Amachan is the 88th 2013 NHK asadora written by Kankuro Kudo (Tiger and Dragon, Unobore Deka). It's about Amano Aki (Nounen Rena), a 16 year old girl from Tokyo who goes to her mother's former home in Sodegahama, a fishing village in Kitasanriku, Iwate prefecture for the summer break. She falls in love with the sea and its people, and decides to stay on to become an Ama (women divers who fetch clams and sea urchins for tourists) just like her grandmother, Natsu (Miyamoto Nobuko). Her decision is welcomed wholeheartedly by Natsu and the other locals. However, her mother Haruko (Koizumi Kyoko) does not like the idea at first. She has a strained relationship with Natsu, and her extreme dislike of the sea, diving and the countryside is one of the reasons why she left her hometown 24 years ago. Eventually, she decides to stay in Sodegahama with Aki, considering that she is contemplating on getting a divorce anyway and does not want to go back to her husband in Tokyo. She also notices that it might be good for Aki for she seems livelier and happier in Kitasanriku than in Tokyo. The road towards becoming a full-fledged Ama-san is tough for Aki as she encounters tests and hurdles. One day, a video of her as an Ama gets uploaded in the city's tourism website, transforming an ordinary high school girl into an overnight Internet sensation. Suddenly she is called upon to use this opportunity to attract tourists to a city suffering from depopulation..
Daikichi drives Haruko home where Aki and Yui are waiting. The girls ask where Takuma is. Haruko says he's at the snack bar. She tells Yui that her father had gone home, too. "Where's your Obaa-chan?" Aki: "I dunno. Maybe at the Ama Cafe?" Haruko tells Aki that the two of them will have a talk upstairs. Haruko and Aki are in the 80s room, recalling the time that Haruko told her about her dream on becoming an idol.
In contrast to Haruko's angry departure from Kitansanriku 25 years ago, Aki is given a warm and proper send-off by her Mom and friends, complete with flag-waving and happy banzai cheers. Inside the train, Daikichi gives mother and daughter some alone-time before departure. Haruko asks Aki if there is something they need to discuss. But Aki turns away, saying they've already talked about everything last night. She looks out the window, somewhat feeling reluctant to leave. All the while, her mother tries to give her some motherly, last minute advice.
Aki: 'But if we do not persist here, then it'll be dismissal for us. GMT is without name recognition... So with a sense of crisis, we started our promotional activities.' The girls psyche themselves up as they start their own fanmeets. "Let's take the world!" "GMT!" "Let's get outta the Hole!" "GMT!" "Let's quit our part-time jobs! Let's quit getting allowances!... We are... GMT6!" During their events, they'd set up flags and announce the schedule of their fanmeets. They'd sing and dance to AmeJo's "On the Calendar is December" while people pass by, not really interested enough to stop and look. There'd be a few otaku photographers taking their pics. Aki has also asked Anbe to cooperate. She is asked to serve mamebu of course, as well as specialties from the other regions, and to promote it around the Tokyo Edo theater. The girls are happy with the dishes Anbe is serving, like Zunda-mochi of Miyagi; Tebichi (stewed pig's feet) and pig's ears Chiragaa of Okinawa and Saga's Grilled Mutsugoro (blue spotted mudskipper). The girls start offering the food to the guys waiting outside at the theater. "Those who are waiting outside, thanks for the hard work!"
The announcement of the Idol election results is underway. Aki: 'At the time, the members of GMT are about to be bestowed judgment in the Hole.' The girls are watching the event live through the internet. Meanwhile... Aki's filming of her drama debut has also started. Cast and crew are ready to film in the studio. Takuma is also there watching while listening to ongoing live event at Ueno through his smartphone. Hiromi acts her scene of pressing the apartment doorbell of a certain 'Shimada-san' but Aki as Neighbor C, opens the other door and says her line way too soon. "Cut!" shouts the director. Koike the AD, tells Aki to wait for her cue before coming out. "I was here giving you the cue, didn't you see it?" Aki: "What's a 'cue'?" AD: "Oh, it's 'prompt'." Aki: "Prompt? Okay, yes! (Later) What's a 'prompt'?" AD: "It's a signal to open the door." Aki: "Oh! You should have said so! lol" The cameraman shouts, "Okay, (clapper)board!" Aki: "What's a 'board'?...
