“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
Five years after the death of Meiko Honma, Jinta Yadomi and his friends, known to one another as the Super Peace Busters, have gone their separate ways as they struggle to come to terms with what had happened. Jinta’s become a recluse who spends his days idling, but one day, Meiko’s ghost appears to him. Although Jinta believes this to stem from the heat of summer, he soon realises that Meiko might be back to attend to unfinished business prior to her death. While his old friends are now reluctant to associate with Jinta, the return of Tetsudō sets in motion the events that push Jinta back into the world, driven by a newfound desire to help Meiko fulfil her old promise. The journey is a difficult one – Naruko, Atsumu and Chiriko each feel guilty about what had happened to Meiko and have tried to manage this in their own way, feeling that they were personally responsible for Meiko’s death, and while Jinta’s insistence that Meiko’s returned is initially met with skepticism, once Meiko begins interacting with the others and proves Jinta’s been truthful, the former friends set about doing their best trying to fulfil Meiko’s old wish, believing that she’d wanted to launch fireworks with them. To this end, Jinta ends up taking up several jobs to secure the funds needed to build a massive firework rocket, and Meiko’s family end up realising that Jinta’s efforts to fulfil the late Meiko’s wishes was a respectful one: Meiko’s younger brother, Satoshi, thanks Jinta for his efforts. Along the way, the group of friends also are forced to be more truthful about how they feel about one another, and Jinta eventually comes to wish that, ghost or not, he desires nothing more than to be with Meiko. Meiko eventually recalls her old wish – to see Jinta cry again, and one this is realised, she begins disappearing. Before she vanishes and moves onto the next life, she writes out letters as a proper farewell for her friends, wishing them all the best as they move on. Although Meiko is at peace, the five friends find their bonds rekindled, and even as they pursue their own futures, they still return to their old secret base and hang out together. Counted as one of 2011’s most moving anime series, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana for brevity) was created jointly by director Tatsuyuki Nagai, screenwriter Mari Okada, and character designer Masayoshi Tanaka. Dealing with matters of guilt, life and death and moving on, AnoHana is widely acclaimed for its portrayal of how a group of formerly-close friends manage to find solace and strength amongst one another even as tensions from the past linger, and how, while everyone was originally driven by their own desires, they nonetheless manage to overcome their grief and selfishness to do something that Meiko had desired all along: for everyone to become friends again. With A-1 Pictures at the helm, AnoHana is a technically superior anime, and its all-star cast of voice actors and actresses brings every scene to life, resulting in a series whose legacy endures to this day.
Although many-layered and nuanced, messages of openness lies at the heart of AnoHana. This is most evident in Meiko’s original wish, to see Jinta cry again. At the start of AnoHana, each of Jinta, Naruko, Atsumu, Chiriko and Tetsudō have distanced themselves their old feelings by engaging in unhealthy practises. Jinta withdraws into home and spends his days gaming or surfing the internet. Naruko hangs out with the flashier people in her school and gives the impression of being promiscuous. Although Atsumu has since become a hardworking, model student, he secretly crossdresses as Meiko and wanders the woods at night. Chiriko appears cold and distant, preferring to focus on her artwork. Tetsudō’s dropped out of school travelled abroad with the hope of forgetting the sight of Meiko being swept away. When these five former friends reunite, tensions run high: everyone’s been trying to forget things even though internally, everyone had loved Meiko in their own manner and wish to do right by her. Jinta’s dogged persistence, spurred on by the fact Meiko’s returned to him, pushes him to keep trying. Eventually, once Meiko demonstrates she’s indeed present by using her old diary, the hostilities begin easing back, and in the end, after launching the promised fireworks and seeing Meiko’s spirit endure, the group realise that they’ve been held back, not by memories of Meiko and her death, but by their own