This is review number one hundred and eleven. It’s from the Spring 2011 lineup and it’s part of the noitaminA lineup. Any anime from that lineup I guarantee is amazing. Well, maybe except for Thermae Romae. It never really appealed to me. Anyways, I’ll be reviewing AnoHana or “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” or “AnoHana, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day”. Yeah, long title.
It’s an eleven episode anime about a girl who haunts a guy and tries to get him to make her wish come true. It sounds nice.
The anime is about a group of friends who were once very close when they were kids but after the unfortunate death of their dear friend, Menma, they drifted apart. Jinta Yadomi would one day have hallucinations of a grown up Menma. After a dismissing the fact, he finally understood that this is the real Menma. She came back from the dead and asked Jinta to make her wish of come true. She wanted Jinta to get the old gang back together though for the wish to properly be fulfilled. One problem though, they have drifted apart all these years and they hardly speak to each other. Little does Menma know that her death has changed their lives drastically and they are now being forced to face the ghost of their past.
Taking the Pants Off
I love this anime. It’s one of the anime that made me want to become a reviewer. Oh gosh, that was just eight months ago and I still can’t proof read properly. I always believe that if an anime can get me to watch it in one go, in one sitting without looking at the clock or noticing that I started at daytime then ended at night then this anime is a seriously great one. First one that ever did that to me was Haruhi Suzumiya and the last one was No.6. AnoHana is also one of the few drama anime that can easily get me to cry. This is my second time watching this anime so I can properly review it and even though I still remember most of its plot twist and surprises, I still get all teary eyed. That’s a testament to a true masterpiece. No doubt, if I watch this anime again after ten years, it’d still make me cry. Almost every element of this show makes for one amazing anime experience.
The anime’s main theme is death. It’s about the death of a loved one. How do you actually get over it? Does time actually do all the healing? Do you lock away all your feelings just so you can quietly move on? What about the things you wish you could say to that person if s/he was alive? What about the things you wish you would’ve never said to them? What about all the regret and the anguish you experience, do they just go away? AnoHana brilliantly uses this subject matter to build the story on. As the anime progress, you soon discover just how much the loss of a loved one can actually affect a person.
The theme was the sole reason the anime hooked me. The drama aspect in the first half of the anime was given in increments because it was more focused on character development. The characters give life to this anime. Each character is unique and interesting in their own ways so it never felt boring when the characters interact. Jinta is the only person that can see the already dead Menma and he approaches other people carelessly mentioning her name. It was like stepping on eggshells because you can clearly see from their immediate reaction just how big of a deal mentioning her name was. The first half of the anime clearly establishes just how far the friends have drifted apart.
I love the anime’s use of flashbacks. The anime shows a lot of scenes of how the characters used to interact with one another when they were young. It was a great contrast to how they are now. The anime also frequently re-visits the day that Menma died and the events that transpired before it. As the anime progress, the flashbacks answer a lot of questions about the characters. The flashbacks aren’t just there to flesh out the characters though. It also reveals crucial details of the story. The anime was smart to only give us enough pieces to clearly get an idea of it but not enough to piece them all together.
The best part about this anime is that you’re never really prepared to discover just how much Menma’s death affected the characters. As the story progress, you discover just how much they blame themselves for her death and just how much they’ve beaten themselves up over it. To describe it as an “emotionally crippling event” for the characters seems to be not enough. Among the grief and the anguish though, other things are also slowly emerging from the characters they’ve hidden for a long time now. Their innocent days playing with each other in their secret base mean so much more than what the anime portrays it to be. Emotions like anger, jealousy, regret and irritation soon starts to bubble out of them and mixed in with their teen angst.
The drama in this anime is undeniably strong because of how perfectly the characters are portrayed and how perfectly their conflicts are executed. Every emotion, both positive and negative, is easy to relate to and their very human vulnerability adds volume to the drama. This is coupled with the fact that they lost someone dear to them. As you get further to the anime, every tear shed by the characters will most likely move you as well. I am also fascinated at how great this anime can break me down. The anime handled the theme of “losing a loved one” very smartly so the audience can relate and bring forth their own emotions out. No other anime can do Drama better than AnoHana.
The anime isn’t perfect though (even if I want it to be). One of the anime’s noticeable flaws is the pacing. There seems to be too much time given to character development and character dynamic. The relationship between Menma and Jinta seems to be overdone at times. There seems to be too much focus on the two yet there is little improvement between them. The other characters weren’t given a lot of screen time though. In all honestly, the anime could’ve been pulled off in six episodes because the remaining five seems to be more of Jinta’s coming of age story. I do admire Jinta starting as a shut in then gradually becoming the guy that used to lead the group but his journey to maturity often distracts the main focus of the anime.
The story of the anime is pretty good though. Among the coping and regret, one of the anime’s interesting plot points is Menma’s actual wish. The anime spends a lot of time building it and it was actually one of the best things about the story. Another interesting thing about the story is the bond the characters have. Even after the death of someone close, the characters still cling to one another and it’s a true testament to how much they love one another. With the characters and the interesting story, it’s not that hard to enjoy the anime and marathon it.
All of these elements come together to one awesome ending. Some people call it overdone though but the anime built up to this pretty nicely and the execution was near flawless. I don’t want to spoil the story so you’ll have just to see it for yourself. This anime is something you truly need to see and enjoy. It’s an anime experience you’ll most likely never come across with ever again.
Sight and Sound
The visuals in the anime are a definite standout. The anime uses some real landmarks as backgrounds and it was very nicely done. The feel of the anime is very simple. Aside from the awesome bridge, most of the scenes in the anime are fairly normal places. One thing I like about them though is the mix of painted scenes to CG scenes. You hardly notice it when the anime rolls along because the blending is perfect. The mix of normal painted scenes with CG gives the background some nice depth. It’s completed some nice color palette. It’s a vibrant hue that makes the scenes very much alive.
The character design is pretty impressive as well. The present and child versions of the characters are all nicely conceived. There is enough difference to signify not just physical growth but also personality changes. For example, Jinta is a clean cut kid but a slob with messy hair as a grown up. The animation is also pretty impressive. The movement of the children is all pretty accurate and the facial expressions are all nicely done. The characters cry a lot so the transition from normal face to crying face is smooth. I particularly like it when the characters form tear drops in their eyes before it starts falling. It’s very nicely animated.
The soundtrack of the anime is among its strongest element. This particular piano piece in the anime really captures the sad mood of the anime. It was played a lot of time and its timing is always spot on. This greatly improves the scenes making them a lot more dramatic. Have a listen:
The anime’s OP is “Aoi Shiori” by Galileo Galilei. This is the perfect song for this anime. It’s sentimental and melancholic with a nice pacing to it. The lead’s voice is also pretty impressive having a bit of a sad vibe to it. After a while, you’d easily look forward to the OP. The OP sequence is pretty nice. It features the past and present with the theme of the anime very prominent.
The anime’s ED is “secret base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ (10 years after ver.)” by Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu, and Saori Hayami. It was sung by the three girls of the anime. This also has a sad vibe to it and the lyrics are actually pretty moving. The ED sequence features the three girls with flowers floating on the background and scenes from their childhood being shown as well.
8/10 “Strong Drama anime with almost every aspect done perfectly.”
If you love drama anime then this anime is for you. The story of this anime is nicely done with the characters being pretty memorable. I saw this anime twice and I cried plenty. I highly recommend it.