Amanchu Advance

August 4, 2018

Man. I’ve never expected Amanchu to have another season. But here it is, Amanchu Advance as its second season. Another dozen episodes of calm scuba diving and underwater submerging tranquillity. Could they really be going the way of Aria and have more sequels? Whatever the future for this series, they’re taking it slowly and at their own pace. Enjoy the moment. Always look to the future with hope. Imagine a series about diving teaching you all these stuffs.

Episode 1
Teko and Pikari are supposed to meet at grandma’s place. When Teko (riding on a scooter) arrives at the intersection, Pikari starts running! Probably Teko is a safe rider so Pikari beats her to the ‘goal’. Next time she’ll start running when she reaches the bus stop. After hearing Teko’s narration on her gratefulness of meeting Pikari that changed her life, the girls have to help out with grandma since the beach house is packed with people. Later after another round of diving with customers, Pikari suggests the siblings to join her in a hot bath boat provided by the facility. A hot bath? In this summer heat? No thanks. As Pikari soaks alone, she notices the customers (a group of old guys) getting into the next tub. She realizes she forgot to wear her bra and hence a possible nip slip. Thank goodness for her handphone as she calls her friends. Due to them being busy at the moment, nobody picks up. She ultimately texts for help. Ai finally sees the message and tries to help her. She didn’t realize she is topless as she tries to pull semi-conscious Pikari out. Will the old men have the best view of the day? Thankfully here comes Teko distracting them with free pork soup before putting back Pikari’s top. Safe. Too bad Makoto got kicked by Ai for nothing. To thank Teko for this, Pikari suggests a BBQ tonight. They go shopping and some like Mato help contribute to the seafood BBQ. During the party, Chizuru sends Teko a picture of a steak in hopes of making her jealous since coincidentally her side is having a BBQ party too. What a downer. Later Pikari and Teko talk alone about their worries that one day they will soon have to part and the fun will end. I know it’s good to prepare but they’re taking this so seriously. Pikari in denial refuses to let that happen! Can’t envision a future without them together, eh? But since there are lots of things they want to do, they can’t imagine that yet. Even if that day comes, they’ll be sad. But they’ll think of all the fun times because fun is infinite. Yeah, whatever logic fits the bill to beat the blues. Cue for awkward confession they like each other.

Episode 2
Pikari sees a local boy near her place. She goes diving with him and shows him an octopus nest. Although impressed, he won’t tell his name. Back at grandma’s, Pikari sees the fireworks festival poster and invites her friends to come. She’ll make it real special for them. Next time Pikari sees that boy again and knows he is trying to find the octopus nest but couldn’t find it due to the change in tide. She will lead her there in exchange he tells his name. Kokoro Misaki. Pikari fawns over his cute name. That’s why Kokoro didn’t want to tell her. Kokoro sees an eel trying to hunt at the octopus’ nest. The eel ‘warns’ him. Now we see a short epic battle of the octopus fighting the eel! Kokoro feels sad he can’t help the octopus but is relieved when the octopus mom returns to her nest safely (but with some bruises). After they part, Pikari realizes too late she should have invited Kokoro to the festival. On that night, With the exception of Teko, the rest didn’t come in a yukata, disappointing Pikari. Pikari doesn’t see Kokoro around and Teko starts worried and overthinking about her new friend but comes to terms that Pikari is the type who can easily make friends. Thanks to Pikari’s hard work, the friends get front row VIP seats to watch the fireworks. It’s such a good view that they shower her with praises. Pikari loves it. Keep it coming… This fireworks display has Mato remember her own when she was young. She was too short to see so an old woman lifted her up to watch the magnificence. She gets to see this similar scene again thanks to Pikari. Next day, Pikari finds Kokoro at the usual spot. However he is depressed. The octopus mom is gone. Kokoro investigates but tries to stop desperate Kokoro trying to swim further to find it. She tells him the harsh cycle life of an octopus. Its mom will fast until its offspring hatches. In the end, it will always die. If the nest is unlucky, predators will find and eat it. But all is not lost as the nest hatches and they get to see the wonderful phenomenon of small translucent octopus babies scattering around. It’s like their own underwater fireworks.

Episode 3
Mato teaches Teko how to use an underwater compass on land. She seems to handle it well. Until the real test. Because she has to do it underwater alone and without Pikari. Gulp. Visibility is very limited as Teko sums up her courage to make her first step. All goes well until she realizes she is alone. Can’t see anyone. Is she lost? She starts overthinking and close to panicking that she has messed up. She thinks of quitting by rising up to the surface but after thinking Pikari might be disappointed with her, she continues. She remembers other lessons like observing her surroundings and the ripple marks on the sand. It leads her back to her pals. Success. When they are cleaning up on land, Teko notices Ai and Makoto not packing up yet. That’s because they are going for night diving. Of course this spooks Teko and she declines joining them. At night, Teko and Pikari see off the siblings as they show off their bright lightings to be used. They are awed to see so many divers and their lights as it reflects off the surface of the sea. Despite Teko having a better view on night diving, she is still scared of diving in darkness but hopes to overcome that. Mato finds Teko up early next morning. She massages her feet to help relax her body. Since Teko still has low self-confidence on the things she does and always keep dreaming things, Mato tells her all the good stuffs she did was reality. Writing them off as dreams would be a shame. She can’t change the past but can change herself and the future. Teko is now further motivated to overcome her weaknesses and relishes all her special memories are real. Well duh. Can’t be dreaming this entire time, right? Her next goal is to get her advanced licence.

Episode 4
Summer just went by in a flash. Don’t worry, autumn is here. This means sweet potatoes! Yay! At the shopping district, Kokoro spots Pikari but doesn’t want to call out to her. Too bad she spots him and now hangs out with him. Meanwhile, can Teko suddenly tell the future? Because she can tell the things that are going to happen around her! Then she realizes this is a dream. She is cool about it. Because she takes a broom and flies! OMG! Has this series become so boring that they resort to this? Heck, even the girl next to her is shocked at what she saw. As Teko confirms to her that this is a dream, she even teaches her how to fly! Uhm, Flying Witch? They fly all over town and to the park where they see the autumn sakura. On the other hand, Pikari hears out why Kokoro has been depressed all day. Somebody teased her and scribbled her about having octopus lips. Pikari trying hard not to laugh… When Kokoro says he is going to find the culprit and smack him, Pikari thinks he will regret it. So she takes him to see the autumn sakura. Well, it’s not really in full bloom but just small patches. But better than nothing. Before Teko and the girl could tell each other their names, the latter disappears. Teko takes this as she has awakened from her dream first. Shortly after, Teko too. She realizes this place has gotten so boring relaxing that she fell asleep. Then she calls Pikari and tells of her experience. Both are awed about the coincidental autumn sakura they saw. Teko notes that autumn has many wonders of its own but the best is that you have someone you can share the joy with. So let’s go find more wonders!

