Today we’re going to be looking at a series written by Okada Mari, known for her screenwriting work in such series as Black Butler, Basilisk, Simoun and Black Rock Shooter, and produced by A-1 Pictures, who worked with her on the Black Butler projects as well. This is an anime I’ve heard about several times both from friends and from my youngest sister, who likes to cite it as an example of yet another anime where “Cloud” (Sakurai Takahiro) cross-dresses and chases a childhood love interest. Those seem like pretty specific character traits considering how often they reoccur in characters he voices. This is Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, which I’m just going to call Anohana.
The story is pretty simple. We have our protagonist, Jintan, being visited by the ghost of a dead childhood friend, Menma. I promise that isn’t a spoiler. You find it out pretty much right away. Anyway, he has to reunite with his old group in order to find a way to send her spirit on to the afterlife. This is one of those rare stories that manages to have a really good blend of heart-warming, comedic, light-hearted and serious moments. Most pieces of media that attempt that kind of emotional range just end up falling flat, or having scenes that drastically clash with one another. Another aspect that I really liked about Ano Hana is the ending. I won’t spoil it, so let’s just say that it was a crowning moment of heartwarming and leave it at that.
Now, before anyone thinks I’m getting soft in my old age, let me go into a pretty serious problem with the anime. The love trian… pentagon. Seriously, the amount of “she likes him but he likes her and blah blah blah” among the six major characters, including Menma, is both idiotic and contrived. Here’s the thing. A lot of it is working off of childhood crushes, when the characters are at an age where most crushes last all of a week in reality. I know, an unrealistic element in a ghost story, who would have guessed? The whole love pentagon is still really (x 10 to the 9001st power) stupid, not to mention annoying. What makes it worse is that the entire purpose seems to be to give them a reason to come back together as a group, in spite of Jintan being the only one who can see Menma. That was the best they could come up with? Childhood crushes that have managed to subsist because the plot said so? Honestly, I can let the lingering feelings over Menma pass, since the tragedy with her might very well result in a fixation, but when five of the six characters are all romantically linked, it just gets absurdly contrived to the point where it takes you out of the story. This isn’t a small element either, it’s a pretty big plot tumour.
The characters in this are actually really strong. Even the minor characters have verisimilitude and dimensions. The character dynamics also work pretty well, with the exception of the aforementioned love pentagram. Which, is a big character issue as well as being a problem with the story. When Ano Hana does something badly, they do it so badly that it affects multiple aspects of the series.
The art in this is really good. The characters, backgrounds and assorted objects all have really nice, dynamic looks.
This has some great voice actors. Irino Miyu, Hayami Saori, Sakurai Takahiro, Kayano Ai, Toyosaki Aki, and Tomatsu Haruka are all fine actors and they give good performances. The music is also really good.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. This has no yuri.
So, how does Ano Hana hold up? Pretty well. the biggest problem it has is the ludicrous love pentagon, which is really annoying. That aside, it has some great moments, a lot of goofy fun and some really good characters. My final rating is going to be a 7.7/10. I do recommend checking it out in spite of that plot tumour.