Alternate Title: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
Encompasses: Complete 11 Episode Series
Published by: Hanabee (Australia) | Nippon Ichi Software America (North America)
Based on: Original Anime Series
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life, Tragedy
Audio: Japanese Dub
Classification: This title has been classified as M for Infrequent Coarse Language
Special Thanks: Hanabee Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this release to review!
The self-proclaimed Super Peace Busters, a group of six childhood friends, drift apart after the death of Meiko “Menma” Honma. Ten years later and everyone is still coping with their grief over the loss. Jinta Yadomi, the leader of the group, has now become a recluse, a shadow of his former energetic self.
But one summer day the ghost of Menma returns, aware of her passing and needing Jinta’s aid in helping her fulfill her wish so she can cross over. But in order to do that, the members of the Super Peace Busters need to reunite and confront the ghosts of their past.
Anohana holds a rather special title on The Otaku’s Study as my North American Anime Release of the Year 2012 awards. This follows on from it being published in North America last year by Nippon Ichi Software America as part of a Premium Edition set and walking away with an S-Grade in its review. While plans for an Australian release were a complete mystery at that point in time, anime publisher Hanabee announced during Supanova Gold Coast 2013 that they have acquired the rights to the series and would be publishing it…. tomorrow. Therefore as I have a copy right in my hands I have decided to do a quick re-review for the sake of accuracy. Most of the rewriting will cover additions and omissions made in the Australian release – with original scores where possible being retained. After all…. any noitaminA series that can best Usagi Drop isn’t going to be dropping in my opinion rankings any time soon.
Several years prior to the events of the story in their childhood, the series six main characters were a close group of friends who often hung out with each other – going as far as to form their own group “The Super Peace Busters” and laying claim on a secret base. After the death of Meiko Honma (Menma), one of the members of the group due to an accident they had drifted apart and for the most part lost contact with each other. The de-facto leader of the group Jinta Yadomi (Jintan) had since become withdrawn from the world until one day when a girl resembling Menma appears before him wanting him to grant her wish.
While at first believing her to be a fragment of his imagination, he soon understands she has come to him to have a wish fulfilled. Conveniently she does not remember what this wish is so through many events he uneasily reunites with the other former members of the group Naruko Anjo (Anaru), Tetsudo Hisakawa (Poppo), Atsumu Matsuyuki (Yukiatsu) and Chiriko Tsurumi (Tsuruko).
While you only see the characters original personas through flashbacks, it is clear that each of the characters have been affected by Menma’s passing and dealt with it in many different ways after all these years. While Menma’s plot is the most important to the story, the episodes spend a significant amount of time rekindling the relationships between the characters, revealing their feelings towards each other in the past and present all while striving to achieve the goal which will allow Menma to pass on into heaven.
Comparing and contrasting the characters through flashbacks were well implemented and the progression of the storyline ensured that every episode was filled with interesting dialogue and more prevalently… emotion. Throughout the first ten episodes, there were several scenes I found that sent chills up my spine from characters reconciling to another tidbit of information revealed about Menma – but the eleventh and final episode was the kicker. There are very few episodes in anime that I have wept over in recent years, but the final episode of anohana successfully had me bawling my eyes out in response to it – from the actions of the characters to the events that occurred (and even after several re-watches still manages to bring a tear to my eye).
While they could have done with another couple of episodes to really develop the characters, the 11 that are standard for noitaminA titles were used well to amply develop the charaters and set the overall plot. As with many noitaminA titles they generally come down to personal preference but to me it was a highlight and is still one of the more moving storylines I have seen.
Unfortunately with Australian anime releases, it usually goes that only English dubbed anime have the potential for toeing the line for a blu-ray release. I am a little bit disappointed that Hanabee had to conform to this as the series really looks superb on blu-ray. The studio A-1 Pictures did a brilliant job at providing a detailed world and strong character designs. The character designs are well detailed and the characters in particular can undergo several clothing changes an episode (The artbook even details all the ones for Jintan). But even more-so than designs, the characters emotions and personalities are expressed very well through their facial and anatomical animation. The setting of the series works well with the intended storyline, but even more so provides world both vivid and well detailed – and couples well with the character designs.
Music / Voice Acting
anohana comes attached with very strong opening and closing themes/animations. The opener “Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei” suits the series well and provides strong animation. The opening is shadowed by the ending sequence “Secret Base – Kimi ga Kureta Mono (10 years after Ver.) by Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu, and Saori Hayami” whom also voice Menma, Anaru and Tsuruko in the show. The animation is pretty, incorporates the “Next Episode” preview well and for several episodes will start playing just before the end of the episode which helped build upon the emotion already presented to the viewer. While this is not anything new for an anime series, with this song in particular it is one of the most effective incidences I have seen of an ending theme being used during the episode. The remainder of the music in anohana is light and simple, but goes well with what is being delivered in a particular scene.
While I would be interested to see how company would handle an English dub of anohana, as with all other NIS America anime releases the series comes with only a Japanese dub with English subtitles (Add an extra pout from me as this could be a reason why it never recieved what I consider a well deserved Aussie blu-ray release). The Japanese dub nevertheless is pretty good and features solid voice acting across the board.
Extra Content / Packaging
While Hanabee’s release does not come with all the fancy packaging of the NIS America premium edition release such as the artbook or fancy hardcover packaging, I think one element of the physical packaging was superior. I was actually quite fond of the CD artwork in contrast to the North American release. The first disc features close-up imagery of the six characters as children walking left across the disc and the second features Menma, Anaru and Tsuruko in a visual style similar to that of the ending. While points can neither be given or taken for CD design alone, it was a nice touch.
In terms of on-disc goodies, aside from the omission of the online episode previews they are pretty much identical. The on-disc extras in this release include:
- 2x unsubtitled TV Adverts (30 seconds / 40 seconds)
- Clean Ending Theme (Look below for my rant)
- Trailers for Kids on the Slope, Mysterious Girlfriend X, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Hakuoki – Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Now for that rant I mentioned above. When I loaded up Disc 2 I had the thought in my head “If this has a clean version of the actual ending sequence I will be very satisfied”. I go to the extras menu and find “Clean ED Theme”, and after my heart skipped a few beats I found it was the first episodes ending sequence. While I have nothing against the first episodes ending and do think it is rather nice song…. I was left underwhelmed that it said Clean ED Theme was not the main one. Although granted I am unsure how they would do so given there isn’t a static version of the ending (Many episodes alter it depending on how long the song goes in the episode).
Ranting aside, ignoring the omission of a couple of extras from the North American release the goodies are a simple yet nice complement to a great series.
As I said in my first review, Anohana is one of my favorite anime releases from NIS America to this day as well as one of my favorite noitaminA series. I am expanding that to being one of my favorite Hanabee releases as well. The series may not be to every viewers tastes but to me it was an interesting and in some ways beautiful storyline filled with emotional and heartwarming scenes – as a group of friends reconcile to grant the wish of their friend while solving their own issues.
This is a series I could happily recommend checking out, and I hope that in the future NIS America and Hanabee contemplate licensing the movie set for release later this year that is set to retell the story from Menma’s point of view and hopefully shed some further light on plot not covered completely in this series.