“Take a look around, and you’ll spot a bunch of autumn wonders!” -Pikari, “The Story of Autumn and a Tender Happiness”
Mangaka Kozue Amano has this wonderful ability to capture the concentrated essence of each season in her works. We see this in works like Aria, and in the currently airing Amanchu! Advance. In episode four of Advance, “The Story of Autumn and a Tender Happiness,” we step away from the usual group dynamic and follow Futaba “Teko” Ooki and Hikari “Pikari” Kohinata separately on a cool autumn day. They show us their different approaches to appreciating the fall season, as well as pull us into their dreams—Teko with a lucid dream and Pikari in her consistently upward view.
Autumn is easily my favorite time of year with its turning colors and breeze that seems to bid us a fond farewell before winter drops. The season always feels too short, flitting between the balminess of summer to the biting cold of winter. There are elements to this time of year I seek out and try to cherish as much as possible while I can, certain flavors and smells, sights and sensations.
“The Story of Autumn and a Tender Happiness” starts us off together with Teko and Pikari as they look back on their summer memories and contemplate what the next months might bring. We are immediately reminded of the time of year when the roasted sweet potato truck drives by, before shifting to a later scene alone with Pikari and her new friend, Kokoro. Their goal is the seasonal marron pie. Before we can find satisfaction, we then jump to Teko reading at a cafe and enjoying a sweet potato dessert with a pumpkin latte. Even though the two friends are apart, they both seek out their own ideas of autumn wonders using dreams as their settings.
In the case of Teko, a daydream turn into a real, sleep-induced dream. She playfully predicts the series of events around her and determines she is, in fact, asleep. A big part of what makes her experience so unique is her immediate, almost expected, acceptance of her situation. Instead of panicking, or just observing, Teko shows her familiarity with lucid dreams and acts with a confidence wholly different from when she is awake. She steps up to a bamboo broom and takes off into the sky like a scene from Flying Witch, and surprises the girl sitting next to her who seems to have also fallen crossed into the dreamworld. Teko’s explanation and invitation to fly reveals a Teko I always knew was there but who slowly revealed herself over the course of the first season.
“Believe it or not, I’m a professional dreamer….In dreams, what matters is the ability to picture what you want.” -Teko
If she can take charge of her desires while dreaming, then she can certainly do so while awake. You could instead say, “In life, what matters is the ability to picture what you want,” and the sentiment would still ring true.
Pikari’s encounter with Kokoro takes a similar path, with the two uniting over seasonal food. While Pikari happily searches out the marron pies for herself, Kokoro makes it clear it was her mother who sent her on the errand. She also reveals her troubles at school. Pikari, being who she is, sees to the heart of the matter and helps her new friend look up at the world rather than down at the ground.
“You finally looked up. You won’t find any autumn wonders if you keep looking down.” -Pikari
This mirroring of events between Pikari and Teko allows the older girls to play the role of the teacher for their younger, more skeptical companions. It’s a bit odd really, since I’m accustomed to it being the younger characters full of hope having to remind the older generation to not give up on miracles just yet. Instead, it’s Teko and Pikari who whisk us away to a chilly world of crimson sakura leaf storms and flowers blooming their last hurrah. Their thirst for adventure and beauty knows no limits other than their own imaginations. Perhaps this is why it was Pikari, and not the young dreamer, who first flew and discovered the “December blossoms.”
I tend to think of dreaming as a solitary thing, an act I do alone at night or a wish I hold tight day to day. Yet Pikari and Teko make it clear at the end of this episode their dreams are more meaningful when shared with each other. They may not physically be together through every step of the journey, but they can still connect as storyteller and audience. It is through the act of sharing that their dreams and discoveries take on renewed life. Like the fall sakura, they can come alive once more and reveal new colors.
“The Story of Autumn and a Tender Happiness.” Amanchu! Advance, written by Deko Akao and Hiroko Fukuda, directed by Junichi Sato and Kiyoko Sayama, Crunchyroll, 28 Apr. 2018.