Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago – Summer 2016 to be precise – we were treated to an anime series called Amanchu!, a slice-of-life series focused on diving. That season offered a vast selection of anime, so Amanchu! was easily overlooked, but those who did watch it grew very attached to the antics of its cast. Today I’m here to revisit the series for its Blu-ray release!
Our story begins with Futaba Ooki, who’s just moved from the city to the oceanside town of Shizuoka to attend high school. Leaving her friends and everything she knew behind, Futaba is anxious about her first year of high school and the future – but when she meets an energetic classmate named Hikari Kohinata, Futaba is introduced to a whole world of fun. Hikari loves scuba diving, and her grandmother even runs a scuba diving gear rental shop, so when Hikari meets Futaba, she can’t help but drag her new friend into her cheerful underwater adventures.
Hikari is like a whirlwind of energy and Futaba can’t help but be swept along. This results in Hikari taking Futaba to check out the school diving club and showing her how much fun diving can be, which leads to both girls eventually joining the club. While initially it seems as if Futaba just goes along with everything Hikari wants to do, it’s clear as the series goes on that Futaba is looking for new experiences in her life and a way to break out of her shell.
The nice thing about Amanchu! is that while it’s quite a slow-moving plot, it never feels slow. Each episode has meaningful development for the cast, either in characterisation or Futaba working towards being able to go diving in the ocean (as Hikari already has her diving licence). While not every episode is focused on diving, the vast majority do feature it to some degree and I feel like I learnt a lot about the activity alongside Futaba. It makes the show a fascinating watch and very easy to marathon in the interest of seeing just a little bit more of this exciting world.
If you have no interest in scuba diving then some of the content is definitely going to lose you, but I think the show is still worth watching for Hikari and Futaba. The two are polar opposites in personality: Futaba is shy and has very little confidence whereas Hikari is bursting with self-confidence, determination and is somewhat airheaded. A great deal of my enjoyment of Amanchu! comes from Futaba developing more confidence thanks to Hikari and the other members of the diving club. By the end of the series she has definitely come a long way from where she started.
It’s hard to say the same of Hikari as she doesn’t really change much from the start of the series to the end, but I actually feel that’s perfectly fine. She has such a strong personality to begin with that it’s hard for me to see ways that they could have developed her without losing the fun, bouncy character I came to love.
Animation for Amanchu! has been handled by J.C Staff (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?, Food Wars!) and offers some truly beautiful underwater scenes. Character designs are incredibly detailed and I appreciate how they drew the girls with stray strands of hair here and there, giving a realistic portrayal of how our hair works, rather than looking perfect all of the time (I also like that both Futaba and Hikari have multiple hair styles throughout the show!). Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the animation without giving some attention to the varied and ridiculous facial expressions all of the cast make (which I’m sure many of will have seen on Twitter!). They can go from being totally normal to having massive rounded heads with blank eyes or a chibi style. It really brings the comedy to life in a way that not a lot of series would dare to do, and it works out well. Overall a good job here by J.C Staff!
Where music is concerned, the soundtrack has been handled by guitar duo Gontiti. What we have for Amanchu! is a collection of acoustic guitar-driven tracks which offer a fun and summery feel. The soundtrack is quite varied and it never felt like I was hearing the same composition more than a couple of times, which is a nice change from some of the other slice-of-life series I’ve been watching lately.
Finally, on the subject of voice actors, everyone does a great job. Hikari is played by Eri Suzuki (Momoka Sono in Girlish Number, Chinatsu Kuramoto in Flying Witch) and she plays the role well, perfectly projecting an eccentric and hyper personality into Hikari’s lines. Throughout the show, Hikari also has a number of odd catchphrases, and Suzuki again voices these well and with a lot of personality. Meanwhile Futaba is played by Ai Kayano (Darkness in KonoSuba, Rin Toyama in New Game!), and Kayano manages to give Futaba a suitably high-pitched and quiet voice without being annoying (as many characters like this can be). It’s nice to hear her play a quieter character compared to her other roles, and despite how little and gently Futaba speaks Kayano has done really well to fill even the shortest of lines with a great deal of personality.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Anime Limited and is available as a Blu-ray Collector’s Edition. The Collector’s Edition includes all 12 episodes of the first season of Amanchu!, as well as the 13th episode which is an OVA, alongside seven ‘Dive into Seaworld’ shorts. All of the episodes have Japanese audio with English subtitles as there is no English dub present. Physical extras for the set include a 50-page hardback artbook as well as two sticker sheets.
Overall, Amanchu! offers a fulfilling slice-of-life story with great comedy and character development. Even if you’re not interested in the premise of diving, you’re likely to stick around for the cast and their heartwarming tales of high school life.