Episode 5
Mato tells about the legendary mermaid who helps those in a pinch. If you are friendly enough, she will take you to Ryuugu Palace. So our diving enthusiasts take a dive in the ocean. Teko is awed by the air rings the friends made to her. As they continue diving, suddenly Teko feels she is rising. She panics and the more she struggles, the more she rises. Thankfully Pikari and Mato bring her down. Back on land, Teko feels ashamed for failing. Due to the different level of the seabed, she had to get rid of excess air to maintain her buoyancy. She panicked and had she rose too fast, the nitrogen in the air of her suit will build up. This could be fatal and worse, when Teko was trying to swim downwards, she raised her feet and that’s where the air built up. She learnt a valuable lesson today but it’s a bit hard for her to get over the depression. Pikari’s little sister, Kodama visits. Teko learns she too has a diving licence and technically her senior. But she hasn’t dived with Pikari for quite a while since big sister often brings trouble so she maintained her distance. Pikari is embarrassed when Kodama and Teko prostrate to each other to take care of Pikari. Awkward… The gang goes diving in the sea again. After Ai and Makoto dive to deeper depths, Pikari and Teko spot a turtle and follow it. Mato then sees something swimming fast zooming past her. She thinks it is the legendary mermaid. However… It’s just a big fat grandpa?! But Mato decides to take a gamble and has him take them to Ryuugu Palace. He agrees! This dude really swims fast! Is he really human?! The ladies are awed to the colourful seabed teeming with ocean life before bringing them back. Back on the boat, Ai feels jealous she couldn’t meet that legendary mermaid. Mato has this fuzzy and warm feeling she has met that ‘mermaid’ before. We see that ‘mermaid’ turns out to be Pikari’s grandpa. This weird looking guy has become a legend now…

Episode 6
It’s the Halloween! Teko is dressed like a cute princess than anything scary. And Kokoro is a cat girl? Too bad he had to stumble into Pikari. So cute! Teko and Kokoro meet for the first time. Pikari leaves them together to get drinks. An awkward silence. Teko starts overthinking about taking the lead and when Pikari returns, both of them are so relieved. Ai and Makoto are doing an event. However nobody is participating despite the prize of a large octopus plushie. Maybe that’s why. But Kokoro seems interested… They make up some suggestions of adding extra prizes but the one that suddenly catches everyone’s attention to participate is a kiss from Pikari! Woah! See the long queue! Suddenly Teko steps in. She is going to protect Pikari’s lips! So mature? In this scavenger hunt, they have to get the item listed in the random piece of paper without letting the people know they are part of a game. It looks like an intense showdown between Pikari and Kokoro. Both have it tough. People rather be tricked by Kokoro than give him what he wants and Pikari is too scared to approach a guy, turning into a stalker and making that guy nervous! Somebody is stalking you! So when both eventually get what they need to, they are neck to neck racing towards the finish line. In the end, both cross together. Kokoro gets her plushie and Teko gets her peck from Pikari. Pikari also gives one to Kokoro. They’re joint winners, right? But did Teko and Pikari suddenly fall asleep because they realize that they are in dreamland when they could start using magic. The duo then have a Halloween dance with Teko being the prince and Pikari the princess. They snap out of their dream and realize they are in a hot Jacuzzi tub reserved by Mato as reward for their hard work. Don’t you think floating off into dreamland and then only snapping back out in a different place is a bit dangerous?

Episode 7
The students are working hard into the night as they prepare for the school’s cultural festival. But Mato knows something many don’t and she hopes Peter will not mess with her students. Teko and Pikari head to Ai’s class to sell drinks. They only have mostly gourd juice. Ugh… Their homeroom teacher, Mamoru Towano is kind enough to buy them all for his students! Damn… Ai goes to buy another drink to wash off that gourd taste (since Pikari ‘forced’ one upon her). Sitting alone on the stairs, she notes how different and quiet it is at night. Then this Peter guy pops up and wants Ai to slack off with him. She refuses and trips. I don’t know how she could do a somersault like that but Peter saves her and they both land on their feet. Ai felt as though they were both flying for a while. She thinks she owes him one and follows him as he brings her through the corridors of the school. It brings back some nostalgic memories like as though she is reliving her school days. This has her thinking if she could stay like this forever. At this point, Mato learns that Ai is missing. The girls heard she went to buy a drink but never returned. Peter asks Ai if that is how she feels. Sort of. Ai knows that despite all the fun times, it will eventually end. When Peter decides to bring Ai, this is when Mato has found her. She warns Peter not to do anything to her but he says he is only trying to fulfil her wish. But with Ai letting go of his hand, he assures he only takes those who really wants to go. He walks away. Mato brings back Ai to the crowd as confused Ai tries to find out more about Peter. He is a nasty ghost of the school and takes away those who doesn’t want to grow up. So… You mean Peter as in Peter Pan? Ai feels the shivers but tries to brush it off as untrue. Mato adds that the place where she bought the drink is the top floor. You cannot go anywhere further. That is where Peter went. Mato carries on that Peter tried to take her away once when she was a student in this school. He hasn’t aged since and looked exactly as he was.

Episode 8
Ai says Peter’s name and Makoto wonders who. Poor guy gets beaten up for nothing. She falls asleep and dreams of Peter. She wakes up and makes a dash. She trips on a can but luckily Towano breaks her fall. She gets up and continues her dash towards the vending machine. She falls asleep and enters the dream world. It is day time and everywhere is flooded ankle deep. There is nobody around either. She wonders if she has gone back in time since a candy store that closed when she was young is still open. She then spots Mato. Or at least during her days at a student. She thinks Ai is a stray and wants her to leave. But since Ai knows her, Mato explains the truth. This is the dream of a baby left at a shrine. Powerless, all he could do was dream an endless dream called Neverland and live forever. That’s how this world came to be. People who dream started straying into this world. As many people come from all walks of life, the baby takes all their info and memories and ‘grows’. He is Peter and formerly the shrine was only his world but now he started to expand it by his will. Mato knows this because she asked Peter herself. There is a flying ship in the sky and he believes that is where Peter is. So how do they get up there? They fly up there! Can you transfer experience of flying? Sure Pikari heard from Teko the expert dreamer but that doesn’t mean she can do it? Oh heck, it’s a dream so they can. Mato first met Peter during her graduation and she didn’t want that day to end. He showed her his world and she visited many times. The ship is spilling water and if this keeps up, the world will be closed off eventually. Nobody will come here again. Peter thought to expand this world by bringing outsiders but Mato was against this idea. This made him sad as he told her never to come back here again. She never saw him again and wished to do so to tell him what she couldn’t then. On the ship they see Peter. He shows them a room that leads them to a shrine where the baby continues to cry. This is the source of the flooding. The more he expands the world, the more it leaks. So he is going to stop bringing outsiders and close it forever. Mato agrees but will stay with him here. That is what she wanted to say. After they hug, Ai is forced out of the dream. Her other friends are puzzled she is sleeping here. Ai starts crying and asks Teko how to continue a dream. There is something she must do.

