Hikari Kohinata is a cheerful 15-year-old girl who lives near the ocean and she spends much of her time diving as a result. On her first day of high school, she meets a teacher who also likes scuba diving. There's also a 16-year-old classmate, Futaba, who gets dragged along in Hikari's maelstrom as soon as they meet at school.
After saying goodbye to the beautiful world of Aria and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, I felt an empty void in my heart. Atmospheric pieces which really allow you to appreciate the little things in life are really hard to come by these days. After some soul-searching I decided to check out other works from the author, Kozue Amano of Aria fame.
Amanchu! is a slice of life manga written by the aforementioned author. Now I won't take too much of your precious time with the synopsis as MAL has their own synopsis, but I'll give a brief one as it will give my review a bit of
context. The story tells the tale of two high school girls who are urged to join the schools diving club. During their time in the club they meet new people, learn more about each other, and as such begin a beautiful relationship. The two girls' relationship and how they inspire each other are really the focus of the story. Amanchu! will not blow you away with its plot and it doesn't intend to. Its very simple and moves at a very slow pace.
Amano is known for drawing breath-taking set pieces and cute characters with somewhat complex personalities. Amanchu is absolutely no exception. Taking place in the (real life) Izu penninsula of Japan we get gorgeous beaches and shorelines as our main backgrounds. They look great and really immerse you. With the theme of the manga being scuba diving, the author does an amazing job of recreating the pleasure (and slight fear) of being submerged into a body of water. As for the character designs, the goofy "chibi" faces that take over during comedic moments are back! If this was not your thing in Aria its ulitized even more in Amanchu! and feel like this style gives the manga is bit more charm but others may disagree. That being said the art is absolutely stunning.
The characters in Amanchu are pleasant. Dotty being a standout for me, as her shy nature and desire to improve her confidence is quite enjoyable. One of the best aspects of Amanchu is subtlety. Pikari's whistle and Dotty's flip-phone and what they meant to them was respresented perfectly. The quirks of these characters' personality and mannerisms give them a realistic vibe. Pikari and Dotty's relationship is what drives the story forward. Now, there is a bit of a "Yuri" undertone here, which may or may not turn a few people off. That being said seeing these two interact with each other is quite the delight.
NOW... I personally don't think its fair to compare this to Aria when reviewing this manga. But I'm sure a few of you want to know just how Amanchu stacks up. Now, while Aria focused more on world building, Amanchu focuses more on character and relationship building. This is where Amanchu falls short. Aria was able to build up a believeable world whilst being able to develop characters alongside it. Since Amanchu decides to focus on the characters more than the setting it doesn't have the the perfect balance that Aria had. Most of the characters in both series are very similar with Pikari and Akari being standouts. Not only are their names similar, these characters are able to find to enjoyment in even the smallest of things. As well as being quite influential to others without even realizing it. I could go on and on about the similarities but I'm sure you can grasp what I'm trying to convey.
I really enjoyed Amanchu! It was a fun slice of life with cute/interesting characters, a fresh premise in scuba diving, and quite a few memorable moments. If you're a fan of Aria and YKK OR if you're a fan of slice of life in general, Amanchu! is a must read!