“An unfamiliar path may fill you with anxiety, shock, or many other feelings, but there’s no need to rush. You need to take it easy. If you have fun on the way, you win” (Kohinata Kino, “The Story of the Promised Summer”).
A little over a year ago, we were gifted the anime experience of Kozue Amano’s Amanchu!, a story about growing up, scuba diving, and so much more. Amano’s gentleness appears in every smile, and her love for the ocean moves over and around us in almost every frame. Now we have episode thirteen, “The Story of the Promised Summer and New Memories,” bringing us back to Shizuoka along with two of Teko’s old friends. While this may be a story in a familiar place, experiencing it through Chizuru and Akane’s eyes allows us to see anew our main characters and the sea they love so much.
As confident as Teko appears in this special, it wasn’t so long ago when we saw her afraid of leaving behind her old life and friends. The Teko of today speaks her mind and takes charge when necessary. Much of that growth can be attributed to Pikari who, despite her playful and flighty appearance, perceives her surroundings with clarity and care. Pikari not only introduced Teko to scuba diving, but also showed her through example how to approach each day with positive action.
When Chizuru and Akane come to visit Teko, we’re reminded of how insecure and afraid she was at the start of the show. Her friends’ first words are ones of concern. While Chizuru may have voiced hope that Futaba wasn’t feeling lonely, her actions later reveal otherwise. Seeing the girl who used to follow her around now walking ahead on her own makes her realize how much Futaba has changed in the short time they’ve been apart. With that realization comes animosity towards the girl who now stands at her friend’s side, and fear of being left behind.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve shared Chizuru’s feelings about my own relationships. The passing of time inevitably means leaving people behind and meeting new ones. It can be difficult holding on to the friendships of the past when you don’t see them on a daily basis, even though social media should make reaching out easier than before.
When the reverse happens to you and someone for whom you care meets someone new or moves away, it can often feel like their new world no longer includes you. Their eyes see places you’ve never been, and meet people whose stories you know nothing about. When your friend starts saying phrases you’ve never heard them say before and changing in unexpected ways, it may seem like they’ve turned into a stranger.
Chizuru’s feelings towards Teko and Pikari perfectly mirror these insecurities. We start to see ugly emotions come to the surface with her possessiveness of Futaba’s affections and coldness towards Pikari. Thankfully, this wouldn’t be Amanchu! without self-contemplation. Through a series of exchanges, Chizuru sees for herself Pikari’s kindness and perceptiveness, and she starts to appreciate the effects she and this strange place have had on Futaba. In a way, Chizuru also grows when she finally shares her thoughts and opens her heart to change.
“I had no idea. I thought it’d be fully dark under the water, but it has such a sparkly side to it. Maybe this is what it’s really like and I just wasn’t aware of it” (Chizuru).
No matter the amount of time that has passed, watching Amanchu! has the rare quality of feeling like I’m coming back home. The stories and people effortlessly pull me into their embrace and remind me that there is beauty in the world to be experienced no matter where you are. It may be found in the light that spills across the sea, or in the connections made with other people. Life can often feel like stumbling across a boulder field, fighting to find balance and afraid of slipping into the unknown, but those experiences also make us stronger if we let them. Even if you do fall, you can search for a way up, one that may appear in the most unlikely of places.
“The Story of the Promised Summer and New Memories.” Amanchu!, written by Kozue Amano, directed by Sato Junichi and Kasai Kenichi, Crunchyroll, 12 Oct. 2017.