The TV director is impressed by what the two girls are doing for the town. He wants to feature them for an interview in a local news magazine show called "It's 5:00! Wanko Channel!" "If the reception is good, we might have you on the show as regulars." Aki says she would have to ask her mom about this to which Daikichi replies: "I'll ask her for you. Just leave it to me." On the other hand, Yui who is well-aware of the idol business asks the director a series of questions: "Will there be a stylist? Make-up artist? Will we have costumes? Can we check the VTR in advance before broadcasting it?" Afterwards, despite the "good chance" of being famous, Yui voices her anxieties to Aki. "TV is so unlike the internet. you never know who may be watching... It's almost like a debut..." She says she wants to consult Hibiki about it. Aki says she will have to follow what her mom decides. She relates how Haruko does not think Aki will become an idol since she called her (Aki) "ugly" once. Yui reacts strongly about that. "You're not ugly at all! You have the makings of an idol. Your mom doesn't know anything about being an idol!" Aki assures her that her mom, when mad, does not know what she is saying and most probably did not mean it. Then Haruko arrives for her shift at the shop, and the two girls quickly leave. At the shop, the four guys (Daikichi, Sugawara, Yoshida, and Hiroshi) are lined up at the counter looking tensed, as they get ready to talk to Haruko. "What is it now?" She knows something is up. The guys then inform her of the TV offer. Haruko asks the same questions that Yui had asked ("Will they have a stylist? Make-up artist? Costumes?..."). Daikichi is confused, "How come you know all that?" Haruko: "I just know." They tell her: "Though it's only shown locally, the publicity for the town is going to be great...." Haruko asks what Yui thinks. Hiroshi: "She would likely say yes because she wants to become an idol." Haruko says she sees her former self in Yui, and t
Aki begins her diving training but has a hard time reaching the uni at the bottom. During her vending chores at the train station, she sees Hibiki again, taking pictures of Yui who was posing willingly like a model. Aki wants to thank the man for helping her pass the underwater test but he is rude to her, and tells her to "buzz off, ugly." Aki gets mad and throws uni at him. Despite that, she was able to talk to Yui who remembers her from before. Yui says she has a blog and that is how Hibiki got in touch with her, asking if he could take pictures of her. Aki is in awe of Yui's prettiness, and was delighted to be invited by her to some town activity the next day. It turns out to be volunteer work, making parade floats for the city's upcoming Autumn Festival. Aki feels happy being with everyone but feels sad that she will be leaving soon. Yui, on the other hand, loves to talk about Tokyo (even though she's never been there), and does not seem to notice the beauty of her own hometown. Aki decides to forget about her sadness, make the most of her remaining time and see all that she can about Kitasanriku. So she goes with Oda Ben (amber miner) and visits the amber mine that he himself had dug up. Here, she is able to let out her feelings by shouting: "I don't want to go back to Tokyo!! I want to stay in Kitasanriku forever!!"
The atmosphere is gloomy at the Fishing Co-op as Aki's return to Tokyo draws near. A touching moment passes between Natsu and her granddaughter when she feeds Aki with sea urchin for the last time. "Don't you forget the taste." Hiroshi also bids Aki farewell, gifting her with free curry tickets from a shop in Tokyo. That night, the Ama-sans and the men discuss and lament about the mother and daughter's impending departure. The women insist that Daikichi propose to Haruko so she won't have to leave. Natsu chooses not to do anything about the situation, quoting her favorite line: "Those who leave will not be pursued.* " Meanwhile, Haruko wants to ask Aki if she really wants to leave. But Aki, bottling up her true feelings, says she's fine about returning to Tokyo. Natsu comes home, and goes straight to bed early, ignoring the fact about their leaving. "Gotta get up early. Better go to sleep." Haruko remembers that those were also the words she said the last time when Haruko left home 24 years ago. "If there's something we have to talk about, you always turn a blind eye and pretend to sleep!" The next day, the Ama-sans gather at the house to say goodbye, except for Natsu who went to the beach to gather seaweeds. Daikichi is supposed to propose but backs out. At the station, Aki hesitates to ride the train home. Haruko asks her what she really wants to do but Aki still says she's okay with it. Just in time, Haruko steps off the departing train and pulls Aki with her. The train leaves without them. They go back to Natsu's home, much to the delight of the grandmother.
