Hikari and Futaba each walk to school in their own particular way (in Hikari’s case, this is a sudden footrace against her homeroom teacher, Ms. Katori). After classes, Hikari leads Futaba to the dive club’s room, where Futaba shows some interest in the diving equipment. Hikari then gets her suited up and in the pool, where Futaba discovers that not only does she enjoy the activity, she’s also starting to warm up to Hikari.
As you can probably tell from the synopsis, this is not a show in which a lot happens. Now, that doesn’t have to be a problem, and indeed, can make for some compelling viewing if done correctly (Flying Witch was my top show last season, and nothing of any consequence ever happened in it). But there’s something about how Amanchu uses its slow-moving runtime that bugs me. It’s hard to put my finger on, and defining it is juuuust out of my – oh wait, no. I know exactly what it is. It’s this.
“Muppet mode”, as Su has so masterfully named it, is a) really off-putting visually, and b) seems to be the default mode for the characters (especially Hikari), to the point that it’s almost startling when she’s drawn with eyes instead of fried eggs.
I won’t mince words. I can not stand muppet mode. Whether it’s Hikari’s fried-eggs look or Futaba’s scribble-eyes (scribbleyes?), it is exhausting to watch, since it basically announces “Nothing of any importance will happen during this scene”. I find myself waiting for them to revert to normal and actually do something instead of gormlessly staring off into space. Here, have a gallery, a mere sampling of what you have to look forward to.
Not helping this one bit is Hikari’s absurd childishness. Whether it’s walking around constantly blowing her whistle, comparing absolutely every activity, from leaving home to running, with diving, her lengthy, wordless, beaming smiles towards everyone within view, or her odd exclamations (translated as “whoop”) in place of real words, she is nearly insufferable. How am I supposed to believe this person is in high school? She acts like a feral third-grader that was raised by mermaids or something. If this weren’t a slow-moving show about blossoming friendship between opposites, I would peg her for some kind of yandere with a trauma-filled past immediately.
Futaba, by contrast, is merely afflicted by such crushing social anxiety it’s amazing she doesn’t flee in terror from her own mother. Thankfully, the arc of the show appears to be her overcoming that by interacting with Hikari, so we at least have some hope of improvement for her.
Here’s the thing, though. When the show isn’t shoving Hikari’s blinding happiness in my face, or Futaba’s shocked reaction to seemingly each and every thing that happens all episode… it can be quite pretty. Their non-muppet mode character designs are appealing, and the art on display is occasionally beautiful.
The moments of quiet, as characters simply enjoy the scenery or each other’s company, are such a delightful contrast to the rest of the episode I would almost say it’s intentional. If the show can tone down Hikari a bit (maybe more than a bit), get her and Futaba interacting through actual dialogue instead of sight gags, and let us explore the majesty of the ocean alongside them, it could very well be great. Here’s hoping.