Welcome, all, again. Our subject of discussion this time will be Amanchu!, another story of friendship and angst besetting high school students. See how quickly and neatly I tied that up? Too bad nothing’s there. Amanchu! is much bigger and grander than any theme, including its own. How is this possible? Because the creators got the single most important element correct–emotional connectivity. It doesn’t matter that the characters are sometimes exaggerated; nor does it matter that episodic storylines sometimes overreach themselves; nor even that the style of animation frequently changes in situ. The emotional connectivity in this show between both the characters themselves and between the characters and their audience is amazingly genuine. We return week after week because we are emotionally invested in these characters. And that’s as it should be in a well-crafted slice-of-life series.
Amanchu! follows the arrival of high school student Futaba Ooki (Teko) in the seaside town of Shizuoka. Although moving can be a traumatic experience for nearly anyone, Teko is especially affected because of her extremely shy nature. It seems that she had only just made friends for the first time upon reaching middle school, but must now begin her high school years in an unfamiliar place. Regret, sadness, and loneliness all compete to drive her melancholy; the detour she encounters is completely unexpected.
That detour is Pikari (Hikari Kohinata), Teko’s fellow first-year and altogether free-spirited individual. Pikari, despite her young age, has already concluded that life is a series of moments each deserving to be lived to its fullest. But what does that mean? Pretty much whatever her fevered little mind needs it to mean in order to justify whatever she’s doing at that moment. Pikari is spontaneous but loyal, nurturing and loving, and maybe just a few bricks shy of an outhouse. Time spent with Pikari is comparable to being locked in a small, dark closet with a panicked hummingbird; in other words, she’s just what Teko needs to force her to focus on the here and now.
And Teko’s here and now requires a lot of focus. It turns out that Pikari’s great passion is diving, and she is eager to share this activity with her new friend. But Teko is unaccustomed to water, so she’ll need plenty of coaxing and coaching. Where better to find it than the school’s Dive Club?
Honestly, this show follows a pretty standard format: first-years meet and become friends; join a school club together; get alternately bullied and loved-on by their senpais and sensei; and share many happy and touching moments facing their impending adulthood with each other’s help. So you’re probably asking, Where’s the hook? Again, the strength of this show is its emotional connectivity. These characters–all of the main characters, not just the two protagonists–honestly care about each other, and quickly draw us in. These are imperfect people trying to carve out a little happiness for themselves and their loved ones, and certain moments of clarity invite comparisons to ourselves. We love these characters so much because we have been these characters at some point in our own lives. Overall, this show might be a little bit crazy but is a whole lot of fun(!), so come spend some time at the beach.