The Tatami Reader: Amanchu!

13 08 2009

JG Amanchu! 3Amanchu!

Kozue Amano

Comic Blade (Monthly)

In the United States, Amanchu! is mostly unheard of, for a number of reasons. First and foremost among those reasons is the fact that it’s relatively new — the monthly series has about nine chapters, and just became available in tankoban format. Of course it will be some time before it’s available in the U.S.

You may have heard of Aria, however — that moe title about female gondoliers, particularly one woman whose dream it is to become one — on a terra-formed Mars of the future, that is. The title is a favorite amongst those who like slice of life fantasy mixed with moe cuteness, not to mention amazing art and storytelling. Aria spawned three seasons of anime and is a favorite among fans of the genre.

It should be no surprise, then, that Kozue Amano’s latest lives up to her previous masterpiece, despite being (literally) a little more down to Earth. Following the water theme, Amanchu! takes place in Japan near the sea, centering on two girls about to attend their first day of high school.

JG Amanchu! 2If that doesn’t sound appealing, it’s a lot like describing Yotsubato as a story about a girl and her dad. Like Yotsuba, Amanchu! revels in its eccentric characters, and the pair couldn’t be more different. On the one hand is Hikari, who could be described as a lot like a high school version of Yotsuba — she is perpetually happy, defies social conventions and seems to wander through life without a care (though we see eventually this is not the case). Ooki Futaba (who ultimately gives herself a number of nicknames, one which means fail) couldn’t be more her opposite. Futaba is shy, unconfident and seems determined to stay in her shell.

Of course the two would become best friends quickly, despite Futaba initially being annoyed by Hikari’s quirkiness. Hikari basically adopts her as her friend, and introduces her to her favorite pastime and the central theme of the manga: scuba diving. It’s in the scuba diving club that Futaba discovers a whole new world and where her friendship with Hikari takes hold.

The scuba theme also opens a whole new world for Amano, whose pencils flow beautifully. Her characters are stunning and laden with facial features, and one could even say she transcends the manga style, with pencils sometimes reminiscent the late American comic artist Micheal Turner (of Fathom fame — also water-based, incidentally).

JG Amanchu! 1Like many slice-of-life manga, Amanchu! is at the same time engrossing and utterly unexplainable why it’s so engaging. Plotwise, a great deal doesn’t happen each chapter, but a story like this is driven almost entirely by character development — and for Amano, it definitely works.

As it stands, Amanchu! is still only available in Japan, or avid international readers of the monthly phone book anthology Comic Blade; but U.S. fans of Amano’s Aria and those weened on books like Yotsubato, which are driven almost exclusively by quirky character development, will have something to look forward to when Amanchu! comes stateside. At the present another sea story, Children of the Sea, serialized in Ikki, seems to be all the rage, but this lesser-known sea story is poised to be a big hit if and when it reaches the states.

In the Tatami Reader, B.C. reviews manga both available in the U.S. and only available in Japan.

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