Anime ABC’s – A is for Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day

 

The Very First Anime ABC’s Review!

79697lHaving first watched Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day about 2 years ago, I absolutely loved it. However, I wanted a fresh opinion on this one and gave it a rewatch. I really expected my enjoyment of the series to drastically decline and be left with just a moderate appreciation for Anohana by time I was done. Did my expectations match my feelings once I finished for the second time two years later? Let’s find out.

Jinta is a shut-in who spends his days playing video games. One hot Summer day, he is visited by a childhood friend, Menma who has a wish she would like him to grant. There’s only one problem, Menma is dead. Thinking her to be a mere hallucination brought on by the Summer heat, he does his best to ignore her. However, as time passes he is convinced that this is Menma’s ghost and tries to grant her wish so that her spirit is able to be put to rest. In order to do so, Jinta must reunite with his estranged childhood friends so that they can not only help Menma move on, but themselves as well.

Anohana originally aired in April 2011. It had an eleven episode run followed by a film in 2013. There’s also a live-action adaptation but I’m not going to touch that. Hailed as an incredibly sad anime that will “make you feel the feels”  by several in the community. Directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai, also known for Toradora! fans of his work should feel right at home with his narrative style and grasp on more serious subject matter.

For such a short series, with its unconventional episode count, this anime doesn’t waste anytime telling its story. From start to finish, each episode delivers the narrative with excellent pacing and character development. The first time I viewed Anohana, I was quickly captivated by the narrative and blew through the series in one sitting. The second time through wasn’t much different.

In fact, I was actually worried that the viewing experience wouldn’t be nearly as good the second time through. After all, I did know how everything would play out. However, I noticed that each episode went by fairly quickly and I never caught myself losing interest. This is a true testament to how well paced and engaging the series is.

At its heart, Anohana is a story about the dangers of not facing your feelings. Each character is wrought with self-blame, grief, and pain after Menma’s death. Even the characters that seem to have moved on, slowly unravel and are shown to still be stuck in the past unable to move forward. Everyone has, or will, experience a traumatic loss in their lives at some point and that makes the story really relatable.

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I’ll note that this is a teen melodrama, and that can turn some folks away, but I would encourage anyone who may be turned off by that statement to really give this one a shot. The show earns each moment the characters cry on-screen, it earns the character drama, and for the most part, it delivers all of it in a serious and grounded way. The only time the story really falters is with its humor. While definitely needed to break up the tension brought on by the gravity of the subject matter, it can really be hit-or-miss. For me, there wasn’t anything too bad but I will say the fake eyelash scene towards the end was a bit jarring and could have been handled better.

While these things didn’t bother me, I know that there are some other qualms others may have with the series. It seems a bit silly that Jinta never really tries too hard to prove that Menma is really back from the dead. Since he is the only one that can see her, the other characters naturally have a hard time accepting his claims at face value. Of course, the show does offer a reasonable explanation to this and eventually has Menma attempt things like writing messages, but it does take a bit longer than one might expect. Menma’s “amnesia” about her wish can feel weird to people too. However, these are kind of nit-picky problems and are all addressed by the show.

Having watched this show once when I hadn’t seen much anime and now again when I’ve seen more than my fair share, you might have thought my opinion about the story would have changed. I even thought it was going to. This isn’t the case though, Anohana leaves a lasting impact that was even deeper and hard-hitting the second time through. A true testament to the story and what it has to offer.

Besides Menma and Jinta, the main cast is comprised of Jinta’s friends. Calling themselves the “Super Peace Busters” as kids, the rest of its members are:  Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo. Each character is uniquely affected by Menma’s death, resulting in what one would expect while some problems manifest in a way that’s more, let’s go with… interesting. They feel like real people, which is something I look for in characters.

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From left to right:  Poppo, Anaru, Jinta, Menma, Yukiatsu, and Tsuruko

 

Yukiatsu causes most of the conflict in the series. Being jealous of Jinta, he does some petty and extreme things throughout the show’s run. While I can understand his perspective, he does some pretty messed up stuff. His character is given a fair amount of depth and is one of the most damaged individuals in the whole series.

Of the primary cast, Poppo is the other note-worthy character. Without him, most of the plot doesn’t happen. He’s an underappreciated character who kind of gets left-out of the story. While receiving plenty of screen time, he just doesn’t get the same level of attention as anyone else. He gets some development, and his trauma related to Menma is extremely tragic, but it’s a real shame that Poppo wasn’t garnered more attention in the narrative.

Outside of the main cast, you have Jinta’s parents. His dad isn’t anything too notable but his mom, despite being dead, is given significance in the story. There is also Menma’s family. They are given a fair amount of attention in the narrative. Menma’s mother in particular. Unsurprisingly, the untimely death of her daughter left Menma’s mom just as broken as any of the main cast.

As a whole, the cast is fleshed out better than some shows with a more traditional episode count. The story is concise, never outstaying its welcome. The narrative crams in a lot of evocative emotion with plenty of breathing room from the more emotionally charged scenes. For these reasons alone, I hope I have been able to convince some of you that Anohana is well worth your time.

Briefly, I wanted to touch on the animation, which was done by A-1 Pictures. They have a mixed reputation, but the animation here does its job. It is striking when it wants to be, but nothing mind-blowing here. That’s fine, the story, although supernatural, is grounded with no need for much added flair. What I really want to talk about is the music.

It’s amazing.

No, really. When they were planning out the scores to include, and how each would be executed, somebody knew what they were doing. Each piece of music blends well with whatever is occurring on screen. Each background piece provokes the proper emotion without overstepping and demanding more attention than the characters. Truly well done.

The opening and ending themes are also fantastic. The OP “Aoi Shiori” is a slightly upbeat but melancholic track that is matched with a really solid story told through the animation. In particular, I love the part where the firework shoots up into the sky and the music syncs up just right. The lyrics also fit the series well; it’s just a really solid OP. In fact, if you’ve seen the series check out the video that Mother’s Basement did on just how amazing the OP for the show, and movie, really are.

Spoilers in the video, you’ve been warned.

The main ED, “Secret Base” is by far my favorite song in Anohana. The theme is played at the end of almost every episode matched with a mini-emotional climax or cliff-hanger. In this way it’s very Pavlovian, triggering floods of emotion that grow stronger each episode, but continues to be an emotional trigger even years after viewing. “Secret Base” is a powerful use of music in anime, while emotionally manipulative, the song is utilized properly each time. This doesn’t even mention the beautiful animation and lyrics that accompany the piece. Another well executed component of Anohana.

Speaking of the music, this was one of the main reasons I had a hard time watching this anime over again. Each episode hit me with all the emotional weight of the entire series. The music was a big factor in this for me, the actions on screen definitely played their part but the music drove the impact home even harder. The visuals and music play off each other extremely well, and it’s a lot more evident on a repeat viewing.

As if I hadn’t made myself clear, I obviously recommend Anohana. For me, this anime is an easy 10/10 and earns a Seal of Excellence as a result. This rating is for shows that I feel are the best-of-the-best and warrant a look from any fan of the medium. While I don’t expect everyone to connect with Anohana as deeply as I have, the show deserves attention and respect for what it is able to achieve in only 11 episodes.

The show is available for free legal streaming via Crunchryroll. Unfortunately, they don’t have the movie though. To boot, the series is currently out of print but you can pick up the movie on Blu-ray or DVD over at Rightstuf in ether a standard or collector’s edition.


 

Bonus Review!

ano-hana_002As if that wasn’t enough! Here’s a quick review of the Anohana film. This way, you’ll know if you should give it a watch or just pass on it. Some films for shows like this are just clip shows but this film is more than that.

The film picks up 1 year later following the events of the original series. It does play back clips from the original story, and if you’ve just come off from watching the series these will be a bit boring. However, it does feature about a full episode worth of new content which adds a lot to the already great story.

Plot wise, it jumps from character to character giving you their perspective on events both new and old. The old bits are spread out with the new bits which helps with the pacing. I don’t want to get into it too much, but I almost wish the new parts would have just been an extra episode in the series’ original run. I thought they added a fair amount to Menma’s character.

Tl;dr:  The movie is worth your time.


 

A Big Thanks!

For all who voted and anyone who has made it this far into the review, thanks! Without you this series wouldn’t be possible. Anime ABC’s is something I will keep on doing so long as their is interest. Please share this review and leave a like if you enjoyed it. This lets me know there is interest and helps others discover new content they might gloss over otherwise. Did you agree with my thoughts, or did you have a different opinion? Let me know in the comments below.

Voting for the “B” anime will open up in a few weeks, I need a bit of a break before I’m ready for round 2 but I’ll see you all back here for when that time comes!

-Jon Spencer

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9 thoughts on “Anime ABC’s – A is for Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day

  1. It’s odd, by and large here I agree with you or can see where you’re coming from but I have absolutely no recollection of the OST! Not to say it was bad but it clearly didn’t leave a significant impact.

    In fact the only thing I remember about the opening apart from some visuals was how I like that sometimes that had a scene preceding it and sometimes they didn’t, they used that to good effect having the scene before the credits only when it worked.

    Anyway good review! You went fairly in depth and it was a good read because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s certainly interesting! The OST was something that really added a lot for me.

      I’m very happy with how this review turned out, sometimes these take a hit from my schedule but not this one. Thanks for giving this a read and stopping by. Hope to see you around more, I’d love to hear your thoughts on stuff and continue discussion with you on the various topics I cover here! 🙂

      Like

  2. I wasn’t a big fan of Anohana. While it was beautiful and well put together story-wisr it just didn’t grab me so I never really got the full emotional impact that I think they were going for. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You aren’t alone on that. I know a few people who didn’t quite get grabbed by it either. The worst I usually here from them is that they didn’t have strong feelings either way. Thanks for the comment, always enjoy seeing you around here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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