Title: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai aka Ano Hana aka We Still Don’t Know The Name of the Flower We Saw That Day
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 15 Apr 2011 – 24 Jun 2011
Synopsis: After the accident which took the life of Honma “Menma” Meiko, the surviving childhood friends which made up the “Super Peace Busters” broke up, and gradually drifted apart. Several years later, her ghost appears before Yadomi “Jintan” Jinta, who was the leader of the band, but had withdrawn from society and become a hikkikomori. However, since she cannot be seen by anyone else, Jintan’s insistence of her reappearance only reopens the old wounds that the rest of the former childhood friends have been harbouring since that day…
Magical realism: Uses supernatural elements in a way rarely seen since the Key adaptations.
Characters: Mostly sympathetic with believable flaws and motivations, save one.
Story: Subtly melancholic and unfolds nicely for the most part, but…
Pacing: …Becomes a tad erratic towards the last quarter, which…
Ending: …Leaves some unresolved questions, and turns into overblown melodrama at the end.
A production by the same team behind the highly-regarded Toradora!, Ano hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, or Ano Hana for short, is an original work by the prolific scriptwriter Okada Mari which dives headlong into the “magical realism” genre, exemplified by the Key adaptations like Kanon and CLANNAD. Keep in mind the level of suspension of disbelief works of this genre typically demand, and what one will get out of Ano Hana is quite a decent story, which unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to its vast potential.
Being a tale revolving around a tragedy suffered by one of its main characters, Ano Hana does a very good job of showing how the decisive incident had affected the other characters, and how the fact that each of them were unable to let go of the tragedy in their shared past drove them to deal with it in their own ways. This makes for a cast of sympathetic characters, each with unique quirks and underlying motivations, which interact with each other quite seamlessly… apart from the one character which the whole story revolves around in the first place. Indeed, in a cast of more or less well-developed personalities, it is Menma which comes across as something of an anomaly, being simultaneously a childish and an idealized figure which everyone else somehow loved unconditionally, despite being rather flat as a character.
The way that the story unfolds, showing the conflicts between the former childhood friends as they slowly come together and come to terms with the guilt they feel for their lost friend and their own selfish motivations, is also done very well for the most part. The thought processes of each character are revealed subtly, and although the character growth of the whole cast isn’t entirely consistent across the board, none of the characters really miss out on the fleshing-out. The fact that all this is done gradually and with just the right touch of drama makes Ano Hana a very interesting watch… up until the point when the reveal occurs, and the pacing from that point on becomes rather erratic. This ends up leaving some unanswered questions about the situation and the less-than-logical actions taken by some of the characters, and at the very end, the series capped off with a bout of excessive melodrama, which did what had been an excellent series up to that point no favours whatsoever.
In the end, Ano Hana is not a bad series in itself, but the slow collapse at the tail end of the series left it a pale shadow of the great potential it could have had. Okada has undeniably great talent as a writer, but one has to wonder whether she would benefit from some revision in the basics, given how similar Ano Hana‘s collapse was to her earlier work, True Tears. Yet despite that, Ano Hana remains very much worth the watch; there’s no denying the great writing of at least the greater part of its run, nor the heartfelt feelings it did bring out in both the characters and the audience.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Ascaloth