Review for Anohana
Years ago, six childhood friends, Jinta, Menma, Poppo, Anaru, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko had a gang, the Super Peace Busters, and they had a whole lot of fun. And then Menma died. They all drifted apart, and the gang leader Jinta, became a depressed recluse, stopping going to school altogether. Only now, Menma’s ghost is dogging Jinta’s every waking moment, reminding him of a wish she made when they were all together, and intimating that fulfilling that wish will help her cross over. But that means that the Super Peace Busters will have to reunite, and deal with their past.
1. Super Peace Busters
2. Menma The Hero
3. Menma Search Party
4. The White Dress With a Ribbon
6. Forget It, Don’t Forget It
7. The Real Wish
8. I Wonder
9. Menma and Company
11. The Flower Blooming on that Summer
Anohana gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with strong, consistent colours. The animation comes across without any issue, and there are no problems with visible compression, aliasing, or digital banding. It’s a fine transfer of a quality animation. Studio A1 do the honours, and they’ve created a show that quite rightly focuses on character nuance and detail. The animation is smooth and fluid, while the backgrounds and settings are detailed and lush. The only minor niggle which a nit-picker might draw is that the character designs are a little generic anime style for the quality of the story, if likeable and well thought out. You might have hoped for something a little more KyoAni level. But it’s an exceedingly small nit to pick.
The Hanabee release is based on the US NISA release, not the subsequent Aniplex re-release, so quite naturally it is subtitle only. The PCM 2.0 Stereo Japanese track is supported by English subtitles locked for the duration. The Japanese audio is fine, with the voice actors bringing the emotional depth of the characters across well. The show also gets some beautiful incidental music to accompany its theme songs, and generally the stereo soundtrack is fine for what is predominantly a comedy drama. The subtitles are accurately timed but I noticed one typo. In one scene, a character is preparing an Indian dish, kheer. The subtitles treat the Hindi word as if it was Japanese and render it as ‘keel’.
You get 2 discs in a BD Amaray style case, with one on a centrally hinged panel. You get the episode listing and artwork on the inner sleeve. The discs boot to an animated slideshow menu.
Disc 2 has the first textless ending, 1:14 of Japanese promos lacking subtitles, and trailers for Accel World, Medaka Box, Familiar of Zero and Toradora.
It’s getting crowded on my favourite anime shelf. I have to add another perfect series to the collection, something I never tire of doing. Anohana is a brilliant show, another must own title, and the shock is that it’s been missed for a UK release. It really should have come out here years ago. Anohana is about loss and grief, about how bereavement can drive people apart, and how it can bring people together as well. It’s about how people deal with pain, and how they begin to heal. In other words, Anohana is a very important, meaningful anime, yet the way it tells its story, with heart, with humour, and with no little magic, means that it’s also very accessible as well.
When Menma died, it not only tore apart the other five members of the Super Peace Busters, but when compounded with the death of his mother, it left Jinta isolated and withdrawn, so that when years later it came to starting high school, he gave the whole thing up and stayed shut-in at home, a total anti-social recluse, the complete opposite of who he had been as a child. So when Menma appears to him and him alone, the quite reasonable question arises as to whether she is actually the spirit of his childhood friend, or a hallucination. Either way, being reminded of Menma’s unfulfilled wish, and the sense that answering that wish will help her cross over, compels Jinta to actually leave the house, and reconnect with the other members of the gang, Poppo, Anaru, Yukiatsu, and Tsuruko.
It’s not the easiest thing for Jinta to do, compounded with his outlandish story, although while Yukiatsu and Tsuruko may be sceptical and even scornful, Poppo’s a lot more supportive, while Anaru can humour him with the hope that it might help him move on. The fact of the matter is that all five of them have been unable to deal with Menma’s death, even if they haven’t socially withdrawn the way that Jinta has, and unrequited and unresolved feelings from ten years previously have lingered, and even festered over the years. And given that they are now teenagers, with the added hormones that implies, makes dealing with those feelings next to impossible, especially for Yukiatsu. It’s not the happiest of reunions.
Things get more complicated when it turns out that Jinta isn’t just seeing things, that Menma’s spirit has moved in with him, and trying to find out her wish, helping her cross over forces each of them to examine their pasts, deal with the feelings and memories that they had kept locked up. Menma’s death may have driven the five apart, but it turns out that Menma’s ghost is what brings them back together again.
What makes this show work so well is the depth and detail that has gone into the characters. In a way we get to know two versions of each of them, their adolescent selves and who they were as children. Even Menma’s ghost is physically more mature than the girl who died. The transformation in Jinta is the most striking, from extrovert leader of the gang to loner recluse. Anaru was a quiet introvert who’s become more outgoing and social. Yukiatsu was number two in a gang who could never figure out why he wasn’t the leader, and while growing up he’s taken advantage of his talents and background to excel, he’s also got something of a sarcastic edge. Poppo was the baby of the group, but he’s strongly independent, a man of the world. And while it seems that Tsurako has changed the least over the years, it turns out that all of them are harbouring a sense of guilt over what happened to Menma.
Watching them reunite, work through their issues is the dramatic heart of the show, but Anohana is no kitchen sink drama. It has a warm heart to it, and a delightful sense of humour as well, helped in no small measure by the character of Menma, both as child and spirit. She’s cute, caring, and full of whimsy, and her interactions with Jinta as his ‘imaginary’ friend are full of fun. Poppo’s quirky open-mindedness helps in this regard too, while it quickly becomes clear that Anaru’s sweet on Jinta as well, which is why she’s willing to give him more rope than he probably deserves at first. The interactions between the friends can be light and fun, when they aren’t dealing with their feelings, and the balance between the drama and the comedy makes the more emotional moments of the show very effective. Anohana is a show that will elicit tears in no small measure, and quite rightly so.
Anohana takes a subject that we spend all our lives avoiding, and deals with it in a real but sympathetic manner. There is an element of fantasy that makes the show work, certainly; who wouldn’t want a second chance to properly say goodbye to a loved one? But the feelings are very honest, and this is a show that will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled.