“I believe that we will meet in August 10 years later. ” —Secret Base ~What You Gave Me~ (10 years after version)
Set one year after the events of Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai, the story of six friends is recounted through each of the different characters’ perspectives as they write special letters to Menma.
It’s been a year since I picked up Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai (“We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day”, abbreviated AnoHana for brevity). When I began watching last summer, I saw an anime about a group of friends struggling to come to terms with the death of another friend, Meiko “Menma” Honma, ten years ago. Her spirit appears to Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi and sets in motion the events that bring this group of friends back together, reforming the Super Peace Busters after Menma asks him to help her grant a wish. As this group of friends attempt to figure out what Menma’s wish is, they rediscover their past friendships with one another and gradually come to terms with what happened ten years ago. The film was released in August 2013 and made its way to North American theatres back on February 9, when I was swamped with coursework and couldn’t watch it. Set a year after the events in the 2011 anime, the film depicts the lives of the Super Peace Busters as the one-year mark approaches after they had successfully granted Menma’s wish, The group decide to write heartfelt letters to her, and in the process, reflect upon their experiences and thoughts. Throughout the movie, scenes set in the present day are interspersed with flashbacks to events in the original anime, allowing viewers to recall the pivotal moments in the series, although there is still enough new content to make a significant contribution to the overarching story in AnoHana.
I finished AnoHana somewhere during early June last year: this anime was very poignant, and while I thoroughly enjoyed AnoHana, I found myself unable to write about it effectively. Watching the characters interact and accept their innermost emotions and feelings, whether it be Naruko “Anaru” Anjō’s feelings for Jinta, or the extent of Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki’s perpectual suffering (which drove him to dress as Menma and roam the local woods by nightfall), all of these moments were admittedly difficult to address. In AnoHana, the entire cast is haunted by this loss, and even though ten years had passed, no one was really able to move on, hinting at just how close the Super Peace Busters had been ten years before. Each of the characters were filled with regret, and hold themselves accountable for Menma’s death. Thus, when her ghost reappears in the depths of summers years later, the Super Peace Busters find themselves at odds with one another, never having gotten past what had happened that day. However, through Jinta, Menma is able to convey her one desire for a wish to be fulfilled, and the Super Peace Busters eventually do get their emotions out into the open, drawing on one another for support. Together, the Super Peace Busters work towards a major fireworks project, which they believed to be Menma’s final wish, in the process discovering that Menma had left letters for them and that her final wish was, in fact, seeing Jintan cry again. Finally able to see Menma, the Super Peace Busters are able to properly say farewell and begin moving into the future together as they pursue their own paths.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It’s not even a day after the Gundam Unicorn finale, one thinks, and yet, another post has already come out? Better believe it: it’s been a year since I began watching AnoHana, and since I never did get around to writing a conventional whole-season reflection after eleven episodes, I felt that the movie would be the perfect time to talk about everything. All of the screenshots here are taken from the movie. I will refer to each of the Super Peace Busters by their standard names, but Meiko Honma will be referred to as Menma simply because that’s the name everyone refers to her as.
- A part of the reason why I never did end up publishing a reflection for the 2011 anime was because it was so difficult to find words and reflect upon what each of the characters were going through. The message I got from the 2011 anime was that the Super Peace Buster’s friendship was ultimately revitalised by Menma’s spirit, who had, in her quest to rediscover her wish, brought everyone back together in summer, helping them come to terms with what had happened.
- The original synopsis for the movie suggested that it was going to be a re-telling of the anime from Menma’s perspective, but the movie ultimately ended up being so much more, offering more perspective in to the events that happened prior to the anime (and were not explored). Jinta is one of the first to befriend Menma and here, the two are trading Nokemon. Despite Jinta’s friends telling him that he undercut Menma, the latter remarks that the importance isn’t the Nokemon as much as it was the gesture of friendship.
- Here, the Super Peace Busters begin clearing out the shack that will eventually become the secret base. It appears that the Super Peace Buster’s friendship, and Jinta’s feelings for Menma, began during a game of hide-and-seek. Given that I’ve not seen the 2011 anime for nearly a year now, memory does not serve me, and I cannot recall whether or not the original game of hide-and-seek was shown in the anime.
