Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.
This time: Amanchu!, by Kozue Amano
Those who know me, know that I have a love/hate relationship with the iyashikei genre, a buzzword for anime and manga that primarily aim to have a “soothing”, or “healing” effect on viewers and readers, with gorgeous artwork, simple characters and slow pacing. It’s an enjoyable, yet derivative genre, that expects a certain degree of receptivity. This often makes shows like Tamayura and Hidamari Sketch seem oddly self-gratifying, only able to soothe you when you are willing to be soothed, which is usually not when you would need to be soothed.
Arguably the defining work of the iyashikei genre is Kozue Amano’s Aria, the world’s most uneventful, yet gorgeous science fiction story this side of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Amano’s latest, Amanchu!, has all the air-headed yonder, romantic friendship, blue seas and bizarre approximations of cats Aria had, though in a setting distinctly more close to home. Futaba Ooki is a shrinking violet who spends most of her time trying not to get into people’s way. One day, she meets Hikari “Pikari” Kohinata, a cheerful girl who lives near the sea, and gets dragged into the wonderful world of scuba diving.
Yeah, scuba diving, and considering its genre, Amanchu! is surprisingly informed about its subject matter. Within the first few chapters, you will learn the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit, the intricacies of underwater pressure and the best methods to prevent water from coming into your diving mask. It shares Moyashimon‘s bizarre ability to fascinate you with trivia about a subject you’d never imagine yourself being interested in. When Futaba finally dives into the sea for the first time, after a whole twenty chapters of theory, you will feel oddly empathic.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Despite its surprisingly realistic approach, Amanchu! is still steeped in idealism. Conflict is nonexistent, whatever drama exists comes forth from melancholy and relief, and Pikari’s Yotsuba-esque facial expressions are so adorably over the top, her background antics easily become the best bit of the manga. Yet despite the breezy atmosphere, even the biggest airheads have at least some slivers of maturity in them. While the character interactions and jokes will win no award for originality, Amano is a competent enough writer to yet again reel lovers of everything fluffy and fine in with yet another variation on the shy girl and energetic ditz who may or may not totally be into each other.
Nevertheless, reading chapter after chapter of Amachu! very quickly becomes a boring slog, especially because a desire for something to happen quickly diverts one’s attention from Amano’s gorgeous, detailed artwork. Amanchu!, like any iyashikei manga, is best enjoyed in very small, sporadic doses, which makes it one of the very few manga to actually benefit from its ludicrously slow release schedule. It delivers an atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else, but in order to be happy you’re getting it, you have to be looking for it.
Amanchu! is an incredibly cutesy romp through the wonderful world of scuba diving. With gorgeous art and lots of adorable antics, it neatly follows in Aria‘s footsteps. With countless trivia about het author’s preferred hobby, It’s clearly the manga Amano wanted to make, but if you like your manga hot-blooded and eventful, it’s probably not the manga you want to read. For a manga that claims to be “fun for all and all for fun”, it’s all for fun, but not fun for all.