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Anohana Episode 11 – Too Many Tears

Since my start as an anime blogger on antiotaku, I’ve found several benefits to the role. Aside from simply finding an outlet for my writing, approaching a series from a more analytical perspective has led me to research shows in ways I wouldn’t normally do, and find insights about the reasons certain things in a series are the way they are. By having to look at most of the series coming out each season, I’ve found hidden gems in shows I would have dismissed if I had just reviewed the synopsis. And I find the takedowns I write whenever I have the dubious honor of reviewing a terrible show to be vindictively amusing.

But it does leave me with a problem: As I cover a series episode by episode, the natural tendency is to overanalyze everything, looking for potential flaws and holes in the narrative. By becoming more critical, I have trouble enjoying a show for what it is, and appreciating its value as entertainment. So I come to the end of Anohana, probably the best show of this season, and a part of me is still very disappointed by it. And maybe that’s my problem, not the show’s.
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Anohana Episode 10 – Left Behind

This episode covers the final day before the fireworks and the fateful launch itself, and once again Anohana shows a mastery of developing several plot threads while keeping seemingly everything in stasis. Of course, the rocket launch and fireworks display wasn’t Menma’s wish and she stays around after it happens—that shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is surprising is which people seem stuck in the past and which are ready to face the future.

It’s Menma’s family who seem to get the most out of the fireworks, perhaps because they don’t know about the ghostly Menma trying to move on from this world. Her younger brother Satoshi shows up to help with the launch, and her mother finally begins to accept support from (and her obligations to) the rest of her family. For the past ten years Irene has walled herself in a fortress of her own grief. There’s some hope that through the actions of Jinta and the rest, she’s finally been forced outside of it.
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Anohana Episode 9 – Ghostbusters

Last time Anohana took the controversial step of having the ghostly Menma reveal her presence to the rest of her friends, providing definitive proof that she wasn’t just a figment of Jinta’s imagination. At the time, it seemed like a really good move, providing proof that Jinta wasn’t insane and giving a reason for everyone to listen to him. The central complaint his friends offer is why he didn’t offer this proof earlier.

Of course, Jinta was only half-convinced at any given time that he wasn’t hallucinating, so he wouldn’t want to test the situation just in case he was proven wrong. The question is why Menma didn’t reveal herself earlier. And this episode provides several hints about why she might have been right not to do so; while her confirmed existence gives the rest of the group a reason to come together, the deeper problems they have aren’t helped by knowing Menma’s ghost is present. If anything they grow worse.
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Anohana Episode 8 – The Indispensible Link

For those who suspected that Menma’s mother would serve as a major plot impediment, it looks now like she won’t. The fireworks project of last episode is more or less completely disregarded this time around, with its narrative usefulness at an end. It served its purpose of exploring the themes of responsibility and the limits of adulthood, and got Jinta working. So now the show is ready to move on.

The narrative of Anohana continues to be multi-layered, with several themes vying for the viewer’s attention at any given moment, and all getting equal time. This makes the show fascinating for the audience but, as I’ve said before, frustrating for a reviewer, who has to pick and choose some theme to focus on while knowing equally important aspects are getting left out.

This episode, for example, focuses on the dual themes of parenting and survivor’s guilt (both of which have been touched on before), and intertwines them to the point where it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. It’s a particular skill of the show that this sort of presentation is the norm rather than the exception.
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Anohana Episode 7 – The Sky’s the Limit

I set last time that Anohana was about the cast coming to accept the responsibilities of adulthood; this episode, the cast learns about the limitations of adulthood as well. Just becoming older doesn’t grant adults with the seemingly mystical level of freedom that children imagine they have. Jinta and the rest come to realize this as they make their latest attempt to fulfill Menma’s wish.

Despite getting ahold of Menma’s diary, the group promptly realizes that a kindergardener isn’t the most insightful of writers. But they do discover a half-forgotten project that once enraptured their imaginations: building a rocket to deliver a message to God. Now that they’ve gotten older, Jinta, Anjou, and the rest understand what a difficult undertaking they have ahead of them.
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Anohana Episode 6 – Forget Me (Not)

We all have memories we’d rather not have, embarrassing moments that we wish we could just block out, and preferably make everyone else forget about too. Adolescence, also known as the period of constant embarrassment, can generate these moments on a daily basis. But in a culture as shame-based as the one in Japan, these sorts of events can permanently alienate students. Once ostracized, it’s really hard to reintegrate.

That’s the pressure Jinta faces as he tries to return to school for the second time this season. He expects a repeat of what happened in the first attempt, that is, to be met with some degree of derision and mockery for his previous behavior. No matter how much he works to reestablish himself as a model student, he’ll always be that kid who was a shut-in for several months. This time, however, he finds that everyone has forgotten him in favor the latest target of shame—and he finds himself frustrated by the fact that everyone forgot the thing that he desperately wanted them to put out of their minds.
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Anohana Episode 5 – The Hole in Our Hearts

Anohana is one of those brilliant shows where seemingly nothing happens in an episode, and yet so much is going on beneath the surface that it’s impossible to capture it all in writing. Episodes five and six have such strong thematic and narrative ties and it’s difficult to separate them, but there’s enough in each episode to justify separate posts for each.

Matsuyuki, readers will recall, did not end episode four looking particularly good, but the show is far too sympathetic to its characters to prolong his misery for very long. Instead, his situation becomes emblematic of the fate of every one of the cast, left adrift in a world without Menma. This episode might have him recover a bit too quickly, but if it does, it’s only because there’s so much ground to cover with the rest of the cast.
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