Last week’s Amanchu! episode was actually a pair of mini-episodes.
In the first, the rainy season puts a damper on life on the Izu peninsula, but Futaba musters enough focus to practice swimming at a local pool. Though it isn’t clear from the glimpses we get, this practice is apparently structured enough that Hikari’s presence would be discouraged. Seeing her student leave school in an unusual direction, Kotori-sensei follows Hikari as the latter seeks her own silver lining to the cloudy atmosphere.
In the second, the rain gives way to a heat wave, and approaching midterms put club activities on hold. Kotori-sensei finds the diving club languishing in a covered walkway. Displeased with their slacking, she tasks the gang with a children’s game, and waxes philosophic with a horrifying robo-teacher before joining the fun.
I found these mini-episodes to be a pleasant exercise in character exploration. I appreciate that they primarily use Kotori-sensei’s perspective, which feels like a stable platform from which to observe the teenage cast, even if it’s a tad weird that she stalks one of her students.
I’ve been having a hard time enjoying this show recently, though, and before I explain why, I need to confess that I may have gone a little overboard on theatrics in my last post. It still bothers me that Hikari declares herself to be Futaba’s new best friend and gives her a new name without any kind of real consent, and more to the point, that nobody (or at least not the teacher) thinks that this is weird. I’m not sure if the show is trying to imply that Hikari is getting a free pass because she’s trying her best to replicate a normal social interaction, or because her choice of target was fortunate to the point of contrivance (or both), but, whatever the excuse, I don’t think it feels right. I whipped out the big guns because I assumed that the show wouldn’t pull anything that would annoy me more – I was wrong, though, because that was small potatoes compared to the amount of abuse Ai inflicts on her brother, against protest, with zero consequences.
Let me try to clarify my angle on this whole thing. My problem isn’t just that she’s a terrible person – Daffy Duck was a liar, a schemer and a cheat, but Looney Tunes worked because the wages for his behavior were suffering. Abuse of one’s subordinate is a particularly heinous sin – after Daffy as Duck Dodgers mistreats Eager Young Space Cadet Porky, we as the audience cheer when Marvin the Martian trounces the craven blowhard.
But neither is my problem just that she’s a sociopath that knows no comeuppance – after all, some amusing shows are built on a butt monkey protagonist weathering the whims of an uncaring universe and a supporting cast full of sociopaths. Primarily, though, these characters are antagonists – obstacles on the game of life to be avoided if not overcome. Sometimes a show will attempt to explain a violent character’s motivations to give them more depth, but in doing so is at least the tacit acknowledgement by the show itself, if not by any of the other characters, that they are doing wrong. My real problem, you see, is that Ai is a sociopath that knows no comeuppance who effortlessly befriends the main characters.
We live in a SOCIETY.
I occasionally see the kind of willful ignorance displayed here by Amanchu!’s main cast in other anime, and it disgusts me each time. Ai should be ostracized for her wanton violence, but to everyone but Makoto her vicious dropkicks apparently look like playful slugs in the arm. She even has the gall – the gall! – to call brother-foul when he tags her out of the second mini-episode’s game instead of Futaba.
I’m not here to watch some dysfunctional relationship play out in a mockery of slapstick humor – I’m here to watch girls make friends and learn about scuba diving. As far as I was concerned, episode five (in which Ai was formally introduced) was grounds to drop Amanchu!. Even if it hasn’t been as offensively bad since then (so far), I can no longer truly relax while watching this show, which, as far as I can tell, is supposed to be its raison d’être. Always my mind is on guard, now; always I am tense, the better to mentally brace myself for the next crime against cartoon karma, which could land at any moment.
Nice times with Kotori-sensei.
Ai is still the devil.