You’re in for some laughs, a lot of bittersweet moments, and buckets of tears. Not just from the characters but from you as well; you’re going to cry a lot, bring a friend if you need to. AnoHana tackles the effects of death and loss; how each person may mourn differently and that it doesn’t have to always be so sad. The five high schoolers the story follows are all uniquely traumatized by their dear friend dying at a young age. She comes back and reveals herself to the groups’ old leader; her spirit won’t rest until her wish is granted. We go through a lot of trials and errors with the gang figuring out how to help their lost friend; it’s truly a bittersweet story that I think was worth the hours of crying.
Warning: Definitive rant about the OP
First, I want to gush about the opening really quick…. (Just kidding this won’t be quick at all). The very first sequence let’s us in on a little secret; there’s something up with the gray-haired girl. One moment they’re all together as small children, the next they’ve grown up and in her place is a flower; interestingly enough the shot of the now adolescent children kind of reveal to us their personalities and how they feel about each other. Now let’s fast forward a little bit (past Menma’s scene); when the spirits of their former selves are running through their lives, it seems to bring a sense of panic or sadness to most of the characters; Yukiatsu continues to drink his beverage until a rocket launches into the sky; the rocket launching has got to be my favorite scene of the entire show, it had so many meanings and as you watched each episode more meanings were added. Plus the brief break in the song to hear like a sound of a shooting star disappearing… I can’t even express how happy it made me. Anyways… As a second-hand viewer you could argue it was the spirit of Menma that catches his attention, however in the anime he doesn’t even entertain the idea she might be back until much later in the show. After the rocket we start to see the old gang come together; the same shot from the beginning foreshadows again by bringing a now adolescent version of Menma in and shows each of their reactions to her now known presence. I really, like really love A-1’s use of colors in the still frames; like the middle graduation causes the eyes to go straight to the characters faces then take in their body language… For me personally, it really set the tone for how the story was going to be; how many tissues I would need and if I needed to watch this at night with no one around. The last few frames were very touching to me, we see the whole gang in their old treehouse with the illusion of their childhood selves and Menma just watching them; her body language told us she was pleased with what she was seeing. Then she turns around with a very satisfied look, the background turns gray, all her friends disappear, and she vanishes leaving a flower; signaling the bittersweet ending. Just an amazing animation sequence and song that would give a new or old viewer a bit of joy… Until they started watching the show itself and learn pretty fast that you’ll be crying… A lot. Have I stated that already?
Yukiatsu and Poppo: Character Development and Voice Acting
I truly loved watching the main cast learn and grow before my eyes, it made for a very compelling story. For me to properly talk about the character development I want to focus on Yukiatsu and Poppo; their personalities traits were extremely contrasting of each other, however in the end I learned to care about both in different ways. Poppo was smaller than the rest of the gang but grew up to be the biggest; he seemed to always be in a good mood and didn’t let much get him down. Poppo had always looked up to Yadomi; I really liked that his older self still looked up to Yadomi but still considered what he himself, thought what Yadomi said was true. Yukiatsu on the other hand starts out as an insensitive jerk. He’s got good looks, athletic, and does stupid well in school; everything opposite of Poppo. When it came to Yadomi; even as kids Yukiatsu did not care for him much, probably due to jealousy. The writers did a good job of allowing some of the dialogue to express the true emotions characters had towards each other. They never had to outwardly say “I hate you because” or “I think you’re this”. The amount of animosity and pain you saw on Yuki’s face whenever he’d confront Yadomi about Menma helped me read further into what was really going on. In the beginning due to Yukiatsu’s trivial personality, I didn’t really want to side with him. He’d always try to undermine Yadomi and his efforts to help grant Menma’s wish. The guy goes so far to cross dress as Menma, run through the forest near the gang’s treehouse, and almost convince everyone that they were seeing her ghost.Tsurumi; one of the “super peace busters” member, was really close to Yukiatsu. If it weren’t for her Anaru, Poppo, and even Yadomi probably would have ended up believing Yuki’s version of Menma was real. Even before and after Poppo witnessed all of the madness between Yadomi informing him he could see Menma, and Yukiatsu running through the forest dressed up like Menma… Poppo asked himself what he believed and went with Yadomi; Yadomi could really see Menma and Yukiatsu was going through a rough time with what happened. Our lovable Poppo starts out as this open-minded, loving character and it’s not until close to the end we find out he has his own demons. We could piece together Poppo’s lack of character development (or personality development) was because of his own pain. There was no animosity in his heart, just extreme guilt. It’s common for some people to cope with their pain by telling jokes, always laughing, and generally giving off positive vibes to deflect from their true feelings. I thought this was a major plot point that made me rethink the entire beginning and middle of the show; how much of what we saw of Poppo was “real”? Yukiatsu was a major d-bag and a little nutty but it didn’t take long to understand where he was coming from. He was in love with Menma; he was jealous that Yadomi was the only one who saw Menma; he hated himself for what had happened to Menma. In the end both characters attitudes towards the situation paralleled, they both accepted Menma was back for a wish to be granted and they both wanted to do whatever it took to grant that wish. The differences in opinions and obvious differences in coping wouldn’t have been believable without the amazing voice acting. I never caught onto Poppo’s inner turmoil, I always felt how angry Yukiatsu was. Major props to the writers and voice actors.
