Clannad, Air, Kanon 2006, Angel Beats. Ask most people what the saddest anime of all time is and they’ll probably tell you one of these four. But some will give you a fifth answer: Anohana: the Flower We Saw That Day. Because this is a sad anime, as part of the story section of this anime, I will look at how well the ending pays off on the emotional attachment you get with the characters.
The Super Peace Busters, a secret group of childhood friends that carried out all sorts of schemes during summer break, such as playing hide-and-seek in temples, eating Popsicles, or playing Nokémon together. But after a tragic accident, the group split up, its members leaving to live their own lives.
Ten years later, the former leader of the group, Jinta Yadomi, finds himself reunited with a former Peace Buster, Meiko “Menma” Honma. She needs a wish fulfilled, and Jinta brings the old group back to help out their old friend. But along the way, old wounds reopen and former friends clash while trying to help their old friend.
Because this is a sad anime, Anohana’s main goal is to get you to cry at the end. Therefore, its set-up and character development are key. You need the set-up to deliver, in this case, the “onions”, if you will. While Anohana is a short anime and thus robs itself of time it could’ve used for its set-up, given what the show had to work with, it delivered well. Sadly, the ending did feel a little rushed and, while compelling, wasn’t as compelling as it could’ve been. Again, Anohana simply lacked enough time to meaningfully set up its onions and cut them too fast. You can get immersed in its story, but that can be a little difficult given its time constraints.
The Characters: In sad animes, characters are the means to an end. While the set-up is important, how fleshed out the characters are in relation to the plot is crucial as well. So, for this anime, I’m not going to look at the characters individually, but rather how they fit with each other; Anohana’s plot requires solid relationships, not necessarily solid characters. It’s in the clashes and relationships with the characters where you find the emotional attachment.
Fortunately for this show, the relationships between the characters, in general, is well established. The writers do an excellent job revealing how each character has dealt with the tragedy ten years ago, their desires, secrets, and regrets. The clashes between the characters highlight each characters’ secrets very well, and build up emotional tension at the same time. The writers build the core relationships between most of the members; the ones they do establish are important to the story and help prime it for the ending, but not every character is treated equally. While some of the Super Peace Busters get lots of development, some hardly appear or are even addressed. Considering that the show tries to link them all to Menma at the end, some of the characters and their relationships fall flat, but the most important ones do pay off.
Given its duration, Anohana nailed its ending. It built enough emotional investment and tension to illicit a tearful response from its audience, so in the end, it succeeded. What Anohana does, it does well. It’s not the saddest anime you’ll ever see, but it meets the minimum requirements for tear-jerkers and then goes a little further. If it was given more time, it could’ve been an incredible show, but was instead robbed of that opportunity. That’s not to say it’s a bad show; it just was deprived of the time to grow and bloom into the Flower We Saw That Day.
Final Grade: B+