Episode 9
Ai is stumped that despite Mato spilling out her feelings, Peter pushed her away and holed himself inside Neverland. With Teko and Pikari agreeing to help out, they give instructions on how to dream again. Man, it’s that easy. Ai is now back in Neverland but Teko and Pikari are there too. Well, they did say they will help her. Don’t worry, Makoto is guarding them for those curious enough to get close. Flying back up to the ship, Peter’s cat is trying to close the door on them but Teko and Pikari hold it long enough for Ai to go through. At the shrine, Peter is shocked to see Ai. She knows he loves Mato and hence pushing her away so as not to drag her into this world. It is that same love why she kept returning. Since Peter is dense about love, Ai confesses she likes him! Is that just an example? If Peter wakes up, he will go back to that baby and harsh reality. Neverland materialized thanks to this cat snuggling up to the baby. Ai will not stay by his side. She wants him to wake up and cry with all his might so someone might hear and find him. Peter is okay being alone as that is how it all started. Ai disagrees and knows he is still crying out of loneliness. Since he created Neverland, he can end it. As this is the town they are in, she is sure they will someday meet. Peter has come to terms with this and agrees but notes she like everyone else will forget this dream. She promises she won’t. Ai regains consciousness as Makoto is by her side (the duo returned to class). As Ai leaves, she feels she is forgetting something until she sees Mato, she remembers. She talks to her and assures Peter will never show up again because he has awakened. Mato starts to remember too. Growing old means her memories were getting hazy, huh? They then see Peter’s cat and it is trying to lead them somewhere. The shrine. They are disappointed to see Towano there. However he knows about Peter’s story. The mother of the abandoned baby returned shortly to take him back after changing her mind. He grew up to lead a normal life. He always thought Neverland was just a hazy dream. But what convinced him to be real? When Ai tripped and accidentally showed Peter her pantsu as well as her tripping before Towano. Pantsu activated those memories! Ai leaves the adults to be alone. Awkward at first, Mato then pinches him for not saying anything. Would you believe it if he did? Ai is left in tears and heartbroken. So she really loved Peter? Who else but her brother could lend a shoulder to cry on? They return to school and the mural theme of Peter Pan is finished.

Episode 10
Teko is going to stay at Pikari’s grandma’s place overnight for the New Year countdown. It’s not just her but the rest of the friends. Mato, Ai, Makoto, the cats and even Kokoro. Oh, Kodama too because of her pyjama party with friends failed to materialize. Great food, great games. Such a great time. When the rest hear Kodama is still hesitant to join the diving club, she gives excuse she doesn’t want to follow her wandering sister around. Since they have time to midnight, grandma decides to tell stories from her youthful days. She was diving for pearls but got hooked on scuba diving. Those days, scuba diving wasn’t sophisticated. She was scorned and laughed at by other fishermen. Nevertheless she continued to dive and explored the seabed to her heart’s content. One day she was at the edge of her exploration area. But she saw something that piqued her interest. She decided to go further. It was then she discovered a beautiful spot that eventually became one of the most famous diving spots in the area. It was also thanks to all the conditions that were right that enabled her to find this gem. The kids are awed but the point of all this is to do what your heart wants to do. So diving is still an option, right? Too bad everyone fell asleep before midnight and missed the countdown. Teko gets up early and has a chat with grandma about the many things she wants to do as a person despite her flaws. Everyone wakes up in time to see the first sunrise of the year. Teko gets a call from Chizuru and Akane who are doing the same. Great timing. Mato decides they should all visit the shrine now.

Episode 11
Pikari is sick. And today is her birthday. Teko has this idea to visit her at home but outside the school gates, she sees Kokoro sneaking around. Of course he is here to give Pikari a present but she is absent. Kokoro remains distant to Teko despite after showing each other their present for Pikari. Teko suggests a ceasefire since it is Pikari’s birthday. They have the same idea of getting her a star shaped birthday cake. Upon arrival at her doorstep, it seems grandma points out a ‘problem’. Grandpa, mother, father, brother and sister all brought cakes! So with theirs, there are literally 4 cakes! But Pikari is so happy she cried tears of joy. Can she celebrate while sick? Oh screw it. Just do it! Kokoro was reluctant to say but eventually tells his birthday which falls on Hinamatsuri, a day for girls. Later Teko knows Kokoro wanted to ask Pikari for a request. Hesitant at first, he finally reveals a burn-off event he wanted her to attend. It is an event where they burn dead grass over the hill before planting new ones. So Teko organizes her diving club members to come on that day as surprise. Kodama is also here and brought her friend, Kotori whose father is a staff for this event. If Kotori looks familiar, it is because she is that girl sharing the weird dream with Teko. As the gang tour the hills, the smoke may be thick but how the heck did Teko get lost from the rest since there is only a path to follow?! Because of that, she bumps into Kokoro in the midst of his job. It is then Teko realizes he is a boy. She always thought he was a girl trying to be a macho man! Insult? When Teko realizes that his love for Pikari is of the man type, Teko wants to support him! Is this embarrassing? Even getting help from the ‘enemy’? At the bottom of the hill, all participants get ready to burn a fire barrier. Being noobs, Teko and Pikari almost falter only for manly Kokoro to save the day. This is when the rest realize Kokoro is a boy. Ai still in shock denial… Here is another shock: Kotori is Kokoro’s older sister. It’s such a small world…

Episode 12
All Teko needs is to select one more diving elective and she will get her advanced diving licence. As the gang take their usual dive, Teko snaps some photos of the sea life. But back on shore, the photos of course turn out to be less than satisfactory. Mato suggests underwater photography as her last elective but surprisingly Teko wants to do night diving. Kodama and Kotori will soon be first years in high school. Pikari assumes Kodama will join the diving club but little sister reminds her that isn’t a given yet. Although Kotori expressed her interest to see Teko, Kodama might only do so to accompany her. Then there is more talk about their worries that the fun will someday end but you know what? Why think so much? Just go all out and have fun like they always have! Teko prepares herself for her night diving. To her surprise, Pikari has brought Kodama, Kotori and Kokoro as her cheer and watch squad. Teko takes a dive with the rest. She is awed at the different view of the seabed. The gang then gather, switch off their lights and wait a while. Once they get accustomed to the darkness, they start to move. Doing so causes the planktons to react and hence lighting up like as though they are fireflies. Back on land, our divers are treated with grandma’s great pork soup. When Kotori asks if Teko was afraid, she replies of how cool everything was. She might be a bit exaggerating to say how everything is so magical and fantasy-like. Maybe. From her perspective. But it’s reality. With grandma assuring how everything will be fine, this has Kotori excited to join the diving club. In that case, Kodama too. Yay. All the gang’s here now. At the start of the new term, Teko and Pikari are fortunately in the same class. They read each other’s letter to the other. As expected, lots of thanking and the things they look forward to do together.

Subnautica: Diving Deeper Into The Abyss Of Friendship
Just like last season, I wasn’t expecting anything much for this sequel. Hence the same eternal dilemma of whether to classify this series as absolutely boring or just calming healing anime. Or both. The usual ‘shenanigans’ involving our usual suspects especially Teko, of experiencing new firsts and realizing things (meetings, partings, etc) as she identifies and overcomes her weakness at the same time. From the looks of it, it looks like she still has a long way to go. That might sound forever if you compared in today’s fast moving world and standards but in this sleepy coastal town, doing it by her own pace is justified. At least we can all agree that Teko is somewhat closer to her goal now than where she was when she first started, right?

I might have said this anime is the same boring and/or calming effect like last season. However, there is one ‘shock’ factor that I did not anticipate. It is the supernatural part. Yes, Peter’s arc was to a point nostalgic and even spooky for me even if it is not meant to scare any daylights out of you. This small supernatural arc reminds me of Aria The Animation’s second season, Aria The Natural in which that season was filled with supernatural stuffs. It was a little scary now that I think back of it. Thus there was this fear that there might be some spooky supernatural stuff just to spring in some surprise but alas, nothing of that sort. Heck, even that Cait Sith makes its cameo appearance. It made me wonder if both these series are relate din the same universe! Both series are written by the same author so there is that possibility. Making it even more possible is that there is no timeline in dream worlds. Anybody from anywhere could pop up in the same dream of someone simultaneously. It’s a mystery nobody can really explain.

