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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES:April 14 - June 23, 2011
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

Summertime sadness.

How does one deal with loss, as a child? I thankfully cannot answer this question, as I myself and my family have been lucky to have a relatively good bill of health when I was growing up. Anohana - the flower we saw that day - gives me a good idea of what growing up with grief might have been like. It's a character study slice-of-life series about dealing with the death of a loved one, told over 11 episodes of anguish-filled drama. If you're not interested in this, or it hits too close to home, I'd recommend against watching this series. Seriously, consider this a fair warning because Anohana does not pull any of its punches. For serious, close the tab and go about the rest of your life oblivious to the sadness herein.

For those who feel like carrying on, I'd like to welcome you to the Feels Train, now boarding for Depression town. I am your driver today, you can expect turbulence of the emotional kind. Those who watch this show may require counselling services, Random.access accepts no liability for any damages caused.

Anohana begins with a strong, sunny day and ends with a river of tears. Our lead, Jinta Yadomi, is visited by the ghost of his deceased childhood friend, Meiko Honma. This girl has come back from the grave, possibly as a figment of Jinta's imagination, and will only pass on to heaven if her final wish is granted. Problem is, she can't remember what her wish is, because otherwise, this series would be an episode long. Jinta, affectionately referred to by Meiko as 'Jintan', needs to figure out her wish, with the help of his childhood friends from whom he's drifted apart.

Jintan's former friends (including Meiko) formed an inseparable bond as kids - the Super Peace Busters. The show is set five years after the death of Meiko (nicknamed Menma), and shows us how the grief of losing her has caused the Super Peace Busters to crumble away. Jinta lives as a hermit, choosing to stay at home instead of going to school. He lives at home with his father, as around the same time Meiko passed away, so did Jintan's mother. Jintan has also fallen apart from his childhood friends: Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo. Each of them has been attempting to deal with the grief of losing Menma in different ways, each of them feeling responsible for her death.

One of them straight up bought a moped and traveled the world trying to forget her but kept ending up at the same secret hideout they used to play at, unable to let go.

At the beginning, it's questionable as to whether Menma is truly imagined up by Jintan, as a way of dealing with her death. Early on its seems Menma has some subtle influence over nearby people and objects. It's not until later on that she finds a way to communicate with others, lending credence to her existence. Jintan's natural team leader charisma allows him to convince the crew to get back together and work hard to fulfill Menma's last wishes so she can peacefully pass on to the afterlife and reincarnate.

She seems upset.

This attempt to fulfill Menma's wishes results in uncomfortable truths getting dug up, bridges are burned and relationships strained. A lot of this hassle and pain could have been alleviated if Menma moved an object or two in the presence of the others to convince them. All Menma would need to do is be a phantom Player 2 in a game holding a floating game controller and that's really all the proof they'd need, or for Menma to continuously open or close a door. It would take fifteen seconds of "spoooooky" shenanigans to sell that Menma is really there and that's it. It takes the anime a whopping eight episodes to bring this up as an idea, I would have suggested it from episode one. I would have been yelling at the screen if I wasn't watching the show on my phone in the rec room at work.

Another thing that grinds my gears is when characters are unable to ask plot progressing questions. You might think it's cute so see characters consistently miss golden opportunities to raise important questions but it's never been cute, so stop trying to be cute. If you want to ask Menma about the fateful day and what happened, just go ahead and ask her. Damn, it's irritating. Again, this eleven episode series could have been wrapped up more neatly in six, but at least it gives us time to learn how pitiful our entire cast of characters is.

The only reason to watch Anohana is if you just want to upset yourself with both how sad the story is, and how insulting the way it's told is. The script was also quite flowered up for the English dub, sometimes adjusting the entire meaning of scenes because the scriptwriter thought they could do better than the original. To be fair, the show is a fairly dry bit of material, so I probably would have done the same. Voice talent is decent, Griffin Burns is an excellent bit of casting for Jinta, and both Erica Lindbeck and Erica Mendez do superb performances as Anaru and Tsuruko respectively. The writing lets them down, but that's the fault of Anohana itself.

I'm glad this was made available on Netflix here in the UK, as I'd have been fairly disappointed if I paid out the nose for a Blu-Ray copy. That said, after having watched the show, I might be tempted to watch through once more in the Japanese with English subtitles, to see just how far the story was stretched by its English ADR director Patrick Seitz. I don't suppose my opinion will change on Grade A bleak soullessness I felt after finishing it the first time.

You don't need this in your life. You don't need more sorrow. I'm sure you're already quite downtrodden and beaten as it is. Anohana will only serve to make you more depressed. What is supposed to be an uplifting story turns out to be the animated adaptation of Gloomy Sunday... Or maybe do watch it, and join the sadness club. We have cookies but they're iced with my shit. [Editor's Note: WHAT?]

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