Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai)

Jintan, Menma, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, Anaru, and Poppo were the best of friends during their childhood and they made up the "Super Peace Busters." In their clubhouse they would spend their days together and have fun in ways that only children with clubhouses can.

Then tragedy strikes and Menma is killed in an accident.

Ten years later the Super Peace Busters are no more and the bonds that once bound them together are completely shattered.

Jintan has become a hikikomori (a shut-in) and he doesn't leave his house at all. He doesn't even go to school. He just sits at home playing video games and doing other things that shut-ins do. His mother has passed away in the time since Menma's passing and his father leaves him to his own devices without giving him an ass-chewing or two that he probably needs.

One day Jintan's hectic life gets a bit more complicated when he begins to see and hear either a hallucination or a ghost resembling a grown up (for the most part) Menma. Menma tells him that she had a wish that was never granted and that she can't remember what it is. Jintan, unsure of whether or not he is going crazy, decides to find out just what it is that she wished for. Even if it means going outside and tracking down some of the people that used to be his friends.

On the surface this is a nicely animated slice of life ghost story with some bits of comedy woven in to keep things from being a little too heavy (with varying degrees of success, I might add). The very nature of the story itself keeps the story from getting very humorous and when the show indulges in the dramatic it oftentimes overindulges and becomes an all-out cry-fest. Most of the episodes have "cry moments" but the last episode alone is going to either make you puke or buy your local Wal-Mart out of Kleenexes for the week. But I got to think even the most hardened person is going to at least get misty-eyed at some point. I mean, I didn't cry, but I had moments where I thought I would. The one things that kept me from reaching that point were certain shabby plot holes that I will talk about in a moment. 

The short episode count (11) keeps things from becoming too drawn out (pardon the pun) and the characters are certainly interesting. Poppo is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I also feel a bit of kinship for fellow loner Jintan. But they all have certain charms except for maybe Yukiatsu. That guy is just a prick. Yeah, he has his reasons and he's not all he seems to be, but he is easily the least likeable character of the bunch. I know a lot of people found Menma rather annoying, but I didn't. I thought she was wonderful. Since she died as a child it makes sense that she'd retain her childlike playfulness. Just hearing her say "Jintan" is pretty adorable. 

However, that plot hole I mentioned has everything to do with Menma and the fact that Jintan is the only one able to see her. When he begins to track down his old Super Peace Busters crew he never once asks Menma to try to convince them she is really there by moving an object or doing something equally spectacular. In fact, she doesn't do anything of the sort until episode eight when everyone is fighting and things are at their most dramatic. Had that happened a few episodes earlier than the main characters probably wouldn't have been at each other's throats like that in the first place. And it's that kind of story planning that just gets on my nerves. Hell, from the first episode I thought, "Why don't she just move something?"

And when Jintan is sleeping on his futon and Menma is sleeping on his bed does Jintan's dad not see the blankets on Jintan's bed shifting without anyone under them? I mean, I know his dad is pretty absentee, but if I saw that I'd have some questions. 

It's these sort of forceful plot oversights that frustrated me. It made this show feel like a blatant drama whore. I mean, had this show played by the rules of reality and common sense just a little bit more than this one would be one of those really great shows. As it is it's pretty good, but there are a few head-scratching moments that make some of the more dramatic moments feel like they aren't worth it. 

If the writers clearly didn't care enough to put a bit more thought into then why should I care enough to keep watching?

However, I guess I can't really call that a valid argument on my part since I did end watching the entire show and did end up enjoying it. Again, this is a good show; it just could have been a lot better. 

But if you can accept its faults and just try to overlook them then you will be rewarded by the journey. I was. The final episode did have me groan a bit because I thought it was going just a bit overboard on the waterworks even by the standards of this show, but it had a resolution that managed to salvage the episode and the show as whole. Everything felt pretty satisfying in a weepy bitch kind of a way. 

P.S. - There was a movie released not too long ago that tells this story from Menma's perspective and also includes a short epilogue not set one year later. It has earned more money in Japan than The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya did during its theatrical run. So that means I've got to see this movie. 

P.P.S. - One thing I really did like about this show was the music. The opening theme song and the ending theme fit the mood and atmosphere of the show perfectly. Especially that ending song which is done by the seiyuu (voice actors)... Yeah, you're going to feel the feels. 

P.P.P.S - This show is also named wrong. The proper translation would be We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day. I'd prefer that title because it fits the mood and theme of the show more. 

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