Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Writer (of original novel): Mari Okada
Animation Studios: A-1 Pictures
Version Watched: Subbed
I’ve often said that it’s incredibly difficult to fit a meaningful story into just twelve episodes. In many cases series of that size just seem rushed. Since having seen Ano hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, however, I now feel that no anime of that length has any excuse for being less than excellent. While I would like to take that position it would be incredibly unfair, so instead I’m going to assert that AnoHana (no, I’m not typing out the full name every time I want to mention it) is a wonderful, shining example of what shorter productions can do. Weaving a mixture of emotion and comedy better than most series out there (and with only eleven episodes to boot!), I personally class it as a must-watch.
Not in employment, education or training, Yadomi Jinta spends his days lazing around the house and playing video games while seeing or speaking to no one. It’s a little out of the ordinary when his childhood friend Honma Meiko (or Menma, as her friends call her) pays him a visit in the middle of a scorching summer’s day. After all, she passed away ten years ago. As memories of days gone by and the friends Jinta has drifted away from flood to the surface, he vows to fulfil Menma’s last wish. During the struggle to convince his old playmates of the existence of a ghost only he can see, the crippling effect of losing a dear companion on the group he used to lead becomes all too clear.
While sometimes it’s really difficult to fit all of what a series is about into a summary (chances are you’ve seen me complain about it far too often), it was surprisingly easy in this case. What I absolutely cannot fully convey, though, is everything happening behind this shallow synopsis of the plot. The tear-jerking emotion flowing from the characters on the screen, the staggering weight of loss they exude and the pain caused by the memories they can’t possibly forget are astonishingly potent. I’m a big fan of fiction that evokes extreme emotion, whether that be sorrow, anger, happiness, excitement or any of a range of other examples, and AnoHana does that beautifully. In addition to the emotion itself, it’s interesting to see how Menma’s death earlier in their lives affects the very foundation of the characters’ personalities. You see varying levels of it starting from the very first episode and that’s what grips you and keeps you wanting more.
One of the things that really gets me about the series is that I simply can’t think of anything it does wrong. That’s not to say everything about it is perfect but I would have to do some extreme nit-picking to find anything to complain about, and even my normal pet peeves don’t give me an avenue into writing about negative aspects of the show. The pacing is wonderful, the story flows from major event to major event without stagnating in between. The characters’ interactions and personalities are believable and develop over time so that they’re not just stereotypical archetypes. The course of the events themselves is just so satisfying. The one thing to note is that it’s not a series that has me raving about how much I love it or its characters and greedily buying up all its related merchandise, but then again it’s not really that sort of series.
Because I feel an odd need to find some sort of weakness, I do need to mention that the show’s technical aspects don’t stand up to its newer counterparts (which I admit is an incredibly unfair thing to say). The quality of the visuals won’t wow you, though their composition is well thought out and remarkable in itself. While the background music does its job well I can’t say I would remember it if I heard it a few weeks from now, so I guess you could say it doesn’t stand out. Keep in mind that that’s something I say about the vast majority of series. What is done absolutely fantastically is the ending song, which often plays while events at the end of an episode are still ongoing. Because the ED fits AnoHana perfectly it gives those scenes ridiculous amounts of impact and I wholeheartedly applaud whoever chose to include it.
It’s probably worthwhile for me to take a moment to comment on the AnoHana movie. Having loved the original eleven episodes I found that the movie wasn’t really something I could recommend. Despite being set after the conclusion of the main set of events it fills up a huge portion of its time with flashbacks that you’ve already seen and yet still wouldn’t be able to stand alone as a summary film. Yes, the new material was interesting but there was so little of it that it didn’t justify the 90 minutes I spent viewing. If you have to watch it, it’s pretty safe to skip the flashbacks as they don’t add anything extra.
Summary – Ano hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai is now one of my favourite series. It’s not the kind of show that gets you hyped up but I seriously looked forward to watching more episodes each night while it lasted. The series grips you with emotion and holds you in place with the believability of its characters and their experiences in a way that few anime do. If you have even a shred of ability to empathise you’ll probably find yourself in tears at least once, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I certainly did. Unless you’re allergic to emotion this is required watching.
Score: 9.5/10 – Great