desires and the subsequent guilt that their selfishness had resulted in Meiko’s death. The sharp contrast between the group’s dynamics and Meiko’s apparent acceptance of everyone, coupled with her cheerful demenour, shows that Meiko hadn’t been hung up by the group’s regrets, and further to this, seeing everyone slowly getting back together as friends brings her nothing but joy. Through this time spent together (however reluctantly), this group of friends, the Super Peace Busters, do end up recovering enough of their old bonds to finally come forward; while waiting for Jinta at a shrine, Atsumu openly admits that he’d been here to help Meiko find peace only because he’d loved her and hated the thought of Jinta being given this second chance. Emotions brim over for each of Naruko, Chiriko and Tetsudō after; they admit that they too had wanted to absolve themselves of the guilt of what happened (Naruko and Chiriko even end up sparring over their unrequited love for Jinta and Atsumu). By crying it out, the Super Peace Busters end up reaching catharsis, and the moment is broken up when one of Naruko’s fake eyelashes are dislodged. At this point, the climax of AnoHana is reached: the conflict hadn’t been about Meiko, but rather, their own internal feelings of regret, and so, when everyone is able to release this, they are able to finally see Meiko’s spirit, who bids them farewell. The significance of being able to “see” Meiko thus becomes apparent: aside from Jinta, whom Meiko appeared to purely because of her old promise with his late mother, the others remain unable to see her because their problems don’t lie with Meiko. By letting go of their guilt and regret, they can face their own pasts without any doubt, leaving them free to face Meiko as their best selves. In this way, AnoHana shows that, rather than allowing one to bottle up their emotions, there is merit in crying things out (or otherwise, finding a natural, healthy means of release), and further to this, being able to do this can be made easier in the company of people one can be open with. For the Super Peace Busters, their old friendships allows them to find said catharsis and properly send Meiko off, leaving them finally free to live their lives out in full, both in Meiko’s memory, and for their own sakes.
Screenshots and Commentary
- At the onset, viewers are dropped right into the midst of things, with Meiko’s spirit appearing to Jinta while he plays a game. No context is given, beyond Jinta’s internal thought that this must be the heat of summer getting to him. However, as AnoHana‘s story progresses, it becomes clear that Meiko has returned for a very specific reason. The anime is careful not to reveal its hand all at once, and instead, unveils things one step at a time: in the beginning, all of the characters, save Meiko, appear quite unlikeable. This is a deliberate choice to show how Meiko’s death has impacted the members of the Super Peace Busters.
- As children, the Super Peace Busters made it their mission to break the peace by having a good time, and spent their days hanging out at their secret hideout in the woods of Chichibu, Saitama. As a child, Jinta had been extroverted and seen as the group leader the other boys followed, but after Meiko’s death, the group drifted apart as everyone blamed themselves for what happened. The original moment is shown on several occasions – when the others ask if Jinta had fallen in love with Meiko, he’d vehemently denied having any feelings for her before running off. This set in motion a series of events that resulted in Meiko falling into the nearby creek and drowning: Meiko had gone after Jinta, and Atsumu had followed, trying to convince Meiko to return his feelings.
- When Meiko died, Naruko had felt terrible for having secretly felt relieved that Jinta appeared to not possess any feelings for Meiko, and Chiriko had similarly thought that without Meiko around, she might now stand a chance with Atsumu. Tetsudō had witnessed Meiko’s body swept up by the current and has since regretted being unable to do more than watch in horror. The resulting rift between the Super Peace Busters led everyone to go their separate ways, and everyone has gone about grappling with their guilt in their own way. Naruko sought solace in conforming with classmates, Atsumu and Chiriko both threw themselves into their studies, Tetsudō began travelling the world, and Jinta became a hikikomori. When Meiko reappears, this sets in motion the events that disrupts the old status quo.
