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Amanchu Complete Collection UK Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Make a splash with this diamond in the rough….

What They Say:
After moving from Tokyo to a small seaside town, 15-year-old Futaba is captivated by the ocean views and the vast expanse of water which she finds laid out before her. Unbeknownst to her, Futaba’s fascination is shared by Hikari, who has lived in the town her entire life, and the two girl’s lives intermingle unexpectedly when the introverted Futaba meets the outgoing and exuberant Hikari as one of her new classmates.

Before she knows it, a whole new world is opened up to Futaba – a sparkling, shimmering world that exists under the sea, as her new-found friend helps her confront her fears and anxieties through the form of scuba diving. As her circle of friends grows, and with her confidence burgeoning, so Futaba finds the strength and self-assuredness to grow and develop with the support of those around her in this quietly touching and charming tale of friendship and finding yourself, lovingly animated by Production I.G.”

The Review:
Audio:
The sound quality has an option of Japanese only in its standard 2.0 format. That said, I didn’t have to adjust the sound settings on my screen which is rare when I have the just Japanese sound track – no problems in terms of synching with the subtitles or the visuals, with it being a more recent release (2016) the transfer has no issues as far as I could tell and flows through really well that you wonder what a 5.1 or an English dub for this could do… (And considering its predecessor Aria only just got Kickstarter English dub sorted….)

Video:
The video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and CGI – and it is utterly GORGEOUS. The designs and art style of the areas, the underwater sequences, even the Aria-esque weird faces the characters can do give the show an utter charm that is so unique even in today’s market. The sound synching is fine, no pause lag or in general, and the atmosphere of the CGI for the underwater sequences combined with just simple hand drawn animation makes this a visual spectacle.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release; however the collector’s edition does come with collector’s packaging.

Menu:
The menu shows clips of the anime on a border screen with your options on a lower toolbar with the cauldron in the background – options are Play All, Episodes (set up like Futaba’s camera phone), and Set Up and on disc 2 extras. Like most Blu-Rays it has the pop-up menu option in-show, so you can easily return to the main menu without delay and no slowdown when selecting options. Standard but it works.

Extras:
Amanchu as the standard textless opening and ending extra, but its big extra is the 7 short films – and whilst short, together they total about 45 minutes in length so quite a big extra…

These are shorts hosted by Hikari and Futaba dressed in octopus and squid costumes for some reason…basically the style is done very basic and like their strange faces art/super deformed almost like. They host basically information about things in the sea (except the last one which was a bonus one for those who bought the Japanese DVD/Blu-Ray which focuses on the Amazon strangely enough) – it always has Futaba wondering what the subject is about and Hikari just throwing something else out of left field…yet always is informative. They range from catfish, octopus, rock fish, shellfish, dolphins, whales, giant squid, etc – with cameos from Ai, Makoto and Katori-sensei, it’s both a funny yet surprisingly informative segment.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I first learned Amanchu had been licenced I was to be honest, stunned. Not because it was a bad series (FARRR FROM IT) but it was a bit on the obscure side in terms of content – created by Aria creator Kozue Amano, and with Aria being one of my favourite series of all time – I knew this was going to be a slice-of-lice type genre, focusing however instead of gondolas, we have deep sea diving in present time in a home setting instead of neo-Italy. However, despite the weird premise, it has just finished a second season and like Aria, is building a small but dedicated fan base despite its unusual theming, the relaxing nature of Amano’s manga/shows tend to have quite the fan base.

Myself among them. This is such a weird series to recommend because of its slow nature…but as one to wind down and just plain enjoy, this might be the best series of that type of nature in the last few years.

The show starts with one of our two leads in Hikari, who is an enthuastic and skilled diver, practicising whilst her grandmother who works/owns a diver shop makes pork miso soup (that sounds delicious) ready for her granddaughter and other divers. Meanwhile, our second lead and currently one of my favourite characters of all time, Futaba, a shy girl who has moved from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to Shizuoka, is your standard introverted shy girl, moving from her friends in Tokyo to a whole new world. So needless to say, she is a bit nervous when she goes to her new school…

…however Hikari, who is very much an extrovert, catches the new girl and admires her look and immediately gravitates to her to become friends with her. Futaba initially sees her as a bit strange, but that changes as she soon becomes wrapped in Hikari’s world, to the point after day 1 they have nicknames (Pikari and Teko respectively) and thanks to her very fun teacher Katori-sensei (who is also a diver), it leads to Hikari dragging Futaba to the schools diver club. Now Futaba is one of the ‘going home club’ girls and never really had any goals or dreams to follow through. This is why I love this girl so much because this show despite its pacing and unique subject material, this series showcases the growth and development she has. It’s strange for a show like this to show good character development, but Futaba is one of the best in most recent memory as she slowly gets caught in Hikari’s web and the two ‘borrow’ some of the wet suits from the club as Hikari shows her just the basics of diving in the pool… (More hilarious when you later learn that Futaba can’t swim but Hikari is just THAT engaging…)

Futaba does show the classic case of missing home as well, hence why Hikari is just a perfect foil off her because whilst she’s continuously happy and a bit eccentric, she ISN’T stupid and is very in tune with her friends feelings. She helps her out when she is down, whilst Katori-sensei is a great teacher, she’s willing to be stern, but overall has a smile on her face and isn’t afraid to get childish herself, yet she is a great teacher, especially as the diving club’s instructor as whilst Hikari doesn’t need to know anything, Futaba does and through her the audience also learns things you wouldn’t expect if like myself, you are a novice at diving – episode 3 has stuff on air pressure, ear equalization, whilst episode 4 has stuff on eye mask cleaning as well.

And it isn’t throw you at the deep end so to speak either, it starts off slow – with Futaba getting to watch Hikari (and unbeknownst to them, their two sempai Ai and Makoto who also are part of Hikari’s grandmother’s club) dive, then trying it herself at the pool, whilst Katori-sensei realises Futaba isn’t physically strong so also we see her training her in jogging to build strength. Here, they meet Ai and Makoto properly – twins which Ai clearly wears the pants in their relationship considering she never hesitates to drop kick Makoto for no apparent reason at any given time – and with Ai angry about the two ‘strangers’ who borrow the wet suits in front of them, it does give this show a comedy twist as well. Of course they make up, so now it’s getting Futaba ready for open water diving, but first, she needs to learn how to swim. The group of 5 basically then bond as they look to help her out, with Futaba and Hikari in particular bonding well (almost romantic at times) as Futaba realises she now has a goal to reach and a friend who is there for her in this new land…

There are some moments that are just for fun as well, to help Futaba out (like the red light, green light game) with Futaba building confidence in running events, or Ai getting an apparent love letter (as the relevant sibling worries for the others’ future) – there are a lot of touching scenes (the episode focusing on Futaba having to delete photos as her memory is full is hard because it could mean losing her old memories as well) and the two actually bounce off each other well in Futaba and Hikari, as whenever Futaba loses confidence, Hikari mentions she has had her problems as well, which leads to her getting better and eventually getting to pass the Open Diver course.

The show has its worries as well with Futaba panicking about going too deep, but then getting excited about the world below. We see her put everything she learned into use, to when a bonus episode 13 has her old friends visit Chizuru and Akane (played by the seiyuu who played Aika and Akari from Aria as a continuity point), Chizuru gets jealous that Futaba seems to be moving along without them, yet thanks to Hikari, she gets over it and realises Futaba isn’t that type of girl.

Also, there is an episode where there are cat mascots. Because following on from Aria, it had to have a cat mascot for their group (Cha) who eventually befriends a kitten that the girls rescued named Ohime…so yeah, lots of shout-outs to Aria.

This show is definitely one of those that is hard to recommend to a general audience. It is not a shounen action show, it is not in-depth plot wise or intelligent enough for a drama like show, it’s not a fully fledged comedy, the only fan service you could get is when the girls are in swimsuits and the relaxing pace may put off people who want to marathon a show.

That said, what it sets out to be it does perfectly. It is a relaxing show that you can enjoy at a few episodes at a time, it has engaging characters (Along with Futaba subtle yet excellent character development, Hikari and Mato-sensei are great foils as both friends and teachers for her, whilst Ai and Makoto add some comic relief but also a bit extra camaraderie for her as she grows out of her shell) and it is a joy to look at. The setting combined with the diving theme means that a lot of love and research went into it (it is known that diving was Kozue Amano’s hobby probably helped) and with Futaba acting as the audience’s surrogate, the way everything is explained throughout combined with how well Futaba develops not only as a diver but as a person, shows how well this show brings out it’s themes and motifs.

And yes, whilst I usually dislike the term, Futaba is clearly top waifu material for me. I apologise for that term but not since Shirayuki from Snow White & The Red Hair have I loved a lead character so much. She is nervous and shy, but isn’t callous or cold…is just worried about her own confidence especially with such an outgoing friend like Hikari. Hikari for her part is also an amazing character as whilst she is strange, goofy and eccentric, she is caring, smart and able to help her friend out as long as she is able to. Futaba has many trails she has to sort out herself (learning to swim, clearing out her eye mask, when she loses her fin, etc) but Hikari just being there is enough to get her through the confidence barrier she has shielded behind. This is exemplified in the final episode when Futaba’s friends from Tokyo see how much she has grown which even leads to some jealousy, but fortunately it is subsided and with knowing there is a 2nd season you wonder now she has passed her exam what is the world going to throw at Futaba?

Whatever it is, I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Summary:
Amanchu is not recommended for everyone, but anyone looking for a gorgeous, relaxing and developing series look no farther. Whilst the diving theme might scratch a few heads, it’s below the surface and not just the water to look deeper in how good this show is. In Futaba, we have a shy lead who slowly develops surrounded by a fun but encouraging best friend, a smart but still funny teacher, her brash but caring sempai, and a world she and the audience gets to explore through her eyes. The characterisation, importance to have fun but also to work hard and general attitude of the show makes this a winner. I’m surprised a series like this got licenced in the UK…but trust me, I’m not complaining.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: October 29th, 2018
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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