Series Review: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai

On the first look, Anohana seemed like a story about teenagers struggling with the death of a close friend, Menma, who came back as a "ghost" and had to rely on the help of her old friends so that she could "rest in peace". The underlying concept are the problems these kids already had at the time of her death; these are petty and childish little problems that could resolve themselves over time, but Menma's death amplified the problems and put a halt on any progress that could have been made, because the group pretty much broke up after the incident. The kids end up having to carry the emotional baggage for many years.

The interesting part is that despite all the efforts the gang put into helping Menma "go to heaven", Menma actually achieved more than anyone else by bringing the group back together and with that, and opportunity to resolve their problems. So, despite that the story begins with Menma's reappearance, most of the story had to do with the emotional baggage these kids had been carrying, not just the death of a close friend.

Unfortunately, while the early parts of the series made us hungry to know more about the possible reasons for Menma's reappearance, we were fed with the less interesting details of the other characters and the introduction to their personal issues. What's even more frustrating is how "physical" Menma is, yet unable to prove her existence in the most simplest way... which turns out to be entirely possible near the end of the series.

It's remarkable how little can progressed in a single episode. Even with only two episodes left to the end of the series, the end seemed to be nowhere in sight. But it's not a pacing problem; the ending worked out beautifully, and it didn't even felt rushed. The story simply took very slow but elaborate steps to play out a character's story. True, there wasn't much character development, but the character's background story are rich enough to be creatively played out throughout the series, and that was good enough.

The bigger problem here is how show can get a little melodramatic. It's not surprising that the characters would somehow deal with their problems all at the same time (for the sake of the climax), but it overwhelmed me for a bit and because of that, certain scenes does make me cringe.

Ultimately, much of the high score accounts to how the series ended. I rarely shed a tear for series nowadays, but I did for Anohana. Who doesn't? I couldn't really think of a better way to end this series except, of course, some Jintan x Anaru action, but we can only hope for an omake on that (dream on).

The animation is definitely one of the best in the season, and probably only lost to Hanasaku Iroha. Together with some awesome BGMs, it really helps to keep things interesting in the more mundane segments. Some of the dialogue fell short of expectations, and would had fell flat without the talented VA crew.

This would be the most difficult review I had to write. Anohaha is brilliant, but it's hard to really praise it for anything else except how it ended. The flaws are aplenty, yet the brilliant execution and direction of the story rendered that insignificant enough to enjoy the show as it is. Anohana is a pretty original series, and definitely highly recommended.

Plot/Concept: Very Good
Story Style: Brilliant!
Audio/Visual: Excellent
Value: 9