Anohana Episode 4 – Anything You Can Do, I Can(‘t) Do Better
I wondered when reviewing last episode what Matsuyuki’s broader plan was in claiming to have seen Menma down by the river bed. As it happens there wasn’t much of one; after the group comes back empty handed, he simply moves on, claiming that Menma (the Menma he saw) told him that they shouldn’t keep making such a fuss about her, and should return to their normal lives.
While it doesn’t make any sense if one takes the Menma sightings seriously, Matsuyuki is betting that no one does. By presenting a counter-narrative to Jinta’s, however, he’s disrupting his rival’s claim to be the leader of the group. And by working to get the rest of the gang from thinking too much about Menma, he’s doing his best to reserve her memory (and memorialization) all to himself.
Matsuyuki clearly doesn’t believe that Jinta is really seeing Menma, so it’s natural for him to view the proceedings as some form of power play. Unlike Jinta (and Menma), he’s perfectly fine with the status quo as it is, and he’s betting that everyone else is too. He’s treating the situation like a childish game of make believe. And in such games, reality is determined by majority vote—and he believes that the rest of the group is looking for an excuse to stop “playing.”
Jinta’s only recourse is to more firmly insist on Menma’s (ghostly) existence, which Matsuyuki treats all the more contemptuously. Yet Jinta, despite already having a reputation for being a little mentally off, pushes forward anyway. He’s opening himself up for further humiliation, but he has to serve as a voice for Menma.
At least, that’s one way of looking at it. Another way is that Matsuyuki really believes in his own Menma, a Menma of his own creation, with whom he has the private, exclusive relationship that Jinta had with the real one. Some of his lines indicate that he sincerely believes that he’s talking to Menma, although this could just be him being somewhat dramatic.
Regardless, Matsuyuki does not just have a bunch of Menma-like clothing at his disposal, but also is willing to wear it; he was the “ghost” who spooked Poppo last episode, and he tries the same trick this time around. This time, however, he’s made the mistake of having too many searchers looking for him. Despite almost getting away, Tsurumi calls him out as a fake Menma, and in the resulting panic he lets himself get caught.
I’m a bit surprised Matsuyuki’s various collection of neurosis received so much attention this early into the show—I know there are only seven episodes left, but that has me wondering what the writers intend to do with them. Perhaps, after resolving Matsuyuki’s delusions next episode, we’ll move on to Tsurumi’s inner life before resolving the love triangle of Menma, Jinta, and Anaru.
And Tsurumi certainly is a puzzle in herself. Privy to Matsuyuki’s purchasing habits for a while now, she knew what he was doing from the moment he claimed to have seen Menma. But she waits to call him out on it, first until she has him in the act, but also, it seems, because she wanted to test Jinta’s resolve first. Tsurumi’s made it clear that she doesn’t believe Jinta’s claims about Menma. But after seeing his willingness to confront Matsuyuki a second time, she switches over to Jinta’s side.
Does this mean the Tsurumi also had secret feelings for Jinta? Feelings that switched to Matsuyuki temporary, when he was acting more Jinta-like? Feelings that have been reawakened with Jinta’s newfound assertiveness and will further complicate Jinta’s already fraught relationship with Anaru? Quite possibly. Or she could have a completely different motivation. Of all the characters, Tsurumi’s personal life has been kept the greatest secret.
What is clear, however, is that she’s tired of putting up with Matsuyuki: tired of his Menma obsession, tired of his Jinta obsession, tired of his delusions caused by continued feelings of inferiority. Matsuyuki seems to have built his life around proving that he’s better than Jinta. Yet, even after having accomplished that goal, he still can’t move on.
Maybe being caught in women’s clothing masquerading as a dead love interest will serve as the needed first step for that. As I said, Anohana defied my expectations by bringing this up so quickly, so I honestly don’t know what will happen next. And I’m quite okay with that. Perhaps given the tendency of other promising shows this season to give into cliche, I’m happy that one show is still willing (and able) to surprise me.
You can watch this episode here.