The Wandering Witch Dives into Amanchu! Advance

Posted on May 31 2018

Welcome, all, again. I’m pleased to say that this viewing season has actually turned out to be stronger than I initially expected. A few late entries sneaked into lineups, and several series with mediocre starts managed to find good footings and establish themselves. The subject of today’s discussion, however, falls into neither category, being the long-awaited second season to a sleeper hit from the Fall of 2016. The original season of Amanchu! was only the third show I reviewed on my own site, Another Anime Review, when I started it back in September of that year. It was a slice-of-life show that–as I said then–amazed me with its emotional connectivity. That single element of the show carried it past its own weaknesses, which included: exaggerated characterizations, overreaching storylines, and in situ changes to animation style. All those faded into insignificance when placed against the emotional connectivity that existed between the characters themselves and between characters and audience. And I say that last bit because this was and remains a show in which viewers care[d] deeply about what happens to the characters. The stories entertain, but the characters quietly seduce; moreover, they console and cajole, almost magically making the viewer part of their world. There exist many wonderful anime series, but few with this power.

In season 1, new high school student Futaba Ooki (Teko) moves to the seaside town of Shizuoka, a brand new environment for her. She arrives hesitant and somewhat despondent–due to her extremely shy nature, she had just made her first real friends in middle school, only to find herself beginning high school alone and friendless again. To wit, melancholy grew feet and walked right into town! Enter Pikari, Teko’s fellow first-year student. Pikari is Teko’s exact opposite, a hometown girl with a shaken-Coke-can kind of bubbly personality, someone who believes that each fleeting moment both deserves and demands to be lived to its fullest potential. She immediately latches onto the quiet, solitary student and aggressively challenges Teko’s self-doubt and lingering sadness. Somewhat taken aback by Pikari’s sudden attention–and completely overwhelmed by her sugar-rush approach to life–Teko finds herself going along with Pikari in most things, including checking out the school’s diving club, which they both join. As it happens, Pikari is already an accomplished diver, so this will just give her another opportunity to act as a guide and confidante for her new best friend.

Season 2 continues in stride from season 1, as one would expect from slice-of-life, and both new challenges and new characters are introduced. Teko continues to fight what is beginning to appear to be something of an inferiority complex, probably rooted in her almost debilitating shyness from earlier in life. And Pikari continues to be her beacon, caressing Teko with smiles and encouragement. But whereas season 1 focused upon Teko’s struggles to change her attitude and thus herself, season 2 presents subtle changes in Pikari’s character that seem innate rather than forced. Pikari, while still as spontaneous as ever, is developing a depth of emotional calmness that seems directly related to her time spent at and in the sea. That is to say that, as with the sea, there is now a certain stillness in her core not touched by the frantic changes which blow over her surface, if that makes sense to you, gentle reader. If not, then please forgive an old sailor for his allusions. Pikari is maturing, but without surrendering her childlike wonder. Teko is growing as well, planning on pursuing advanced diving certification and even toying with the idea of night diving. Season 2 also sees these two become second-year high school students, a change sure to present its own peculiar challenges. (Good gravy, did these two just become senpai material?! Lock down the school!)

How to best descibe this show? Relaxing. Comforting. Because despite Pikari’s 90-to-nothing shenanigans, this is one of the most relaxing viewing experiences available this season. These characters truly care about each other–including a decidedly yuri angle to Teko and Pikari’s relationship–and the sincerity of that emotional connectivity seeps into the viewer, right down to the bones. Watching this show is like being amongst your closest friends, people who require no explanations from you but calmly accept you in all your glaring imperfection. It’s deeper than liking you and more profound than respecting you; these people on some level love you, and don’t give a fig what anyone else thinks about that or you. This show is a safe place, akin to that one little eatery to which Wakako repeatedly returns in Wakakozake–a place in which she is so much more than just a customer. That is the feeling and experience that await the viewer in Amanchu! You can learn a lot about diving from this show, but much more about love’s buoyant strength.

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