I wonder if one could consider Futaba leaping into the pool in the drysuit at the end of last episode an “unofficial” first step on the path of growing out of her struggles with her fears and her joining the diving club with Pikari near the end of this episode an “official” first step? Pikari herself seems absolutely ideal to help Futaba make these steps, and I think an argument could be made for Katori-sensei being cut from the same cloth as Pikari and to that extent very fortunate for Futaba to have come across so soon after her move to Ito. Make no mistake about it – this series does indeed get into some of the technical details about the contemporary skills required in the art of scuba diving, but it does it in such a way that doubles as broad symbols or poetic images. I love Amano’s reflective thought process evident throughout her works – being able to retain a sort of simplicity and depth intermixed with an attention to small details like she does is a delight for me to read, and is equally on target (perhaps even more obviously so?) in the Amanchu story. Once again – kudos to J.C. Staff for being able to convey some of what Amano has a literary talent to articulate and depict.

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This episode focused more specifically on Futaba’s fears … she has developed a habit of giving up on things she would like to do almost before the opportunity for them to even begin to potentially go somewhere can arise. She talks about herself in the episode proper as being a coward, but maybe one could use a slightly different nuance of the all-too-common response she falls into and call it more specifically “faintheartedness”. The latter might be defined as a quickness to believe that the worst possible outcome might take place, and to over-interpret events, people, you name it, around her as if they were uncontrollably hurtling in a direction to an end that will disappoint, discourage (a great literal word here) and thus make one get into the habit of not taking heart, or, becoming fainthearted. This can eventually lead to one having a small internal world, or become “smallhearted” – the opposite of which is being “magnanimous”.

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If one were to use the image of surprise and shrinking back in fear at the very nanosecond something “interferes” or gets in the way the image of “holding one’s breath” in a panic and freezing is not far off. And indeed, when Futaba gets flustered or discouraged or blushes it does indeed look like she has tensed her entire body and is bracing for some kind of perceived (sometimes imaginary) backlash of sorts. Early on in the episode Pikari decides to bring her to a place of great natural beauty (a cherry tree blossom lane) and Futaba is so surprised that she begins to breathe deeply and relax and one feels that she can “let go” in a way, be herself, and “expand” herself somehow in the presence of the flowering trees while breathing the fragrance of Pikari’s friendly kind-heartedness.

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The image of holding one’s breath in fear is even more contrasted at the end of the episode when Pikari and Futaba join the Diving Club at High School and Kotori-sensei gives Futaba her first fundamental lesson (no doubt there will be more) in scuba-diving in relation to the air pressure changing all the time the further down one swims. The answer to help begin achieving internal equilibrium in the body is … simply continuing to breathe. Its so simple and yet so easy to forget when underwater, but when applied to living one’s life from day to day and encountering both the inevitable pleasant and inevitable unpleasant things one often cannot avoid a beginning to carrying on is simply … breathing and living.

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One can see that Futaba gets a glimmering of the import of the principle as well in that beautiful split second moment when she is shown as if she were sitting underwater as the fish swim by and the sunlight shines down from overhead … it is no mistake that after glimpsing this she breaks into a huge, relaxed and natural smile – a smile similar to but slightly different than the beautiful ones she has displayed previously when seeing the majesty of the ocean or the elegance of the cherry tree lane earlier in the episode. As a reader of the manga I can assure you that there will be more moments of reflection and beauty and inspiration to come (as well as more characters – they showed up in the preview for episode 04 at the end of today’s episode) … I am quite glad to see the anime studio continuing to “get” what Amano is trying to convey to her audience. See you next week! ^^

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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