Hello, hello, hello, and welcome once again to ‘A Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ As always, before we begin, I’ll give a quick reminder of the rules for this particular feature:
- I pick two series at random on Crunchyroll and watch the first episode
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
After I watch both episodes, I give a quick run-down of my thoughts on each and then compare them in several categories, giving points to the winner in each. This week, we get something slightly older and something somewhat newer as 2012’s ‘The Pet Girl of Sakurasou’ takes on one of the newest additions to Crunchyroll, ‘Amanchu!’ Now, if you know a little about these two shows, you’ll see that they’re both quite different in terms of style, themes, and genre. But which one will advance to face Rainbow Gate in Round Two? Let’s find out.
Amanchu starts out with some scenic, relaxed shots of the area where the series is set, then jumps to Hikari, a young girl about to go scuba diving. She stops when she smells her Granny’s pork soup, and we jump into the opening credits. This, much like the early shots, is very chilled out. I really like the animation. The characters have that same sort of ‘reminds-me-of-dogs’ vibe that Kiznaiver did, but with a quality that reminds me of Mamoru Hosoda’s work. Anyway, Hikari is going to go diving and have soup afterwards, and she’s bringing her secret weapon, a massive wooden tub, with her into the water. As Hikari submerges, Granny wonders if she’s really ready to start high school tomorrow.
Futaba, another girl, parks her bike at the top of the hill and wanders down to stand on a rock staring at pictures of her old school friends and checking for any new messages. She has none. Granny says hi because she hasn’t seen her before, and strikes up a conversation. Futaba moved here recently and she doesn’t particularly like bikes, but she needed one to commute to her new high school, Yumegaoka. Meanwhile, we find that Hikari is laying at the bottom of the bay, and is using an air bubble under the tub to breathe. Futaba spots the air bubbles and drops a stone down. Futaba was practising riding and came to see the ocean. Granny offers a drink of orange tea and a massive wave draws Futaba’s attention, prompting Granny to tell her to take a good luck at the ocean. Futaba realises how big and pretty it is and Granny says that youths sometimes think that their world is confined to something the size of their palm, in this case a mobile phone, but in actuality there’s a whole world of fun staring them in the face. Granny lights a fire as Futaba leaves and wonders if the world in Futaba’s eyes is bigger than the ocean. Hikari come back and congratulates the other divers on a successful dive. They all loved it despite the water being chilly, and line up for pork soup to warm up. Hikari hears Futaba’s bike pulling away and looks up, finding herself entranced with Futaba’s long hair. She watches Futaba leave, then runs to get soup before there’s none left.
School starts, and Futaba finds it all unfamiliar. Hikari turns up blowing a whistle with each step and immediately makes friends with a cat. She recognises Futaba by her hair and stares at her in what I can only describe as the creepiest impression of Zippy from Rainbow ever. Futaba still has no new messages from her old friends. While Futaba isn’t hugely impressed with anything as yet, Hikari is overflowing with enthusiasm, even finding joy in a simple map of the school. Here, she describes the school as an unfamiliar world, the same term that Futaba has been using, and gives the basis for a connection. Hikari leads the way to the fourth floor in an overly happy manner and the two girls find that the black board is decorated with a welcome message and the seating positions. Hikari will be sitting in the final window seat, just behind Futaba, which makes Hikari happy. Futaba starts to think about her old friends again and wonders whether they were put in the same class in their new school.
The teacher, Katori Mato, turns up and she welcomes everyone. She asks everyone to introduce themselves, starting with the window seats. Futaba is nervous and doesn’t know what to speak about as she has no hobbies. When it comes to her turn, she goes red, stands up, states her name, and sits down again. Hikari takes a different approach. She gets up, starts blowing her whistle … and the teacher slides up and smacks her around the back of the head with a book. Hikari shrugs it off and gives a proper introduction, leaving Futaba to admire how hard she is to phase. Futaba found she had the same problems in junior high, feeling like she didn’t fit in. Hikari randomly asks Futaba if she has a nickname, and she says no. Hikari starts to think on this and points out that Futaba has very silky, pretty hair. Next, she leans in to kiss distance, drawing a blush from Futaba, and tells her that her eyebrows are really thin. This prompts Hikari to decide that an adorable nickname for Futaba would Teko. She bounds off to get her textbooks, dragging Futaba with her, and says Futaba she can call her Pikari (which is short for Peppy Hikari). Futaba points out that Hikari’s zipper is undone, and Hikari goes red. She says she knows and that she’s totally not lying, then zips it up. Futaba is happy that Hikari can get embarrassed too and starts to marvel at the new school, obviously feeling a little less like an outsider now.