Less of a rant: Music for the Opening and Ending sequence
This will not be about the animation sequences… I have sedated my desire to talk about the opening, an entire paragraph ranting and gushing is more than enough; I hope. “Aoi Shiori” has got to be the perfect song for this anime. I do not know for sure if this was written specifically for AnoHana but boy have they fooled me. The snippets used from the original song for the opening match everything that happens. No, the lyrics aren’t describing what is actually happening but it parallels the emotions of the characters. It’s not a sad song, it’s also not a happy song; the same reaction I have to AnoHana overall. “Secret Base” also brings it home that this show about old friends saying goodbye to a loved one. As sad as it maybe to lose someone you love and care for so deeply; it’s not the end of the world and there are good things about loss.
Granting Menma’s Wish: Directing and Editing
Figuring out and granting Menma’s wish was the main driver of the show; propelling the some of the major plot points forward every episode. Instead of trying to set up the story, gradually introduce us to the characters, and slowly reveal some of the conflicts; we got to see all of the main characters, how they interact with each other, Menma is someone they don’t like to talk about, no one can see the grown up version of Menma except for Yadomi, and their treehouse still exists; the director tackled all of these things in episode one. What really captivated me about this series; is how well Menma’s wish flowed through the story. The beginning episodes changed what Menma’s wish was pretty frequently; this never became an issue because the errors helped the characters develop and become close friends again. Once Menma’s wish was finally revealed; I didn’t see it coming. The director had me believing Menma just wanted her friends to be together again. I thought these were excellent moves on the directors part; keep the viewer guessing until they can’t anymore and make sure their emotionally invested every step of the way. My emotional involvement never changed because I could always feel connected to the characters; the camera was incredible at zooming in and out at the right times, fully capturing their emotions helping me empathize with their painful, exciting, or awkward moments. I felt a lot of the times I too wanted to go in and help them grant Menma’s wish.
Atmosphere and Expression: Animation and Art
AnoHana had a way of getting the proper emotional response when the scene required it. I took the time to screenshot certain scenes from every episode that pulled some deep emotion out of me and studied what they might have all had in common. I came to the conclusion that the atmosphere and facial expressions from the cast drew the smile from my lips; tears from my eyes; and excitement in my heart. The animators used their color palette very sparingly; blues, purples, greens, yellows, reds, browns, and black. You can argue that’s the general color scheme of most things but it was how these colors were used that I’m talking about. Suspense filled moments; like the first and 10th episode had very vivid sunsets. In the first episode near the end Menma slips from the fence post; we can see the immediate stress Yadomi feels from this. He has a flashback that’s in a calm but somber color scheme of him being informed that Menma had passed away. We return back to the stressful situation with the deep yellows, oranges, and reds in the sky; the shot of the sky still surrounds Yadomi as he goes to dive for Menma’s safety. After he realizes she’s okay the scenes following have significantly less orange, yellow, and red in them; in fact it returns to a calm color scheme. The animation tactics used really made me forget I wasn’t watching a real person sometimes; that I was in the situation with them. Animating human emotions accurately has to be difficult. There are so many muscles in the human face that push and pull to create all of our facial expressions. Animated humans don’t have human facial proportions, so the way their expressions are created I’d think would have naturally fallen short to us subconsciously. AnoHana’s animation style used a lot of different head angles, different eye; pupil sizes, and exaggerated stress lines in the eyebrows to help convey the human emotion without throwing off usual anime proportions; I also noticed the amount of wide shots used to show the environment and body language of the characters. These shots gave tone and meaning to scenarios that did not require a face to express what was going on in a scene; hands down some of the best uses of colors and subtle line gestures I’ve seen.
AnoHana definitely deserves all the praise I’d heard about it; 10/10.
AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day- The Movie (Standard Edition) [Blu-ray]
Good Smile Anohana: Menma Nendoroid Action Figure
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day Anime Fabric Wall Scroll Poster (16 x 21) Inches