May 21, 2022
Light-hearted. Dazzling. Soothing.
Amanchu! is a manga from Amano Kozue, created after her famous Aria. This is exactly what made me discover this manga, having enjoyed both manga and anime versions of Aria. I was watching the Amanchu! anime broadcast, without any prior knowledge, and was of course struck by how the character designs were so familiar. Obviously, when I learned of who created it, I began to read the manga, published in my country, and here is a short review, now that the manga has ended.
Narrative: a sure-fire, expected slice of life / iyashikei
Amanchu! follows the same path than its famous sibling. This is a
slice of life story, of the iyashikei subgenre. As such, there is no major plot, no excruciating drama, just the beauty of daily life, of friendship and of the sea.
The manga covers the three years of high school of the two main characters: Ooki Futaba “Teko” and Kohinata Hikari “Pikari”. The first one just moved to the Izu coast from Tokyo, while the second one comes from a local diving family. Quickly after their first meeting, Pikari forcefully introduces Teko to diving, and both enters the diving club of their school. The following three years, the reader follows their school and diving activities, with the departure of old club members and the arrival of new members, contrasting with the unchanging sea.
In Aria, there were some unexplained fantasy elements. Amanchu! has some too. However, this concerns only one small subplot, which does not involve the main characters. As if the mangaka sensed this was disconnected from the rest, this was quickly wrapped up and no more fantasy was added, leaving the less fantastical, dreamlike small stories. Actually, if you have watched both seasons of the anime, I think you have already seen the most of it, if not all.
Still, a kind of fantasy remains: the sea. A part of the story, as expected from the theme, is about discovering the wonders of the sea, which may be seen as fantastical to many people not involved with diving, or any other submarine activities, just like Teko was.
Characters: a great duo of main characters outshining everyone else
The two main characters, Teko and Pikari, are obviously the main focus of the manga. Teko is a very shy girl, isolated in an unknown city, while Pikari is extroverted, even weird and reckless in many regards, who thinks of nothing else than diving. This is yet again a prime example of “opposites attract”, as the two of them will create a strong, life changing bond over the course of their high school years. Each one makes the other one change for the better. Teko's self confidence improves radically, leading her to new goals in life, while the temerity of Pikari is tempered.
The “main side character” cast, mainly feminine, is varied nonetheless: the two senpai at first, then two or three kouhai each new year, and of course the both reliable and unreliable diving club advisor. While they are not as fleshed out as Teko and Pikari, or could even be dispensable for some, each one has its own unique traits and quirks, and are the focus of their own mini-arcs, bringing a breath of fresh air and new insights about diving or about the main duo.
At last, let's give a special mention to the cats, that the fans of Aria will no doubt recognize.
Art: the beauty of the sea and the chibi expressions
As befitting the theme of her manga, Amano often shows us underwater and coastal landscapes through the pages. Already familiar with the water after drawing the sea and canals of Neo-Venezia in Aria, the mangaka displays her best work that she is constantly improving. For example, how the light shines and is reflected, underwater or on the surface, through water bubbles or on the skin, is beautifully done.
Another highlight is the character design. Characters are well drawn, detailed, with various expressions, and giving the feeling that their design is actually evolving while they are maturing themselves, especially Teko and Pikari. The expressions are of course conveyed traditionally, but also with cute, funny chibi versions of the faces. Compared with Aria, these faces are far more varied and differing from one character to another, giving to each one basically two unique faces. This is an excellent way to shift tones in scenes that might be otherwise too heavy or bland.
In the end, Amanchu! is a worthy successor of Aria. Anyone having enjoyed one of them should read the other one. The manga focuses heavily on the deep bond between two opposite girls through diving. So, anyone with interest in the sea wonders, the life in coastal areas, or simply watching a deep, evolving friendship should also give it a try.
What did you think of this review?