Episodes 1-2

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Amanchu! ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Amanchu! ?

Amanchu! marks prolific co-director Junichi Sato's fifth foray into iyashikei (“healing”) anime. Having directed, overseen, written, or created numerous other titles in this increasingly popular genre, it's pretty clear the man knows his way around an ultra-relaxed slice-of-life series. Like the various incarnations of Tamayura and ARIA, Amanchu! manages to maintain a relaxed pace and all-around soothing atmosphere without ever feeling padded, drawn-out, or just plain boring. Additionally, despite being yet another high school girl-focused show, Amanchu! is able to distinguish itself from the pack in a number of interesting ways.

In keeping with its genre, Amanchu! features a bare-bones, thoroughly uncomplicated setup. When soft-spoken, reticent high school freshman Ooki Futaba's family relocates to a secluded seaside town, the socially challenged Futaba quickly finds herself befriended by loud, hyperactive, Kermit-the-Frog-looking Kohinata Hikari. When she isn't weirding out her peers and teachers with her zany antics or morphing into a bug-eyed puppet, Hikari (nicknamed Pikari) works as a part-time instructor at her spry grandmother's beach-based diving school. Only when she's suited-up and underwater does Hikari take the time to slow down and smell the roses (er, “seaweed"), so when it comes time for her to choose an afterschool club, she doesn't think twice about joining the school's scuba diving club and dragging Futaba along for the ride. Despite Futaba's desire to become a card-carrying member of the Going Home Club, the surprisingly eloquent manner with which Pikari extols the virtues of diving ultimately inspire her to stick around.

Rampant quirkiness aside, Pikari's enthusiasm for life is infectious, both to the audience and the characters around her. Although Futaba clearly thinks she's not playing with a full deck, she can't help but be intrigued by everything her strange new friend does. She's also among the most charming animated characters I've come across in recent memory. Her mannerisms, peppy demeanor, and all-around exuberance ensure a lively atmosphere whenever she's onscreen. Even though she's kind of a one-trick pony on the super-deformity front, I've yet to tire of her Muppet-y mug. (Of course, I can certainly see how other viewers might.) She manages to play the zany space-case without taking things too far or playing it overly safe—something that can't be said for many characters who occupy this role. Since she's largely a blank slate, Futaba is the perfect straightwoman to Pikari's shenanigans. While she's hesitant to reveal much about herself or interact with her peers, Hikari has no qualms about letting it all hang out.

In the lead-up to the show's premiere, I heard a lot of talk about yuri elements, but I've yet to come across any overt ones. Although I picked up on some mild romantic undertones in the first episodes, I get the impression that Amanchu! will primarily focus on Hikari and Futaba as friends. Whether it's simple admiration or the desire to be her friend, Pikari clearly feels something for Futaba from the moment she lays eyes on her. Additionally, by the second episode, Futaba realizes Pikari's joie de vivre is infectious and that she actually enjoys being dragged along on this girl's capers. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see romance bloom between these two, but at present, I'm leaning toward the yuri-ness being mostly subtextual.

Visually, Amanchu! is a feast for the eyes. Crisp character designs, bright colors, detailed backgrounds, and fluid movements make the show a treat to look at. The color scheme and bright, sunny aesthetic serve to give the seaside town a lively and wholly inviting feel. I'm also fond of the girls' school uniforms, although I'm driven to wonder how Pikari can move around so freely in a skirt that long.

For a show built around diving, Amanchu!'s characters have spent surprisingly little time in the water, although I suspect that will change in the coming weeks. Having no knowledge of the source material, the show's promo art led to me expect a swimming-focused sports story. However, the thoughtfully energetic slice-of-slice series we wound up with is just as good, if not better, than what I initially had in mind.

Rating: B+

Amanchu! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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