anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day anime series cover art
anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Series Overview

anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. / あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。) is a slice of life drama that originally aired back in 2011. It’s an extremely popular drama series and is known to make just about everyone who watches it cry (I didn’t).

But although this is a universally loved drama anime, I actually dropped it the first time I watched it. I don’t remember how far into the series I got back then (this was probably in 2016), but I think it was around episode 5 and I still didn’t care about what was happening.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back through all the series I’ve dropped, but this was one that I knew I’d probably enjoy now if I gave it another try. And as it turns out, I did like anohana this time around. The beginning of the series is still pretty slow, but the latter half definitely makes up for that.

If you don’t know what this series is about, the plot goes like this: There’s a group of childhood friends who drift apart after one of them, Meiko “Menma” Honma, died while they were in elementary school. Now in high school, the survivors are brought together once again after one of them begins to see Menma’s ghost.

Together, the friends attempt to figure out why Menma has returned and what they need to do to fulfill her “wish” so that she can rest in peace. Along the way, they also rekindle their old friendships and learn how Menma’s death affected the other members of their friend group.

There will be major spoilers throughout the rest of this review.

Menma’s Wish

When Menma reappears before Jintan, she mentions something about a wish that was unable to be fulfilled before she died. Unfortunately, Menma doesn’t remember what this wish is, so Jintan brings it upon himself to figure it out. And as other members of his old friend group are brought into the loop, they each put forth ideas about what Menma’s wish could have been.

This aspect of the series is what I would consider one of the weaker ones. We’re led to believe that Menma’s wish is something important or meaningful to the group as a whole, but that simply wasn’t the case in the end.

At least the wish Menma wanted to fulfill was better than what her friends assumed her wish was. They tried things like catching a rare Pokémon and shooting off a firework. I think if either of those were Menma’s wish, I would be completely trashing this series right now.

Meiko 'Menma' Honma crying from the anime series anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Meiko “Menma” Honma crying

In the end, Menma’s wish was for Jintan to cry. If you ask me, that’s a pretty lame wish after all the build-up throughout the series. Sure, there was a meaning behind this wish — Menma promised Jintan’s dying mother that she would make Jintan cry — but it was meaningless for every other character besides Jintan.

I was really expecting Menma’s wish to have to do with bringing the group of friends back together. It definitely would have been cliché if her wish was as simple as that, but I still think it would have been a stronger message; something about not letting her death push them all apart.

Maybe you disagree, but I just don’t think the reveal of Menma’s wish lived up to all the hype. My response to it was basically just, “Oh, that’s it?”

The Accident

The accident that led to Menma’s death is never explicitly shown or stated. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery. It might have been in the first episode, but I’m pretty sure that it was a scene in episode 2 that really gives you all the information you need to figure it out.

We see a slope leading down to the river and one of Menma’s shoes floating in the water along the bank (this is why Menma is always barefoot as a ghost). So how did Menma die? She fell into the river and drowned.

But there are actually a lot of other hints throughout the series that point to how exactly this accident happened. For example, we can assume that Menma’s initial fall down the slope towards the river occurred while she was bending down to look at or pick a flower. This is something we see her do multiple times as a ghost.

Then, one of the darker hints about Menma’s death comes when we learn that Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa, actually saw the immediate aftermath of the accident. All the other children learned of Menma’s death later, but Poppo actually saw her body in the water.

So when this is revealed, he asks Menma’s ghost if she saw something. We don’t know what it is he was asking if she saw, but my guess is that he was asking if she saw him looking down at her.

Why is that important? Because it tells us that Menma’s body was face-up and that she was potentially still alive when Poppo stumbled upon her. I don’t believe we ever got a definitive answer from Menma though, so my guess is that she was already dead by that point. And if she was already dead, she probably didn’t drown but rather died after hitting her head during the fall.

Character Traumas

Probably the best and most realistic parts of this anime is how it depicts the trauma that the various characters go through after Menma’s death. And since I just mentioned how Poppo was the only one to actually see the aftermath of the accident, let’s start with him.

Poppo definitely got the worst dose of trauma despite arguably being the least at fault for the accident — I don’t think anyone was really at fault. He had to witness the body of his dead friend floating in the river and then had to live with the fact that he froze up rather than attempting to help. And all this led to him leaving Japan and traveling the world in an attempt to run away from his guilt.

Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi and Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki both blame themselves for the accident itself that led to Menma’s death. Jintan called Menma ugly and then ran off, which led to Menma chasing after him and eventually dying. Likewise, Yukiatsu confessed to and was rejected by Menma right before her death.

But although they both blame themselves for the accident, their traumas manifest in different ways. Jintan became a shut-in while Yukiatsu began cross-dressing as Menma in an attempt to feel like she was still alive.

Naruko 'Anaru' Anjou from the anime series anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Naruko “Anaru” Anjou

The final two characters are Naruko “Anaru” Anjou and Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi. They don’t blame themselves for Menma’s death or their inaction to save her. Instead, they feel guilty for being relieved once Menma was gone.

Anaru has a crush on Jintan and Tsuruko has a crush on Yukiatsu. But Jintan and Yukiatsu both liked Menma. So once Menma was out of the way, they felt like they finally had a chance. I mentioned that I don’t think anyone is at fault for what happened to Menma, but these two are the ones who should feel the worst about themselves.

Plot Convenience

Aside from Menma’s wish ending up being lame, there is one other issue I have with this series: plot convenience. There were a few times within the series where things just happened to work out because it was convenient for the plot at that particular time.

The most egregious of these plot convenience offenses was when Menma could suddenly write down messages that people other than Jintan could read. But, Menma’s writing actually isn’t the main problem here, it’s instead that Menma’s writing opened a Pandora’s Box of other plot inconsistencies.

Menma being able to write messages to her friends was actually somewhat explained within the context of the series. She was able to write in her own diary within the Super Peace Busters’ hideout, but not anywhere else. This explains why she wasn’t able to write messages down earlier on.

But what it doesn’t explain is that when Menma writes in her diary, her interactions with the mortal world can suddenly be used as a form of communication.

What do I mean by this? Well, throughout the series Menma was shown to be jumping and climbing on other characters — and they could feel her doing this. She’s also able to pick up and move objects. So why was this never used to prove her existence to the members of the group who doubted her ghost was real?

If Jinkan really wanted to prove to Yukiatsu that Menma was nearby, he could have told Menma to pick something up and wave it around. We saw her do this type of thing multiple times, but it was never used as a form of communication.

That alone would have bypassed the first eight or so episodes throughout which Jintan was trying to convince the others that Menma was really there. So when I say it was plot convenience, I mean that not having Menma able to communicate with the others was convenient for the first part of the series, while having her able to communicate was convenient for the latter part.

And there was no real reason given for why she couldn’t communicate initially. The in-world explanation was simply that Jintan and Menma were too stupid to think of it — that’s literally what was stated after Menma finally writes something down.

Conclusion

Despite the two glaring issues I have with this series, anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is a 9/10 from me. It’s still an exceptionally good drama. And I’m actually glad I dropped it back in 2016. I appreciate drama anime much more now, and if I had finished it back then I probably would have given it a low rating and never rewatched it.

The OP and ED of anohana are both very good, but I think I like the OP more than the ED, which I’m sure is something many people disagree with. Yes, the ED is good, but I don’t find it to be as emotional as most people do. As far as emotional EDs go, I think Michishirube by Minori Chihara from Violet Evergarden is a much better example.

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