Amari Mawari (あまりまわり, Around Amari) is a healing/iyashikei manga by Kuroda bb (黒田bb), best known for A Channel, a fairly harmless and standard four-girl, four-panel, Slice of Life/healing manga. Amari Mawari, on the other hand, is the ultimate healing manga. That’s a fact and I’ll fight you tooth and nail over its veracity.
What doesn’t it have? It’s pure, it’s innocent, and it’s adorable. It has cute animals, cute girls, cute boys, and cute kids. It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s quirky, and it’s lovely. And overall, bb’s taken an unconventional approach to contemporary Slice of Life series in her series’ premise, setup, and execution, making it entirely unique among its peers. It’s the best. The best, I tell you! I can’t fit it on my 3×3, since I am a strange person who wants to represent taste on these things more than actual favs, but it would easily take the fourth spot as one of my favorite manga of all time otherwise. For two years of my life, once a month, twelve pages each, her manga sustained me with sweet, tickling, no-tension loveliness.
I don’t want to spend long on this because the series is short and, as a Slice of Life, there isn’t really much to speak of regarding it. It actually has progression and developments, and it’s good stuff, but a “plot” isn’t what you come to this kind of series for.
The series begins with the protagonist, an 18-year-old university student named Haru, panting over a magazine. His friend observes this, and becomes curious. After all, it must be some sort of hot model or something, right? He closes in and Haru allows him a look at it, after which his friend promptly throws the magazine out the window in disgust.
His magazine has been thrown into an orphanage beside the university. Haru isn’t good with kids, but he’s passionate about those photos, so he rushes in anyway. After hopping the fence, he has an encounter that tells us a lot about him really quickly.
Haru loves cute animals. I was pretty much immediately endeared to him with this. Who doesn’t love fluffy pets?
While gushing over this friendly pup, he spots another by a tree. He quickly moves over and…
This is Amari, the title character of the series. She’s a young-looking 14-year-old middle schooler who’s a little odd. Haru finds her sleeping out in the sun, and in a sleepy haze she confuses him for the dog that’s walking around and hugs him close. Soon enough she wakes up and realizes there’s a stranger in her arms. Here’s where the series earned my legitimate interest.
No violence from the girl, slapping the guy.
No misunderstandings or blushing.
The boy doesn’t instantly fall in love with her.
And SHE apologizes to HIM.
Alright, manga, now you truly have my attention.
Amari puts her hair up, and we get going.
Things proceed pretty quietly until a little kitten is encountered, and Haru finds it difficult to contain himself. Haru knows that being a boy that gushes over cute things isn’t considered terribly manly and so tries to deny that he like kittens, but unfortunately for him it’s obvious. He tries to rebuff Amari, but the girl is on point, still remembering the task of finding his lost magazine. They find it in a tree, and Amari hops up to get; she’s used to climbing trees at the orphanage. She quickly retrieves the lost item and hands it over, though she and Haru experience an unfortunate tumble after a branch breaks, Haru’s hat getting knocked off in the shuffle. We learn here that Amari’s favorite pretty and cute things are things that sparkle, since she lost a couple of marbles she’d been carrying in the fall. Throughout this there are still no “she’s/he’s the one” shots with blushing and flowers everywhere, or reactions of violence for bodies happening to collide, so I continued to be impressed. Ah, but there is this, though:
Haru is a blond (dyed), and his golden locks enchant Amari with their sparkle. She wants to touch his hair and feel its smoothness.
Haru allows it, embarrassing though it may be. Unfortunately, he’s finally spotted by some of the other orphans who immediately assume he’s a bad dude because of his blond hair (in Japan, a typical sign of a delinquent or troublemaker). Someone starts heading over, but before they arrive Amari gets a hold of Haru’s magazine. He calls it a “gravure” (basically “modeling”) magazine and is embarrassed about it, but Amari certainly seems to like it a lot.
Knowing what we know about these two, it should be obvious what the contents of this book are, but before we can get confirmation an older girl steps in and kicks Haru down.
This girl is Kyouka, and this violence is actually warranted.
And so ends the first chapter. In chapter 2, Haru clears things up with the orphanage headmaster and the older girl apologizes for attacking him even though he might have deserved it. She didn’t know the truth of it, after all.
She still wants him out, though.
Haru says he won’t come back to the orphanage. He’s a little disappointed, since there are lots of cuddly pets over here, but he can deal with it. Amari is still fascinated by him, however, so she begs his return. After being baited at the entrance and having a kitty climb onto his shoe he is convinced to come again.
