Review: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
I will forever refer to this anime with the ridiculously long name as ‘Anohana’.
Episode count: 11
Anohana was one of those shows I was watching when it first aired in early 2011; the first episode alone was enough to actually make me feel a bit teary-eyed, so yeah this was some good shit. I enjoyed the drama, since I actually cared about the characters and despite the (predictably) teenage angst, it was all surprisingly well-handled. Like, these teenagers angst in a way that doesn’t make you want to hit them with the nearest blunt object and run them over with a truck. That, my friend, takes some real skill in writing. It’s not perfect but it’s damn close to it.
Anyway, so the plot of Anohana can be summed up pretty quickly. Our protagonist Jintan is a loser hikikomori (you know the type) and one day he suddenly perceives the ghost of his long-dead childhood friend Menma has come to stir up his life. Think a Casper-like ghost when you think Menma – no way is this chick sporting fangs. In order to get Menma to move on, Jintan must brave the outdoor suburbia and reassemble his group of childhood friends, who all drifted apart after Menma died. Now this may sound suspiciously like a cheesy drama, but trust me when I say it’s all in the execution. It’s a story about the grieving process, and rather than gloss over the impact something like that would have in your life, Anohana shows how everyone is affected. One of the amazing parts of this anime was that you could see yourself going through the same kind of thing. Actually, at times, I thought the writers of this show had actually haunted me in my dreams and used some kind of weird tube thing to probe out my psyche and discover my deepest subconscious desires for a touching story – then they went and wrote this anime.
Anohana deals with nostalgia, about growing up and moving on. There’s this sense of fondness in seeing how everything is just the same as you remembered it. (I was totally a fan of Pokemon, I mean Nokemon.) And there’s also that kind of crushing feeling you get when you see things have changed and they will never be like the past, because change happens and there’s no avoiding it. These were the parts that made me saddest in Anohana because yeah there was some melodramatic, overwrought emotions too, but I’ll get to those criticisms later. Anyway, after watching this anime I felt like I knew each main character intimately, and for a big cast of six main players and only eleven episodes to wrap the whole thing up with, it was really quite a feat. Watch this anime if you’re looking for a short anime that actually gets to its point and doesn’t waste its time with any filler bullshit. This anime could easily have fallen into the trap of dedicating one episode to each of its characters, which would stink worse than five cows farting in your face. Anohana’s about interaction more than anything, so it was a joy to see every episode focusing on pretty much every single cast member, while at the same time not overloading the audience with information. Like I said, good writing, not shitty writing.
The animation and character designs are really good, by the way. Top notch. Same people who were behind Toradora, by the way (which I might do a review for later on). While more peaceful methods of making Menma move on were used than sticking a giant, glowing spirit sword up her anus, the animation still depicted everything wonderfully. What stands out the most to me is the level of detail and nuance that went into depicting the facial expressions of the characters.
Background music I don’t remember much, but the OP and ED were quite memorable, especially the ED. Froggy demands that, if you have not done so already, to go download the song now. Here, look, I’ve even got a quick link for you.
Now with the gushing out of the way, onto some of the not-so-cool parts of Anohana! (Pfft, I probably shouldn’t be sounding this excited.)
There is a bit too much crying in this series. It’s not too overbearing and the tears are most genuinely justified, but yeeeeeeeeeeah. The last episode, especially, sounds like multiple hissy fits thrown together on a scratchy cassette. Close your eyes and listen to it and you’ll see what I mean. It did resolve everyone’s respective character journeys, but a little more grace and subtlety would have been nice, I guess. I won’t say any more about this, though. Most of my friends who watched the ending said it made them burst into tears. So I don’t know what you would think (assuming you haven’t seen the series yet, and if that’s the case, shame on you). So just go and see for yourself: everyone has their own opinions about these things.
Another thing: the cliches. Like Jintan and Anaru’s sexual tension, like Jintan’s dead mother, like the first half of the very first episode. For all the well-executed plot points (for example, a certain revelation involving Yukiatsu could have come across as waaaaaaay cheesier than it actually did) there are also those things that make you frown and go “hrn I’ve seen THIS before”. The outcome of the plot itself could be seen a mile away as well. But ah well, it’s the emotional closure that you seek from stuff like this.
All in all, I really enjoyed Anohana. I’m typing this review up at 2am in the meaning – which proves just how keen I am on the show (and not that I am a lazy procrastinating bastard I swear!) Anohana is a one-of-a-kind experience and from now on will probably one of the first anime that I would ever recommend to friends. Assuming, of course, that you want a story that’s actually touching and not some shit about a ninja in orange clothes who struts around as if he owns the place. I give Anohana an A and the flower I saw that day whose name I still don’t know. Goddamn it was never even mentioned once in the show.