Ahhhh, it feels good to get back to episodic blogging. Since the only show I felt passionately about last season was claimed by comrade Mystlord I decided to try and do editorials every week. Didn’t really work out. My true calling when it comes to writing blog posts lies with episodics and happily the noitaminA slot has delivered a great show. I was quick to claim this one for myself. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shirani, or AnoHana for short, had for me by far the strongest first episode of anything this season. The premise is this: six friends who used to spend their time together years ago have split up after the apparent death of one of their groupo, drifting apart and changing over the years. Now in high school one of them, Yadomi ‘Jintan’ Jinta has stopped going to school and seems to have had some sort of nervous breakdown. As the story opens this summer he starts seeing either a stress-induced delusion or a ghost of the girl who died, Honma ‘Menma’ Meiko. She isn’t making him seem any less troubled to those around him but Menma seems to be here for a purpose: to fulfill a wish she had during the summer she died, one that can only be granted by gathering all of the old friend together again. Even with only one episode, this is already a touching drama that I’d describe as having touches of Honey and Clover and even a bit of Welcome to the NHK.
From left to right: Hisakawa ‘Poppo’ Tetsudou, Anjyou ‘Anaru’ Naruko, Yadomi ‘Jintan’ Jinta, Honma ‘Menma’ Meiko, Matsuyuki ‘Yukiatsu’ Atsumu, and Tsurumi ‘Tsuruko’ Chiriko.
The show opens almost like it’s a completely different kind of show, more reminiscent of other shows A1 Pictures has done, with Jinta playing video games, cooking, and eating while Menma clings to him like some sort of VN adaptation-typical imouto character. That is until we figure out after a few moments that only Jinta can see her. His dad is oblivious to Menma, and then when Anjyou ‘Anaru’ Naruko shows up to drop off Jinta’s homework in an annoyed fashion it’s shown again. (A note: from here on out I will not be referring to her by her childhood nickname. It’s…um… rather ecchi and I don’t know how the author really could have thought to use that as a character name. Google it in katakana if you haven’t connected the dots to the English word already.) This visit is another key point since we find out that Jinta has stopped going to school and that relations between the two former friends are rather strained anymore. Naruko tells him he should be ashamed of how he’s living now but then seems to regret her words.
She’s like a ghostly, white-haired Hagu!
Naruko: owner of that unfortunate nickname and DAT SHIKI HAIR.
Begin SPECULAH on exactly what sort of apparition Menma is.
Some pretty shots of the down in both landscape and object focus. Though Hanasaku Iroha by far has the most beautiful animation this season (and was the other show I considered blogging.)
Menma convinces Jinta to go talk to Naruko again even when he says that she’s changed into a different person from who she used to be. He’s clearly not comfortable going outside and tries to disguise himself , and you can see how strange he looks to his neighbors when he greats them and then yells “shut up!” at the girl only he can see. Jinta’s situation and hallucinations are what has been giving me the Welcome to the NHK vibe, the way he walks around outside avoiding people and their gaze like Satou did in that series. Eventually he ducks away from the main street and people he might have known and ends up talking with Menma near some train tracks. He’s already had one flashback that shook him when Menma yelled out his name at home. Here there’s another, slightly more detailed one when she falls off the post she was balancing on and we get a clearer picture of what might have happened to her. He dives to catch her and its then that Matsuyuki ‘Yukiatsu’ Atsumu and Tsurumi ‘Tsuruko’ Kiriko come by. They’re dressed in the academic-prep high school uniforms from the school Jinta would’ve gone to if he hadn’t abandoned his studies. Yukiatsu seems to treat Jinta with contempt now, speaking of Jinta failing his entrance exams and going to a low-tier school with disgust. Tsuruko seems to try and restrain him but obviously seems to be close to him now despite his arrogant airs. But when Jinta accidentally mentions Menma’s name in explaining why he’s there there is definitely a reaction from Yukiatsu.
Quite a nice shot when Jinta reaches out to the flowers Menma had picked after his flashback, panic, and dive to catch her. I like how she is just there but not quite within his reach while her flowers also scatter from his hand as a metaphor for his memories and her reappearance to him.
