Sad girls in the… afterlife?
Well, here it is, folks – my favorite show of the season. By FAR.
Ano Hana isn’t without its problems. The first scene of the first episode was awful. I wanted to drop it right then, but I try to at least make it through two episodes of each show I check out, so I kept watching. And what a pleasant surprise it was, as from there it only improved.
Ano Hana has some flaws. The loli fanservice, while reduced in the second episode, is jarring and sleazy both times it happens. Our resident ghost girl, Menma, acts like a five year old, although admittedly she did die young… at the same time, though, her physical appearance has aged since her death, so we aren’t meant to think of her just as having not aged past the point at which she died. There are some distasteful male gaze moments.
Yet, overall, Ano Hana is… good. It has heart, which maybe isn’t a great descriptor, but its the best I can come up with. You don’t get the sense that its the cold calculation that is applied to KeyAni shows like Kanon or Air (which, yeah, I loved, but when I step back and look at them more seriously, I realize there seems a curious lack of soul) on display here. What helps is that the production staff actually seems to understand the characters and care about them. And maybe, too, its that the tragic circumstances aren’t hinted at coyly like they were in Air or Kanon or Clannad, but instead we are told what happened from the get-go: Menma died when Jinta and his friends were young. And given the flash to a shoe floating in a river, it looks like she drowned. We aren’t strung along by a sick need to know what, exactly, the awful occurrence in their youths was. Its nice once in a while to have an anime play it straight with me.
It just all rings true. Jinta initially looks to be another forgettable shut-in male lead, but his hesitation upon opening the door and seeing his neighbors in the street was palpably painful. Anaru’s request for Jinta to just return to school was done in a manner which demonstrated that as simple a request as it sounds, its a really huge one for someone like Jinta.
I’ll admit it: watching Ano Hana is kind of like jamming a lit candle into an open wound for me, but I really like it, and I certainly like it much, much more than any of the other currently airing shows. A friend of mine passed away when I was in college, and it pretty much shattered my group of friends, so I can relate to the kids in Ano Hana. I’ll also admit that, because of that, it is possible I’m being too easy on Ano Hana. But I do really enjoy the thoughtfulness with which the characters are being handled, and, really, how the entire thing is being handled. Outside of the unfortunate loli fanservice moments, it doesn’t feel crass. I don’t feel like I’m being deliberately manipulated by the proceedings. Its like… someone actually gets what they’re writing about.
Of course, all that aside, Ano Hana has Nokemon, so, geez, obviously a great show we’re dealing with. Nokemon, which is made by Rindendo.
Over on Moe Sucks, in the comments section of his post on episode two, E Minor remarks about how useless the father appears. I would suggest that the father actually just doesn’t really know what to do about Jinta. Jinta is shown to be a very take-charge kid when he was a child, a very energetic one as well, and this contrasts sharply with his antisocial persona of the present time. The father makes Jinta food and is also very obviously excited when Jinta brings an old friend home with him one evening; he clearly cares about his son.
Hmm. Who knows. I may end up blogging this. But we’ll see; thus far I’ve only successfully blogged one show (Shiki). Poor Horou Musuko – believe me, its not you, its me!
EDIT: By the way, I forgot to mention that I love the OP, both music and animation.