And there you have it: the manga’s setup. Haru gives Amari his real name, Kyouka shoos him away from the premises, and we’re off.
After two chapters, I was certain this was my ideal “cute” manga; I needed no more convincing. I was a little wary when Kyouka showed up at the end of chapter 1, justified use of violence or no, but after her apology in chapter 2 I was settled. I considered it absurd that such a manga hadn’t been made before: one that is just simplified warm cuteness with lots of cute animals and characters and a great sense of humor. It’s…perfect.
Alright, let’s talk about the cast!
Haru is an atypical male main character and that alone makes him great in my eyes, but there is definitely a lot to like about this guy. Seeing him happy over animals makes me happy, since he clearly loves it so much. Other characters treat him poorly since it’s pretty odd for a guy to be so into these sorts of things, but it always comes across as amusing since he himself is insecure about his interests (he actually dyed his hair to look a little more masculine/intimidating). He can play as either a straight man or a goofball extremely well and is a genuinely cute dude. That he isn’t falling for Amari throughout the manga also really helps to like him, since a persistent romance would really distract from the cute shenanigans. I’ve found it’s pretty rare we get university students in manga, so I also like that about him. He definitely has some maturity to him, despite how silly he can be.
The main setting of the series is the orphanage by Haru’s school, so the cast is decently sized and varied. There are boys, girls, and kids preschool-aged up to high school-age all hanging around. For the most part, it feels like a giant family with them, which is nice considering they’re all orphans. Kyouka and Amari, for instance, don’t hesitate to call one another sisters. Them aside, the next most prominent characters are Nozomi, Hachisu, and Ushimaru.
Nozomi (Nozo) is a foolish, cutesy character. Rather than airheaded, she just seems to make poor decisions and generally be rather lazy. At the orphanage, she always goes without her socks or skirt, indicating that she’s also perfectly shameless. A great amount of the laughs from this series come from her bizarre schemes and generally poor behavior.
In sharp contrast is Hachisu, a boy Amari’s age with a chip on his shoulder and a generally no-nonsense attitude. He is often rude and brash, particularly to Haru. This is since he sees the older boy as competition — he has a crush on Amari. Though he’s abrasive it works well for comedy so I was never actually bothered by his antics. Plus, like all things in this manga, it turns out he’s a cutie. If his rudeness toward Haru DOES bother you, worry not: he gets over it.
Lastly we have Ushimaru, a giant boy with very unusual habits. He sleeps a lot, wherever he can and whenever, and is highly friendly. He likes snuggling with others, boys or girls, and tends to ask if he can sleep with anyone around. This has made him exploited by older women who want to snuggle with a tall, attractive boy, but Ushimaru is ludicrously innocent and never sees anything indecent in their acts. Surprisingly, he’s a very wise sort of character for one so ditsy and relaxed. I’d altogether call him a soothing presence in the manga.
In sharp contrast to him…Kyouka.
Kyouka could have been an awful character. Like, perhaps, a tsundere who always slaps the main character and is generally just bitchy. Instead, Kyouka is bitchy, yes, but the bitchiness comes from her pretty hilarious doting on Amari. Basically, it’s a mixture of possessiveness and genuine concern when it comes to her. Normally possessive girl characters get on my nerves, but often Kyouka gets portrayed as a fool for her overprotectiveness and fawning over Amari, making her honestly one of the funniest elements of the series for me. Her wrathful face alone easily makes me laugh. Surprisingly, she turned out to be my favorite character in the series.
Throughout the manga Kyouka is pretty hostile toward Haru for “moving in” on her sister, but she does warm up to and acknowledge his good points over time. She reveals herself to be one of the more interesting characters, in my opinion, by touching on some of the more negative aspects of being an orphan (like what an orphan does after graduating high school without ever being adopted) — stuff I have an actual fascination with. She’s also simply a very good person, even if she can be scary to basically anyone due to how angry she gets sometimes. While she really wants Haru out of the orphanage at first, she changes her mind quickly after hearing his situation. Haru’s mom is almost never at home and his apartment doesn’t allow pets, so he really does cherish the time he gets to spend at the orphanage. He’s a lonely kid, so he definitely appreciates Amari’s kindness. Kyouka empathizes, and allows him to come on over. Well, so long as he cleans up around the place when he does.
