“I turned myself into a pickle, Morty! Boom! Big reveal; I’m a pickle! What do you think about that? I turned myself into a pickle! What are you just staring at me for, bro? I just turned myself into a pickle, Morty…here’s something that’s never happened before; I’m…a…pickle! I’M PICKLE RICK!!” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty
Futaba’s best friends from middle school, Akane and Chizuru, stop by Izu to visit her and Hikari. They enjoy a tour of Izu with Hikari and her grandmother. Akane and Chizuru notice a profound change in Futaba, who has become more confident and expressive since they’d last met. She cites Hikari’s influence as being what introduced this transformation, leading Chizuru to begin wondering if Hikari’s taken Futaba from them. Later, Futaba invites Akane and Chizuru on guided diving. Akane pairs up with Futaba, leaving Chizuru to go with Hikari. Midway into their dive, water pressure induces pain in Chizuru’s ears, but with instruction from Hikari, she manages to clear up and continue; after realising the wonders of the ocean, Chizuru reveals she was a little jealous of Hikari, but having seen Hikari’s helpful and friendly nature, finds that Futaba’s met the perfect friend. They promise to visit again in the future. Released back in March, the Amanchu! OVA represents a welcome return to the tranquil, cathartic world that Futaba encounters after moving from Tokyo; like its predecessor, the OVA continues with themes of friendship and growth as a result of complimenting personalities: the bold Hikari encourages Futaba to open up and enjoy the present, while the more reserved Futaba reigns in Hikari some to prevent misunderstandings. Thus, when Akane and Chizuru were introduced, the girls find they can get along as well as any friends, even in spite of Chizuru’s initial reservations. Simple, concise and enjoyable, the Amanchu! OVA encapsulates the very same elements that made the original anime so enjoyable. In this OVA, there is an additional element that proved to be a remarkably pleasant surprise.
This surprise took the form of Erino Hazuki and Chiwa Saitō taking on the voices for Akane and Chizuru, respectively. Best known as ARIA‘s Akari Mizunashi and Aika S. Granzchesta, respectively, Hazuki and Saitō bring into Amanchu! a piece of ARIA that is captured in both their voices, mannerisms and even their appearances: Akane is evidently influenced by Akari, and Chizuru draws heavily from Aika. Amanchu! is quite fond of the chibi artstyle, with Hikari and Futaba taking on very distinct traits whenever rendered in such a form. This convention applies to Akane and Chizuru, as well: each character is quite similar to their chibi counterparts in ARIA. When I originally finished Amanchu!, I had not finished ARIA‘s three seasons, but having done so now, I can conclusively say that beyond being immensely relaxing and enjoyable in their own rights, ARIA and Amanchu! cannot be compared to one another from a thematic perspective. Having said this, there are definitely numerous similarities that the two series share, a result of both manga being written by Kozue Amano. Elements from ARIA make their way into Amanchu!, whether it be the solid presence of cats, a focus on the subtleties in life or the gentle music accompanying scenes (in the anime): nowhere else in Amanchu! are these influences as evident as they are in the OVA. Altogether, the Amanchu! OVA, in depicting a memorable summer event for Futaba and her friends, also crafts a wonderful anime that is well-suited for watching during the dog days of summer, when the weather is a trifle too hot for being outside.
Screenshots and Commentary
- An immensely relaxing and satisfying anime to watch, Amanchu! was, along with New Game!‘s first season, one of the two anime I followed a summer ago. Since then, it would appear that writing two anime per season appears to be the upper bound for what I am able to commit the time to writing for this blog. Conceptualising and writing blog posts is a rather time-consuming process, and consequently, I have nothing but respect and amazement for the folks who manage to write consistently, sometimes even putting out several posts in a day.
