We’re taking a short break from the Europe travelogues for a while. I’ll get back to posting more pictures, after this one. Promise!
One reason why I have never stopped watching anime is because every season there’s always at least one show that will strike me at a very vulnerable point and remind me that some stories don’t need to be exaggerated to be awesome.
The Spring 2011 season of anime is coming to a close and I’ve been struck by one of the most beautiful series I’ve seen this year called ‘Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai‘. I dare you to read that name out loud, it took me a few tries to get it right. Translated, it reads ‘We still don’t know the name of the flower we saw that day‘. Thankfully, the Japanese have conveniently shortened it to AnoHana, and some fansub groups have taken the liberty to use that in their releases.
It is a story about six childhood friends who, after a tragic accident, drifted apart from each other. Our main character here is Jinta, a shut-in who stays at home playing games and sleeping all day long. It was a hot summer day when Menma, one the friends of his childhood starts bugging him about fulfilling a wish she made as a child.
There’s only one problem: she couldn’t remember what her wish was.
She also said that the wish can only be fulfilled when all of the old gang comes back together. Therein lies another problem; it’s been almost 10 years since the accident, and all of them slowly drifted apart from each other. Jinta caves in and takes a stroll around town, bumping into his estranged friends and calmly tells Menma that everyone has changed since then and that it’s impossible to bring them back together.
Towards the end of the episode, we find out that Menma is actually a ghost – she died in the accident years ago and Jinta feels that the Menma he sees is a hallucination, a projection of his stress and that he’s going crazy.
As children, the six friends had a secret base set up in an abandoned building in the middle of a forest. They also formed a group, the ‘Super Peace Busters’ an awkwardly named make-believe group of freedom fighters led, of course, by Jinta.
The group is consists of three boys and three girls. After Menma, we were introduced to Anaru (apparently that’s the nickname they gave her), a frizzy-haired girl with a crush on Jinta. Then there’s Yukiatsu, a handsome atheletic who is also an honor student with a condescending attitude. Always next to him is Tsuruko, a quiet girl with glasses and straight long hair, observant and often times serious.
Finally there’s Poppo, the large, cheerful guy and the only person who does not see at Jinta in a negative light. As Jinta tries to work around his situation, Poppo was the first and only person to believe his plight.
AnoHana is an original anime production by A1-Pictures, and it’s not based on any manga, video game or novel. This makes the experience of watching it every week a fascinating discovery, especially when you’re part of a community that watches the same show. 4chan’s /a/ board, in particular, is madly in love with this series. Well, more like an intense love/hate relationship, I should say.
The interesting thing about AnoHana’s plot is that as a ghost, Menma can only be seen by Jinta. He struggles to keep up a sane appearance while at the same time dealing with a ghost that’s constantly bugging him day-in and day-out.
The story is, in fact, a romantic polygon, with one of the players being a dead girl. Perhaps a diagram would better explain the situation.
We quickly learned that Anaru has never gotten over her feelings for Jinta all these years, and truly resents the fact that they have drifted apart from each other since Menma. Yukiatsu, it appears, was in love with Menma, and is unable to move on since her death. He absolutely despises Jinta for bringing up Menma, as though he was being mocked about it.
After visiting Menma’s family, they received a diary from her mother and learned that Menma once wanted to launch fireworks with everyone. The group went through many arguments, and finally the entire group accepts Jinta’s words and decide to help him out, hoping that he’ll regain his senses and drop his charades once and for all.
There are many things to like about AnoHana. The character and costume designs are wonderful the background artworks are lovely to look at and the animation was given extra attention. Being a ghost, Menma does not cast any shadows or reflections. Yet they never try to show ‘ghostly’ things like floating books or pens.
The voice cast is awesome, too. Stars like Tomatsu Haruka, Sakurai Takahiro, and Hayami Saori play Anaru, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko, respectively. Newcomer Kayano Ai portrayed the voice of Menma wonderfully.
What I like the most, however, is the direction by Nagai Tatsuyuki (Honey and Clover II, Toradora and Aoi Hana). He also did the storyboarding for the OP, and I have to admit, it’s a bloody good one. The OP song is Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei (the band, not the astronomer), and it’s a a great song to sing along to.
The best part about watching AnoHana is how each dramatic moment is timed and how the music is coordinated to add depth to each scene. The ending song, Secret Base (a 2001 song by ZONE, covered by Tomatsu, Hayami and Kayano), always comes in at the exact, perfect moment, every goddamn time.
Speaking of which, the soundtrack is provided by singer-songwriter REMEDIOS. I’ve never heard of him/her before but the music in AnoHana is delicate and just lovely to listen to.
It’s a little sad that AnoHana only lasted 11 episodes, but I guess that’s the fate of all good shows – always short and sweet. The ending was a little bit overdone, though, there was too much screaming and it almost ruined the whole scene. In case, you’re wondering, yes, this show was aired during the noitaminA slot on Fuji TV and I can say that it deserves to stand amongst its other fantastic peers such as Honey and Clover, Wandering Son, and Nodame Cantabile.
AnoHana is a profound story of friendships lost, of coming to terms with one’s self and of moving on. It’s an amazing look into how friendships can still be salvaged if we only spend some time to work on them. You have no idea how much I baww’ed throughout the series. It’s definitely something you do not wanna miss from 2011′s anime lineup.
Give it a go, and I promise you’ll be feeling good by the time you reach the end.
they can grow separately without growing apart.