Anohana was a fantastic, emotional story of loss that struck all the right heart chords. Anyone who has abruptly lost someone premature in their lives can relate to this series. What it does, it does very good in fact… And I really started empathizing with the characters like I knew exactly what tragedy they had gone through. All of the characters and their motives were believable, and it made for one enjoyable experience.
Although Anohana only had 11 episodes to get it’s point across, I had no problem understanding any part of the plot. Six kids, inseparable it seemed were devastated when one of them was tragically killed in an accident. Now they all gather back several years later to attempt to send off the memory of one of their best friends by granting an eternal wish. The exact details of Menma’s death were never explained, but it was unneeded. The writers did an incredible job of making that information irrelevant. The subject was so sad to even talk about, the characters all got fragile when they started talking about it.
I can’t help but think the writer had some personal tie to a similar situation like had transpired in the series. It seemed so gripping and personal to me. Especially near the end, none of the characters wanted to let go of the memory they had of Menma, and often had trouble coming to terms with their own personal guilt. I’ll just say it takes a lot to make me cry, but at the end as the closing theme played, I lost it. Incredible, original and emotional storyline.
Like I previously stated, all of the characters in Anohana were believable… and it made the show that much better. The main, Jintan struggled constantly between wanting to move on and wanting Menmas memory and love to stay with him forever. He is obviously stricken by what had happened that day, and leads a very closed off life because of it. However, Jintan opens up more and more as the show continues. I love the growth he had even through such a short amount of time.
Poppo reminds me a lot of myself. He handles grief by putting on a “everything is ok” façade, which the others mistake for him just being a goofy individual. Deep down is more than likely a sad grieving man desperate to make amends with his regret from that day. Yukiatsu kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but his character was still strong and understandably jealous of Jintan. The only strange thing I thought about the characters were how they all filled in a strange love triangle of sorts. I felt it was unnecessary to write in love interests of 10 year olds… And after years later their feelings were all still so strong. A bit odd.
The animation was very good in this series, but nothing buzzworthy. I thought it was a little strange how they made Menma age, but still not quite as much as everyone else. I’m not sure what the artists were going for here. The opening was also alright, but didn’t feel as as fitting as the ending song (which I felt was very good). Especially how it was incorporated into some of the episode’s conclusions.
I think it’s safe to say that after all of the action animes I’ve seen recently, it was really nice to see Anohana. Even with as blubbery as I was at the end, I felt it showcased the feeling of loss and grief to the best extent possible. I would recommend this anime to just about anyone, especially those who enjoy heart-felt stories. Loved it!
Dealing with the death of a friend or loved one isn't easy, no matter how old you are, and everyone comes to terms with their loss in different ways. Adults can drink themselves into a stupor in an effort to dull the pain, take off on a journey of self discovery, bury themselves in their work, or find some other coping mechanism. Unfortunately the same isn't true for children, and all too often they are unable to truly deal with the emotional turmoil that occurs.
Now it may seem a bit odd to talk about death, grief, and learning to deal with the loss of someone close, but essentially that's what Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day), is all about.
The story opens with Yadomi Jinta, a seemingly grumpy teenager who is playing a game in his room on a hot summer's day whilst his childhood friend Honma Meiko (Menma), pesters him repeatedly. Having had enough of the game, Jinta decides to make lunch, but only for himself and his father which annoys Menma no end as she also wants to eat the ramen he has made.
It all seems like a fairly normal, everyday scene that one might see in anime, but not everything is as it seems ...
On the surface AnoHana looks like a fairly straightforward tale of teenagers learning to deal with a past trauma and maturing in the process, and for the most part that's a fairly accurate perception. The plot is well constructed and takes a measured, almost methodical approach to events which is reflected in the often placid tone of the narrative. Unfortunately this leads to a degree of predictability as certain events in the storyline are clearly foreshadowed, and while the series promotes a degree of empathy for the characters and their situation, there may be occasions where viewers want the story to get to the point.
