Six very close elementary school friends separated when one among them, Menma, fell to her death. They drifted apart and continued their lives, with their relationships left as a mess and the incident continuing to haunt them many years later. Jintan, who was closest to Menma, pretty much becomes a shut in, shunning the outside world and not working at all towards the future. Yukiatsu does incredibly well in school, and is smart and incredibly popular, but is unwilling to let his love for Menma go, especially as it ended on such an ambiguous note, leading to him sometimes having a somewhat demented personality and an apparent dislike for Jintan. Tsuruko stays close to Yukiatsu, and is in love with him, but can’t confess to him because his feeling for Menma would prevent anything from happening, and hence she becomes quite cold. Anaru is in love with Jintan but due to his new state of affairs can’t seem to approach him at all, leading to her going with the flow in finding a new group of friends that are somewhat sketchy, which ultimately results in a personality that ends up acting condescending and rude to Jintan, which greatly discomforts her. Poppo uses various means to travel all around the world, and using their old club house as his new base of operations, filling it with souvenirs and such, but he for various reasons feels somewhat responsible for her death and despite putting on a happy front is quite depressed about it on the inside and is constantly running from it. To put it frankly everyone’s state of mind is a mess, with no true resolution seeming possible. But then out of nowhere, Jintan suddenly seems to have gained the ability to see Menma’s ghost, and she wants him to grant her wish.
AnoHana is an anime that has a key supernatural element, but the supernatural element itself isn’t that important, as in it doesn’t matter at all how Menma’s ghost exists or the mechanics surrounding it, but more so in that it does exist and the effect that it has on the relationships of the friends she left behind. Her death ultimately led to a very strange set of characters with incredibly awkward relationships, and her reappearance forces them to come together once more, and strangely enough come to acceptance with her being gone. At it’s core, AnoHana is about moving on, and on that note it does that incredibly well, resulting in something that’s incredibly sad, but beautiful as well.
The story is told by slowly revealing the various characters involved, going back and forth between the past before Menma’s death and the present, to reveal their relationships and what happened on that day, until ultimately there’s a major reveal forcing everyone to truly deal with the issue at hand, bringing things that were buried to the forefront. This part is incredibly messy, or raw for lack of a better word, and then ultimately things get resolved and things end. The structure overall works very well, though in terms of proportion there was too long of a build up, leading to it feeling a bit too rushed at the end. Still, the ending itself was handled tremendously well, and brought out a very strong emotional reaction.
As for the epilogue movie that takes place one year after, a core aspect of the anime was the various characters moving on. All of them are pretty much broken during the first season but at it’s conclusion the expectation was that they would pick up the pieces and move on. Hence actually being given a chance to see them again, with new designs and outlooks on life that are much better than they were helps so much that it’s a crucial aspect and absolutely not to be missed. Now on that note, the movie is a retelling as well, but they do it through various flash backs, which works fine mostly, but the structure felt a bit off towards the end in terms of order. Still, overall it was exactly what it needed to be and a fantastic note to end the series on.
The art and designs were pretty good and the art and animation quality was good as well. The soundtrack was pretty good, as was the OP. The ED was fantastic however, both when it started playing right as it ended, and how it was transitioned to at the end of each episode.
A sad but beautiful anime about coming together and moving on.