I attended a live event at the Shinjuku Piccadilly on the 22nd of June celebrating voice actress Suzuki Eri’s birthday. As she voiced one of the lead characters in Amanchu, they also screened several of her favorite episodes of the show. Director Sato Junichi, as well as VAs Itou Shizuka, Kayano Ai, and Oonishi Saori also showed up. Here’s a summary of my notes from the event, followed by some speculation about a not-quite announcement made at the end.
-The event was split into 3 segments, with 3 talk bits separated by 2 screenings of 2 episodes each. Suzuki picked her top 4 episodes, and they were shown from lowest to highest rank.
-The first segment just had Suzuki and Sato, plus an MC in a red party hat. Suzuki commented on how this was her first time hosting an event of this size. She apparently didn’t do much special for her birthday, though she did go to the dentist.
-Sato commented on how Suzuki was very close in age to his daughter. As father’s day had been just last week, he mentioned how he always tried to be super-obvious about what gifts he wanted for father’s day (i.e. by making a show of how beat-up and flimsy his old wallet was) so as not to put her in an awkward position.
-Suzuki’s first two picks were episode 5, because it was the one where the cast got together and the way Oonishi screamed during the recording left an impression on her, and episode 13, because it was a nice story with Teko’s friends and because it made her want to visit Izu and do some of the things shown in the episode. She made a nice-sounding bit of wordplay about how the latter showcased “Ito no i-ito-ko” (the good points of Ito).
-For the second segment, Suzuki came out wearing a ton of balloons like fairy wings. Apparently it was one of the things she had requested to do at the event, and everybody agreed because it was her birthday.
-Suzuki commented on how, when working with Kayano, it became clear that she had loved Aria. On cue, Kayano showed up from backstage carrying a birthday cake.
-After a little bit about how the cake didn’t have marzipan or candles, Oonishi and Itou came out to provide those. At this point, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday”, led by Itou, and Suzuki blew out the candles.
-The rest of the second talk segment was a bit where the cast read short letters they had written to Suzuki. The Sato had no letter because he had no love for her.
-Kayano went first, congratulating Suzuki on her 9th birthday and saying she’d soon need a new backpack for school.
-Itou was second. Her letter was a series of woos and yahoos and comments on how cute Suzuki was. After she finished reading, Suzuki asked frankly if she had written it at 3AM. Itou responded that yes she had, and she had been drunk.
-Oonishi went third. She read her letter like a dramatic movie preview (think “In a World…”), only to end it with a very jokey “chan, chan”. Her letter was the shortest.
-After the letters, Suzuki announced her top-2 episodes. Number 2 was episode 9, because seeing Teko worrying only to be saved by the present she got from everyone was a nice feeling, and also because her character’s lines in that episode were particularly memorable. Number 1 was episode 12, because it was the one in the series that was actually about diving, and had a lot of nice oceanic imagery.
-For the third segement, everyone came out in costumes. Suzuki was dressed like a cake, Kayano and Itou were beers, Oonishi was agari (a type of tea served with sushi), and Sato was a birthday present box. This was apparently all Kayano’s idea.
-Oonishi wore the agari outfit because she didn’t drink beer. Her costume had a lot of random kanji on it, so she quizzed the front row on what they meant.
-Itou was a bit flustered because the beer costume covered up the rest of her outfit, so it could have looked like she was naked under the costume. A “hadaka beer”, if you will.
-The final bit they did was something called a Kitaku. Essentially, they told heartwarming stories about Suzuki and ended them with “Suzuki Eri-pyon deshita!” (“It was Suzuki Eri-pyon!”) The catch is that every story had to be narrated like classical Japanese horror.
-Oonishi went first, telling the story of Suzuki’s birth.
-Sato went second, talking about the time he met Suzuki’s mother in the hall at an event.
-Kayano went third, describing a time she had been hungry while Suzuki was eating an onigiri and had gotten distracted by the smell as a result.
-Itou went fourth, with a boob joke. The other cast members cast serious doubt on whether her story had been sufficiently heartwarming, and Itou replied that it had been a ‘warm’ boob grab.
-In discussing these stories, the cast hit upon the haunted bus chapter of the original manga, which was never animated.
-Suzuki went last, and the theater staff took special effort to make the lighting appear scary. Her story was about a time she had trouble doing breath SFX to mimic diving.
-With this, the event was almost done (it had run for about 3 hours), so the cast gave their final remarks. Sato thanked everyone for coming and popped open his present lid to reveal a gift for Suzuki – a custom sketch from the anime’s character designer. Itou said the team that worked on Amanchu was a good one, and mentioned that the manga still continues. Oonishi said the costumes they had worn would be a fun, albiet hopefully rare, memory, and urged people to buy the merchandise if they could. Kayano tossed the show’s catchphrase “Tanoshii wa mugendai!” to the audience, and mentioned that it wouldn’t be bad to do something like this once a year. Finally, Suzuki said this had been such a nice few hours it almost didn’t feel real, and that it had been her first time wearing such a ridiculous costume.
-As the crowd was getting up to file out, the MC in the red hat picked up the mike to tease, well, something. He said, essentially, that they appreciated everyone attending, and that they were currently working towards being able to hold a similar event next year, so to please wait a while. This, as one might expect, drew an excited murmur from the audience.
I tend to think that the new project being hinted at is more likely to be another drama CD (the series already has 2) or special episode, but it could be a second full-cour season or a movie. While in previous years such a continuation would be unlikely for a show with a sub-4k disc average (someanithing lists the final average as 2270 per volume), we live in an age where the raw disk count is not quite as important as it used to be. It’s always been possible for shows with popular manga to get more airtime, and if the wider audience exists, it’s possible to turn that into a good deal of support for some sort of theatrical version. Trinity Seven is a very recent example of a show with a sub-4k average getting a movie, and that manga’s popularity peaked well below Amanchu’s in the oricon charts. The show also benefits from driving small amounts of tourism to the Izu region (several local shops have show merchandise and tie-ins), though I doubt that moves the needle much.
The two most recent manga volumes, released while the anime was airing, actually showed weaker oricon totals compared to the rest of the series, but the raw numbers don’t tell the full story. Both volumes were released as split editions, with one containing a drama CD and the other being the regular release. Because of how oricon totals are, that could mean they sold as much as 20-30k copies each of the 3x more expensive LE editions and we would never know. So we can’t say for sure that the anime *didn’t* have a significant commercial impact, counting the manga and everything else.
There is additional evidence that people involved in the franchise are gearing up for another media push. I mentioned earlier that volumes 10 and 11 came out in summer 2016. They contained chapters 56-66 of the series. Currently, the manga is up to chapter 75, meaning they have more than enough material to release volume 12, but no announcements have been made as to its release date. With another chapter coming out roughly every 2 months, the series would have 81 chapters ready by Summer of next year, enough for 2-3 volumes of releases, depending on the size of each one. It’s no sure thing, but the prospect of more gets me excited. The longer the story goes, the better it gets, and the anime has the added edge of exploring the romantic aspect of the main relationship in more depth, something they could very potentially build on.