「あの夏に咲く花」 (Ano Natsu ni Saku Hana)
“The Flower Blooming on That Summer”
Two weeks ago, I dreamt up Anohana’s finale. It was completely random and unexpected. Sadly, I also completely forgot about it, and I wish I hadn’t. Partly because it would’ve been hilarious to write about here, and interesting to compare it to the finale we’ve come to today. Such a storm of tears with the emotional weight of a freight train has inevitably left me battered, like the stillness you experience when your mind is still processing a shock, and it takes a little while just to take it all in. But you know what? They pulled it off. They really did.
Due to Menma failing to disappear last episode, the cast calls together a meeting to discuss what actually went wrong. Was it the wrong wish? No, said Anjou, we were simply being selfish and caring for ourselves. Yes, said I, someone finally understands what has been going on! Yukiatsu pipes up, at his wits end as well, with some confessions of his own. One naturally lead to the other as the entire cast based their hidden motives on each other, and once the cork was popped open, the truth swiftly poured on out. This, was the first right move that had me nodding my head in agreement. Ten episodes of unchanging characters HAD to have the change on the last episode, and not 3 minutes into it, the beans are finally spilled. Without the secrecy, the cast can finally move on, even unveiling some final secrets about the two seemingly underdeveloped characters.
Tsuruko’s relationship to Menma was closer than it appeared, but she was simply made into a worse Anjou, which strikes me as interesting to look at if you were trying to, but in the end, didn’t really add too much variety to what Anjou’s troubles signify already. Poppo, on the other hand, was a gamble to me. The sudden 180 turn he made into a deeply troubled individual who happened to see his friend’s sandal (maybe body? wasn’t made clear) felt unfortunately rather out of character given his character impression so far. Yes, I’m aware that these types of characters do work, but Poppo suddenly swearing and sounding like a depressed individual after THAT good of an act all those years? They could have toned the seriousness down a little bit. On the other hand, there were hints dropped in previous episodes that once you think of, make his sudden outburst more believable. Like his odd persistence in asking to see Menma too that I remarked was a little weird? The guilt he feels explains that. Then again, why feel so much guilt over seeing a sandal? It’s not like he watched her die without doing anything right? Well, maybe he did, and I just had terrible subs. So take that point with a grain of salt. It would’ve been an easy plot point to fix anyway.
But yeah, beans spilled, everyone telling their hearts out, the things they kept within themselves since they were kids, and that weight that’s been holding everyone back is suddenly released. It’s one of the best feelings in life, I’ll tell you that. They finally laugh at something stupid, and more importantly, they laugh as a group again, with a child’s innocence they once had. And with that comes a pure motivation to finish what the whole series came to do in the first place, to let Menma move on. Criticisms in this case would be that they went the safe route. It was expected, and it was done, and to be satisfied because the show didn’t go off the rails is not something worth praise.
In returning to Menma’s state of daze, her wish is finally revealed because she remembers, if only because the wish had already been granted. In the end, the wish ended up being about Jinta, and his inability to show emotions while his mom was stuck in the hospital. This development was really interesting to me, simply because of how much speculation over the course of the series was pissed away due to it. She didn’t appear for the Super Peace Busters at all, it wasn’t because she wanted them to get together, but in so being there with Jinta, it inevitably happened anyway. Since it was such a huge part of the story, the idea that the whole thing was merely a peripheral plot to Menma’s mission is pretty awesome.
While the wish is rather broad, it was quite the endearing wish as depression hits close to home. Jinta’s mom wanted him to snap out of his depression and feel emotions again, from the broad range of laughing to crying, and Menma couldn’t carry it out, thus explaining that day, the planning, and everything. It works. By now you’re thinking, well no shit, original stories like this are planned with a conclusion in mind you know. Yeah, but how many times has that actually worked out? Again, because the plot ended up being rather simple and broad, tying it up well isn’t exactly a great feat. Just keeping it real.
The last act, while almost had me in tears, almost (letter scene and beyond almost had me), admittedly did border on forced drama at some points. The antics of the group with the shouting and things had me giving odd looks, but having been to a couple funerals myself, it’s hard to label it as cheesy when you’ve seen it first hand. It was a heartfelt bowtie on the story that is Anohana, a gentle satisfying ending to ease the minds of the characters (and the viewers), and an applaudable send-off for Menma. You get your throwback scene to the characters finally looking like they were as kids again, and of course, Menma being able to be seen and have her feelings reached out to everyone one last time before she disappears (her last words still give me shivers when rewatching). Kind of like the ending to GHOST, where Demi Moore finally sees her husband Patrick Swayze, who was a ghost the entire film until the end when he finally goes to heaven. There was the light behind him and everything, so I guess the sunlight behind Menma represented heaven as well. Then comes the epilogue, where everyone moves on satisfied with their past, and the scenes showing hope that the girls might actually get their love returned. A very strong finish, the epitome of a satisfying ending, and with a little afterthought, bittersweet.
When starting off Anohana, I had the problem of expecting something absolutely brilliant. Like, Fight Club brilliant. I don’t know why I do that, maybe it’s because the first episode simply blew me away, but I like to be optimistic, which is funny, because I also like to be cynical. I like to think that the next anime that shows promise will end up absolutely amazing, and may even change my life a little. Stupid way to think. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It’s a letdown when you come to realize such great titles don’t come every season, perhaps even every year, but that’s just how media flows.
So Anohana didn’t become the most flawlessly riveting innovative look on drama as a genre. They didn’t go for that. They didn’t want to. When you step back and look at the show, it was simple. And that’s okay, no matter how much I wanted more from it (which through this post, as you’ve come to notice, is my biggest beef with the show). I mean, it did have kinks and bad plot devices to make certain things work the way they wanted it to, so the writing wasn’t devoid of holes, but with the finale’s direction, it became clear what the writers thought was most important in the story, and these essential ideas came through perfectly.
Anohana is a lesson on life, and the narration in the epilogue cements this fact. People often trap themselves in ignorance thinking, “these problems are so stupid, why couldn’t they just do this and this? It’d be so much faster.” Mind you, while I made a similar argument about Menma’s physical abilities, that was one of the devices I felt was poorly thought out. I wasn’t looking for a quicker solution on the character’s problems, but more so on the ones that were obvious that they were just there to conveniently bridge the gap in developments at points, throwing away believability for the main plotline to work. It’s a thin line that I’m walking, but I hope you can see the difference.
Because past the line, if you were to say, “why couldn’t the characters just talk to each other and tell the truth earlier? Stupid idiots, blah blah forced drama”, then you would be ignorant. Problems always look stupid on the outside because we’re not actively living with them. News flash, humans ARE stupid. We are flawed when it comes to emotions, and it’s the only thing holding us back (some philosophers might say). But, it is what makes us human. It may be what makes us weak, but it is also what makes us strong. Anohana conveyed the human struggle with emotions very well, and is definitely the show’s leading strength.
Of course, having such a strength, even being one of the main points, still can’t make me ignore the things that were lacking. Menma could have been more captivating or even interesting considering how important she is to the story, and while this may have just been a personal problem, I felt her lack of taking things seriously coupled with childish behavior was a jarring aspect of the show. I could never take the show completely serious with a character like Menma around. Considering this is a drama, I’d say that’s a huge problem. Thankfully, she was great in the final scenes. There’s more, but this post is getting way too long already, so if you see them, great, you’ll understand the show more to cast your opinion. If not, well, you’ll enjoy it that much more.
Anohana started off amazing, turned out to be lacking in areas, but with a finale that only focuses on what’s important, turned out convincing enough to see what they were going for. Recommend? Definitely, yes. Rewatch? Probably not.