The teacher says that she’s meant to say that they should know their responsibilities and study hard, but in reality that’s secondary. Three years of high school will fly by and how the students spend them is up to them, with the most important thing being that they enjoy themselves because Fun Makes Might, Fun Makes Right, and Fun Is Infinite. Next, Hikari asks Futaba which textbook smells the best, and Futaba gives them a sniff, deciding Japanese. Hikari agrees and Futaba is happy. She’s worried, but wants to adapt to this new life in a town of firsts. The ending theme is slow and chilled, filled with lots of animations of the cat form earlier and a kitten. It’s OK, but it’s no Simon’s Cat. What a delightful show.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
Sorata is in school and thinks that it’s boring. He wants something to happen. A massive cat appears and … he wakes up with a cat on his face and a PlayStation pad in his lap. He pulls off the bedcovers to find … a girl’s panties, still on the girl. Misaki, the girl in question, wakes up and declares that she wants to be a bride when she grows up, then offers Sorata everything from a bath to a loincloth. Next, she runs off to find a game, looking for one that means that she loses an article of clothing every time that he beats her … I think I can see what sort of show this is going to be already. Sorata runs, and finds his teacher has her cleavage out. Of course she does. Why? Because she’s looking for hot single fathers at the school entrance ceremony. She gives him Sorata some tools and tells him to fix the dormitory sign. This is Sakura Hall where the school sticks all the problem kids. Misaki appears on the balcony and yells that she’s hot without her clothes on.
We get a quick run-down of the various residents. Misaki apparently created an anime, doing most of the jobs herself, and it became a hit. Oh, and she wants Sorata to leap into the world of carnal desires with her. Next, Misaki’s scriptwriter, Jin, turns up. He’s a ladies’ man dating a young wife. The art teacher is 29 years and 15 months old and looking for a husband. There’s a hermit who created an AI maid program too. Sorata meanwhile is an average guy, completely out of place in the dorm of eccentric success stories, and wants to escape Sakura Hall. Crunchyroll queues up some adverts and I must say that ReLIFE looks like an interesting, if not entirely original, concept.
School starts and Sorata is tired. It turns out that adopted a kitten some time ago, but pets aren’t allowed in the normal dorms. He was given a choice of giving up the cat or going to Sakura Hall, and chose to keep the kitty. He’s started gathering more and more cats because he can’t help but take care of them. One of his friends, a girl named Aoyama, clearly likes him.
The teacher had no luck finding single men at the entrance ceremony but did get some numbers from married men. Her cousin Mashiro, a girl from England, is set to stay in Sakura Hall and the teacher wants Sorata to pick her up from the station. Here we see that everyone in town seems to know Sorata. His parents moved away but he stayed, and now he wonders if he should have gone with them. He spots Mashiro, quickly gobbles the food that he’s bought, and goes up to her. She asks what colour he wants to be and he says that he’s not thought about it. He has no idea of the future but feels that he is currently iridescent. Mashiro decides that she’s probably white, like her name. She likes Sorata’s name. Ooh, an advert for the new Ghostbusters, and a new Travis album. Two things from my childhood, now all new and stuff.
Back at the dorms, everyone is eating. We learn that Mashiro is an art student and … then it gets all pervy again. We’ve got breast discussions, panties, innuendo … then Misaki and Jin get all serious about anime. We cut to bed time and Sorata thinks that Mashiro must think that he’s useless. He ponders how life isn’t boring but he is. Or something like that. And now it’s morning. The teacher says that Mashiro suits Sakura Hall and tells Sorata to look after her. He goes up to the girls’ dorms to retrieve her for class but she’s not answering. He opens the door and find that there are clothes everywhere, with an abundance of underwear on show. Mashiro draws manga it seems, and is currently asleep under the desk. Sorata wakes her and she is, of course, starkers. She struggles with simple things like finding clothes it seems. Sorata tells her to get dressed and throws her top at her, and she says that she has done so. Sorata starts to put this all down to cultural differences because she’s from England and… wait, what? Now, I may be proud of my Irish heritage, but being born and raised in England, I can honestly say that not being able to dress is not an English cultural thing. That right there is borderline racist for me. Anyway, let’s continue. Mashiro is only half dressed, so Sorata instructs her how to get ready, finally sending her to bathroom to sort her hair. Where does this go I wonder, what with her white school shirt … yup, a wet shirt and no underwear. Why? Because he didn’t pick any for her. She finally dresses and decides that Sorata is interesting. The ending them is OK. Well that was a struggle to get through.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be: Best Opening Episode (in terms of achieving the goal of setting the series up), Best Main Character, Best Supporting Cast, Best Storyline, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
When a show drags so much that you actually pay attention to the adverts rather than skipping them, that’s not a good sign. In the interest of being impartial though, let’s look at this logically. Did Pet Girl set up the main plot? Yes. Did it give a good feel what sort of show it will be? Yes. Did it do so in a way that engages and makes you want to see more? For me, no. Even if I put aside my dislike of shows that are too heavy on fan service, the fact is that this felt like so many other shows for me. It tried to introduce a whacky cast of characters to make it stand out, but really just came across as being similar to others that have come before it. Amanchu! on the other hand ticked the same boxes for main ploy set up and giving a feel for things to come, but managed to engage me a lot more over all. It’s clearly a coming of age story that will lead to either a strong friendship or possibly a romantic relationship, and in that respect isn’t the most original out there, but it puts itself across in a sweet way that makes you want to stick with it. For that, it takes the points. Best Opening Episode: Amanchu!
