「わくわくと諦める心のコト」 (Wakuwaku to Akirameru Kokoro no Koto)
“The Story of Excitement and the Despairing Heart”
I know some people have been turned off by the range of super-deformed faces used in Amanchu!, but I’ve personally never had any issue with Amano-sensei’s art style because 1) I thought The Muppets was a great show and 2) I think the style really does work. There’s no arguing that Pikari is not a goofy character, and the goofy face complements her well, as it does other generally goofy scenes where Amanchu! is in its laid back mode. They also serve to contrast the times when Amanchu! is trying to be serious without having to mire the show in melodrama. So it’s fairly easy to tell when Pikari is being serious about diving safety, or about encouraging her friend.
In that same vein this episode of Amanchu! is half goofy and half serious. The last two faces of the main character lineup finally show themselves, to be introduced in a light comic relief segment. They hardly have names or roles yet, but it’s a good way to start easing them into the show. I think ‘ease’ is certainly one of Amanchu!‘s abiding qualities, never in too much of a hurry to skip through its narrative, never getting very busy very quickly. The focus remains of Teko still, though with strong supports. Considering her insecurities it’s appropriate that the cast take their time to step forward, so both we and Teko can get used to them gradually.
The comic relief also serves to ease us into Teko actually dealing with her insecurities, both in terms of the mood of the episode and the general progression of events (that is, first observing diving, then trying it out herself in a pool, one step at a time). Here, once again diving serves as a very apt central metaphor for Amanchu!. I noted before that Amanchu! is a very different kind of sports anime, as diving is a very different kind of sport, without much in the way of competition whatsoever. That’s not the same as having no obstacles though, and for Teko that obstacle is internal—as it should be for any story centred around character growth. The way these obstacles are overcome play well into Amanchu!‘s mix of healthy idealism and down-to-earth pragmatism. Diving involves exhaustive, almost obsessive attention to safety (for good reason), but the cold mechanics of it are given warm by one’s faith in their buddy, never having to feel alone in the great blue. The power of friendship wins again!
And the payoff for all the trouble was definitely worth it. Now, I’m personally unfamiliar with scuba diving, but as a youth I did enjoy swimming a fair bit. In particular, I loved the diving pool, and just holding my breath and submersing myself in it. Perhaps it was the deep valley in the water, or perhaps the sensation of floating, but it felt like the closest I would ever get to flying—a feeling that I think Amanchu! captures in part. And, of course, the light filtering in from above was definitely quite a sight. Perhaps I don’t say this enough, but Amanchu! really is quite pretty, not with the same urban beauty of ARIA perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless. To make even a swimming pool scenic, and capturing the ways water plays with light, is a commendable feat. I can’t wait to see the seasons rotate again in Amanchu! when we, and Teko, get to look beneath the sea.