- In the beginning, with only Jinta able to see and interact with Meiko’s spirit, the former Super Peace Busters initially believe Jinta’s gone mad and is stuck in the past. However, the irony of this is that everyone’s been unable to move on properly – while Atsumu and Chiriko appear to have their game together, having both enrolled at an elite secondary school, even they suffer from lingering feelings of guilt and regret that manifests early on. On the other hand, Tetsudō seems more than willing to believe Jinta: although his overwhelmingly positive manner is his way of trying to dull the pain, having someone like Tetsudō in his corner helps Jinta out early on.
- The Super Peace Busters originally met through Jinta and Meiko playing Nokémon (a stand-in for Pokémon) on their equivalents of the GameBoy; there’s no way to acquire the rarer types unless one trades for them, and a common desire to see how far they could go in the game would drive everyone together. As a child, I never did get caught up in the phenomenon of playing the game and trading with others, but at the same time, since my relatives did have a GameBoy, I ended up finishing Pokémon Red and Blue‘s campaigns, playing whenever I visited.
- After Tetsudō, Naruko is the second to come around and reconcile with Jinta. While she puts on a tough-talking manner and appears distant from him, it turns out that she’d been in love with him even now, and willingly takes Jinta his assignments from school, even doing up her nails ahead of a visit. In the time that’s passed, Naruko appears to have no concrete identity: she hangs out with the popular girls in her year and emulates their style, similarly to how she’d imitated Meiko as a child. Once Meiko’s spirit reappears and pushes Jinta back into the real world, Naruko begins to soften up around Jinta, and while she initially doubts that Meiko’s back, being able to see Jinta again gives her a bit of hope.
- This process kicks off when Jinta and Naruko end up spending an evening playing Nokémon together; besides rekindling their friendship, it also brings back an old memory and really sets the Super Peace Busters on their journey to help Meiko sort out the promise she’d returned to fulfil. The initial promise is not known to viewers, and admittedly, after ten years, I’d completely forgotten what it was. Jinta and Tetsudō initially assume it’s Nokémon related, but ghosts don’t typically linger in the world of the living because of a game, so it follows that there must’ve been something bigger at play.
- While there are minor inconsistencies in the artwork here and there, AnoHana has otherwise aged quite gracefully. Chichibu is beautifully rendered, and the iconic Chichibu Bridge is featured prominently in the anime. The choice of setting in AnoHana is a consequence of the fact that screenwriter Mari Okada was born and raised here, but it is quite fitting because the small town and proximity to forest creates a feeling of isolation – being removed from the uncaring anonymity of the big city, and the endless tranquility of the satoyama creates an environment where the characters don’t have anyone to count on beyond themselves.
- As it turns out, Jinta’s mother had been ill, and while he had been very forward and outgoing with his friends, he remained worried about his mother’s health. Over time, as Jinta brings his friends to visit, Jinta’s mother would ask Meiko to look after him, forming the basis for her promise. Readers who’ve previously watched AnoHana will have noticed here that I refer to everyone by their given names rather than their Super Peace Busters nicknames: although most people refer to Jinta as “Jintan”, Meiko as “Menma” and so forth, I always prefer referring to people by their proper names for the sake of consistency.
- AnoHana is quite nuanced and has multiple moving parts, but in spite of this, manages to fit everything into the space of eleven episodes. The dynamics between Atsumu and Chiriko were something that I really enjoyed; the two are rarely seen together and initially share the same disdain for Jinta. There are a few moments in AnoHana where Atsumu’s female classmates openly express hostility towards Chiriko, believing that he’s interested in her, whereas in reality, Atsumu is still in love with Meiko. Atsumu is an interesting character because of everyone, he appears to have had the most success, being a top student that has the respect of others. However, this conceals a more malevolent and petty side to his character; he constantly belittles Jinta because of lingering anger that Meiko only had eyes for Jinta.