- I noticed that each of the characters have undergone slight changes in their physical appearance: everyone seems a little more tidy and sharp, reflecting on their own resolutions to make the most of things. Of the Super Peace Busters, Naruko has the most difficulty in coming up with an honest letter for Menma. She holds feelings for Jinta and continued to be haunted by regret after wishing that Jinta would notice her ahead of Menma following the latter’s death.
- Menma’s spirit exhibits some capacity to interact with the physical word, and near the anime’s climax, she wrote out short letters to every member of the Super Peace Busters, outlining each member’s strong suits in her eyes.
- At the beginning of AnoHana, Jinta was a recluse, but a year later, he’s turned over a new leaf and attends classes while working part time at a local store. After some neighbourhood children realise they don’t have the funds to procure a copy of the latest Nokemon game, Jinta tells other customers that they’re sold out and promises to hold the copy of the game for the children, reflecting on his benevolent nature.
- A ways after the anime, but before the movie, Jinta and Naruko accompany a few other friends to karaoke again. Jinta recalls that everyone was putting their fullest into even something recreational for the sake of having a good time, and slowly begins to find more enjoyment in life again.
- Many anime attach feelings of longing and nostalgia to summer (with AnoHana and Air being just two); the season of lengthened days and empty schedules for youth, anime tend to paint summer as a time when excited individuals experience new things that they yearn for or take for granted, leading to regret later on. My previous blog posts indicate that I was hit by this just last year; I understand that, in just a few year’s time, summer will simply be a part of the work year where the weather is warming, and the days are longer, making it all the more imperative to make the most of this summer.
- Tetsudō “Poppo” Hisakawa works on his letter to Menma. Of the Super Peace Busters, he appears to be the most cheerful, and dropped out of high school to travel the world. While he often tries to mediate the rifts that appear between the other members, Poppo felt an immense sense of guilt, having witnessed Menma fall into a river and not being able to do anything to save her. By the movie, his guilt has largely passed, although he still retains his mellow approach towards life. He admits in his letter that, while he didn’t fully believe Jinta about Menma’s reappearance, a part of him wanted to atone.
- While Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki drafts his letter to Menma, while two girls wish they could talk to him in the background. Despite being academically and athletically capable, Atsumu was haunted by Menma’s death, having unsuccessfully confessed to her the day she died but was rejected. In the anime, he deeply resented Jinta for his relationship to Menma. These feelings of hostility has disappeared, and in his letter, he tells Menma that, despite eternally feeling overshadowed by Jinta, he has found a new path that he can accept and follow.
- “Super Peace Busters”: oil pastel pencil on canvas by Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi. The image depicts the Super Peace Busters as they appeared in the anime, each being more at peace with themselves and the world following Menma’s final farewell to each of them. Chiriko had been sketching long before the movie, and notes that for all the effort she puts into painting and art, it may not be enough to get Atsumu to notice her feelings for him.
- Even so, as far as unrequited love goes, I’m told that the only course of action to take is to continue working on the things one genuinely enjoys. I can accept this idea because personal experience has stated that to be true, and even though one’s feelings and ego sustain a beating, at the very least, their skills, talents and aspirations for the future will remain intact. By the time the movie has rolled around, in her letter, Chiriko reveals that she was selfishly relieved that Menma had gone because that meant Atsumu could finally be by her side. However, when Menma returned, Chiriko was fearful of getting hurt again.
- However, even as one continues to whole-heartedly pursue their academics and career, feelings of unrequited love can strike at any time, especially when one is alone. It might be cynical of me to say so, but the only real way to overcome the sense of melancholy from unrequited love is simply to let fate (and initiative) set a new love in motion. This approach is doubly risky, since things could go through and lead to more heartbreak, but if genuine feelings are realised, they will allow the scars to finally heal. In the meantime, a determinde pursuit of one’s objectives ensures that one can continue to move forward to a better future, and can hold back melancholy reasonably effectively. The love tesseract in AnoHana can be broken down as follows: Menma ⇔ Jinta, Naruko ⇒ Jinta, Atsumu ⇒ Menma, Chirko ⇒ Atsumu. Tetsudō does not appear to hold romantic feelings for anyone.
