Intro & Synopsis
Before I dive into this review, let me start by saying this: put on your emotional body armor, because this anime is going to punch you in the feels repeatedly. So keep the tissues nearby and hold on tight to your favorite anime plushy. That said, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, is a wonderful addition to its genre and further proves that human emotion can be felt through cartoon animation.
From start to finish, Anohana is an emotional roller coaster riddled with unexpected turns and loops in the story that ties its characters together through tragedy. The story begins through the perspective of a 16 year old teenager, Jinta Yadomi (“Jintan”), as he tries to find purpose in his life during what he thought would be another uneventful summer. The plot’s tension is cleverly disguised through his imaginary relationship with his childhood friend, Meiko Honma (“Menma”). Initially, the audience believes that Menma is a real person based on Jintan’s comedic interactions with her. Once other characters are introduced, like Jintan’s father, Menma’s physical existence is finally revealed as a wondering figment of Jintan’s imagination. Menma’s presence is consistently questioned throughout the show, and serves as an invisible force that inspires change in Jintan’s character. Her influence impacts the lives of other characters as well, including her and Jintan’s childhood friends.
As with his relationship with Menma, Jintan shares a childhood connection with four other friends: Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo; however, unlike Menma, as time elapsed these characters start to become distant from each other and from Jintan as well. Each individual is driven by their own ambition to start a new life in high school or work, and is willing to put aside their childhood memories. Realizing the tragedy that could ensue from permanent separation, Jintan reminds his friends-which in turn reveals to the audience-Menma’s accidental death that occurred when they were all in elementary school. This single memory becomes the catalyst for change among all the main characters, and dually progresses the story’s plot. Ultimately, the theme of the story focuses on the struggle of maintaining friendship, as well as finding closure with the death of loved ones.
With a plotline centered on a small cast, this means that characterization has to be at its best for anyone to be interested. I personally felt this achievement was met in Anohana, as each character contributed their view of Menma as a person, and how their relationship with her impacts the feelings they have for each other. Along with a limited cast, the environment of the story was focused on two main locations: Jintan’s house and the club house where Jintan and his friends would hang out. In most animes, location primarily serves as a sense of bearing for the characters and the audience. In this anime, I could associate specific events in the story with different character’s feelings tied to those events. Even if Menma was never physically present, the idea of her imaginary existence was more than enough to personify the significance of certain locations and the memory of Menma associated with them. In fact, Menma would utilize her surroundings, like the club house, to unite the characters together in meeting and celebrating their final memories of her. Lastly, this anime consists of only 11 episodes. Originally, I was concerned that the story would progress too quickly, like the anime Demon King Daimao. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see excellent plot pacing, fueled by perfectly timed character analysis.
Outside of the show itself, another major reason why I liked it so much, was my ability to connect to the story. Fortunately, I grew up with a band of neighborhood friends during my elementary to high school years. Just like the story could have originally ended, we all went our separate ways and only a few of us kept in touch. But even if you didn’t experience childhood camaraderie like Jintan and his friends, the story pulls you in from being an observer, to becoming emotionally attached. It does this through its captivating performance by the characters, and the believability in how their situation could happen to anyone in real life. I wouldn’t be surprised if several viewers stated that this story could serve as a metaphor for their earlier years. Having all this said, I would highly recommend this series to any on the fence potential anime fans new to the genre, or to any veterans looking for an anime with realistic expectations in which one can relate to.
What Could Have Been Better
Judging by Crunchyroll’s thumbnail cover art of this anime and the first 10 minutes of the first episode, like Jintan I thought this was going to be another ordinary or superficial story. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot twist of Menma’s death and the impact that her previous existence had on others. That said, I would’ve appreciated a gentler transition into the reveal of this pivotal moment in the story, rather than being heavy handed in the delivery. The story incorporates a heavy dose of flashback as well, which in some cases makes it feel like it takes two steps back to move one step forward into the plot. Perhaps this is why I felt like 11 episodes was enough. This is not to say that the show was padded in any way, but that the story line can be confusing sometimes when trying to associate the impact of past events, with the current emotional state of certain characters. Lastly, as expected with a story well told, I found myself wanting more. Similar to other animes that have a small number of episodes, like Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions, I felt that the story concluded at the perfect spot and has the potential for continuation with a different timeline and possibly a different set of characters. For example, assuming that Jintan and his friends move on, what if they made new friends and then felt conflicted in their feelings and allegiance towards their childhood friends? It’s opportunities like this that I felt could be utilized, but then that would take away from the achievement of the story being compact, but rich in content. I suppose that’s what fan fiction is for, but that’s a whole different topic in itself!
I absolutely love this anime! There was definitely more crying involved than laughing, but this is not to say that the show is an excuse to be depressed. If anything, I have a better appreciation for the hardships I’ve endured with friends over the years, and for my emotional well-being. Anger, sadness, regret, and envy, are all real emotions that were portrayed perfectly by the characters. I was amazed at how these feelings were personified into single entity, Menma, and how she was the driving force for character and plot development. Again, I can’t stress enough how this anime should be shared with non-believers of anime or for those loosing hope in a powerful story. This show demonstrates that it’s not always an evil spirit that drives us to change and become something better, but rather overcoming the obstacles of life itself and having friends alongside us.
Thanks for reading another review from MSP and I hope you have the pleasure of checking out this beloved anime.
ThatCosplayGuy signing off.