Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day Review
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, or Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, is an anime produced by A-1 Pictures which aired on Noitamina in April 2011. A movie that recaps the series and shows content from the sequel will premier in 2013 during the summer.
The first thing that intrigued me about this series was that the character designs look very similar to Toradora!. After some research, I found out that Masayoshi Tanaka, the character designer for Toradora!, tailored characters for Anohana. Furthermore, the director of this series, Tatsuyuki Nagai, was in charge of Toradora!. Having been emotionally moved by Toradora! a few years back, I decided to watch Anohana as soon as it was aired.
Anohana starts by following the childhoods of six best friends: Jinta "Jintan" Yadomi, Meiko "Menma" Honma, Naruko "Anaru" Anjyou, Atsumu "Yukiatsu" Matsuyuki, Chiriko "Tsuruko" Tsurumi, and Tetsudo "Poppo" Hisakawa. They are very close to each other and crown themselves heroes of their city. They name themselves the Peace Buster (Heiwa Buster), and build their own secret base. However, after a tragic accident leading to the death of Meiko, they become estranged and drift apart. Ten years later, the leader, Jinta, fails his high school examination and leads the life of a shut-in. On a summer day, Meiko mysteriously appears before him and asks to have her wish granted so she can pass into the afterlife. Jinta now must gather the detached members of Peace Buster in hopes of fulfilling Menma's wish.
I found that the mechanism of a ghost and her last wish was an odd instigator for all the very normal drama between each friend. This mechanism becomes a push for Jinta to try to reconnect everyone, similar to what they did during their childhood. This attempt, however, begins to hurt each of the former Peace Busters as unpleasant memories arise. Ghosts aren't often used as a plot device in American stories about reminiscing youngsters, and would I recommend this series based on this rare plot device alone.
This may sound blunt, but I would say that the story was astonishing! The plot, characters, and setting formed a cocktail custom made for any viewer craving childhood nostalgia. I believe most people have had moments where they reminisce and reflect on how much they've changed from childhood and yearn to go back, and this show capitalizes on that feeling. By having Menma come back to the living, reflections about the Peace Buster's childhood arouses their joy, regrets, remorse, and debt towards each member. This shakes their present day relationships, and I found it created a simple yet multifaceted connection between each character, creating enjoyable drama.
Still, there were melodramatic moments that rubbed me the wrong way. I thought the characters occasionally over-reacted when they competed against each other. I found the continuous yelling and put-downs unbearably childish and were hard to listen to. However, remembering that the characters are in their adolescent phase where everyone is trying to grow up despite their lack of life experience, it became a little bearable, but was still annoying.
The occasionally over-the-top teen drama was redeemed by the staffs excellent selection of emotive seiyuu. The show is graced by the talent of Miyu Irino for Jinta, Ai Kayano for Menma, Takahiro Sakurai for Yukiatsu, Haruka Tomatsu for Anaru, Saori Hayami for Tsuruko, and Takayuki Kondou for Poppo. Listening to these cast members portray their characters was rather interesting because there are age differences up to ten years wide among them, but it mixes rather nicely when put together. My personal favorite was Ai Kayano's acting. Her career as a voice actor is only a year old, yet she was able to display rich emotions for her role.
Since an emotive anime deserves moving music, the soundtrack is heavily reliant on acoustic instruments, especially guitar and piano. The soundtrack really matches the mood of each scene, and I was satisfied with the reaction it drew out of me. Galileo Galilei sang the opening song, "Aoi Shiori," which offers guitar-centered rock compared to mainstream J-Rock music. The guitar and bass are rich and the vocals match the nostalgic feeling I got while for Anohana. The ending is another interesting piece. It's a cover of Zone's "Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ (10 years after Ver.)" sung by the three women, Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu, and Saori Hayami. The original song was one of Zone's hit songs, reaching second Place on Weekly Oricon charts. Despite being a cover song, the three singers maintain the integrity of the original and match it perfectly to the anime series.
The characters in Anohana are the essential element of the story, but I felt that the show didn't fairly distribute its focus between them. We have Jinta, a stereotypical but potent leader that arises from his shut-in lifestyle. Menma is the childish innocent but pulls everyone in the team together. Anaru is the caring but insecure girl. Yukiatsu is the cool-headed and intelligent but off-putting member. Tsuruko is the mature mother figure and, lastly, Poppo is cheery and cooperative. Despite having six unique characters, I found that latter two didn't receive as much time in the spotlight as the other characters. I wanted the story to present more of the internal struggle of Poppo and Tsuruko. The story focused more on Jintan and Menma's relationship and how Yukiatsu and Anaru felt about it. Other than that, Tsuruko and Poppo's perspectives were skimmed over in one or two episodes. I hope that the upcoming movie will fairly distribute screen time between each of the characters.
I could go on about my likes and dislikes regarding Anohana, but I would end up spoiling the story. Although I had few irks with the show, they were usually about plot devices intended to direct the viewer; I don't think any part of Anohana was messy or poorly done. Anohana is a great emotional experience that, without a doubt, shines on as a great contribution to anime. It's definitely one of the most memorable pieces shown on the Noitamina network, and deserves my praise and your attention. Ill definitely be waiting for the movie to come out this summer!
- Japanese summer-themed story (Romance, Ghost, Summer, Fireworks, etc.)
- Friendship, Parental, and Maturity themed story
- Character personality balance
- Nostalgia (Pokemon, secret bases, etc.)
- A definite MUST-SEE work
- Uneven distribution of attention among the characters
- Teenager's 'you-don't-understand-how-I-feel' rant
- A story meant to watch only during the summer
- Ending felt a tiny bit rushed
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor