Rolling Review – Amanchu! (06)

Amanchu00010.jpg
For serious?

Episode Synopsis:

It’s (somehow, already) time for Futaba to take her first test, one that will qualify her to start practicing in open water.  She does well at the technical challenges, such as recovering a lost rebreather and clearing her mask (at last!).  And then it turns out that she doesn’t know how to swim, which you’d think would have come up before.  With the test a bust, Futaba almost reverts to wallowing in self-pity.  Fortunately, her desire to go diving with Pikari gives her a sense of purpose she’s never had before in her life, and she resolves to work to overcome this latest hurdle to Open Water Diver certification.

Review:

Another episode, another small bit of progress for Futaba (even if it is couched in terms of a failure).  The episode isn’t even really about the diving, it’s about Futaba finally making a wish of her own, due to something she herself wants to do.  It’s a good moment of character growth for her, and it does feel natural and paced well with the overall arc of the show.  Unfortunately, it does mean we keep having depressing flashbacks to Futaba’s youth, but at least it’s in service to a positive change.

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You were just the very saddest sack in all the world, weren’t you?

Also in the plus category: The rest of the team (surreptitiously) comes along to watch the test, and there are no Ai-based antics on display for the whole episode.  Good God, they’re actually being supportive (kind of) instead of just stealing the show.  Bravo.

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Keep it down over there

That’s not to say the whole episode is a home run (or, given the current pacing of the show, being walked to first base).  Maybe it’s just the translation, but the teacher’s heartfelt advice to Futaba comes off sounding kind of negative.

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In another show, a character with that facial expression saying that line would be the villain.

The message is supposed to be “It’s OK if you don’t have a definite goal right now, you can get one as we go along”, which is probably very reassuring to a harried salaryman coming to this show to relax, but it still feels a bit patronizing.

There’s also a bit of weirdness going on with animation quality and perspectives in this episode.

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You OK there, Futaba?  You’ve got a little something on your nose…
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What am I even looking at here?  What are those… things down there?  Tiny cars?  I mean, at least the mosaic is cool.

 

These, combined with a few character shots where something just felt… off, make me a little worried, but it’s nothing to be alarmed by yet.  Let’s hope they can keep up the quality, as with one of the episode’s opening shots:

Amanchu00001.jpg
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.  Beautiful.

 

Easily the weirdest part of the episode, though?  Butt-cat.  Butt-cat is sitting in the teacher’s car while the team is at the pool.  In a cat diaper.

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Why? Why? WHY?

Is this… is this something that actually happens in Japan?  I can’t even imagine the injuries that would be sustained trying to get a cat into a diaper.  For some reason, throughout the episode, we keep cutting back to the cat rolling around in the car in its diaper.  I assure you it is as random and pointless as it sounds.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room: muppet mode’s ongoing existence.  It’s as prevalent as ever this episode, though I’m starting to get numb to it.

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We do get something new this episode, with what I’m dubbing the teacher’s “Charlie Brown” muppet mode.

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Now that’s how you save animation budget, kids

Does each character have their own unique muppet style?  Things do seem to be leaning that way, and that’s at least somewhat creative, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for it in the future.

 

While I am numbing to the muppets, I still can’t quite grasp their purpose, what they’re trying to get across (other than saving budget).  Here, I’m going to show you two images.  These images are of Futaba saying two sentences, one right after the other (we transition halfway through from one animation mode to the other), but they showcase my ongoing difficulties with muppet mode.

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I do not, for the life of me, see the same emotions out of Futaba in both of those shots.  I get a totally different feeling from one than from the other.  Is it just me?  Would the average Japanese viewer not feel any emotional dissonance in the facial expressions after the transition?  For me, it remains jarring, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to bridge that gap.

On well.  In short, the episode is typical of the whole, with slow but measurable progress in both Futaba’s development emotionally and as a diver.  I do wonder if we’ll ever get an episode about Pikari, though, and the show could certainly use a change of focus from Futaba.

 

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