Another touch I liked was this billboard. It’s not clear whether this is for some sort of counseling service or perhaps just a marketing slogan but it seems to fit his mental state, strained relations with his old friends, and how he won’t talk to anyone about it.
After his two old friends leave, Jinta talks to Menma about how how everyone has changed but that he’s changed the most. And it’s a sad moment when he tells her that he doesn’t want to talk to her because she brings back memories that he wishes he could forget.
Menma seems to disappear from Jinta’s side but he does recall the memories of her last summer. Jinta seemed to lead his group of friends when they played on a mountainside and hung out in a disused shack together. They seemed like the idyllic days of being young grade school students, and even had a make-believe group called the Super Peace Busters, kind of like some sort of sentai TV show. Things were good until Naruko pointedly asked Jinta if he liked Menma, with a look of embarassment and jealousy. He blushes and is taken aback when Yukiatsu presses the point with a tone and look that seems to challenge and mock the group’s ‘leader’, presaging some of the dynamic we saw between them years later. Jinta is so embarrassed he blurts out that there’s no way he’d like an ugly girl like her but quickly regrets this even though Menma only smiles. He then bolts out of the shack with Menma calling after him and then we return to the present. Menma has returned to her family’s home and is noting how her father and brother have grown. Her mother offers a bowl of curry to a shrine to her memory even as her brother says that she should stop. It sounds cruel coming from her brother but she doesn’t seem to mind. When she nudges against the table a glass of water falls over, which adds another factor to the question of what exactly she is now. Jinta meanwhile regrets his words to her and starts running to find her, wishing to have the ‘tomorrow that never came’ to apologize for what he blurted out years ago. During and after the credits we then briefly see Yukiatsu sighing and uttering Menma’s name, followed by Jinta going to the old clubhouse/shack and finding Hisakawa ‘Poppo’ Testudou perhaps living there…and with a stack of porn laid out on a table too.
Her mother still remembers and remains dedicated to Menma’s memory even while her father says nothing and her brother almost seems to resent remembering his sister.
Menma visits her old home independently of Jinta, so I guess it’s safe to assume that she’s an actual ghost. Unless she’s a literary device and is serving as a narrator of some sort.
Another nice shot, the cinematography is not bad in this show, if a bit more conventional than I would like for this kind of story. This one also reminded me of a shot in Honey and Clover when Takemoto is standing on a bridge looking out at the copper works in his hometown.
Final Thoughts: - The OP song and sequence was great. Just from watching that I knew that this show would be something special. It really captures the mood of the show succinctly and with some nice visuals as well. Nice use of blank backgrounds for several shots, some cool transitions, and a few moving or wobbly ‘camera’ perspectives too.
- A note on fansubs: As of my writing this post there are two groups subbing AnoHana, [gg] and UTW. While I (deservedly) criticize most of [gg]s subs over the past 2-3 years or so, they do have one good team that doesn’t seem to be part of their outright changes to jokes to ‘localize’ them, poor word choices in selecting English equivalents for Japanese words, and outright trolling or inaccuracies. Sorry, but changing the contents of the original text isn’t translation. The AnoHana group seems to be the group that did seasons one and two of Kimi ni Todoke, so you can go with them. I watched their version first since it was the first one I saw on TokyoTosho. I can definitely say that their version of AnoHana is fine, but I like the UTW subs a bit more. There were a few very minor mistakes in the [gg] version that UTW doesn’t have, I like UTW’s word choices better, there are more subs for things written in the background, and they have original Japanese/romanji/English TL karaoke for the OP and ED. Both groups released good, accurate subs though, so it’s mostly a matter of what sort of details you like in your subs.
- I’m really looking forward to more of this show. The feeling of the show, and Jinta’s situation in particular, is a wonderful mix of sorrow and nostalgia, opportunities and loss. It feels very genuine in the emotions it conveys and how they’re conveyed by the characters and it has a decently sized cast to present things from various perspectives. I’m also quite interested in the Naruko-Jinta-Menma-Yukiatsu love-polygon that seemed apparent from the characters’ past and present actions. Should be a great show.