In this episode, Futaba has a heart-to-heart with Hikari on their way home from school, and the pair sign up for the diving club the following afternoon.
Now this is the kind of pace I like to see in my anime: nice and slow. I’m a fan of slice of life shows in general, and ones about mild esoterica are usually treats that give glimpses into interesting facets of life on Earth that I would never have looked into on my own, or perhaps known about at all. This looks like it’s one of those shows.
As an introvert who was myself transplanted during tenth grade from a large city to a small town, this episode’s prologue reminded me of my own days eating lunch alone before I was gradually absorbed into a group of friends. From what we see of Futaba by herself, she might have shared my fate, but, of course, I didn’t sit in front of a manic pixie muppet girl.
I feel like there’s a lot of discussion to be had about Hikari as a character, and I’d prefer not to go very far down that tangent at this stage, although I will note that Katori-sensei seems to have determined a somewhat effective method of communication: swift, mild violence.Hikari’s primal shenanigans don’t instill the same degree of aversion in me as they do in Scott, but I would like to mention a couple of other things in the show that do. First: the butt cat.
Just… why? Why does Kozue Amano hate cats? This show and Aria both have normal-looking cats in addition to their monstrous headliners, though. Maybe she just hates people that like cats, to the degree that she uses deformed cat-like creatures as her main mascots, so she can say “The main mascot of this manga is a cat” and prompt people who like cats to awkwardly say “That’s great – thanks…” in the same way as you would respond to a troll who knows you like cookies and keeps giving you oatmeal raisin ones. Did she once own a cat who had a head like Cha’s and President Aria’s? Some of Cha’s facial structure looks like it might have been inspired by real cats with short muzzles, but… I just don’t know.
What really bothers me, though, and what is one of this episode’s focal points, is the nicknaming. In my mind, when someone whom you’ve just met and with whom you’ve spoken approximately once starts addressing you with a nickname that they came up with themselves, that person doesn’t respect you. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Gurren Lagann, but I feel like there’s an example of what I mean in the case of young Rossiu, whom Kamina typically addressed as Dekosuke, which I think roughly translates to Foreheaderick (Get it? Like Frederick? Man, never mind). The implication there, though, is that once Rossiu comes of age and proves himself as a man, he will command the respect necessary to be addressed by his real name.
However: I’ve noticed a lot of anime girls using nicknames in a manner entirely alien to me, which appears to be that you will be assigned a nickname on a random whim, and you’d better get used to it, because that will be your new name until the day you die (if you’re lucky, it might not go on your gravestone). Case in point: Ayumu Kasuga, whom you may know better as Osaka, a name which she herself described as “bleh” (I’m dating myself, but everyone should watch Azumanga Daioh). This, of course, is another ironic layer of the joke that, despite having moved from Osaka to… wherever the show takes place (presumably Tokyo), she is very unlike common Osakan stereotypes. Personally, while I’m not quite sure how I would have felt if everyone in my own small town high school addressed me as Vegas, at least it would have been the name of a place which, because I grew up in it, helped shape my identity.
Let’s look at a more recent show. For most of Chihayafuru, the main character Chihaya addresses the two guys that she essentially conscripts into her Karuta club by the terms of derision that they’d already acquired when she met them, which made me double-angry because it casts her as lazy and disrespectful. Infuriatingly, despite expressing significant protest in the early episodes, Nishida-kun a.k.a. Pork Bun (because he’s fat, see) earns every bit of his nickname not only by almost never being without a snack while onscreen, but also by commonly wearing ridiculous food-themed shirts. Why, show? Why would you stoke in me the fires of righteous indignation only to piss them out yourself? Even when Chihaya has a shattering moment of self-awareness, and starts showing signs of remorse, the show wastes no time dashing the hopes that it had only just raised in me by having both Nishida-kun and Tsutomu a.k.a. Desktomu (because he’s a nerd, see) brush the whole thing off because they’ve come to accept their perpetual insults as simply a part of Chihaya’s personality. It’s a hideous anticlimax, which is weird, because the rest of the show is good! There must be something about this phenomenon specifically which is a straight-up cultural disconnect.
We see another variant here in Amanchu!, when Hikari assigns Futaba a nickname based somehow on her thin eyebrows. I’m like: Excuse me? You’d better tell her off when you grow some backbone, girl. Luckily, it’s not like a nickname this asinine has any chance of catching o-Wait, wha-
You are your own person!
Also, the direction, cinematography, and special effects keep making Amanchu! look like it’s a lesbian love story – not that there would be anything wrong with that – but the actual narrative doesn’t yet seem to me like it’s going in that direction.
It’s weird, is all.
The episode’s first half has some refreshingly open discourse, and the second half starts the ball rolling on the show’s sure-to-be interesting edutainment/documentary aspect. The whole nickname thing makes me feel a terrible, furious rage that I compress into a tiny, steely ball and cram deep, deep within myself, from which it could explode violently and unexpectedly under the wrong circumstances, but I am looking forward to more scuba diving.