Thinking further about how Peter is Towano gives me headaches because it is like that time paradox thingy. Towano only managed to survive and live on because of Ai from the future being persistent in saving him from staying forever in a closing dream world. So if the future Ai have never done that, Towano wouldn’t have existed today. Ai and Towano might not be directly related or effecting each other in their lives but imagine the things in life that Towano had done, those small little ripple effects and consequences that might have not led to Ai or any of the other characters’ birth or coming into existence. Great. I’m getting a small headache trying to reason this. But not sure if it is plot convenience that Towano and Mato don’t remember this until the final moments. Especially Mato who knows about Peter, she should have at least remembered Ai since she has been in her class for a few years! I mean, when she thinks of Peter, she should know who Ai is, right? She was an integral part of Neverland, at least in its dying moments, which is one of the crucial moments of the dream, right? Therefore brushing it off as a dream before coming to terms it was real, yeah it feels kinda convenient.

Another surprising element for this particular arc is how Ai was thrust into the limelight for once. It was always Teko and/or Pikari who has been hogging episode after episode. Therefore this mini arc saw a nice little change with Ai becoming the main character for a while. It was surprising as well as lovely to see another side of Ai that we don’t often see. Because we all remember her as the one who always kicks her brother for every and no reason at all! So perhaps we see the power of love changing Ai for the better? Yeah, it was heart-breaking too at first when Ai’s love couldn’t be materialized. But I suppose in the end we all would prefer the spunky Ai we all know. Thus I could also say that this arc has the most ‘interesting’ episodes for this season, if not the entire series itself.

Many of the characters remain the same from last season. I would mainly be repeating myself again. Despite having said Teko still has got some ways to go and things to learn, I surmise that in this season I believe she has achieved becoming an expert dreamer. Yeah, that ’nonsensical’ flying dreaming episode sealed it. It’s like telling me, if she can’t get her open diving licence, at least she can be a dreaming expert. You don’t need any sort of licence for that! Just your imagination! But don’t laugh. Because remember what John Lennon sang in Imagine? You may say I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one… Yes people, the world needs not more professionals, pros, specialists, masters or experts, but dreamers! Now that she has gotten her advanced licence, she can go on to dream further. So don’t worry about fun times going to end. If it comes, it comes. You will cross the bridge when you get there.

Come to think of it, the cats aren’t very prominent here either. As though they don’t want to get in the way of our main characters. They’re just hanging around and in case you need to be distracted for a while, you can watch them do whatever cute things they are doing. Hence no proper episode that focuses on them this season. Not that it matters anyway.

Kokoro as the new character adds a little more variety. Because of all the girliness we have seen in our main characters, Kokoro is more of the stubborn and manly pride type (like as though he was supposed to turn out female but God screwed up in the end and made him male last minute). Only made ambiguous by his gender. My guts told me he is a male and there were some ambiguous elements to try and confuse us and make us think he is otherwise. Well, I suppose Kokoro eventually being officially male is supposed to be the surprise factor that shocks our main characters? You know what they say on how strange the truth is. But let me get this straight. Teko when she thought Kokoro as a girl, viewed her as a love rival for Pikari? But now that she knows Kokoro is a boy, she supports him to be Pikari’s future lover? Okay. Perhaps that is no rivalry in that way. It’s a win-win situation for everybody because Teko can have her lesbianism friendship with her while Kokoro will be able to get a straight and healthy relationship with Pikari. Once he reaches the legal age, that is.

Kodama and Kotori feel somewhat irrelevant here since they don’t have many episodes for themselves and only limited screen time. Like as though they are just introduced in case there is another season, then they can appear more. Hence having setup Kodama having some sisterly issues feels like this is going to be her ‘challenge to overcome’, which I predict it won’t be overly complicated (sisters get into some small quarrel, reconcile, best sisters ever in the world again) before she would becoming a diving member once more. But now that they are part of the diving club, we should hear from them often. I doubt that they will be replacing Ai and Makoto because even if they have graduated, they’ll still be around as alumnus and alumna.

It goes without saying that the main draw for me to return watching this series is the BGM music. Yes, those lovely and calming acoustic guitar pickings that could rival those in Aria The Animation. Although this season has its own brand new album, many that I hear sound like taken from the original series. But that’s just because maybe I wasn’t paying attention enough. But I do notice that there are much more variations to the Umi To Sora piece. It is like this has become the main theme of the series. Nevertheless, most of the BGM pieces are still calming and fun to listen.

Last season, Maaya Sakamoto who did the opening theme now sings the ending theme, Hello, Hello. It’s a cute and calming song and if the series itself doesn’t have more Aria x Ohime love, this is where you’ll get your cat love spam. I guess it is better than last season where Aria spends most of his time in this part of the animation chasing after Ohime. Now they’re like a couple. Minori Suzuki sings the opener, Crosswalk. It tries to have that same feel as the previous season’s opening theme, Million Clouds. It is also nice in its own right but I still prefer Million Clouds. With last season’s seiyuus maintained, new ones joining are Ai Yamato as Kokoro, Aya Suzaki as Kodama (Kaede in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Ai Kakuma as Kotori (Miyako in Imouto Sae Ireba Ii), Miyu Irino as Peter (Ritsu in Mob Psycho 100) and Hiroki Takahashi as Towano (Hisoka in Hunter x Hunter series).

The art and animation still remain consistent as last season. The background and sceneries are gorgeous to look at if you find the story and plot too boring to follow. Also, the characters still have that trademark Pac-man face for comical purposes. But I find Kodama’s Pac-man look to be a bit strange because it makes her look sleepy. Those half covered eyelids must be it. But the oddest looking character is Pikari’s grandpa who looks so cartoonish that as though he popped out from some cartoon. I thought he might be some sort of spirit and it boggles my mind how someone this big can move so much agile and quick in the water (possibly faster than dolphins too). Maybe he is big because of all the air and buoyancy inside his body? Nah! Also, we see Pikari’s grandma in her young hot youthful days. It makes you wonder how she became so hagged like as though she is another person now. Maybe all that scuba diving and being in the sun through the years caused her skin to be like that?! Remember people, take extra precautions when being exposed to the elements.

Overall, this sequel is pretty enjoyable if you love the first season despite the same recurring themes that some would find boring. Not really sure if this series would go on to have more sequels and spinoffs like Aria The Animation but you can count on me putting it on my watch list if they ever get produced. Especially those irresistible acoustic guitar picking BGMs. Time to add more of those pieces to my personal library. Still not into scuba diving for laidback leisure (if this what this anime subtly intends us to explore) but with those great pieces of music, it’s more than enough laidback time I need. More than enough toxic cleansing and healing I need before I head back into the pitch black and corrupted wild seas of anime. Hope this is enough ‘air’ to get me through till the next season arrives.


November 3, 2017

Initially I gave Amanchu the slip and really did not intend to watch it for the foreseeable future. Mainly because it is a scuba diving theme. Hah. Scuba diving. How boring. Right?! Plus, looking at the promotional poster, I thought some of the characters had this ‘scary doll look’ like that Zatch Bell character. I know, I know. I didn’t look close enough but at that point I didn’t want to scare myself despite knowing this diving themed anime would mostly be a very calming series. All that changed when I learnt that this series is somewhat a spiritual successor to the Aria series because they are written by the same author! OMG! Instant nostalgia hit! Must see this!