- The scene with Naruko at a MacDonald’s (note the fries and coffee) attempting to write a letter was simultaneously encouraging and light-hearted. After unintentionally disrupting the other customers, two women let Naruko know that, whatever it was that had happened, the former shouldn’t try to shoulder everything. It’s a general statement referring to Naruko knocking over said patron’s coffee over, but applies to her own internal conflicts, too.
- Besides the letters each of the Super Peace Busters are writing, the movie also features more flashbacks to the group’s childhood, including a moment where Menma shares a story with Jinta. These add a great deal of depth to the story, showcasing much detail to really emphasise how close the group was. While this serves to accentuate just how distant the group becomes later on, it also serves to reinforce the idea that they’ve come back together and have regained their friendship since Menma’s farewells.
- Menma’s brother, Satoshi, makes another appearance; in the space of a year, Satoshi has matured considerably and is nearly as tall as Jinta is. The former still recalls the buns that Jinta had given to their family a year earlier, and in a separate scene, Menma’s mother is seen talking to Satoshi, asking him to bring Menma’s friends over for prayer. In the 2011 anime, Menma’s mother was unable to accept the other Super Peace Busters because they had grown up where Menma was not able to.
- Naruko runs into Jinta, who is on his way to the Super Peace Busters secret base; prior to Jinta’s arrival, Naruko wonders whether it was worth going or not, and how it was really Menma’s memories that were bringing everyone together. Jinta’s presence ultimately convinces her to go.
- The bridge predominantly featured location in AnoHana is located in Chichibu, Saitama, a city with a population of around 68700 as of 2011. With a mountainous terrain and humid subtropical climate, the region’s main economic activities include silk production, limestone mining, brewing and more recently, tourism.
- In the anime’s climax, Jinta carries Menma from his place all the way to the secret base after Menma makes her final wish known. On February 9, the only screening in my city occurred, and as I was busy with coursework, I found myself unable to attend: there was an exam on that Friday, which happened to be Valentines’ Day. The Wind Rises premiered not a few weeks later, on February 22, and I missed that, as well. In the end, by skipping both screenings, I had sufficient time to complete my applications for graduate studies and scholarships, as well as put in proper diligence for my coursework.
- Menma summons her entire strength to finish her letters to everyone. This last farewell assists the Super Peace Busters in following their futures. In the end, though I ended up missing two anime screenings that will never been shown on the silver screen again, I ended up with a solid performance in the semester, alongside with better knowledge of what my future will entail, and the means to help me in pursuing this future. As for the AnoHana movie, the magic of Blu-Rays and some technical wizardry from my end allowed me to settle the score and watch this movie myself.
- I’m certain I took all of the screenshots in order, so the movie seems to have mixed up some of the scenes: Menma realises what her wish was here, and it is with this knowledge that Jinta sets out with such a strong determination to see the other Super Peace Busters again. The movie was screening on a frigid, bright February afternoon. When I watched the movie at the beginning of May, and the sun was setting after Spring’s first real warmth. I enjoy watching movies in the comfort of home on the BluRay system, but there is a particular atmosphere about watching something in a theatre that makes it worthwhile.
- In general, I have excellent access to non-anime movies and can see those easily (e.g. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Hobbit). However, anime films rarely ever screen here. The fact that three films (Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion Story, AnoHana and The Wind Rises) showed within a three month span is unheard of, and I’m wagering that the odds of three screening of anime movies to series I am familiar with over a three month span, such as this, won’t happen again for an immeasurably long time.
- As the climax to AnoHana approaches, every member of the Super Peace Busters can finally see Menma’s spirit, vindicating Jinta and finally allowing everyone to move forward. It is this that allows the Super Peace Busters to come together again, and although they might have initially seen it as Menma who brought them together, in the end, it was their own desire to find closure and acceptance for themselves that led to the anime’s ending.
