It’s felt like forever since I was recommended to watch this show via the Readers Recommendation poll. To tell the truth, I actually finished watching Anohana over a month ago, and I’m already halfway through the next Readers Recommendation show. I never wrote about this series because by the end of it all, my feelings were all over the place.
Was it good? Was it bad? Did I enjoy it? How were the characters? Honestly, I wasn’t able to answer any of those. The only thing I could confirm was how the ending made me feel: incredibly depressed, but I already knew that was likely, given many of the shows fans already warned me to ensure I’d had an iron wall built around my emotions before diving into it.
And after spending a lot of time thinking about Anohana and my feelings towards it, my feelings on the show are still divided. It’s alright. It’s average. Sometimes I enjoyed it. Other times I found myself bored to tears.
The series kicked off to a great start, sucking us in to an emotional tale of an isolated high school student, Jinta being haunted by his past, quite literally, in the form of the ghost of his childhood friend, Menma who died when they were young. It sets itself up to be a real tear jerker, and I was looking forward to seeing some really high emotional stakes throughout the narrative.
And while the show does provide us with that quite a bit, it wasn’t enough.
Because unfortunately, Anohana is packed with a lot of slapstick humour, something I wasn’t particularly fond of. I don’t mind jokes. Jokes are great. I don’t expect a series to be all grim dark and super serious all the time. But the abundance of jokes in Anohana was ridiculous, and things often got so silly that I forgot I was watching an emotional tale about dealing with the loss of a loved one and overcoming the grief that takes over from that loss. To top it off, the jokes aren’t even that funny. They’re stale and throw the entire atmosphere of the show completely out of whack.
That being said, when Anohana takes itself seriously, it does a fantastic job. There are some really touching moments sprinkled throughout the series and almost all of them hit me right in the feels. The ending in particular was just really depressing. I bawled my eyes out for a good few minutes as the ending credits rolled.
So in the end, I suppose I was definitely connected enough to the narrative and its characters to warrant such a reaction.
Speaking of the characters, they were what kept me interested most of the time. While the story itself had its fair share of ups and downs, the cast were all likable and I found two of them in particular to be extremely relatable.
I saw a lot of my teenage self in the protagonist, Jinta. He’s alone, he barely interacts with others, and he’s a shut-in who spends most of his time cooped up in his room playing video games to escape his own harsh reality. As much as it pains me to admit it, that used to be me. When I first started high school, I did the exact same thing, minus the skipping classes. As such, I found myself rooting for Jinta and found his character to be extremely likable, it was a real treat and was more or less the reason for most of the enjoyment I got out of the series.
Then there’s Poppo, the other character I connected with a lot. While his role in the story isn’t as major as Jinta’s, I found myself relating to him through his love for travel. In an attempt to escape his grief over the death of Menma, Poppo drops out of school entirely and makes the bold decision to leave his life behind and travel the world with nothing but a backpack and a trove of memories. This is something my girlfriend and I have recently found myself having a passion for, and as such, I saw much of my current and likely future self in Poppo. It’s a small thing, but it made all the difference.
As for the rest of the cast, I found them likable. Including Jinta and Poppo, they were all fairly archetypical, but in the end they were fun and engaging characters who acted like a real group of lifelong friends, and I appreciated the interactions they had together, especially when the emotions were raised to their highest intensity.
The visuals were fairly mixed this time around. The character designs were pretty good, but aside from Jinta and Menma, they were fairly generic and didn’t stand out too much from other titles. The colour palette of the show was alright, but a little basic and often far too vibrant. The show also didn’t get a chance to showcase much impressive animation, but considering the kind of show Anohana is, it’s not that big of a deal.
The soundtrack was pretty great though. I can’t fault it. It hit all the emotional beats perfectly and did an excellent job at setting the tone be it melancholic of comedic. The opening theme is also pretty fantastic as is the ending theme.
In the end, Anohana made me feel things, but it could have done so much more than that. Sure, I was sad, but I wasn’t as connected as I’d liked to have been. The timing of its comedic moments was poor, the humour was bland, and the narrative was fairly uneven because it refused to give more focus to what really mattered. But when it did focus on delivering the emotionally engaging part of its story, it did so with grace and succeeded brilliantly.
It’s just a shame it didn’t get its priorities right. We could have had something, Anohana.
The next Readers Recommendation has already been decided. The next show I’ll be giving a shot is Kill La Kill!
Interested in my scores for Anohana and other Anime titles? You can find them on my horrendously incomplete MyAnimeList page.