Episode 1
Just before Hikari “Pikari” Kohinata goes scuba diving, she smells her grandma boiling pork soup. Later, Futaba Ooki arrives at the seaside via her scooter. She seems depressed as she has just transferred here. As a newbie in the area, everything is new for her. Grandma talks to her and treats her to a drink. She realizes Futaba will be enrolled in the same Yumegaoka High School as Pikari. Futaba is awed by the waves of the sea and it lifts her spirits. Pikari returns and the other guys in her group are so freaking awed by the sea it’s like they’ve turned into a new character. At the point, Futaba has left on her scooter. Next day is the new first term of the semester. Pikari sure knows how to attract attention as she marches in with a whistle in her mouth and lets this strange cat, Aria ride on her head. Pikari and Futaba’s shoe locker are next to each other. They see a fancy card in it. Pikari is excited as it is some sort of map designed by their teacher to make it more exciting. It leads them to their classroom. Futaba is amazed at the beautiful chalk drawing on the board that indicates their seat. Pikari says it is their teacher’s love. Guess what? They both sit next to each other. Their homeroom teacher is Mato Katori as she has the class introduce themselves. Futaba is very nervous. What will she say? She flusters and just says her name. Pass. When it is Pikari’s turn, she starts whistling! Is this her way of leaving a first impression? She needs to get smacked by the teacher. Then she passionately introduces herself including her passion for scuba diving. While the students line up to get their textbooks, Pikari admires Futaba’s beauty, making her blush. Because of her thin eyebrows, she decides to nickname her Teko. In return, she wants her to call her nickname. Teko notices Pikari’s zipper open. She denies it while zipping it up. Teko notes even she can get embarrassed. Teko might still be anxious of the many firsts she will experience but is confident she will get used to it.

Episode 2
It’s going to be a lovely day for Pikari to go to school. Riding the bus, she doesn’t realize Mato is sitting behind her. So she opens the window and the wind messes with her hair. Pikari wants to press the stop button but Mato beats her to it. Mato gets down with her and wonders why she stopped at the shopping district instead of riding all the way to school. She woke up early so as to see the lovely route to school. Then it descends into a race to see who can walk to fastest. Pikari takes a big lead but then Mato has the last laugh: She hitches a ride with a motorcyclist. Is this cheating? Pikari won’t lose out and takes the shortcut through the woods. So imagine Teko’s shock when she is taking a picture of the sky only to see Pikari suddenly entering her frame. The landing is painful so when Mato tends to her, they realize they are both enthusiasts in scuba diving. Now they are best friends! Teko is left wondering how weird Pikari is. With the club recruitment drive next week, depressed Teko believes she’ll join none for the rest of her high school days. That is, until Pikari drags her along to the scuba club. Looks like somebody is already there. Aria? Pikari nicknames it Tea and believes it isn’t just an ordinary member but the club’s advisor. Pikari then explains the difference between the wet and dry diving suits. Before Teko knows it, they already try on the suit. Pikari dives and floats in the school’s swimming pool as Teko ponders how she has been dragged into her pace all the while. But she notes the fun she has while watching her do stuffs. It makes her heart beat in excitement. Teko takes a deep breath and dives in too. Pikari mentions about how the border of the body and sea cease to exist when diving. When that happens, she would like to think they were all born from the sea. She hopes Teko would try diving with her. Those sparkling eyes in her looks of anticipation… Well, no harm trying. She’s already gone this far.

Episode 3
Teko tries to make friends with others but since she is still scared, I guess another day. Luckily she still has Pikari around. On their way to school, Teko tells Pikari she came from Tokyo. Everything is still new to her so that’s why she is afraid to make new friends. She finds it strange herself that she is usually bad with talking about herself to others but yet can tell it so easily to her. Pikari admits she too is bad with talking to others. Probably this explains about her being scatterbrain. Because Teko is still worried if she can make friends, Pikari takes her to a street filled with sakura trees blossoming. She quotes from grandma about thinking to be happy then you’ll forever be happy. Besides, doesn’t Teko have her as a friend? Teko feels much better. The duo are now trying the scuba club as trial members. Mato as the club’s real advisor is waiting inside. First, she asks if they know something about last week’s intrusion. Somebody intrude here. Gulp. Teko is scared but Pikari quickly admits it was her. She gets smacked by Mato. Even more afraid, Teko also admits she was here. I think Teko looked so meek so Mato smacks Pikari on her behalf! Mato starts her first lesson by explaining about external and internal air pressure. The deeper you go, the less air you have in your lungs and other areas with air as it will be crushed. So the key is to keep breathing. But like the ear which cannot breathe, how do you clear it? There are a few ways as Mato has Pikari demonstrate them for beginners. Mato tests Teko about the most important rule in diving. At first she doesn’t know the answer but thinking harder and from the hints she just learnt, the single inviolable rule is to keep breathing. Teko starts breathing and it calms her mind while thinking the new experience she will have in this new town. This in turn makes Pikari excited and hopes Teko could join her diving together. Even happier when Teko calls her nickname for the first time. Teko narrates she was always waiting and praying for someone who would call out to her. She hated her cowardly self who could only wait. But even those feelings became a piece with meaning.

Episode 4
Teko will be observing Pikari dive with a couple of customers, twins Ai and Makoto Ninomiya. She learns of Pikari’s dream to become a full fledge diving instructor one day. Teko observes how everyone checks each other’s gear before diving into the sea. She talks to Pikari’s grandma and learns that the visibility of the sea at this time of the year isn’t good. She gets worried but luckily Pikari and co return safely. They swap their tanks and go back for another round. When they’re done, they start washing their gear. Pikari is embarrassed to see she left her panties out. She tries to telepathically communicate with Ai about letting her have it (since she doesn’t want to Makoto to know about it). Not that she understands but she allows it. Then it turns out to be a head hood for diving. Pikari frantically calls grandma for the customer’s number. Teko will have her first dive at the school’s swimming pool. Pikari and Mato will dive with her. After putting on the full gear, of course it feels heavy but it won’t be once she starts diving. Teko finds she is floating and it proves that the buoyancy works. After a while and a few dives, Teko can’t help emerge since she is not used to water getting into her mask and panicked. It also causes her a bit of breathing difficulties. Although she remembers Mato’s lesson on how to clear it, the water quickly seeps back in. This makes her scared and lose motivation. She wants to get out but Pikari continues to believe she can do it. If she doesn’t try, she’ll never do it. But Teko continues to remain scared so Pikari calms her down she is here with her. They go back underwater and Pikari helps her get rid of the water seeping and this gives Teko her confidence back. They manage to dive to the deeper end of the pool. When they return to the surface, Pikari is very happy they did it together. But when Teko tries to leave the pool, she has no strength because the suit has absorbed water and has become heavier. Time to work on those muscles.