- While I certainly won’t be able to have that sort of output, I can definitely focus on the quality of individual posts. This is why posts are becoming larger as of late: OVAs and longer discussions of anime I am actively following usually have thirty images compared to the standard twenty of discussions dealing with an anime after three episodes and my older posts. This post on the Amanchu! OVA will feature thirty screenshots. Here, Futaba’s friends, Akane and Chizuru, arrive in Izu under pleasant summer skies.
- Hikari’s excitement is palatable in all of the moments she’s present in, and while Akane rolls with things as they occur, Chizuru seems a little more uptight. This is not surprising, mirroring Akari and Aika’s respective personalities in ARIA. An anime about miracles, I also happened to play DOOM during the time that I began watching ARIA, so this blog is probably the only place that will dare posit that ARIA‘s Aqua is the consequence of the events seen in DOOM.
- After introductions, Hikari’s grandmother drives the girls to their first destination during a tour of Izu, a restaurant in the area known for their quality. The girls are all smiles, and I’ve seen some discussions surrounding Chizuru’s semi-transparent jacket. If I had to guess, it’s either made with an uncommonly light material of sorts, perfect for hot summer days, or else is a rain jacket. Given the climate of Izu, the former seems more logical.
- In shows like Futurama and Rick and Morty, food is depicted in a very basic manner: anime, on the other hand, is known for its exceptionally detailed depictions of food. If and when I’m asked, the only shows that can top out anime in making me wish to eat something would be an actual food show. Here, the girls look at an ebi furai (蝦フライ, “fried shrimp) in detail: popular in Nagoya, ebi furai differ from tempura in its preparation, being made with bread crumbs rather than a batter. Futaba and the others marvel at the amount of meat within and impressed the batter is quite thin. This is a useful metric for determining whether one is getting their value: some places will give the impression of impressive fried items by adding more batter or bread crumbs, but quality restaurants usually have thinner fried layers.
- Closer inspection of this moment finds each of Chizuru, Akane, Futaba and Hikari with their distinct chibi appearances. We’re well familiar with Futaba and Hikari’s chibi forms, while Chizuru and Akane take on Aika and Akari’s appearances, respectively – Aika’s mouth takes on a cat-like form, while Akari’s face flattens out to become simple geometric shapes. I personally love them, as they serve as visual cues for when something unusual or ridiculous has happened, although some people find them to be ” just ugly and detract from everything else”.
- Such remarks can only come from folks who do not appreciate the impact of visually representing emotions, and for the most part, such individuals are exceedingly rare; the prevailing opinion is that ARIA‘s chibi-forms add more to a moment, and personally, I’m rather fond of whenever Akari deforms. Returning to Amanchu!, while Izu is no Aqua, the quiet surroundings, vivid colours and seemingly-infinite wonders allows the areas to nonetheless give a similar sense as Aqua did. Overlooking the ocean, the cliffs create a sense of majesty.
- One of the joys about anime such as Amanchu! is that whenever friends visit and are given a tour, they are invariably taken to places off the beaten track away from the crowds. Some spots, although well-known, can also be a little more involved to reach, such as Lake Louise and the Beehives, which is a moderate trail that offers hikers with a stunning view of Lake Louise from five hundred metres up, even when the entire region’s been smoked out from wildfires in neighbouring British Columbia. There’s more on this hike later.
- Hikari’s grandmother is voiced by Kikuko Inoue of CLANNAD‘s Sanae Furukawa, Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy and Megu’s mother in GochiUsa. While her voice is generally very easy to pick out, as Hikari’s grandmother, Inoue is able to present an older-sounding voice that attests to her voice acting capacities. In Amanchu!, Hikari’s grandmother, Kino, runs the scuba-gear shop named Amanchu, from which the manga and anime derives its name.
- Close inspection of the images will find that Akane is very similar in appearance to Akari: she even has Akari’s distinct sideburns, although they are not quite as long. Similarly, Chizuru has Aika’s shorter hair: after an accident causes her hair to be burnt during ARIA: The Natural. Aika subsequently sports short hair in expression of her confidence to be herself, and this is the hairstyle that I know Aika best for. Other trademark characteristics of Akari and Aika make their way into Akane and Chizuru’s dialogue, whether it be Akari’s “わーい” (waii~, or “yay!”) or Aika’s “禁止” (“kinshi”, or “not allowed!”).
