Get the hankerchiefs out!
AnoHana is the story of a group of childhood friends who have drifted apart over the years, predominantly due to the the death of their mutual friend Menma - an integral member of their group, the bewilderingly named 'Super Peace Busters'. One morning many years in the future, Menma appears as if she had never passed away in front of Jinta. Unfortunately, she's only visible to him. She informs him that she wants her wish to be granted before she can pass on, and the story takes off from there.
It all sounds rather simple but as the story continues, we find out about the complicated web of emotions that caused the group to break apart as a result of Menma's premature death. Themes of parental grief, jealousy, love and angst are abound as we delve in to the traumas of the main characters. Sounds like fun, right? Well fortunately, the story has many light-hearted moments scattered in the drama and manages to wrap everything up very concisely in a briskly paced 11 episodes.
So what criticisms do I have? From the outset, I almost decided to stop watching because the characters seemed too cliche and the dialogue overly melodramatic. But I think you have to set aside that and get involved with the melodrama, because it's a lot easier to get caught up in the story that way. The characters are sweet and adequately well developed, albeit some more than others, but the story unravels in a predictable fashion. The story dips in the middle but soon picks up, and I was really holding back the tears in the final episode. I think that's really the point of the series, it tries EVERY trick in the book to ellicit a response from the viewer, but it works. This isn't an anime series to critically break down and analyse; it's a wonderful series for when you want to snuggle up in bed, forget about your troubles and have a bit of a cry.
I enjoyed it and have got to admit, it made me cry on several occasions. More cries per episode than any other anime I've watched, in fact. That's good value!