Life continues to be magical for Hikari Kohinata and Futaba Ooki as they discovers the wonders of the world they live in, both above and below the sea level. And Futaba continues to work to get her diving licenses in order, among the school festivals, the dreams and the whims of her friends.
Much like with Aria, Amanchu ~Advance~ more or less picks up where it left off in the first season. As well it should, given the nature of slice-of-life starring people attending high school, although unlike with Aria, Amanchu is quickly reaching the stopping point for my manga reading part of the same. (Not that I want to encourage using scanlations, but Aria's manga only reached the halfway point officially, much to my extreme chagrin, and Amanchu still hasn't gotten one at all.)
So that we wouldn't forget what Amanchu is all about, more or less, this season starts out with a diving segment where Hikari takes a group of customers out for a dive, much like she did in the first season. In that sense, Amanchu ~Advance~ might be a bigger boon for those who wanted more diving in the show, because with most of the basic theory behind them, Amanchu ~Advance~ becomes free to impress more with locale rather than knowledge. That's one thing this season has over the other; if you're in it for the scenery porn, this season has more of it, and more variation of it too.
On a more ambivalent note is how the show presents itself. Aria, being the highlight of Amano's career as far as I'm concerned, is a fairly feminine show, but Amanchu -- with this season in particular -- really cranks up that ratio. Both the opening and endings are incredibly mellow and fluffy ballads, the latter starring Princess Stray Adopted Kitten and President "Face-Looks-Like-A-Butt" Cha. (Why did I think his name was Aria in the first season?) Outside of that, the visual language of Amanchu ~Advance~ is all sparkles and flowers. The characters, the girls in particular, also still favors dresses of various levels of unwieldability. Since they are school uniforms, the weird leg-hugging dresses are still there to look like they are movement-impeding as all hell, but everyone's off-duty fashion sense is still nicely varied and appropriate for a place that looks all southernly island-ish.
With the exception of Futaba growing steadily more capable and confident in her abilities, the characters in this show don't really change a whole lot. Hikari is still constantly in the here-and-now, while Katori-sensei is still a magnificently mature lady who still strikes a nice balance of work ethic and fun ethic. This does sadly mean that Ai is still being her brother-abusing self whenever she gets embarrassed.... or just for the heck of it. I do suspect that the show seems at least vaguely aware of how it comes across, as it doesn't happen quite as often this season. It still DOES happen, though, so once again, it's something you're going to have to deal with if you're planning to watch this.
Yes, I have... not missed this.
So let's talk new characters. One of the biggest new players in Amanchu is Kokoro Misaki. I might be a complete Japanese language newbie, but I have picked up on that "Kokori" translates as "heart" (in the metaphorical sense, at least) and so the manly-wannabe Kokoro isn't going to give up that name in a hurry. In Kokoro's introduction episode, we are introduced to the concept of an octopus mom looking after the eggs she had put into this world, and Amanchu rather surprised me here by not hiding or romanticizing the fact that Octo-mom's always die from this in real life, spending all their remaining time and energy looking after the eggs.... until finally succumbing from starvation, basically. It's a stark natural moment, although it does lead to a rather amazing sight of thousands of octopus newborn pouring out of the nest. Even if only a fraction of them will make it to adulthood. This is the part of Amanchu I really respect, despite Ai's idiotic abuse being played off as comedy. Kokoro does come across as a bit abrasive; as a girl who's trying to be like a man, but the truth is far more amusing when it happens, even if it almost sounds like the show thinks that men's sole value lies in protecting/impressing girls with that character. Since most of the revelations centered around Kokoro happens late in the show, I can't really say if it happens in the manga, or if it happens quite like that, so I won't lay all of it on Amano's feet.