Episode 5
Teko’s muscles were aching since but has recovered. They are expecting to do more scuba diving but Mato tells them to go job and build some muscles. I suppose Teko needs lots of practice. She’s slow and even catching her breath. Pikari runs ahead first and bumps into the twins. Ai is impressed with Pikari as an instructor and even wants her to join the diving club. Pikari remembers they are the senior members Mato told them whom they have never met yet. When Pikari tries to tell them this and Makoto reminding Ai that the club has already 2 new members, Ai starts to beat him up! She will not forgive those members for trespassing the club! Oh sh*t. By the time Teko catches up, Pikari fears things will get worse so she takes her away to explain. Ai remains stubborn she won’t meet her new members. When Mato says they are nearby, she runs off to find them! Teko and Pikari arrive to explain themselves so Makoto tells them to go home and won’t be blamed. Too late. That monster has returned! RUN!!! Hey, Teko is running pretty fast this time. Eventually Ai catches up and realizes who they are. How will the showdown end? Pikari prostrates herself and apologizes. Teko explains how Pikari brought her to the club that sparked her interest in diving. This leaves Ai in a lurch because it looks like she is the bad guy now. Ai might not admit it but you can tell she accepts them as she is going to beat the basics of diving into them by calling their first emergency meeting. In the classroom, Pikari asks straight up if Ai is still mad. Not really. To prove her sincerity, lunch is on her. Or at least Makoto is paying. As they discuss, Ai wants Teko to get her open certification as her first step to become a diver. This will allow her to dive with a buddy even without an instructor. You bet Teko is motivated to do that. When Pikari doodles sea animals in a chibi form on the blackboard, Ai counters that by drawing a surreal version! Makoto joins in and adds some effects and eventually Ai is roped in to colour. It turns out to be a masterpiece. Ai claims this is the first sea that they dived together. Sea of colours? After taking pictures, they erase it.

Episode 6
Today Teko will be having pool lessons with Mato. Alone. It only makes sense since the rest already have their licence. Feeling lonely? Well, the rest are actually hiding and watching from afar so once this is over they will give Teko a surprise congratulation. Teko is scared when Mato wants her to fill her mask with water and then discharge it. She is made to do it many times and it is to help her overcome her fear. Once she is done, she is now stripped all her gear and is told to go swim laps. However there is 1 big problem. SHE CAN’T SWIM!! WHAT???!!! Oops, Pikari and co got busted. So they realize why she is always afraid of water leaking into her mask. So as Mato test her to swim with fins without sinking, she sank immediately! End of today’s lesson. Teko feels down as she believes she is holding everyone back. Mato then suggests taking them for a drive. Actually Mato just wants to take her car out for a spin… At the station near the port, Teko talks about her gratefulness to get into the world of diving. They get embarrassed when Mato comments about their self-discovery and friendship. Teko feels she still isn’t as good as she should so Mato advises her not to take her own wish or ambition too seriously. It’s good if she has it but there is also nothing wrong about following someone else’s suggestion at first. As long as she keeps moving, she’ll be sure to find something. Pikari has found some ribbons whereby they can write their wishes and hook it up along the shrine. Teko writes her wish to dive 150 metres and pass her pool training. It might look simple but at least it is a wish she can grant by her own power. Pikari won’t let Teko see hers because it is embarrassing. What did she write? Her wish for Teko’s wish to come true.

Episode 7
It is the rainy season and the humidity is messing with Ai’s hair. Look at how many pins she has. But has she got to take it out on Makoto? He has more pins on his head… Mato watches Pikari seeing off Teko to her pool training. Then she notices Pikari sneaking off in the wrong direction. She tails her to the train station. Since she is deep in her thoughts, Mato is discovered by Pikari. So what is the meaning of this? When the time is right, the train passes by a lovely field of hydrangea flowers. It’s only for a moment so hope you see all its beauty. So Pikari just got this train trip just for this? Yup. It is the only season where they bloom best. Now that the rainy season is over, it is hot like hell! Is the end of the world coming? Club activities are out since it is a time for students to study for their exams. But the diving club quartet are bumming around in school. Pikari leads the gang to stretch their hands in the sunlight to test its warmth. Mato isn’t impressed so she has them play Red Light Green Light with Makoto as It. In this heat? We see Teko is really good at the game. She survives and wins most probably Makoto had to choose his sister. Not thrilled, Ai decides to play again with her being It. Again Teko is naturally talented in this game. Ai can’t even get her! Finally Mato decides to join in the game. It looks like Makoto and Teko won but Mato throws her slippers at them! Anything the It possess and touches you counts. Was this part of the rules? Mato is so happy with her victory, it prompts the rest to think she is the most child-like among them. So this is a lesson that even as adults, searching for answers can be still fun.

Episode 8
Makoto sees a letter in Ai’s shoe locker. She takes the letter and quickly runs! So when he finally manages to ask her about it, she points out to some baseball guy who wrote the letter. She finds it odd because they don’t talk much so why did he write that letter? She hasn’t read the letter yet but what are the chances it is a love letter? Makoto is shocked to see Ai blushing. So when she starts to read it, suddenly she has this unimpressed looks. She runs away! Actually puts the letter back. It seems the guy have put it in the wrong place and was meant for the other girl sharing her shoe locker. Ai claims she didn’t read the rest of the letter and stopped once she read who it was addressed to. Makoto fears for that guy’s life as you know what his sister can do. But he can’t be worried about him, Ai is going to take it out on him! Surprisingly she did not. Instead she acts cool and deduces that guy must be so nervous thinking about the letter that he put it in the wrong place. It takes a lot of strength to do all that. Ai is glad seeing others putting effort to make others happy and in a way grateful to him. Makoto notes that he is able to see the other side of Ai he never sees. However she returns to her old self beating him up. Back to worrying about her future. Later Ai cleans up Makoto’s messy locker in which he hordes stuffs from long ago including a magazine about diving. She notes worrying about his future. Teko hates the physical examinations. In the hall, she gets separated from Pikari. Because of that, she becomes clumsy during the examinations. So with Pikari around, it looks like she could do it decently. During the 50m race, Teko starts great. Wow. It’s like she can run now. However halfway she loses steam. Like as though she gave up. When it is time for the 1000m race, Teko gets scared and starts thinking negatively. But Pikari has a solution. First they start last and run slow to conserve energy. When the final lap is announced, they sprint all their might to surpass those ahead. In the end, they achieve quite a decently high position. As they catch their breath, Pikari realizes something about Teko. Could it be she is a sore loser? Even so, she is a lovely sore loser and respects her more. Uhm, is that supposed to be a compliment?

Episode 9
Teko continues taking pictures. Each one of them carries precious memories and she sets it up so each time she on her handphone, a random photo will pop up. When Ai suggests a group picture (Makoto is excluded of course – he need to take the picture), the memory card is full. As suggested, Teko should transfer out the data for more space. However it’s not that simple. It’s like the end of the world for her. Don’t laugh. You don’t know how deeply attached and important each of those photos are. Unlike us who keep taking and never once see them anymore :’(… Teko further remembers when she moved here, her friends sent her a handphone strap as a birthday present. Even if Teko was happy, she couldn’t help felt sad because it marked the start of separation. She felt lonely. Teko was a lonely girl who just existed until a couple of girls in middle school became her friends. Middle school? That late, huh. So she learnt the wonderful things of friendship and came to appreciate how precious it is. That is why even with the simple push of a button to transfer her data, she just can’t do it. She gets a call from her diving club to meet. There, Pikari then hands her a present. Ai takes her away to lecture her about suddenly giving a belated birthday present and putting Teko in a spot. Well, we can all hear you. The present is a digital photo frame. She can put her memory card here and display all the photos she has taken. Problem solved. Geez, I thought they would have got her a new handphone… Nah, this is cheaper. Now that she is able to snap more treasured memories, looks like life will continue fine and dandy as usual. Oh, Teko is crying? Tears of joy. You’re welcome. Teko continues snapping as usual. She picks up a call from her old friend. Looks like they have lots to chat and catch up. At this rate, it’s going to be full soon…

