Animated by studio A-1 Pictures and they have done a great job. They are otherwise very hit or miss in most of their works and I am not fond of any of them. Directed by Nagai Tatsuyuki who has some really famous works in his roster (Honey and Clover II, Toradora, Railgun). He knows well how to handle light and romantic shows thus he was a perfect choice for this anime.
Ano Hana (yes, that is how I will be calling it) is a slice of life / drama / light comedy regarding growing up and leaving the past behind. It basically has to do with a team of friends who had to experience one of them dying. They broke up because of that, years passed and now the past is back to haunt them… Literally. The girl returns as a ghost and tries to bring closure to their sad pasts.
But don’t imagine this being some sort of supernatural horror show. Just like many successful anime, Ano Hana presents a heavy theme in a light way so everyone can follow it while feeling fluffy inside and without feeling emotionally crushed or confused. It is entertainment, why should you, right? Of course for the same reason it may feel silly since Menma is presented as a complete dumb and cheery airhear instead of a tortured spirit seeking retribution. Being presented as a cute erotic fascination for Jinta the shut-it, further made her look like a stupid eroge stereotype.
But anyways, aside from that it is a bittersweet story about old friends trying to rekindle their friendship after many years and leaving behind bad memories. It is nothing complicating in terms of plot and it is hardly original. Every single element in it feels like a lesser version of something I have seen elsewhere.
- Some kids playing Power Rangers and losing a friend, which creates a tragedy lasting all the way to their teens? Why be damned, that is the basic drama in Persona 2: Innocent Sin. And what a great story that was.
- Some delusional hikikomori trying to fix his life? I got ten times more in Welcome to the NHK. And what a great story that was.
- Goofy airhead loli? My, how original these days…
- Just check out most KyoAni shows/KeyVisual games out there to find the exact same stuff.
I can go on forever but down to it, story and plot are barely interesting and extremely easy to predict the finale. It is even ending in a rushed, convenient and magical sort of way, further ruining any hopes of being a bit down to earth. The resolution to the main conflict comes through the supernatural means of a goofball loli ghost, so you just can’t see this as a realistic drama to identify with. WHY ARE YOU CRYING, IT IS ABOUT A LOLI GHOST! It doesn’t really occur because the characters realized their mistake and corrected it; it was almost because of magic that they were offered them an easy way out (Clannad says hi). Oh, and as for the magic solution I am talking about, the whole show lasts 11 episodes only because Menma has (conveniently) amnesia to not be able to just tell everyone what she wants from episode 1. And is (conveniently) too stupid to just interact with her environment (something she could do all along) in order to tell them she is here from episode 1. But then the finale comes and (conveniently) the above no longer stand in the way. HOORAY! So as you can see the whole story is way too naive and ends almost like a troll. Thus I can’t give it a good score.
Since it focuses almost entirely on the mentality of the characters, it definitely is great at this department. Every one of the teenagers is fleshed out, but not too much to feel complicated and confusing to understand (this is a fluff show; remember?). The result is that you will like them but you will also not have anything much to remember them about since they develop only on a basic level. They are vivid up close but don’t stand out in the crowd.
Nevertheless, it is going to be an emotional storm for you if you are easily taken by overblown teen angst/romance. Me? Nah, I am an uncaring orthologist who looks things from a cold-hearted perspective. Since I had seen all that many times in the past and in far better variations, I was barely amused. Sure, if I could erase my memory or compare it only with shows that aired at the same season it is indeed a very good title amongst them. In a narrow-minded way that is.
Although it looks great in terms of production values to further bring out the bittersweet feel of the show, it is still quite basic as far as presentation goes. There is nothing interesting about the visuals, other than looking detailed and made with attention. Other than that, it is yet another everyday place with everyday people, and it barely looks as awesome as 5cm Per Second did. And the songs are not something memorable; they just sound nice and fit the mood of the show. And as usual, everybody looks like a fashion model or a sympathetic comedian because ugly or hated people don’t fit in escapism shows. And that is exactly what it is; a sugar-coated premise about cute kids and silly teen angst. It is indeed very easy to sit down and watch it in one go, but barely something worth thinking about after it is over. There is not much context in it, ok?
On the other hand it is very good for what it aims to be and the fans of the genre will definitely love it for its simplicity and direct hit at your emotional side. “It is so simple, it is good” so to speak. And the great production values contribute to that; average ones would never let it feel so good.
Down to it, despite the raving reviews and comments the series got, I am more than certain that it will be forgotten soon, simply because it is TOO basic and TOO simple and full of things you can easily find better elsewhere. As a whole the show is fine though and if you are not a comparison freak like me you will most likely love it for the fluff it is.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (loose)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little context)
Memorability 2/4 (fluffy enough to kinda remember it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Too light for my tastes but not a bad watch for its kind.