- The strength of her friend’s emotions leave Menma in tears: AnoHana is particularly effective at making its viewers cry alongside its characters. This reaction is apparently a tied to empathy: individuals with a strong sense of caring for others will be more likely to experience emotions that others are experiencing.
- I haven’t played hide-and-seek for an eternity: my residence is far too small for me to realistically hide anywhere now (as opposed to when I was much smaller), and I doubt my friends would think that playing a match in any building on campus would be fair, since campus is massive and I know all of the secret passages anyways.
- A brief talk with Jinta gives Naruko the insight she needs to finish her letter to Menma; despite being found by Tetsudo, Naruko feels that the letter is of greater significance and goes ballistic, kicking Jinta and Tetsudo out of the secret base.
- After everyone’s letters are ready, the Super Peace Busters send their letters to Menma. While Tetsudo shouts into the sky and and asks whether or not Menma got their letters, Naruko and Chiroko share a conversation about how, despite, their respective experiences with unrequited love, the Super Peace Busters will remain friends for all eternity, and this will allow their feelings to eventually reach their targets. Jinta notices how the view from the secret base seems different, perhaps because they are now able to recall the good memories from this place. Shortly after, the sky seems to spontaneously become more starry, and Jinta suggests that Menma has indeed received their letters.
- With a runtime of 99 minutes, the AnoHana movie acts as a fitting close to the series, answering questions about how the Super Peace Busters first became friends, and what happened to them following the anime’s conclusion in 2011. As a standalone film, AnoHana won’t really be suited for those who are checking out this series for the first time, since the emotional impact lies mostly in the original 2011 anime. On the plus side, for those who have yet to see the series, there are only eleven episodes, making catching up a relatively straightforward matter.
- Since this reflection began with a scenery screenshot, so it shall end with a scenery screenshot. Contrasting the Gundam Unicorn finale discussion, which had 75 screenshots, this AnoHana talk has a more traditional 30 screenshots, as per my movie posts. As opposed to my original intent to do separate posts on the 2011 anime series and the movie, I eventually decided that it would be more effective to do one post, since the movie acts as a supplement and made it easier to come up with the words to discuss this series.
The movie presents a changed group of friends to the audience a year later: seeing each of the characters whole-heartedly embracing their current lives and making the most of it was the most welcoming aspect of the movie. While much of the movie does involve flashbacks, the narrative adds something substantial to the story, showcasing what each of the Super Peace Busters are now doing. For the audience, this adds closure by giving insight into how everyone is doing a year later. After the original anime had ended, signs that the characters have begun moving on were shown, but the movie does a fantastic job of really fleshing out how everyone has moved on, and moreover, illustrate them as finally having found peace within themselves. Everyone has come a long way since the events in the anime, and at long last, a satisfying accompaniment can be had for this anime. Of course, given that the movie makes numerous flashbacks to the anime, the emotions from the anime permeate the movie, evoking feelings that are just as strong as they were when I first watched AnoHana. As a whole, AnoHana is an immensely enjoyable anime for the fact that the character’s experiences are universal: friendship, unrequited love, regret and longing are things that most anyone can relate to. AnoHana‘s execution means that no punches are pulled when the characters finally let out their true feelings. The raw emotion in these moments mean it is quite difficult not to cry alongside the characters, and for the longest time, even though I had finished the series, I found it remarkably difficult to write about it. A year has passed since I watched this for myself, and having experienced some of the things explored by AnoHana, I find that it is a little easier to convey my own thoughts on the series now, which I find to be a simple but effective story that weaves together the most beautiful and painful moments in life as experienced by a group of close friends. Now that the movie finally out, viewers will be left with a warm feeling upon finishing the series. My final verdict on AnoHana, as a whole, is that its strongest point is being able to depict a group of friends come to terms with difficult emotions and move on. Whether or not it is effective at drawing out the tears will depend on the viewer, although, far from being so shallow as to suggest that this is what makes AnoHana worthwhile, I would tend to say that the tears shed by a large number of other viewers would better suggest that much care was taken to shape AnoHana into an anime that could tell a simple story with such an emotional impact, making this anime quite worthwhile.