2009’s Amanchu!, Volume One , collects the first six issues of Kozue Amano’s eponymous manga. Unlike Amano’s Aria , Amanchu ! does not appear to be SF. Like Aria , it focuses on the friendship between two teens.
Chapter 01: The Girl and The Sea
New to the coast town of Ito, sixteen-year-old Futaba Ooki has no friends. Indeed, the aloof young woman seems not to need friends. Touring around town on her scooter, she makes a connection she did not expect: with the vast beauty of the sea.
Unbeknownst to Futaba, fifteen-year-old Hikari has noticed Futaba.
Chapter 02: Yumegaoka High School
On the first day of high school, the girls discover that they are classmates. That may be the only similarity between them: Futaba is cool and reserved; Hikari is anything but. They ride the same bus to school. They notice each other. They get off the bus and somehow, getting into the school turns into a race. Futaba relies on cunning, whereas Hikari simply hurls herself towards opportunity.
Hikari’s vault does not end with her shattered body sprawled on pavement. It does, however, provoke an actual conversation between the two girls, who discover they have a common interest: scuba diving.
Chapter 03: School Time
Despite being the older of the pair, Futaba is swept into Hikari’s wake as they tour their new school. Curiously, when Hikari isn’t tweeting away on her whistle, she provides non-stop enthusiastic narration that showcases her boundless optimism and glee. Homeroom begins with each student introducing themselves. Hikari cheerfully admits to hyperactivity. Futaba reveals only her own name. This is not because she is aloof. She is extremely shy.
Futaba is generally drawn in a fairly realistic way, whereas the artist often treats readers to caricatures that hint at Hikari’s out-going character.
Hikari’s endless energetic glee borders on the disturbing. I don’t know how Japanese society regards hyperactivity … perhaps it’s tolerated. Hikari seems fueled by all the sugar.
Chapter 04: A Path in the Air
Disturbed by the revelation that club participation is mandatory, Futaba is distracted from her social anxiety when she spots Hikari skulking in a furtive manner. Futaba is soon drawn into the genki girl’s shenanigan. They borrow the scuba club’s gear to use in the school pool.
Despite the fact that Futaba claims to be a fan of scuba-diving, Hikari still explains everything to her new best friend. This is duly conveyed to readers as well. As you know, Futaba …
Chapter 05: Cherry Blossom Path
The two girls share notes on their respective social shortcomings, which despite being polar opposites, are both socially isolating. Hikari takes Futaba to see the local cherry blossoms.
It wouldn’t be Amano without scenery porn.
Chapter 06: Teko and Pikari
Hikari and Futaba head to scuba club tryouts. Club supervisor Kitori (also the girls’ homeroom teacher) asks if either girl has any idea who broke into the club’s storage room, Hikari immediately, cheerfully, announces that she is the culprit. Too friendly and fun-loving to resort to harsh punishments, the teacher settles for a light thwap with a scuba fin at Hikari’s head. Then she inducts the pair into the club and takes them out for training.
Futaba is more ignorant of scuba diving than I expected. The comic explains at length. It isn’t all left to Hikari (as you know, Futaba …).
This series seems to be a mundane slice-of-life manga (well, aside from the fact that Hikari’s bold leap didn’t send her to the hospital1). So why review it? I wondered what Amano had been up to since Aria . I liked Aria ; I expected to like this. I was not disappointed.
If you’re Amano fan, this offers everything you’d expect: an upbeat view of the world, close friendships, lush scenery porn. If you’re not yet an Amano fan, and you’re looking for a break from depression and pessimism, this is a good a place as any to start with Amano’s work.
Amanchu!, Volume One , is available here (Amazon). It is not available from Chapters-Indigo.
- A ghost shows up later, I believe.