- While Futaba gazes into the distance, Hikari tosses Aria into the air. Akane and Chizuru remark that this Futaba is more confident and forward than they had previously known her. Chizuru’s conflicting internal feelings about Hikari bring to mind the sort of uncertainty and doubt that Aika faces as the heiress to Himeya. Noticeably absent in Amanchu! is an equivalent of Alice Carroll, whose personality is surprisingly similar to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu. Like Chino, who becomes more open as a consequence of Cocoa’s influence, Alice warms up to Aika and Akari as ARIA progresses.
- While on a rope bridge, Futaba asks Akane and Chizuru if they’re interested in taking a guided diving tour to experience the world that has so profoundly changed hers. Both readily agree, and Hikari makes to contact Mato. Because both Hikari and Futaba are now certified, Futaba feels confident in showing her friends the wonders of the ocean. Like numerous anime set under beautiful summer skies, the Amanchu! OVA confers a sense of longing, although here, the feeling stems from a yearning for adventure and making memories.
- A sensation vertigo, brought on by the heights, causes Chizuru to lose her balance momentarily. She falls backwards, but Hikari manages to prevent any harm from coming to her, swiftly diving and using her arm to break Chizuru’s fall. This feeling stems from actions of the vestibular system, which is responsible for maintaining balance – heights and perception of instability can cause the system to activate in an attempt to return to a more stable posture, and when one is already stable, will actually induce a sense of motion that can contribute to anxiety. This is likely what’s happening with Chizuru, and I do not blame her; my legs become numb at great heights when looking down, and even in video games, jumping from heights causes me to experience a falling sensation despite my knowing full well that I am not in any immediate danger.
- Amanchu! is mentioned to be set in Izu, which presumably refers to the Izu Peninsula just west of Tokyo. Specifically, the location is the eastern side of Izu, since the western side is more rugged and lacks a train station. A mountainous region home to around 470 000 people, the area’s geological activity corresponds to a large number of onsen in the area, as well as places where ocean gives way to sheer cliff faces. With this in mind, while Amanchu! could have done a hot springs episode owing to the geology, that the OVA chooses not to is a strong sign of the direction this series intends to take.
- While Hikari’s friendship with Futaba is something she treasures greatly, Futaba has not forgotten her old friendships, either. Chizuru feels a little left behind, even envious, after seeing photographs of Futaba with Hikari and the diving club. Her doubts are not missed by the others, but like Aika, Chizuru tries to tough it out. It is therefore unsurprising that it takes a bit of support from her friends, old and new, to help Chizuru overcome these feelings, rather similar to how Aika can be dishonest about her feelings in ARIA and likewise required some coaxing to bring her feelings into the open.
- The next day, Chizuru and Akane gear up in preparation for their dive. They meet Mato for the first time and are briefed on the very basics of diving. Some patrons of a beach-side café are visible here, with beers in hand, and I am reminded of the fact that I am susceptible to the effects of alcohol more strongly than my peers because of an acetaldehyde dehydrogenase problem. This runs in the family: my cousins and uncles report a similar problem, and from a populations perspective, affects around a third of people with an East Asian descent.
- I’m now at that age where I’m closer to the instructors in age than I am the students – it’s that sweet spot where one is old enough to have a bit of liberty to come and go as they please, while still young enough to enjoy things in a (somewhat) carefree manner. Mato certainly seems to embody this spirit: she’s a responsible individual who can be quite strict, but also encourages her students to have fun and will not hesitate to participate with her students in more lighthearted moments.