Episode 10
Teko and Pikari are at Ai’s house to pick her up so they can go out together. They are at the bookstore to pick out a log book. The designs are too cute and they are spoilt for choice. Then they go buy swimsuits. Once done, Pikari invites them to her grandma’s place so they can have fun in the sea (and probably test their newly bought swimsuits). After that, Teko talks to grandma about her treasured memories and how grateful she is for meeting Pikari. But she feels sad she has nothing to give her in return. She advises about the blinding light when stepping out from the darkness after a long time. But the light isn’t the one making the scenery. Everything has been there from the start. The light didn’t do anything. As long as she doesn’t block out Pikari, she will shine on her own. Later Teko talks to Pikari about feeling lost. Even if she passes her pool test, she isn’t sure if she will be ready. But she is really excited to go diving with everyone. She wonders if she’ll hold everyone back or worthy to be her friend. Pikari replies she sometimes get lost too. That feeling means you are dissatisfied with where you are. Therefore feeling lost is a good thing because is an opportunity. A chance to have more fun. So if you’re lost, then let’s go. Teko takes the pool test. Mato times her. After clearing 100 metres, she manages to float on her back for 10 minutes (this is her specialty?). With that, Teko passes and can now go diving with everyone. First stop, the sea!

Episode 11
Teko and Pikari see Aria walking off a path. They try to follow it but the path becomes blocked. At least for humans. Wondering if cats have their own secret path to walk and that Pikari doesn’t know every inch of the area as Teko thought she would, they decide to have their adventure of discovering new and unknown places together. So as they travel the path less taken, they see a crow bullying a little kitten! Shoo! Shoo! Time to squeal our hearts because the kitten is so cute rolling around! But time to head back to reality because they wonder if it is lost or abandoned. They notice it is hungry. Nothing like the internet to help search what cats eat. They head to the convenience store to buy milk and then go back to grandma’s place to make it. Kitten is crying tears of joy? Of course the problem now is what to do next. Teko’s place doesn’t accept pets and Pikari’s mom is allergic to cats. Oh, grandma can’t keep it here too. They could ask their classmates to adopt it tomorrow but for now, Teko will secretly let it live in her place for tonight. Next day in school, Mato senses something strange when the duo anxiously keep going back and forth from the club. Then they got busted for hiding the kitten there. Mato reminds them about the responsibility needed if they are to save it. Teko starts thinking how the kitten is just like her. Lonely. Because Pikari pulled her out of that, she wonders if she can be the kitten’s Pikari. Of course she could. As they try to look for anyone who would adopt it, the principal (black afro guy?) pops up. He is the owner of Aria and noting that Aria needs a bride and the kitten is female, he wants to adopt it. And since the cats like each other, case solved.

Episode 12
The diving club members head to a beach where it is the holy land for first time divers. This is also for Teko to do her sea practical. After checking the gear, the swim out to the buoy. While getting ready to dive, Teko realizes one of her fins is missing. Is it already over? Luckily a kind diver found it and returns it. Sliding down the rope to the bottom, they see lots of other divers there too. After experiencing and watching the marine wildlife, it is time for Mato to test Teko for her sea practical. From mask clearing to buoyancy to hand signals, Teko looks like she’s got it all under control. Surfacing back up, Teko can’t stop talking excitedly about her experience. Later Mato informs Teko about her sea practical’s result. She passed and is now presented her very own C-card, the badge of an open water diver. Of course, we must have that Teko-Pikari talk with Pikari describing her past self as one who was afraid of love and empty. She hated herself for that. Now she has totally changed and a complete opposite. She wants to find out more things to love and show them to Pikari. Because now Teko has come to love herself, this Pikari means Pikari will love her too. I hope that isn’t in a yuri sense. They look forward tomorrow. Fun for all, all for fun? What the heck. Let’s just go!

Teko’s friends, Chizuru Himeno and Akane Mizunashi visit her. They are happy to see each other after a long while. When Teko introduces them to Pikari, she is in fact very eager to be their friends. Pikari will be their guide today and guide them around. During lunch, the friends can tell Teko is fitting in nicely and their worries were baseless. After touring a few scenic spots, Teko asks her friends if they would like to do guided scuba diving. It felt like they’re waiting for this moment and eagerly say yes. Pikari calls Mato for it. When Chizuru thinks about this diving thing, she starts to lose her balance. Pikari catches her. However Chizuru feels something wrong. A tingly feeling in her heart. Something uneasy. She decides to hide it for now. Next day before when they go diving, Mato has them sign a form. They are not too pleased they have to fill in their weight… And a contact number in case something happens… Teko assures them everything will be alright because there are 3 certified divers here. After putting on their gear, Chizuru learns from Pikari about Teko’s nickname. She is not impressed. After diving in, Chizuru starts to feel pain in her ears. She stars panicking that she is going to die! Luckily Pikari tells her how to clear it. Pain instantly gone. However, it is panic once more when Chizuru starts spinning uncontrollably. Till Pikari takes her hand to join everyone else. Here she sees the beauty of the deep sea. It is like a piece of heaven. Back on land, while Akane enjoys every bit of it, Chizuru takes this chance to complain how it was hell! But everything was worth it in the end. She then explains at first how she was worried that Teko was a different person than she knew. She was jealous that Pikari had stolen her friend away but realizes Pikari is a great person. In fact, she realizes the Teko here is the real Teko. So yeah, it was fun. Thank you. As they leave, Pikari hopes they would come back again. Even if she did not ask, they will. So until then, please take care of Teko for them. Ai is full of regret when she learns Teko’s friends went diving with them. She really wanted to join in. Please don’t kick your brother for that missed opportunity.

ABZU: The Depths Of Calmness And Friendship
Well… Yeah… While writing this, I am having mixed feelings if I am bored or just filled with calmness. It’s a bit of both and that is why I am having trouble of deciding if it is one or the other. But you know me, it can be both. So honestly, this series didn’t really inspire me or anything because I am not really interested in the world of diving (the thought of sea creatures still scare the hell out of me) and there were many times I caught myself being distracted by something else that is not on my monitor. Therefore the only reason why I have this calm and ‘satisfied’ feeling is perhaps because of the nostalgia factor and how much it brings back memories of the Aria series. So in a way you could say that while I was watching this series and in the midst of being calmed by its overall theme, it was more of the unconscious thought of relating all this back to Aria that made me continue to watch this series to the end without complain. It’s like I’m watching Amanchu but my mind and heart is actually seeing it as Aria. Uh huh. Amanchu, the HD version of Aria, so to speak.

Forgive me if you are going to hear me compare a lot of Amanchu with the Aria series. Both series have so much in common but yet they are so different and unrelated to each other. For starters, the Aria series is more of fantasy as its setting was on a colonized Mars that looked very much like modern day Venice. Whereas here in Amanchu, the setting is based on the real location of the Izu peninsula. I believe there is a website out there that compares a few scenes from the anime with its actual real backgrounds and locations. Therefore even if both series had the same calming theme of friendship and overcome one’s fears, Amanchu feels more relatable and realistic as it is set in a real place. You can visit Izu any time you want but you can only visit Aqua and Neo-Venezia in your head. Or rewatch the Aria series again, that is.

