So, this has taken a little longer than I would have liked. I mean, Amanchu! won Crunchyroll of the Dice 2016, so it really should have been reviewed already, but somehow, the act of finishing watching it seemed to elude me. Ah well, better late than never. Let’s see how this one turned out.
Background: Based on Kozue Amano’s Monthly Comic Blade manga, Amanchu! was produced by J.C. Staff, the studio responsible for Slayers. The show primarily follows the lives of two girls, shy Futaba Ooki and scuba diving lover Hikari Kohinata, as they start high school. Together, they join the school’s scuba diving club and find ways to enjoy the world around them.
The Good: One of the things that really sticks out with Amanchu! is how pretty it is. If you want a quick reference point for this, the opening video gives you a good taster of what is to come in that regard (not to mention that it’s a rather good theme song). The amount of detail that has gone into the backdrops throughout the twelve episodes really helps to elevate them beyond simply being something behind the characters and into being an integral part of the series. Sweeping water scenes, cherry blossoms, and even simple streets of shops all get a high-end treatment, and it really helps to emphasise the overarching feel of Hikari helping Futaba to find beauty and enjoyment in the everyday world. You see, that particular arc forms a large part of the series. Futaba is painfully shy when we first meet her, and is well and truly hung up on the idea that her friends from her previous school are so far away now that she’s moved. When the autonomous ball of quirkiness that is Hikari bursts into her life, Futaba is dragged kicking and screaming into one adventure after another, and in doing so is able to grow as a person.
Now, the obvious leap to make from that is that Futaba and her inner turmoil is the focus of the series, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong in that assumption. The story of Futaba evolving from the self-depreciating girl of the early episodes into one that is far more accepting of herself and able to give new experiences a real crack is given more screen time than anything else. Importantly though, it’s not the only thing going on. Our other lead, Hikari, is a non-stop ball of energy that throws herself at everything that comes her way. She does admit though that she gets nervous the same as anyone else, and that she is also capable of panicking and resorting to her own inbuilt defence mechanisms (such as blowing a whistle when her panic causes her to lose the ability to speak clearly). She is also well aware that some people find her overwhelming and annoying. While she may be primarily responsible for helping Futaba become more outgoing, it is her friend’s acceptance of who she is, quirks and all, that makes life that much easier and more exciting for her. It sounds simple, but seeing the way the girls lean on each other and develop bonds that start as co-dependent and grow into a healthier support and companionship is an absolute joy.
In terms of a supporting cast, Amanchu! is fairly scant. The four that we spend the most time with are all part of the scuba diving club that our heroines join, and integrate themselves into the story nicely. First up, we have Mato Katori, the girls’ homeroom teacher and supervisor of the scuba diving club. She can be quite strict, and often whomps Hikari around the head with rolled up paper, but she has a fun side too, and she never hinders the girls on their voyage of self-discovery. Meanwhile, we also get to meet Ai and Makoto, upperclassman twins that are already members of the club when the girls join. While initially seeming to be comic relief (based on Ai’s violence towards her brother no less), their personalities give interesting foils for Futaba and Hikari to interact with, and Ai in particular is given some real growth as the series nears its end. Finally, we have Adviser Cha, a cat that hangs around the clubhouse. He’s a cat that’s kinda cute. That’s mostly it. Outside the club members, we also get to meet Hikari’s grandmother. She’s not on screen too much after the first episode, but when she does appear, she acts as a sort of guide to Futaba, helping to give her another perspective on the world at large.
As has been said, both Futaba and Hikari have grown emotionally by the end of the series. What I like about this is that the story is clearly not yet over. Yes, we reach a proper conclusion, yes things are left in a satisfying place, but to me, neither Futaba nor Hikari have fully grown into themselves by the end of the final episode. That things can reach that point and still feel like a real ending is fantastic. That there is still some potential growth too is also great though, as a second season would be welcome if the quality can be kept consistent.
On a final note, the whole end sequence is fantastically done. The same picturesque background work that has been prevalent throughout the series is there, with the sun setting acting as a symbolic way of showing the story arc as coming to an end. Meanwhile, while the full meaning of what is said isn’t really as clear as I’d like in terms of the girls’ relationship, it is a wonderful display of how close Futaba and Hikari have grown, and it really does leave you with a happy feeling inside.
The Bad: If i’m being picky, I would say that Futaba edged very close to losing some of her likeability a few times. She does tend to constantly questioning herself and it just felt like she was relearning the same lessons more than once. What saves her is that her interactions with Hikari are so natural that, even if you’re going over the same ground again, it’s easy to look past it. While simply switching the focus to Hikari or Ai’s emotions once or twice would have been a good alternative, Futaba never quite falls foul, so that’s OK.
Subbed or Dubbed: I watched the subbed version on Crunchyroll. With a small cast, there’s always going to be the risk that a bad performance will stick out rather than get lost in the shuffle. Thankfully, Amanchu! features some very competent VA’s, and everyone clearly had their working boots on when it came to recording. Not one character that’s given any significant number of lines falters, and it really helps to add the atmosphere of the series.
Final View: Amanchu! is one of those series that looks like it may bore those that are not really fans of the slice of life genre. Take it from one such person though: the sheer quality of the show makes it compulsive viewing, and the characters exude enough likeability that you’ll be sucked into caring about them before you know it. While it may not be perfect, it’s an easy series to get lost in, and that is something that can be appreciated by everyone.
Final Score: 4.5 / 5