Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ano Hana - Anime Review

Main Title : Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.
Type : TV Series, 11 episodes.
Synopsis : Once, there was a group of close childhood friends. However, by the time they entered high school, they had grown apart from each other. These are:

Jin-tan - The hikikomori.
Anaru - She just wants to hang out with her girlfriends.
Yukiatsu and Tsuruko - These two are proper school-going students.
Poppo - Rather than enter high school, he had opted to do some travelling.
Menma - The one unchanging constant of the group.

One day, Menma meets Jin-tan and asks him to fulfil her wish. For this, these widely separated companions gather once more.
(Source: AniDB)

Plot: A very close group of friends have drifted apart over the years. All currently in high school, they have their own lives, disjoint from each others'. Until Menma, the only one who has not changed, asks Jin-tan to help fulfil her wish. The only problem being that she does not remember what that wish was, just that it involved all of them. Sounds kinda odd, but any more details about the wish and why all of a sudden will lead only to spoilers. The rest of the story deals with the six friends and how they come together, one by one, just because they want to fulfill Menma's wish. But it is not like a happy-hour-football-recruitment-scenario. Each friend comes with history and with baggage that involves all of them. There are tensions and unsaid words. The story unravels at just the right pace, so that its never too fast and never too slow either. There are not too many loopholes and a decent enough ending. It even has a few twists near its end as well. The story is not edge-of-the-seat material but it is not bland and rehashed either. Overall, an enjoyable experience.
Rating - 7/10

Characters: Under normal circumstances, one wouldn't expect much in depth character building in the span of 11 episodes, but AnoHana concentrates on these six friends (and a few more supporting members) and fleshes them out surprisingly well. The power dynamics, the tension and the friction, as well as the bonds of friendship binding them together are shown quite well. Of course its melodramatic a lot of the time, but never irritatingly so. Characters behave like real people mostly do. The driving point of the story is actually how different the characters seem initially and how the threads connecting them slowly come to light. I have seen better characterization, but this one comes close, especially considering the number of episodes. An added bonus is that neither Jin-tan nor Menma (both of whom share maximum screen time) are particularly emo. You can relate to the characters, appreciate them, and grow fond of them too by the time the anime ends.
Rating - 8/10

Animation: Gorgeous, to say the least. A lot of the scenes are outdoors, in towns and trains and forests, and even Makoto Shinkai would be proud of the sparkling clean scenes. They are beautiful, and the amount of work that has been put into it shows right from frame one. Plus, no two characters look the same (well, mostly). Ano Hana is a visual treat whichever way you think of it.
Rating -  8.5/10

Music: For me, this is where the anime aces. Soft piano based music used as an OST (reminiscent again of Makoto Shinkai movies) which never demands your attention. It is there and it is lovely. It's like the summer breeze. On the other hand, The OP and ED are awesome. Like, awesome. The music perfectly compliments the animation and raises AnoHana far above the average into something special.
Rating - 9.5/10

Overall - This anime is a tearfest. There are funny moments here and there (including right in the beginning), but they are never slapstick cliches. They are sprinkled like seasoning on an otherwise serious story, which makes them all the more heartwarming. Boosted by a decent storyline which (successfully) tries to avoid stereoptypes, AnoHana's will hook you in right from the beginning, which is quite important for a series this short. It is an anime about love, about promises, about growing up, about changing with time, about losing someone you love and about finding people again. But lastly and most importantly, it is about friendship.
Overall Rating -  8.25/10

AniDB Rating: 8.86
P.S. Do check out the OP and ED. They  are epic.