FIRST LOOK: AMANCHU!
It is often thought that slice of life is the easiest genre to write for. Simply because you don't necesarilly need a continuous narative or even a plot at all for a slice of life series to work. Personally I think slice of life is the hardest genre to write for exactly because of that. If you have a gripping plot viewers will overlook some sloppy character writing or iffy dialogue or poorly timed comedy. However with slice of life those things become pivotal if you want to keep your viewership entetained the whole way through.
Also I feel that when it comes to story, that has to be regarded in a different light when talking about slice of life anime. Yes it's true slice of life shows don't have a big villain to fight or sacred object to find. But that doesn't mean they're devoid of narrative progression per se. One of my favourite slice of life shows is Barakamon. If you look at that show on an episode by episode basis it seems very episodic. Pretty much each episode starts with Handa being down on his luck after which Naru or another character comes in to drag him into whatever event is going to be the center of that episode and by the end usually Handa usually gains a new look on life. But if you look at the entirety of the story you see a huge amount of character development as Handa slowly begins to discover what he truly wants out of life as well as the importance of living with other people.
And while it is to early to say for certain Amanchu! seems to act on the same kind of narative format. Because while each episode can be considered standalone at the end of the day it's very clear that this show seems to ride entirely on character development. Tackling some very heavy subjects such as loneliness and anxiety.
The story of Amanchu! is seemingly very simple. It's a story about a very shy and intorvert girl called Fuutaba Ooki who finds it very difficult to communicate with others let alone make friends. She had a few friends at her previous high school but then promptly had to move and now in a very alien school full of people she doesn't know and at a place she's not even remotely familiar with she quickly finds her axieties getting the better of her. Luckily for her there's Hikari Kohinata or Pikari as she refers to herself as. Pikari in many ways is Fuutaba's exact opposite, being very outgoing and more than a bit excentric. The truth is Pikari is having just as much of a hard time communicating with others so she hides her own social insecurities by acting way more excentric than she actually is (though she's still pretty excentric as herself) And as expected it's not long before these two lonely souls find eachoter and find solace in eachothers company while they each try to grow as a person. Oh and also, there's diving.
I say this as an afterthought but that's because it really feels like it. I'm sure if you're really big in diving you'll still get a real kick out of this show as the diving scenes are very beautiful both from a technical and aesthetic aspect. But otherwise the whole diving thing seems like little more than a hook to hang up the whole character drama rather than the actual focus of the show. At the same time it isn't entirely interchangable with any other activity either as, as far as I know with my very limited knowledge on the subject, diving is really about overcoming your own fear but once you do, an entirely new world full of wonderful things opens up to you. And that is a perfect metaphor for the journey that our lead character Fuutaba (or Teko as Pikari calls her) goes through. And perhaps even more importantly: diving is something you never do alone.
Now I'm making this show out to be a hell of a lot more dramatic and hard hitting than it actually is as for the most part this show is very lighthearted and full of genuinely funny and very well timed comedy. Pikari's outgoing and very excentric personality clashes beautifully with Teko's social awkwardness and wish to stay out of the spotlight leading to some excedingly funny scenes with the two characters at times priceless expressions making them even better. Add to that a teacher who half the time tries to be strict and steer her students in the right direction and the other half of the time just sits back and enjoys her students having the time of their life and you have a show that is an absolute hoot to watch. But what really makes the comedy work so very well is that it doesn't degrade the characters in any way or intentionally puts them in awkward situations but rather stems from the characters themselves and their wonderful personalities. It's a show that makes you laugh with the characters not at them.
Now as far as downsides go I don't really see any. I would like for some of the secondary characters like Pikari's grandma and the other two members of the diving club to get a bit more development but I'm pretty sure that's going to happen in the next couple of episodes and if not that's not that big a deal either as this show is really about Teko and Pikari and their friendship. Also while I personally love how the show frequently switches between an immensely detailed artstyle and a more cartoonish one, I can see how that would annoy some.
Oh and before I forget, just for the record: the opening is amazing and hands down best of the season. At least for me. The opening song is hauntingly beautiful and the visuals are simply stunning. JC Staff is not a studio known for producing mindblowingly beautiful animation but they really went all out with this.
I will admit that Amanchu! is not a show for everyone. If you're looking for a fast paced show with lots of action, this is not it and if you absolutely desire a continuous narative with no episodic subplots you might want to look elsehere as well. But if you really like character drama and well written comedy than I highly urge you to check it out since it is so very much worth to watch.
Amanchu! can be streamed legally on Crunchyroll with simulcasts every friday. As mentioned before this comes with a special "quick on the draw" achevement so it might be worth doing at least once.
So is anybody else watching this and excited about it? Let's hear some thoughts and opinions and maybe get some more people to watch it.
Oh and I guess this first look thing can be called a series now since this is the second show I've covered. Not sure if it'll stay at two or if I'm gonna do more. I basically only do these whenever I get a burning desire to talk about a show at length and promote it a bit. That might happen for more shows this season but not sure yet. We'll see.