- The differences in Futaba at the start of Amanchu! and as she is by the OVA’s events are quite profound. It is here, close to Kino’s scuba shop that Futaba first encounters Hikari, and things have come full-circle: whereas the Futaba of the first episode was very much fixated on missing her old home and friends, the Futaba we see in the OVA is very comfortable with open-ocean diving at this poin, feeling right at home near the ocean, having come to love the seas for having helped her view the world in a new light.
- While Akane and Chizuru familiarise themselves with diving, I capitalised on the weather to hike Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive today. These are some of Banff’s most well-known hikes, and while the skies were flooded with smoke, the hike itself turned out to be quite enjoyable: up to Lake Agnes and their famous teahouse, things remain quite easy. The trail only really becomes a bit more involved en route to Big Beehive; numerous switchbacks dominate the trail once past the rockfall.
- Amanchu!‘s original divers, Mato, Hikari and Futaba, gear up in preparations for taking Akane and Chizuru out into the ocean. On my end, there was no ocean, but rather, an enjoyable hike up five hundred metres total. We stopped briefly at Lake Agnes for a break, accosted by numerous Tamias minimus looking for free apples, before continuing on to the Big Beehive viewpoint. The hike from the Lake Agnes Teahouse starts out easy, but after clearing a rockfall, where Devil’s Thumb can be seen, there’s a series of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. It’s quite dusty and requires slow, methodical pacing, being moderately steep, but the climb is well worth it.
- Once the top of the Big Beehive is reached, there’s a small trail there leading to an observation gazebo. This proved an immensely scenic locale for stopping for a quick bite (a ham and tomato sandwich), and afterwards, climbed towards the edge of the Big Beehive overlooking Lake Louise. From up here, the Chateau is tiny, with with Lake Louise Village and the Trans-Canada highway visible even on a smokey day. While the smoke may have prevented fantastic-looking photographs, it did keep the temperatures within a comfortable range. We would come back down to the Lake Agnes Teahouse for some tea (I bought a Chamomile; the cooler weather made the tea an appropriate choice), before taking on the hike back down to the Chateau for the drive home.
- After making our way back into town, I sat down to a pleasant dinner at Shanghai Palace, which featured crispy chicken, salt-and-pepper calamari, vegetable dishes and a sweet and sour beef ribs dish I only know as sa lai gwut. Dinner is now over, the sun is setting, and it’s a time to relax for the evening: I’m totally exhausted. For the record, Shanghai Palace is one such restaurant with high quality fried meats. Back in Amanchu!, Hikari helps remind Chizuru about equalising the pressure accumulated in her ears when the latter panics. Here, Chiruzu learns that Hikari is genuinely caring for her friends, and when she subsequently makes to reach Futaba and Akane, who are further ahead, she begins spinning about.
- With assistance from Hikari, Chizuru makes it to where the others are, and finally understands what about the ocean that lead to Futaba’s transformation, being surprised that light can penetrate the ocean and illuminate it to reveal a vast world normally hidden from sight. This is true to a certain extent: sunlight usually penetrates to around 200 meters in the water, and indeed, the deep reaches of the oceans below 1000 meters are pitch black.
- Diving in the ocean was something that Futaba was slowly working towards in Amanchu! itself; some viewers felt that things were occurring a little too slowly, but I counter that the slow introduction towards diving has a two-fold purpose: the first is to emphasise that it takes time to coax Futaba out of her shell and become more adventurous, and the second is that by going over the basics at a slower pace also allows audiences to pick up on the details, which allows them to understand Futaba’s actions by the time she reaches a point where she’s ready for her certification exam.
- Akane marvels at the sights underneath the ocean. Compared to Chizuru, she’s less uptight and more open-minded, mirroring the dynamics between Akari and Aika in ARIA. As the Amanchu! incarnation of Akari, Akane brings into Amanchu! a piece of ARIA; her personality’s largely remain unchanged accounting for why she has little development in the episode, and as mentioned earlier, having Erino Hazuki perform Akane’s voice is a particularly welcome decision. Similarly, Aika’s internal struggles in ARIA seem to have been ported over to Amanchu! in Chizuru.