One of the last chapters of Amanchu I read, however, concerned itself with a certain "Peter" subplot, neatly tied up with the school festival where the students put up haunted houses or cafes or whatnot. That part was never my favorite in the original manga, although the anime just takes that ticket and rides it past too many stations. The whole festival and Peter arc is allowed to go on for four full episodes, two of which cover material I read in the manga. See, where the whole "Peter" thing -- "Peter" being a young boy around the girls' age who show up as sort of a ghost where fun festivals happen and spirits away people -- ends with Hikari just rationalizing that Peter just goes where it's fun and never really spirits away anyone, the anime adds a two-episode subplot about a "Neverland" -- created by "Peter" as he was growing up from being a baby that was left in a temple. This "Neverland" is slowly being drowned out by sad baby tears, and Ai has to step up and save it by flying up to a giant ship in the sky, where said baby that's also Peter is crying said tears while lying in a cradle in its inner sanctum. And then the whole thing ends by twisting time even more into an idiotic pretzel the like of which I haven't seen since Angel Beats. Without spoiling too much, at some points in the show, the same person is literally three "different" beings excisting at the same time -- the crying abandoned baby, the teenage Peter and... well, you'll see. And if you don't go "Oh, come ON!" at it, you have a much bigger tolerance for BS than I do.
It's a crying shame, pun intended, because allowing the Peter subplot to eat up three episodes just kills the pacing and the momentum of the original lesson the manga was trying to impart, particularly when you have to wait a whole week for each episode. I'm giving the preparation stuff and the festival itself a pass, since Peter doesn't really show up in the first of the four festival-based episodes, and the school at night during said preparations really does give it that mysterious once-in-a-lifetime kind of vibe to it, like the manga intended. But the Neverland stuff -- while visually very nice -- is set up more as an action piece coupled with incredibly dumb metaphorical stuff Amanchu should be above doing, as if it's trying to ape Ghibli movies like Kiki's Delivery Service or Castle in the Sky. This doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it feels out of place in this show. Honestly, it's like they just wanted this action spectacular setpiece, but wasn't sure how to set one up beyond the whole "sympathy for the crying baby" thing, and particularly given that this was something Amano herself probably never wrote in. There was at least some sense put into Futaba's "flights of fancy/lord of your dreams" sequence in one of the earlier episodes, because it was meant to portray one of the idiosyncracies of her character.
Thankfully, the show does get back on track once the Peter subplot is done. At that point, I became surprised to find that Hikari's family is a good deal bigger than I expected: she apparently has both a brother AND a sister, both of which are fun people. (Though her sister does get a lot more screentime.) Kokoro also has a sister who's going to attend the school Hikari is attending, and might be a potential diving club member in the making. We'll also meet her grandfather, a character you have to see to believe. And of course we'll see Futaba's old friends, voiced by Akari Mizunashi and Aika Granzchesta respectively. (Yes, yes, I know: It's really Erino Hazuki and Chiwa Saito, but they sound like Akari and Aika, so there...)
The visual aspect of the show is also still nice. The background art looks great, as usual, including the undersea ones. The character designs mostly look nice, although the animation isn't outwardly impressive. While I can't say for sure, the lingering smell of a lower budget compared to last season sort of hovers over the whole show. At least the music is still pretty nice. Junichi Sato -- or possibly rather his wife, Yasuno Sato -- is very good when it comes to that sort of thing, as one of the bonus videos for the Aria box set will show you. Going over to Amanchu, she seems to have been promoted from "Music Selection" to "Music Director". Tamayura also seems to have her handling the music to a large degree.
Amanchu ~Advance~ started out quite well, but the middle section drags it down quite a bit, mostly because it feels more like a departure than a part of the whole. The last two episodes in particular involves the sort of time shenanigans that bind three people together in ways the manga probably never intended, mostly because it makes absolutely no logical sense. But the part of the show I'll always love -- diving aspect aside -- is that it wants you to stand up, look around you and take notice. It's so easy to forget, because so many terrible things happen in our world, but it really is an amazing world we live in, with so many nice things to see and experience. Even if it sidetracks itself and gets lost in its own story, Amanchu ~Advance hasn't forgotten, and that's why I have decided not to dock it a star for the way it dragged its feet in the middle.
Still a worthy successor of its prequel, oddball ambitions aside. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Light fanservice -- swimsuits, bikinis and general swimwear -- and the first episode includes the whole subplot where Hikari takes off her bikini top in a public mixed-gender hotspring in a moment of absentmindedness, although a bit of an oddity given that Amanchu portrays all men as the sort that would respectfully turn around while she retrieved her top if she had just explained her situation and asked them to do that. So... yeah.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Amanchu ~Advance~ © 2018 Kozue Amano / Mag Garden · Yumeogaoka High School Diving Department
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