One surprising aspect is the manner in which flashbacks are used to punctuate specific occurrences or emotions, whilst adding historical context to the relationship between Jinta, Menma, and the rest of the "Super Peace Busters". These sojourns into memory act as a nice counterpoint to the current state of relations between the characters, and highlight just how much has changed for each of them over the last ten years.
This contrast is also reflected in the visuals, and while there is a marked difference in the appearance of almost all of the Super Peace Busters, it's actually the subtle contextual setting that makes the change much more pronounced. The key thing to remember is that people often romanticise personal history and memories, especially if one has undergone some kind of trauma, and AnoHana plays on this by sharpening the focus and darkening the tones on the present day, which contrasts with the soft focus flashbacks that are often filled with "light".
The design itself is well handled, but while efforts have been made to really highlight the changes ten years can make to a child's physical growth, it's the character animation that stands out. A-1 Pictures have tried to visualize the movement differences between a child and an adolescent, and while there are a few niggles here and there, the overall effect promotes the sense that the characters are no longer the children they once were.
Because AnoHana is a character driven piece there is a heavy emphasis placed on the dialogue, and while the majority of the script is actually pretty intuitive, the manner of speech during the flashback scenes can sometimes seem a bit odd. Thankfully the series has some very talented seiyuu on hand, and it's interesting to note that some of the roles feature two different voice actors - one for the present day and one for the past. Each role is given due care and attention, so it's unfortunate that even with so much talent on hand, there are a few issues from time to time as the seiyuu handling the child roles are all adults. Now while this may be standard practice in the industry, studios like Ghibli have proven time and again that children are much more capable of playing the younger roles than the majority of adults, and while the relatively minor flaws in the dialogue do stand out, one has to wonder how different the series could have been if child actors had been used.
AnoHana features a number of slow pieces of background music performed on piano or guitar that reflect the measured plot and add a slightly bittersweet air to the storyline. The opening theme, Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei, features a sequence that shows the characters in their past and present forms and hints at the the reason for their emotional difficulties. The ending sequence features a montage of the three girls of the Super Peace Busters, Menma, Anjou Naruko (Anaru), and Tsurumi Chiriko (Tsuruko), and is set to Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ (10 years after Version), which is a cover of the 2001 single by Zone and is performed by Kayano Ai, Tomatsu Haruka and Hayami Saori, the seiyuu who play the roles of Menma, Anaru and Tsuruko.
Now given the nature of the series and the near constant focus on the characters, certain viewers may assume that AnoHana should feature almost continuous development, so it may come as a surprise to some people that the show takes more of a "stop-start" approach. Because of the attempt to apply a degree of realism to the characters and the emphasis on depicting them as plausible, any attempts at continuous development would seem overly contrived.
Balancing that though, is some rather strong characterisation. One of the key things to remember about each person in the story is that they have experienced a specific defining moment in their lives, and that allows the characters to be depicted as individuals from the start. The strength of the characterisation is even more palpable if one compares the present versions of the Super Peace Busters with their past selves from the flashbacks. That said, there are occasions where the story has difficulty finding a resolution to a given situation so it can sometimes seem as though events are being dragged on in a effort to develop the characters.
AnoHana is a surprisingly simple, yet slightly over sentimental, look at the coping mechanisms of children and adolescents when coming to terms with a past trauma, and in that respect it's one of the more surprising titles of the last few years. The series errs more on the side of soap opera than outright drama from time to time, but like many of the other relatively minor flaws, this can be forgiven in light of the fact that the subject matter is well managed and delivered. In truth, the closest neighbour to AnoHana would probably be Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 as that also highlights the difficulty children have in dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one.
It's difficult to say whether I actually enjoyed the series or not. On the one hand it has some genuinely entertaining moments, but on the other the series deals with an issue that has little enjoyment value (unless watching kids coming to terms with emotional scars is your thing), and even though AnoHana isn't a story without flaws, that doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, the reverse is true as while the series does take a slightly romanticised look at the characters and events, the constant element of realism that runs through the narrative sets this anime apart from many others.
If nothing else, AnoHana is a great example of how good a completely original anime can be.