- Thanks to Hikari, what began on a rough footing for Chizuru turns into a magical moment for her as she takes in the sights and sounds of the ocean. The OVA perfectly captures the sum of everything that’s happened in Amanchu! and features almost as much diving as seen in the full run of original anime itself. Here, I remark that I am coming from the anime-only perspective and have not read the Amanchu! manga as of yet; this particular limitation is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can approach the anime from a naïf perspective, which frees me from bias and previous beliefs about the anime, but it also holds me back from speculating as to what will happen next, as I know the manga is always a few steps ahead of what I’ve seen.
- All good things must come to an end, and as the Amanchu! OVA draws to a close, Futaba and Hikari bid Akane and Chizuru farewell, hoping that they will come visit again. On average, a train journey from Tokyo to Izu takes a hair under three hours, costing around 5400 Yen (64 CAD with present exchange rates) – such a journey, while not one to be taken on a whim, is one that shows that Futaba and her friends are not separated by insurmountable barriers of distance and cost.
- Because I did not otherwise feature an adaquately large pool of moments where Akane takes on Akari’s trademark chibi expressions, I will now do so right before this posts closes fully. I cannot quite put my finger on why, but there is a character to the deformed appearance of Akari and Akane’s that is so endearing to behold. By now, I’ve become well-accustomed to Kozue Amano’s distinct style, so the appearance of chibi form character expressions in both Amanchu! and ARIA are no longer as surprising as when I first began watching Amanchu!.
- One of the things I particularly liked as a small detail in Amanchu! is that characters blushing have diagonal lines drawn across their faces in addition to the distinct pink colour associated with blushing. Different anime approach rendering blushing differently, whether its subtle patches of pink on one’s face, a full-body transformation, or my personal favourite, an emissive blush that gives the sense that the individual in question is producing black-body radiation.
- Akane pets Chizuru at the Amanchu! OVA’s closing; with this thirteeth screenshot and accompanying figure caption, the Amanchu! OVA I’d been longing to write about since March is finally in the books. We’re rapidly closing on the halfway point of August by now, and I’m also nearing the halfway point for Far Cry 4, meaning there might be a post coming out on that in the near future in addition to a talk for Brave Witches OVA. Finally, the page quote is completely irrelevant to Amanchu!; sourced from the latest Rick and Morty episode, it should be clear that I had a great deal of fun watching the third episode. I figured I should use the quote in one of my reviews before the next episode comes out tomorrow: many apologies in advance for f–king with Google’s search algorithms in advance! Finally, last weekend, I also watched Dunkirk: it’s a highly visceral depiction of the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 that I enjoyed most for the use of sound, non-linear storyline and suspense-building.
Looking ahead, Amanchu! is still presently running in manga form, and consequently, it would not be surprising if it were to receive a second season. I’ve heard from friends familiar with the manga that future volumes hold interesting events that are said to, and I quote: “[dovetail] back into the ARIA franchise in completely unexpected ways”. There is certainly quite a bit of content for a second season, and while I’ve heard very little about a continuation, any continuations of Amanchu! will be worth watching. For now, the Amanchu! OVA in the books, and I note that I’ve actually had plans to write about this for quite some time: the OVA itself was released back in March, although the opportunity to do so had not presented itself until now. With this being said, the OVA’s focus on the summer makes it a perfect accompaniment for the hottest days of the year: this year’s been much hotter than last year, with more days reaching above 30°C than last year’s comparatively paltry one day. While the sunshine and warmth have been a boon for folks seeking to make the most of the weather, it’s also meant wildfires and damaged crops; some rain would be nice in relieving the incredibly dry conditions all around. Returning to Amanchu!‘s OVA, I conclude by giving this OVA a strong recommendation for folks who enjoyed Amanchu!; it’s an essential addition to the series that was well worth viewers’ time.