Welcome, one and all, to another anime review. This time around, we’ll be looking at a series that had a bit of a mixed reception this year: Amanchu! Advance. Now, the original series was very well regarded. From my own standpoint, it won the original Crunchyroll of the Dice tournament, and scored a strong 4.5 out of 5 in the full season review. So, did this one manage to recapture the magic, or was the mixed reception a deserved one? Let’s have a look.
Title: Amanchu! Advance
Anime Studio: J.C. Staff
Genre: Slice of Life
Originally from a big city, Futaba Ooki spends most days cataloguing her life through pictures on her phone. Upon moving to a seaside town, she gazes out over the vast expanse of sea and quickly becomes captivated by its endless possibilities. Unbeknownst to Futaba, her quiet contemplation catches the attention of local diving enthusiast Hikari Kohinata. Finding herself in the same class as Futaba the next day, Hikari is drawn to her quiet and shy demeanor and affectionately nicknames her Teko, sparking a tender friendship.
Struggling to adapt to the change of pace in her life, Futaba finds herself strung along by Hikari’s vast energy and passion for diving. Together, they join the school diving club, led by their homeroom teacher Mato Katori. With Hikari by her side, Futaba works to earn her diving certification while experiencing new friendships and possibilities.
The series is once again handled by J.C. Staff, the studio famous for producing Slayers. Much like the first season, it runs for 12 episodes, and is once again written by Deko Akao (who also worked on Noragami). Junichi Sato (ARIA) returns as part of the two-person director team, but Kenichi Kasai has been replaced by Kiyoko Sayama (Skip Beat!) this time around. So, with the team almost unchanged, it would be fair to expect things to move along in much the same way as before.
And for the most part, that rings true. One of the things Amanchu! consistently does really well is visuals. The scenery on display is once again phenomenal, with everything from beautiful underwater scenes to picturesque town settings being so detailed that you really feel like you’re there. The soundtrack is also very strong in this season, with the backing music being unobtrusive but somehow melding with the backdrop in a way that makes it feel integral despite being understated.
From a story standpoint, we’re picking up shortly after the conclusion of season one, and Teko is continuing her journey into being a more confident person. What makes this interesting is that Teko has grown since the first season, and there plenty of moments where we get to see her having absolute faith in herself, especially when it comes to dreams. At the same time though, she also has moments where she slips back into her uncertain self from the early episodes. This works well, because most people do have times where their confidence is shaken, and with Teko only just coming into her own, there’s every possibility that even a minor thing could knock her. I actually thought that this made her more likable this time around, as it didn’t feel like so much of a one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach, and she certainly didn’t need to relearn the same lessons over and over again.
Pikari is just as much a pleasure as ever throughout most of the season, with her infectious joy at the simple things in life being wonderful to watch. The moments that she shares with Teko are sweet, and Teko’s jealousy-fueled bursts when it comes to others getting close to her are really quite endearing. If nothing else, it certainly helps keep the Teko x Pikari ship afloat!
Meanwhile, the supporting cast remains relatively small. Both Ai and Katori get a chance to shine with a three-episode story arc focused on them and a mysterious boy named Peter. It was this arc that divided a lot of people, as it shifted the story away from the main pairing and into a fantastical interlude. Personally, I really enjoyed it. Both Ai and Katori were favourites of mine in the first season, and I felt that the more fairy tale elements of the story were presented in a way that made them fit with the overall feel of the show. Meanwhile, Adviser Cha and Ohime continue to provide kitty cuteness in the background and during the end credits.
We have plenty of fun moments with Pikari’s family this time around. Her grandmother remains a likeable fount of wisdom for the rest of the cast, and we get a surprise appearance from her grandfather too. It was interesting seeing the difference in relationship between Pikari’s sister and her best friend when compared to Pikari and Teko, though neither character really had enough screen time to make the same connection as the main cast. At least they fared better than Ai’s long-suffering Makoto though, who was left with little to do other than act as punching bag for his sister.
Which brings us to the other divisive moment of the season, the introduction of Kokoro. It’s hard to discuss this part without going into some mild spoilers, so skip this paragraph if you want to avoid them. If you’re fine with that though … Kokoro is first introduced as a tsundere-esque young girl that Pikari takes a shine too, but by the end of the season, we’ve discovered that he’s a boy. For the most part, he seems to serve little purpose other than to rile Teko up and throw her into fits of jealousy over he and Pikari enjoying themselves together. The problem is that when Teko discovers his gender, she tells him that his love for Pikari is different to hers and says that she’ll be rooting for him. Now, one the one hand, I do not believe that this is enough to indicate that there are no romantic feelings between Teko and Pikari. Teko’s reactions go beyond friendship and, to be honest, I still feel that Pikari’s fondness of Teko is the same. At the same time though, the scene felt very out of place, and the sentiment certainly comes across in a way that I’m not fond of. Then there’s the whole issue of not only Teko rooting for Kokoro in terms of a romantic affiliation with Pikari, but also Pikari’s constant use of the word date in relation to the boy. Sure, Pikari could be bi, there’s certainly no problem there, my issue is more that he’s only eleven. With both our leads now sixteen, there is no way that either of them should be in any way considering anything romantic with the boy. But, is that enough to ruin the series for me? No. Nothing is really confirmed in relation to Kokoro, and the scenes that are problematic do feel fairly throwaway in most cases, so that’s something.
With that out of the way, we come to a minor complaint that I have with this season: the scuba diving. Given that the first season had such a strong focus on diving, both the technical aspects and the beauty beneath the surface, I was surprised to see so little of this season dedicated to it. While I did enjoy the more fantasy-based elements than many seem to have, it was definitely odd to see the show with so few trips into the water. Honestly, I missed it, and I’ hoping for more of it if we get a third season.
So, all in all, was Amanchu! Advance as good as the first season? Not quite. There were a few niggling issues here that stops the season form reaching the heights of the first, but it still remains a thoroughly enjoyable, not to mention relaxing series. That it can rise above the minor issues and still remain so good should be a real testament to its quality. 4 out of 5.
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