- The fact that Chiriko would join the others ahead of Atsumu during some meet-ups serves to underline the fact that, appearances notwithstanding, he’s probably the most alone of the Super Peace Busters. While Chiriko gives a cold and detached appearance, she is actually quite caring and sensitive, feeling inadequate whenever she’s around Naruko. Seeing almost all of the Super Peace Busters back together is something that gives Meiko’s spirit happiness. Meiko often voices her disapproval whenever the others are at one another’s throats, but as a spirit, she’s unable to directly communicate with her old friends directly.
- Meiko’s naïveté means that she retains a child-like view of the world, and when Atsumu mentions that he too can interact with Meiko, the real Meiko becomes curious to meet this version of herself. Meiko is voiced by Ai Kayano, whom I best know for playing older-sister archetypes (e.g. GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer). AnoHana has an all-star cast – Naruko is voiced by Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna Yūki of Sword Art Online, Gundam 00‘s Milena Vasti and Iris Canary from Violet Evergarden), and Saori Hayami plays Chiriko (a handful of Hayami’s roles include Yukino Yukinoshita of Oregairu, GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain and Spy × Family‘s Yor Forger).
- Although Chiriko had shown signs of wanting to help Meiko find peace previously, this becomes more concrete once she swings by and indicates to Jinta that she’s seeking a favour of sorts. Seeing Chiriko sharing a cordial conversation with Jinta indicated that she didn’t harbour any dislike towards Jinta, and as it turns out, Chiriko’s favour also suggests that she wants to take Atsumu out of the past: she’d long suspected that Atsumu had been donning a white dress and wandering the woods at night. Despite his aloof and arrogant manner, it becomes plain that he’s suffering just like the others, and resorted to handling his emotions in this way.
- Thus, when the truth comes out, the extent of Atsumu’s guilt becomes clear – despite his words, he’s just as trapped by the past as Jinta is. In AnoHana, the absence of a guiding figure, such as a responsible adult, leaves the characters to deal with their problems on their own. Jinta’s father, while easy-going and amicable, doesn’t seem to have any solutions for his situation and prefers to leave Jinta to his own devices. Meiko’s mother is so distraught that she forgets that she has a son, and Naruko’s mother seems unaware of what she’s going through. Similarly, Tetsudō, Atsumu and Chiriko’s parents are largely absent, and so, there’s no source of support.
- Although she may appear calm and composed, not likely to give in to emotion as easily as the others, Chiriko is also strongly impacted by Meiko’s death. After Jinta had run off, and Meiko had gone after him, Atsumu had gone after Meiko, intent on a kokuhaku, but when Meiko says she wants to bring Jinta back first, Atsumu saw this to mean that he’d already lost. Atsumu had brought a hairclip that day, intent on gifting it to Meiko, but chucked it away in anger when he’d apparently been rejected. Since then, Chiriko had held onto the hairpin Atsumu had discarded and still wears it when alone, showing that even she has not gotten past what had happened.
- The depth of the writing in AnoHana is such that there is a plausible justification for why the characters act the way they do, and this is why the series’ characters, who prima facie appear quite unpleasant to one another, are worth rooting for. Along the way, their journey of recovery is a bumpy one, and numerous hurdles and setbacks appear, many of which also lead to the shedding of tears. Looking back, this was probably the main reason why I found it so difficult to write about AnoHana when I finished watching it a decade earlier.
- A year later, I ended up watching AnoHana The Movie, and with the new perspective offered by the characters, I was able to put together a more coherent discussion. The reason why AnoHana The Movie was easier to write for was because, since the characters had a year’s of time to reflect on things, they were able to reflect on old experiences with a newfound maturity. The raw emotional edge of the original AnoHana is exchanged for a contemplative look at things, and so, this made it easier for me to focus on what AnoHana had sought to do, in turn allowing me to put my thoughts on paper.
- The tradeoff about drawing themes from the movie, then, is that the rawness present in the original AnoHana is blunted: without any additional perspectives, the emotions that the Super Peace Busters go through hits viewers hard for when viewed for the first time, and this helps viewers to really feel the torment and guilt everyone has undergone since Meiko’s death. Here, Jinta, Naruko and Tetsudō prepare to read Meiko’s old diary, which they’d picked up while visiting the Honma family; Meiko’s mother had given it to them, and since then, the three promised that they’d only read it together. While the diary seems quite unremarkable, an entry from Meiko reveals something surprising. It turns out Meiko had wanted to make and launch fireworks with her friends.
- Feeling this might be the promise, Jinta puts in his fullest effort to make this fireworks show a reality, taking on two part-time positions (one at the store Naruko works at, and another as a construction worker) to secure the funds needed for materials and labour. A local fireworks maker agrees to the project, and together with the thought of being able to fulfil Meiko’s promise, Jinta slowly begins returning to the world. AnoHana provides a very optimistic message about recovering grief and accepting a loss – it is on his own initiative that Jinta stops being a hikikomori, and by working for something tangible, he begins returning to society. Jinta does have some trouble returning to school, but this is more of a consequence of his own doubts, rather than his fear of others or concerns about being judged.
- Earlier in AnoHana, Meiko had tried created the steamed buns that Jinta’s mother had been fond of making when she’d been still healthy, and found herself unsuccessful. When Chiriko had stopped by and given Jinta a few pointers, Meiko had evidently taken the advice to heart, and her latest batch of buns, in Jinta’s words, “taste precisely like his mother’s”. The moment gives Jinta a chance to recall an old memory; from what AnoHana portrays, Jinta had been on good terms with his mother and hated the fact that she was hospitalised. Spotting this, Jinta’s mother would ask Meiko to look after him, and even in death, Meiko’s been able to set in motion the events that ultimately help Jinta to recover.
- Meiko’s mother represents the individual who lacks the support to move ahead: while the Super Peace Busters push towards their fireworks project, she ends up convincing the fireworks maker to stand down. Undeterred, the Super Peace Busters visit the Honma family and learn that Meiko’s mother is filled with resentment that everyone else has grown up whereas her daughter will never know what lay ahead in her life. The others are unable to find words to answer, and even now, I would be hard-pressed to provide a suitable response to what Meiko’s mother says. With this being said, I hold a very specific set of views regarding life and death: I believe that those who live should conduct themselves in a manner as to honour the deceased.
- This is because, while people all have their own thoughts on what happens to the consciousness after death, the reality is that this is unknowable. However, one’s own life has factors that are known, and it is therefore in one’s interest to continue living adjacent to being respectful towards the deceased. This is what prompts the page quote – after a loss, one won’t be the same, and one should allow themselves the time to grieve, but at the same time, one should also remain open to any opportunity to recover. This isn’t something that Jinta and the others have been able to do just yet; old feelings linger, and this takes its toll on everyone.
- For Naruko and Chiriko, the impacts are most strongly felt because Jinta and Atsumu had both fallen in love with Meiko, leaving the former in the dust, and with Meiko’s death, both had believed that it was only now they might have a chance with their respective crushes. The reasons why Jinta and Atsumu hold onto their old feelings is a complex one, born out of regret and guilt, and again, AnoHana presents viewers with a situation that cannot be easily judged. Because of all the moving parts in AnoHana, one cannot begrudge the characters for acting in the way they do, and one might even make the case that criticisms of the writing direction here are not necessarily valid, since Okada had meant to create a scenario to accommodate a specific set of themes.
- Frustrations end up reaching boiling point for Atsumu, who believes himself worthier of Meiko’s presence, and at one point, he comes close to punching Jinta’s lights out. In this moment, Meiko intervenes and uses her old diary to communicate with the others. Having counted on Jinta’s word up until now, the Super Peace Busters had trouble accepting Meiko’s return. This sense of disbelief turns to surprise when Jinta invites everyone to his place to try the steamed buns Meiko’s made – to the others, the buns seemingly serve themselves and move of their own accord.
- For the viewer’s benefit, Meiko is always visible, but it would’ve been an interesting to see at least a handful of moments with Meiko hidden away to viewers. Meiko’s presence in the world is still felt: her embrace has a tangible feeling that leaves those she embraces feeling as though the air’s become heavier. With this, any doubt that Atsumu and the others harboured about Jinta being deluded and unable to let go evaporate. Atsumu remains resentful of Jinta, but even he consents to finally help out with the fireworks project – he and Chiriko end up appealing to Meiko’s father directly.
- While Meiko’s father had appeared quite cold and unyielding, seeing the state of Meiko’s mother suggests that he’s exasperated by her inability to move on. Meiko’s death had shaken the whole family up, and in the absence of any external assistance (e.g. counselling), the family’s been left in a difficult position. I would imagine that for Meiko’s father, seeing her old friends going to these lengths to honour Meiko gives him a push to forgive himself and his wife. There are some unresolved details in AnoHana that AnoHana The Movie addresses, and considering that I’d forgotten almost all of the details during this rewatch to the point where it felt as though I were watching this series with no a priori knowledge, I think it might be a worthwhile exercise to rewatch AnoHana The Movie, as well.
- One of the things that surprised me during this rewatch was the fact that Atsumu asks out Naruko; this had hit me out of the blue, and the dialogue suggests that Atsumu is drawn to Naruko because she knows the feeling of unrequited love and felt secondary to Meiko, similarly to how he himself always felt inadequate in comparison to Jinta. Chiriko overhears this conversation and is devastated. In many works of fiction, characters find it extremely difficult to be upfront about their feelings for fear of hurting others or disrupting the status quo, but at the same time, it is the case that shooting straight and being open means eliminating the uncertainty. Once how an individual feels is known, it becomes possible to respond accordingly. In this case, one must credit Naruko for having the courage to openly state she’s in love with Jinta.
- The evening prior to the rocket launch, Atsumu wants Jinta to re-enact the original moment that had led to Meiko’s death. In the time that’s passed, Jinta’s become a bit more mature and openly says that yes, he’s still in love with Meiko. His original answer was obscured, but to the other Super Peace Busters, they believe that things haven’t changed since then. The party disperses after – Naruko and Chiriko both share in their sorrow that the people they love don’t return their feelings. Meanwhile, Jinta and Meiko return home, and when Jinta asks Meiko what she makes of things, she replies that she loves the members of the Super Peace Busters dearly.
- It turns out that, in speaking to Jinta’s mother, Meiko had learnt about reincarnation and after her death, her spirit had looked forward to a new life. However, before Meiko could reach this, she wanted to tend to one final promise to Jinta’s mother, which is why she appears to Jinta specifically. This old promise has nothing to do with the fireworks, which ends up being a very expensive red herring for the Super Peace Busters, but without any other leads, they operate under the belief that setting off the fireworks would help Meiko achieve peace. Looking back, this was probably a bit of a shallower wish – AnoHana frequently alludes to the fact that Meiko is selfless, and in their haste to “help” Meiko, they completely forgot this central aspect to her character.
- On the day of the fireworks launch, Jinta begins to have second thoughts about fulfilling Meiko’s promise – he’s grown accustomed to her presence, and having her around is akin to being given a second chance with her. However, when the fireworks launches and detonates, releasing its payload of coloured smoke and flame, Meiko’s spirit endures. In this moment, it does feel as though all of the Super Peace Buster’s efforts have been for naught, and the group later believes that it was a consequence of their intentions being selfish: no one had genuinely wanted to help Meiko for her sake, but rather, because they had wanted her to rest peacefully so they could pursue their own relationships.
- Viewers thus have access to a bit of dramatic irony – Meiko later returns to the Yadomi residence and begins fading, indicating that the Super Peace Busters had miscalculated. The surest sign that AnoHana gives to viewers that the fireworks had not been Meiko’s wish was actually in the fact that the launch happens in the penultimate episode. The moment the launch was confirmed for the tenth episode, and in the knowledge that there are eleven episodes, it would become clear that AnoHana wasn’t quite done just yet, and this was meant to show how difficult it is to guess people’s intentions.
- While tears are never too far off in AnoHana, I found that the scene at the shrine was probably the most touching part of this entire series. Having spent most of the series composed and collected, seeing Chiriko lose her cool showed how hard she’d been trying to compartmentalise things and move on. This is ultimately what leaves the entire crew to break out in tears and openly admit what’d been bothering them for the past five years. I felt that everything in AnoHana, starting with Meiko’s reappearance and Jinta’s reuniting the Super Peace Busters, was leading up to this single moment. Over time, the members rediscover their old friendships, brought together by a shared objective, and in doing so, the old sense of trust and loyalty becomes reestablished.
- Eleven episodes later, the Super Peace Busters have become close enough to one another so that they can openly cry in front of one another and be upfront about what they feel. The sorrow in the moment is suddenly broken when Atsumu notices that one of Naruko’s fake eyelashes has become dislodged, and he laughs uncontrollably. This is something that is commonplace with children, and if I had to guess, it’s because the release of chemicals in the brain make all emotions heightened. Once the Super Peace Busters have a chance to laugh things out, they count on Jinta to bring Meiko back to their Secret Base one last time.
- It had been a rough road to reach this point, but by now, it is plain that Jinta has everyone’s confidence again, and seeing Atsumu address Jinta by his old moniker, makes it clear that he’s found newfound respect for Jinta. In this way, he’s no longer trapped by his past, and this also means that Chiriko now has a legitimate chance with him. In a way, Atsumu’s resentment towards Jinta was tightly coupled with his love for Meiko, so when Atsumu lets go of his dislike for Jinta, he’s also allowing his love for Meiko to pass in favour of what’s in the present.
- AnoHana had led viewers on a bit of a wild goose chase that concludes in a definitive and satisfying manner: the series expertly conceals things and only reveals as much as is necessary, and while the me of a decade earlier found it difficult to put things into words, in the present, I return to find a very heartfelt and genuine series that speaks to the strength of friendship: the Super Peace Busters of the present were able to overcome their guilt and regret together. The finale to AnoHana would lay out the remainder of the details, and tying everything together fully explains the reasoning behind why the story unfolded in the manner that it did.
- The combination of captivating storytelling and characters viewers warm up to, coupled with an unparalleled and moving message, means that I have no qualms counting AnoHana a masterpiece. My standard for what makes a masterpiece is as simple as it is unique to me – any work that either 1) changes my worldview or 2) makes me cry as a result of its execution will automatically qualify because it hit enough of the right notes and executed things well enough for me to feel very strongly about something. As memory serves, only one other anime I’ve seen has a similar level of emotional impact: 2007’s CLANNAD and its 2008 sequel, CLANNAD ~After Story~.
- Because Meiko’s wish was fulfiled, she begins to lose presence in this world: Jinta finds her on her side back home and resolves to carry her to the Secret Base, but by the time he arrives, Meiko’s presence is so diminished that she can only manifest as a voice. She makes it into a game of hide-and-seek, using the time to write out letters for everyone before coming to rest in a nearby clearing. Desperate to find Meiko, the Super Peace Busters head into the forest and ultimately find a pile of letters here. With a child-like innocence, Meiko’s words release any lingering doubts the others had prior to her departure; for each of Naruko, Tetsudō, Atsumu and Chiriko, the letters are the surest sign that Meiko’s forgiven all of them, and there’s nothing to be feeling guilt or regret about.
