Part ghost story, part love story and part coming-of-age tale, NIS America’s “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” is a touching drama about a circle of friends who lost their way.
The Super Peace Busters split up in childhood after the death of one member of the group, Menma. Now all high school age, they’ve taken different paths and barely speak to eachother. But then Menma appears to Jinta, grown up but maintaining her childhood innocence. She wants Jinta to grant her final wish, and he needs to get the group back together to accomplish that. Trouble is, she doesn’t know what that wish is.
Each member still carries some form of guilt over Menma’s death, and feelings come out — hard — as they tentatively, sometimes reluctantly, reconnect. It’s all complicated by the fact that Jinta is the only one who can see her, and despite her ability to manipulate objects, they don’t think to show the rest of the group early on.
The four-disc set (two DVDs, two Blu-rays) contains the complete series. There are 11 episodes, but even at that short length, the show feels a bit padded. As much as I enjoyed it, and even wiped away a tear at the end, I think it could have been a great, tightly focused two-hour movie.
But it was compelling enough to keep me watching the whole thing for the afternoon (it helped that this heat has turned me into a big hermit this summer), so I can’t fault it too much. It’s a nice break from the more fantasy-oriented shows or angst-driven teen dramedies that I review.
Yes, there’s some angst, but it’s revolving around something different, and it’s a refreshing take on the genre. It’s also a powerful story of friendship, and it’s interesting to imagine how they all would have turned out if Menma had not died and if they had remained friends. Or would they have split up anyway as jealousies played out or they discovered they just didn’t have enough in common to keep things going?
Each character is distinct and complete in his or her own little world, and it’s great to see how the show pulls them together and pushes them apart as they drift between old habits and new emotional defenses.
And it’s all beautifully animated, with fun character designs and some stunning backgrounds and use of color.
In more ways than one, it’s a beautiful series that deserves a look.