There is basically no real plot in such healing anime series like this. Therefore its drive focuses mainly around the main characters and what they do. Hence the drama of friendship and overcoming your inner obstacles might a big yawn fest to those who aren’t into this kind of genre but hey, you have been warned or at least guessed when you read the synopsis. You did read it, right? So just like in the Aria series, the real charm is in its characters as they slowly transform and learn from the bond and everyday interaction that we see. So a big portion of the series ironically isn’t underwater but above ground and on dry land.

It might look like nothing much because Teko for start is just a new girl in town and naturally like everyone who has left a place they were so comfortable with for something new, there are fears if she would find her place and settle in. Well, Teko must really be a lucky girl for finding eccentric Pikari. Thank goodness she didn’t get into any bad company. I know it is impossible for this series since basically everybody are good people. Assuming that. Although Teko still has her fears and worries, she slowly opens up thanks to Pikari’s ‘guidance’ but that is only half of it. You might want to guess the other half is the other people but I lump them in the same half as Pikari. So this other half I am talking about is Teko herself. She gave herself a chance to change for the better. She might not have drastically changed and she is overall the same Teko we know at the start but she is better off in the end since she has lesser insecurities or at least more positivism than before. And yeah, Teko is like the Akari of the Aria series…

Pikari is in the same boat as Teko. But because she shows a lot more exuberance and confidence, it feels like she knows what she is doing. But then again, maybe not. I feel she is like the mix between Aria’s Aika and Akari since she can be cheeky but at the same time an airhead. Teko and Pikari make a great pair not for yuri reasons. They are like best friends who complement each other. Because at this point it is just odd to see one without the other. So could it be that their meeting was God sent? I mean, we don’t really learn the reason why Teko transferred here. So for them to meet each other has got to be the work of God and miracle, right?

The other characters are pretty okay in their own right. Like Mato the nice teacher and diving instructor. Then you have Ai who feels like she was ripped off from Aika because of her cheeky personality. It’s like a running joke and the only thing you’ll remember about the twins is how she loves to kick Makoto for absolutely every and no other reason. Everything is his fault. Kick him. If nothing is his fault, then kick him too. Please people, twin brothers are not meant to be abused like that. If this was the real world, Makoto might have murdered her and dumped her body in the ocean! Yikes! That’s why I say everybody here in this anime are so goody-goody.

Last but not least, Aria. Somehow I feel they want to leave some sort of Aria series legacy by having a cat named after the president of a gondola company as well as suspiciously looking as lame (sorry) as him. Aria doesn’t really intrude or interrupt the flow of the series and is just there for some cute factor, hence its very minimal appearance throughout the series. Though, ever since the kitten joined them in the final few episodes, Aria seems to be hanging out almost everywhere with them. Speaking of the kitten, I thought she was going to be like some sort of a running joke with reference to the Aria series. You know, President Aria was always trying to impress Hime but never gets her heart. Sad. I thought the same thing here because in the ending credits we see Aria ‘chasing’ after the kitten. So it turns out they really do like each other. Well, now it seems the kitten has this habit of sneezing. Is this a running joke too? I’m sure we’ll all goo “Aww…” when it sneezes because cats do it so cute, right? If it isn’t sneezing, it likes to suck on something…

Now, the biggest thing that hit me for my Aria’s nostalgia is the background music. They have this very similar and hence nostalgic feel to the many songs in the Aria series. Especially those gentle and calm acoustic guitar pickings. Oh man. I instantly fell in love with them when I first hear them. These background music are the ones that take the cake and the part which I love the most in Amanchu. I really need to scour the internet for its tabs so I can play them on my guitar too! Even if the guitar style is similar, they aren’t composed and played by Choro Club. Instead, they are composed and performed by Gontiti, a pair of Japanese acoustic guitar guys with lots of their own original compositions a decade ago. Also, there is a song in Amanchu that uses the voice as its instrumental piece, thus further reminding me more of Aria’s Barcarolle. In line with the calming theme of the series, both the opening and ending themes are also calming as you can get. A song worthy to be part of Aria’s theme if Amanchu never happened and Aria got another season. Million Clouds by Maaya Sakamoto as the opener and Futari Shoujo by Tekopikari (Teko and Pikari of course) as the ending are calming enough to complete your peaceful day.

Voice acting isn’t anything particularly special. Ai Kayano is the one of the 3 casts who played a role in the Aria series who also got a role in Amanchu. As Teko here, she was Anya in Aria The Avvenire. I think she did a good job in voicing Teko and make have that sound of insecurity in her character as well as the hope that she can overcome it. It feels like they want to pay homage to the Aria series because they had Erino Hazuki who voiced Akari returning as Akane and Chiwa Saito who voiced Aika returning as Chizuru. No wonder they sound a little familiar. Heck, their character’s names also suspiciously sound related to their Aria character they played… Hmm… Embarrassing remarks are not allowed! No, they didn’t say that but I wished they did. The other casts are Eri Suzuki as Pikari (Chinatsu in Flying Witch), Saori Oonishi as Ai (Aiz in DanMachi), Yuuichirou Umehara as Makoto (Mitsuhide in Akagami No Shirayuki-hime) and Shizuka Itou as Mato (Hinagiku in Hayate No Gotoku). Even Aria has his own seiyuu, Yurika Kubo (Hanayo in Love Live). Easiest lines ever. Shockingly I discovered Kikuko Inoue as the voice behind Pikari’s grandma. Hey wait a minute. I thought she is always 17???!!! Why does she sound like a real grandma here! No wonder I can’t sniff her out! Whoops…

As for the art and animation, nothing really too special. I would like to point out that the sceneries and backgrounds are gorgeous although I won’t go so far as to say they are masterpieces that should be displayed next to Mona Lisa. They are indeed nice to look at but not so much that it puts you in a trance that you really want to go live there now. At least not for me. Oh, remember what I said about the ‘scary doll look’ in my opening paragraph? Well, turns out it is this series ‘Pac-man’ look. And boy they sure have a lot of them. So it isn’t that scary once you get used to it. But it feels a bit odd that they put up this face for almost half the time since Pikari is being her usual idiot so that’s her Pac-man face and Teko is being nervous so that’s her Pac-man face. And yeah, the others too have their own Pac-man face.

Overall, this is beautiful series about friendship but with a scuba diving theme. There are a few lessons you can learn about scuba diving but it is just the very basics because if you are really interested, there are proper channels to pursue. Otherwise the series would be just one big bore. Personally, I still prefer the Aria series over this because of nostalgia and the fantasy setting although this isn’t too bad either but like I have pointed out, I’m not really into scuba diving. Also, Aria had more episodes and seasons so there was time for proper development and pacing to give it a proper ending as well.

I recommend that all of us watch such calming and healing animes once in a while. Because we definitely need some inner cleansing after watching Titans eating humans, females bumming out each other with their bums into the pool, lonely people trying to steal each other girlfriend/boyfriends, high school kids trying to lose their virginity, noisy rock music, warring kingdoms trying to outdo each other and a hell load of other anime controversies that could only be so because anime. So it’s like this series is trying to tell us sometimes we need to take a dive deep enough where it is quiet to clear our minds. Then we find our true inner peace… Embarrassing remarks aren’t allowed! Oh yeah? Screw that because when in doubt, let’s go!

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