- The fact that Meiko becomes visible to everyone in AnoHana‘s final moments shows that the Super Peace Busters have reached a point where they’ve forgiven one another, and themselves, and in doing so, they’ve earned the right to see Meiko’s spirit in person. It’s a fitting ending to what was a very raw, emotional and tumultuous journey here in AnoHana, and once Meiko vanishes for good, the others return with a new outlook on life. Naruko and Jinta are on openly friendly terms, and Jinta returns to school. Tetsudō resumes his studies, while Chiriko and Atsumu become closer together.
- The observant reader will likely have noticed that on this day in May ten years ago, I wrote out my first episode impressions of AnoHana, and then in 2014, I returned to write about AnoHana The Movie; while the series’ song, Secret Base, speaks to reuniting ten Augusts into the future, the timing of when I originally watched AnoHana means that for me, May was the most suitable time of year to reflect on my thoughts of this series. Readers are free to give my old posts a read and see how this blog ran a decade earlier, although I won’t fault anyone for thinking that the me of a decade earlier had considerably less finesse and consistency when it came to writing. It suddenly hits me that one of my old readers and former bloggers had been interested to see what I thought of AnoHana, and I feel a twinge of regret knowing that it took me ten years to put this post out.
- Perhaps next year, on the tenth anniversary to my watching AnoHana The Movie, I will revisit the film and see if I gain anything new from another watch. For the present, however, this post is in the books, and for the month of May, I’ve got two more posts scheduled. I will be writing about my thoughts on Modern Warfare II‘s multiplayer mode now that I’ve had a chance to unlock everything of note and hit the prestige ranks; in previous years, I scorned Call of Duty for its player base and aging game engine, but my experiences recently have shown these thoughts were not necessarily correct. In addition, I’ve also begun watching the Uma Musume Pretty Derby: Road to the Top OVAs, and I imagine at least one of my readers have been curious to see what I make of where the Uma Musume Pretty Derby franchise is headed ahead of an upcoming third season.
One of the key elements of AnoHana that has been polarising, despite the anime’s generally positive reception, is how tears are never too far off. When used sparingly, and in the appropriate moment, tears convey to viewers the emotional enormity. When tears permeate every moment, the impact might therefore be diminished – AnoHana may even come across as being melodramatic, making mountains of molehills and ultimately, taking away from the moments that are really supposed to hit hard. This is, however, one perspective of things, and in its execution, the fact that every episode is so emotionally charged hints at how difficult of a journey things were for the Super Peace Busters: every moment and memory with Meiko is a painful one because it’s a reminder of what was lost, and the regret of not being able to do something differently that may have yielded another outcome. By featuring tears in such prominence, AnoHana indicates that the entire process is fraught with difficulty, and that tears are a necessary part of the healing process. That viewers report feeling the emotions almost as vividly as the characters do, then, simply speaks to how well-executed every moment is, and this aspect of AnoHana ends up being one of its defining traits. In the end, AnoHana does tell a captivating tale of recovery and facing down against one’s own dæmons, featuring a colourful cast of characters whose journey towards finding peace with the past is one that demands a modicum of patience from viewers, and rewards this with an especially moving message. Further speaking to the strength of AnoHana, this series has aged remarkably well – even a full ten years after I began my journey, the anime remains every bit as impactful and touching as I remember. As a bit of an aside, I had watched AnoHana a decade ago, but for reasons I cannot fully recall, I never did get around to writing about this anime in my typical fashion shortly after finishing. I did end up returning a year later to write about the film a year later, citing the series’ biggest strength as giving each member of the Super Peace Busters a shot at individual growth and indicating that it’d taken some time for me to compose my thoughts on things. Curiously enough, reading through this older post finds that many of my thoughts have not shifted dramatically even despite an additional ten years under the belt; this speaks to the strength of AnoHana‘s writing. However, I believe that here, I’ve finally managed to better articulate what I felt AnoHana to convey during its run, and for this reason, I’m glad to have taken a chance to go back and give AnoHana a revisit. Much has changed in the past ten years, but AnoHana has aged very gracefully, providing viewers with an experience that remains quite remarkable.