Friday 30 March 2012

Anime REVIEW: AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day

AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day is an 11 episode series produced by A-1 Pictures (whose other works include Black Butler, Fairy Tail and Blue Exorcist) that aired between April and June in 2011. In Japan the show was released under the its full name of Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (meaning "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day"), but thanks to being a huge mouthful in either language was soon shortened among fans to simply AnoHana.

A group of six friends, who call themselves the "Super Peace Busters" drift apart after one of them, Meiko 'Menma' Honma, dies in an accident. Ten years later, Jinta "Jintan" Yadomi, who no longer goes to school and has become a recluse, sees the ghost of an older looking Menma. She asks him to help her grant her wish so that she may ascend to heaven, but does not remember what this wish is. Although at first believing her to be a hallucination brought on by stress, a series of events lead to the six friends meeting again and Jinta believes they may be the key in helping grant Menma's wish. However it seems a lot has changed between the five in six years, and hidden feelings and internal struggles prevent the group from not only being able help Menma move on, but also themselves.

Tsuroko, Yukiatsu, Menma, Jintan, Anaru and Popo

The six main characters of AnoHana are the aformentioned Jinta and Menma, and then there's also Naruko (your stereotypical high school girl), Atsumu (the popular high achiever), Chiriko (clever, but quiet and serious) and Tetsudō (the light-hearted, friendly one). Not that you'll ever really know the characters by these names anyway, because as they begin to interact more and more with each other they revert to calling each of by their childhood nicknames of Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuroko and Popo respectively. Each character has their own trauma and repressed feelings from Menma's death, which only serve to cause constant arguing between them rather than uniting for Menma's sake. Menma's character comes across as very different, the show playing up her childish innocence while the rest of the cast create an more idealized image of her that was loved by all.

The show also contains several flashbacks to before Menma's death

However the show does have moments where the narrative feels somewhat sidetracked. An early episode (where they assume Menma's wish was to own a rare "Nokemon") feels just as much in it to (lovingly?) parody a popular game rather as it does to drive the story line. Without spoiling to much, the characters' traumas are also spurred on by their own selfish feelings and in some cases this can be irritating or even uncomfortable to watch. Waiting for them all to accept that Menma is there with them can be incredibly frustrating at times (especially since the fact her ghost has a physical presence is established immediately) but the prolonging not only makes the moment that much more satisfying but also adds to the drama of what follows.

Real gamers play Nokemon

At only 11 episodes, AnoHana had quite a lot to fill into its running time but manages to build upon its premise and end without too many things left in the open. The characters' reflection upon themselves comes quite late into the game but this gives the show a chance to create an ending that should be described as raw emotion. Despite its premise largely involving a ghost, the supernatural element is never played up to ridiculous proportions - leaving it with a distinct sense of realism and that similar events and conversations between the living cast could easily be played out in reality.

Crying is not optional with this show

Despite a large portion of the cast being likeable until the very end of the show, its their flaws that make the story interesting and at the same time that much more real. Issues such as the loss of a friend during your childhood aren't the easiest to recreate but the emotional always feels real. It helps that the art is also gorgeous and the music both fitting and beautiful. Just have the tissues ready for the final episode, because it really is a tear-jerker.

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