Last month I had the opportunity to visit the Artbox shop in Covent Garden, which also currently has a pop-up shop within it of Tofu Cute products. If you’re not familiar with Artbox or Tofu Cute, they both specialise in a variety of cute, kawaii things including stationery, plushies, sweets, homeware and accessories of recognisable characters such as Hello Kitty, Pusheen, Snoopy, and also their own original designs.
I was very impressed with the selection available in the Covent Garden shop. Located on the corner of the street, it looks quite small from the outside but is impressively stocked. I spent a good hour in there, starting from the front and working my way back! The sticker selection alone spanned across five rotatable stands!
Alongside lots of stickers, I found myself buying a very pretty planner. The pages consist of some English but primarily Japanese segments to be filled in so I’m not sure how I’ll use it but it was too pretty to leave behind (ain’t that always the way…).
It’s tough to pick a favourite purchase from the shop, but aside from all the amazing stickers, the shop had a lot of amazing kawaii letter sets (I love letter sets). It was great being able to buy letter sets with Japanese characters on that I can’t find in other shops, such as Korilakkuma and Mamegoma, and they came in really cute packaging too!
If you love all things kawaii and cute and you can ever get down to London, you have to check out this shop – you won’t be disappointed by the range or quality of the products. If you don’t have access to Artbox or Tofu Cute shops, you can visit their websites and order their cute kawaii things instead! Links are below:
Ooki is a shy girl still preoccupied with her old life and friends on moving to a new town. When she meets Hikari, a bubbly and eccentric girl who embraces everything in life from her new desk seat to that fresh textbook smell with equal enthusiasm, things look like they might be set to change for the better. Hikari is an experienced diver, and Ooki is persuaded to join the school’s diving club.
Hikari is initially the main draw to this anime. If you don’t like characters who are positive to the point of eccentricity you might find her peppiness grating, but her excitement for everything in life sets Amanchu! up as a positive and sweet anime. Hikari’s outlook is juxtaposed with Ooki’s sadness about trying to adjust to a whole new life – we see her apathy about joining any high school clubs and excitement for getting texts from her old friends. Hikari is the catalyst for change and when Ooki joins the diving club she gradually begins to re-emerge from her shell.
Ooki’s thoughts and behaviour indicate someone who struggles with anxiety and low self esteem that has been made worse by having to try and process the changes in her life, and the sensitive way her peers respond to this adds deeper emotion to what would otherwise be a simple fluffy story. The anime focuses closely on Ooki and her immediate peers – Hikari, and two other friends who are part of the diving club. The fact that scenes often include no more than four or five people really cements Amanchu! as an intimate anime and allows Ooki and Hikari’s characters in particular to be focused on to a stronger emotional effect.
Yuri fans will also delight in the ongoing subtext of Hikari and Ooki’s chemistry. Ooki’s tendency to get flustered and blush around Hikari can easily be explained away as part of her introverted and bashful nature…but there’s enough there to suggest an underlying attraction too. Their relationship forms the heart of the show and Hikari’s unquestioning support of Ooki in diving and beyond often tugs at the heartstrings. Although their scenes together are moving, they have strong moments alone too. One moment that really warmed my heart was when Hikari takes a train journey just to catch a brief but stunning glimpse of some blooming hydrangeas on its route, (she plans to get off at the next stop and then head back). She frequently embodies this “live in the now/enjoy all of life’s little wonders” attitude that slowly rubs off on Ooki. Hikari’s carefree attitude also works well alongside the anime’s aesthetic of light pastels, sparkling oceans and a relaxing soundtrack which make this a perfect summer watch.
Amanchu! disguises itself pretty convincingly under a veneer of fluffiness and light comedy, but from the get go it grounds itself in emotional honesty with a strong character arc as we see Ooki opening up to others and learning to embrace a new life that resonates across even the goofiest of scenes. The parallels of learning to dive underwater with learning to dive into a new life are a beautiful metaphor as we see Ooki overcome her sadness and anxiety step by step.
Check out this warm gem of an anime, Amanchu! is now available on Crunchyroll.