I will try to be as logical as I can with this review, but allow me to say first and foremost, this is an emotional series. People who cannot get wrapped up in that torrent of melodrama and angst, probably won't enjoy the series that much. Then again, I'm not usually that kind of man, and I did fall in love with the bittersweet and tender moments presented in Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku0tachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana).
Story: 9 out of 10
As much as I want to just puff up my chest and give the series a 10, I just cannot bring myself to do it. Certainly not because the story was touching, and fantastic to watch, but rather because of some of the extras thrown in. Although it does its best to stay fresh, we are given several cliche scenes here and there that smudge its attempt at being a completely original series. However, this does not kill the storyline, as you are much too involved with the characters and plot to care much for that stuff.
We are thrown into the series when we see a boy named Jinta playing video games in his house ignoring a mousey girl behind him bugging him. Through dialogue, we are told that she is the presence/ghost/hallucination of Menma, a childhood friend he lost. After Menma passed away, his group of friends broke apart, and they largely stopped talking to each other. Through a random chain of events, a meeting with Poppo, one of the members, starts Jinta on an adventure that will ultimately pull all the children back together in order to send Menma on her way to heaven. There are of course, a lot of holes in the road on the way there.
Jinta starts off thinking that he was the only one affected by all of this, seeing as how everyone else was going to school, or working, and seemingly happy with their lives, and Jinta was a dropout bum who did nothing but eat, sleep, and play games. Through the course of his journey, he understands everyone felt exactly the way he did, and that he wasn't alone. This is one of the tender themes to the series, which they all felt isolated and ashamed of themselves for feeling this way, but together they were able to learn to recover.
The ending half of the series is all of the characters working hard to acquire the funds and permission to build a firework. Throughout the series, Jinta is trying to find ways to send Menma on her way to heaven, but they never have the right idea. It isn't until they remember that she had a wish they wanted to put on a firework to send up that they realize what they need to do. This causes panic in the group when it turns out to be the wrong wish, but ultimately leads to them fulfilling it.
The large things got me of course, but even the smaller sections made me cry and smile. Whether it be characters slowly turning from calling eachother their proper names, and reusing the nicknames used as children, to intricate webs of emotions that span throughout the group. Everything in this series holds a special place in my heart.
I won't give anything away, but in the last 2 episodes, I found myself, a grown man, crying almost straight through the series. Was it because the show was just that sad? Yeah, I think you could say that. However, to me, the story had another hidden message tucked away. For those of you still young, when you become an adult, it is only natural that your best friends will grow apart from you. It is a disgustingly honest truth that the people you hold most dear to you, will most likely fall away as jobs, love, location, and general life come between you. This series hit me where it hurt by reminding me of all the good times I had with my group of guy friends, and how those days are over. I'm not saying that it's like having a friend die, which is one of the worst feelings in the world. But it did make me look at my own youth fondly, and saddened me that being an adult is so much tougher than back then. I believe this series to be a very good one for people in that mindset.
Animation: 9 out of 10
As with most series that take place in the physical, modern world, it is hard to easily judge animation. With most anime series, we can talk about the sprawling architecture, or incredible fantasy world, or action-packed fights, and so many other things. In series like this, you need to watch more for the camera work and little things.
One of my personal favorites are the melodramatic scenes. The dialogue gets a bit cheesy for people (several reviews claim that they cry too much/easily, and it is unbelievable. I have no comment on this), but I believe the scenes themselves to be beautiful. Drawn out moments of crying, placed intricately with moments of silence, as if the characters themselves are too emotional to think from a proper "script".
All in all, AnoHana has wonderful graphics, but won't be the best you've ever seen. Crisp, clear, and gorgeous. It is the base-level that all "good" animation should start at.
Sound: 9 out of 10
Whenever I rate sound, I usually step back and focus on the soundtrack, the OP and ED songs, and the voice acting. For AnoHana, the soundtrack was well-thought out, the OP and ED songs average, but the voice acting is where my rating took from. Expected from a melodrama series, the voice-acting is top notch.
The scenes where characters have their breakdowns or breakthroughs exhibit some of the best dramatic voice acting I've heard in a long, long time. Whether it be the touching soft crying of Menma, or the head-thrown-back wails of Jinta, the voice acting absolutely gave me chills at every occasion.
Characters: 10 out of 10
Characters is what makes AnoHana what it is to me. The plot of AnoHana was charming, and fun, but I certainly knew from the very first episode that this is a series devoted completely to character. The series presents itself as Jinta, the fractured one, and everyone else, who is carrying on with their daily lives. You feel for Jinta at first, but quickly, we join him as other characters show themselves to be broken too. At this point, we realize everyone is just as hurt as Jinta, and it makes the storyline all the better at this point. I loved all the character so much, and will quickly give you a summary of each.
Overall: 9.5 out of 10
Overall, this is probably my worst review, because I was so emotionally invested in the series, I cannot even think about it properly, heh. I understand many will bash this review for its lacking of technical merit, and many will be able to point out the flaws the series has so quickly, but to me as a person, this series is damned-near perfect. I laughed, and cried, and felt so strongly for make-believe characters that I was taken-aback at times. I love this series, and I hope everyone out there can enjoy it as much as I did.