And of course, we can’t forget Amari herself.
bb perfected “cute” in the form of Amari. She’s a petite girl with cute wavy hair who is both childish and very mature — excitable and rather peculiar, yet serenely calm. She’s innocent as Heaven and purehearted to boot, though she will lie or deceive on rare occasion to very amusing effect. She can be both awkward/slow and very blunt and frank and these don’t feel like completely different settings she switches between as if she’s bipolar, she’s just this wonderful blend of the two. She’s just…perfectly cute. She’s a girl who likes cute things, has a pretty good head on her shoulders, and is naive and good-natured. It’s great! Just looking at her makes me feel nice inside!
I should say, her fascination with Haru slowly becomes romantic in nature, but I mean it really happens slowly and when it does, she’s super sweet and nice about it. Basically, this series never loses its adorable tone even when it eventually brings up the notion of romance. Right up until the end, it feels like the same light and fluffy series it always has been. See, Amari doesn’t actually want the kind of relationship where people kiss (she doesn’t even seem to have a concept of that), and Haru certainly doesn’t either.
Ah, it’s nice. bb’s art is just beautiful in this series; she very obviously was passionate about it. You can feel it in how pretty everything is. It can be zany too, which is very funny, but this manga is largely a gorgeous piece of work, lovingly crafted. It’s soft and smooth and shining and I can be satisfied with these pages just by looking at the art. The subject matter and general content coupled with the wonderful art style really make Amari Mawari a winner in my eyes.
So, down note: this series was very obviously axed.
At chapter 31, Amari Mawari came to a close. It didn’t feel incredibly abrupt, but it definitely wasn’t a completely natural conclusion. This series had more to it, and could have gone on for much longer, but it didn’t. It’s over.
I picked this up because when it began it was quickly recognized as top-tier comfy manga by users of the Internet communities I frequent. However, when I sniffed around for opinions on the series from Japanese readers (because I could NOT believe the sudden ending) I was sad to find reception to it was overall lukewarm. At first, I really didn’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with this series, right? It’s an iyashikei manga that trumps all others — how can you not like it? Well, on rereading the series for review (by the way, I’ve read this series like 30 times by now and it never gets old) I started to understand. I mentioned this series was unconventional at the start of this article, right?
Well, it is.
There is no yuri teasing in Amari Mawari, characters are more complicated than any archetypes they may initially appear to be, heterosexual romance becomes a theme later on, and there are quite a few male characters present and regularly. In fact, the protagonist is male, which almost never happens.
I never thought about it once while I had read it over and over, but really, Amari Mawari is weird.
The safe approach to Slice of Life series is to take four girls (a smart one, a cute one, a straight man, and a fool, usually) who are all in middle school or high school and they live their days in cutesy simplicity, occasionally being a little gay for one another. There are no males in sight and if there are they’re gag characters or very, very minor characters at most. Nothing really happens at all and the status quo remains unchanged pretty much start to finish, aside from adding more girls as side characters to mix things up. Of course there are deviations to this, it’s no formula, but it’s all common enough. I’m not knocking it, either, because I’m quite a fan of series like this, but Amari Mawari doesn’t follow this kind of format at all.
Conceivably, the objectively offbeat nature of Amari Mawari wasn’t appealing enough for a wide audience in Japan. I do suppose in the West it was never that popular either, although those that knew about it sure seemed to like it. On the site I utilized to follow its English releases, it maintained a steady 5 star rating based on 202 reviews — not so in Japan, where I saw a roughly 3 star rating based on most sites. Admittedly it wasn’t based on nearly as many people (roughly 20?) but the series was canceled and young so I think that says it all.
I was depressed about Amari Mawari being over for quite a while, and when I think about it, I still kind of am. It was one of the series I most looked forward to among manga I follow. It was the highlight of the month whenever it was translated. I genuinely love the series and it has nothing but my respect. When I feel down about it being over, I read it again. Unlike Amaama to Inazuma, it is not the healing manga I judge all series against, it’s the healing manga I wish more series were like and aspired to. It is a joy. It is a joyful series. Light and fluffy, soft and cuddly, and sparkling: if only there were more manga like this.
If you agree with me — and you should — consider buying the tankoubon for this series. You can purchase them from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. I hope I didn’t sound too negative on A Channel and series like it; I haven’t actually given A Channel an honest go just yet and can’t really properly judge it. What I do know is, bb can make very good manga, and I eagerly await anything new from her.
Now go! Read this manga!
Until next time, thanks for reading this!