So we have Sorata vs. Futaba. Sorata is your normal lead for this type of show: ordinary, gets the attention of all and sundry, and generally supposed to be quite likeable in both his general personality and the way he deals with the craziness around him. Futaba is also nothing new. She’s an awkward girl that’s caught up in the way that life has moved on and she feels that she’s been left behind. What differentiates them is that Futaba is actually fairly realistic, and is going to be relatable to many people out there, regardless of gender. She also didn’t try to insinuate that wandering around naked is an ‘English thing’. I’m trying to look over what was no doubt just a misfired joke with that, but even then, Sorata just seems quite dull to me. There are better examples of the ‘straight man stuck in a crazy world’ out there, such as Kenji in D-Frag! For keeping my interest better, Futaba takes it. Best Main Character: Amanchu!
The case in Pet Girl is quite large. As well as Sorata’s fellow dorm dwellers, we have a few friends from the ‘normal’ dorms too. That they all excel at something other than being the catalyst for overdone jokes is good, but so little is really made of it. Ideally, they should have spent this episode introducing two side characters thoroughly, and giving them some depth. In comparison, Amanchu! has a much smaller cast. Hikari would have been a little too one-dimensionally overbearing were it not for that one scene where she dos get a bit embarrassed, and that one moment does a good job of balancing her out. Even without that though, it’s hard not to like her. The Granny was, honestly, great. She had little screen time, but she came across so well as the wise elder with a down-to-earth attitude. The teacher had less screen time, but I like her attitude to schooling. I think that we’ll likely see more of her, and I hope that they really flesh out her personality as she, like Granny, has the potential to be a strong, positive adult influence for Futaba and Hikari. Sheer likeability gives the win to Amanchu! Best Supporting Cast: Amanchu!
So, we have the average guy who needs to get help someone who is overly reliant on him on a daily basis, or the trying to find your place in the world. In some respects, Pet Girl actually sounds a little more original there. The general idea of the show isn’t too bad, to be fair. The problem is that the execution is poor. That said, the hints at the ocean and scuba diving taking some prominence in Amanchu! is intriguing. It’s clear that that is where Hikari excels and so it’s likely to grow as the tool with which she drags Futaba out of herself. What will be interesting is if Futaba finds a similar tool to help Hikari chill out a bit. For making me want to continue, Amanchu! wins it. Best Storyline: Amanchu!
Easy win for Amanchu! here. Pet Girl follows a style and quality that has been fairly standard for some time. Amanchu! is part of what I’m coming to view as a style that is rising in popularity. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Pet Girl in this regard, but Amanchu! is just better at its chosen style. Best Animation: Amanchu!
Pet Girl’s ending theme was fine, and the insert music was unobtrusive. Amanchu! has a rally laid back soundtrack that fits the show well. In terms of background music, both shows do a decent job, with the overall quality of Amanchu! being slightly higher. There was no opening theme for Pet Girl this time around, or if there was, I somehow missed it, but Amanchu! has a slightly more pleasant ending theme. That edges it. Best Soundtrack: Amanchu!
Final Scores: Amanchu! – 12 points, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou – 0 points
Amanchu! takes the second clean sweep of the tournament, replicating the success of Flying Witch. What makes that interesting is that Amanchu! had a similar feel to Flying Witch for me. It was a delightful episode that will be tough to follow, but if it can maintain the quality, it really will be something special.
And so we come to end of another battle. There are now only two more battles to go, then round two will officially begin, starting with Love Live! vs Lupin III. Before that though, we need to find opponents for the aforementioned Flying Witch and Kiznaiver. Until next time, here’s hoping you enjoyed another episode one comparison!