further as a person.