Aki comes home to hear her mother and grandmother laughing about something, which was really unusual. But as soon as she comes in, Natsu gives her the cold shoulder and goes straight to bed. At the Fishing Co-op the next morning, the Ama-sans find it boring without Aki around and wish that Natsu will forgive her already. Meanwhile, Aki and Yui are talking. Yui shows a bitter side of her that Aki has never seen before. "Aki-chan talking in our dialect sounds fake and unnatural, I feel like you're making fun of us." But Yui apologizes right away and reiterates that she does not like the countryside and wishes to leave for Tokyo as soon as possible. "I can't see the way you see my hometown." She also reveals that she wants to be an idol someday. At the Tourism Office, the list of Miss Kitatetsu candidates are finalized and among them are Yui and Kurihara Shiori (Secretary at the Tourism Office). The winner will represent the railway line and help promote it. Then, Hiroshi comes in, for he was hired at the Tourism Office, with the help of Daikichi. Hiroshi is tasked to make the town's tourism webpage. Hiroshi makes it so that people can vote for the candidates by clicking on their pictures on the website. They also ask Hiroshi, "Who did you nominate?" and he replies, "Aki-chan," which was greeted with exclamations of surprise ("Jejejeh!"). At school, Yui tells Aki that she has decided to accept the candidacy for "Miss Kitatetsu" even though she thinks it's embarrassing and lame. "It sounds like being an idol of train otakus during the early days, it's not a past that I want people to find out." But for now she has no choice but to accept it, as a favor for Daikichi's help in finding work for Hiroshi. "If he (Hiroshi) stays unreliable, I couldn't leave home... Well, since I'm in it, I might as well aim for the top prize." Aki admires Yui's confidence and determination. At night, Aki could not sleep and for some reason, gets up and goes to the second floor of the hou
'Oh no, isn't she supposed to be at the Rias?' Aki thinks as she sees her mom in the audience. The song ends and the live broadcast has wrapped up as well. Haruko finally gets on stage to confront Aki. She slaps her hard across the cheek right in front of the audience. Aki falls down as everyone gasps in shock. "What's going on, Aki!" Yui: "No, you got it wrong!" Haruko: "No, I didn't! (To Aki) A promise is a promise. You said the parlor train will be the last. Why are you here prancing around?" Daikichi and Ikeda tries to calm Haruko down. "Please wait until the audience leaves for now." Haruko: "I don't want to! My own precious daughter being ogled by glaring eyes of men like them!" Hibiki: "We don't look at her like that!" Haruko: "Shut up! Four-eyes!" Hibiki: "I am not Four-eyes if I take off my glasses!" The audience start protesting. Daikichi again pleads with Haruko but she refuses. Haruko to Aki: "You said you had thought seriously about your future when you become a senior... Right, Sensei?" Embarrassed, Isono hesitated to answer being that he was caught watching in the audience. Then Aki speaks, "Why did you have to hit me? Why did you have to hit me out of the blue? In front of all these people... I have my own plan. What did you have to hit me for?" Natsu comes in Aki's defense, "That was certainly too much! This is Aki's workplace. Getting up on stage without even hearing her out and striking her, it's too much even for a parent!" Haruko, still unapologetic, pulls up Aki and addresses the fans: "Excuse me. Can you please not make such a fuss over her anymore? She is just a normal girl. Why is it? Can't Aki spend a normal high school life here any more?"
The town is caught by surprise as the train otakus (5 times more than the normal number) arrive, looking for Yui. Haruko at Cafe Riasu has not expected the sudden arrival of the men, too. She has to ask Natsu to make plenty more unidonburi to accommodate the sudden huge number of orders. Meanwhile, Yui shows up to the delight of the visitors, taking her picture and shaking her hand. At the end of the day, the locals are all exhausted. Since tomorrow is a Sunday, they expect more train otakus to come. They seem not too thrilled about it. Daikichi tries to encourage the rest when they show signs of hesitancy since their schedule is suddenly affected. "This is the chance we've been waiting for after 24 years since the KitaTetsu opened!" So the next day, more train otakus do arrive and so Yui and the others do their best to serve and accommodate them. Aki tells Yui how awesomely popular she is now but Yui says she didn't do anything. "I'm just waving, smiling at cameras... I still feel just an ordinary high school girl." Aki admires her even more for Yui does not let her popularity get into her head. Inspired by Yui, Aki vows to work harder, too... and that is to catch her very first sea urchin.
Due to Aki's video, more customers want to see and take pictures of Aki. They also request her to fetch them some uni. Aki tries but fails as usual. Back at the Co-op, they all wonder about Aki's sudden popularity considering she's just an ordinary high school girl. Hibiki suddenly shows up and explains that the town is having a "boom" phenomenon, wherein "even the ugly ones can have the spotlight." By "ugly", he means Aki of course, which upset the Ama-sans. At the Tourism office, Aki's video is garnering more and more views (but not as many as Yui's yet). They figure that Aki's "entrance as a rival" benefits Yui's popularity, therefore the whole town as well. However, Daikichi is concerned about one thing: The Ama season will soon be over. Still, more customers come to see Aki and ask to catch them some uni. She tries but fails and yet when she reemerges one time from the sea, there is an uni in her basket! "How did it get in there?" Haruko says it's impossible while Natsu reassures Aki that it was a legitimate catch and that she has passed. Aki is joyful but it was only short-lived after she realizes that it was actually Anbe who had been giving her the uni. She is upset about the "sham" but the Ama-sans tell her it is for the benefit of the customers (who come from faraway places just to see her catch some uni) since Ama tourism is also a "service industry." Despite the talk, Aki feels she still is not a real Ama yet. And now that only a week remains before the Ama season ends, she feels more and more depressed.