We all get to that point in our lives when we enjoy watching a show for the emotional impact the show has on us, a fact that has made shows like Clannad and Plastic Memories so popular. Anohana aims to become part of that genre, but unfortunately "Look how sad we are, everyone" is the only string to its bow. And due to previously established protocol for these reviews, thats not enough to base a show around.
The show tells the story of a group of kids that once hung out together all the time, until one of the members of the group dies, leading to the whole group becoming more and more distant. A few years later, the girl who died, Menma, comes back to the world as a ghost that only one of the other members, Jinta, is able to see. And so begins a quest to help Menma truly pass on, and bringing the group back together in the process.
Sounds like a pretty intriguing premise, right? And in the right hands it probably would have been well worth watching. Instead, we have Anohana, a show so focused on making people get emotional that it forgot all the important parts of the process, like making the characters actually likeable.
I would not be exagerating in saying that every character could be perfectly described with the words "Sad and also *archtypical adjective*". Anjous is sad and also a nerd. Atsumu is sad and also academic. Menma is sad and also dead. Jinta is sad and somehow also sad. The few times they aren't filling out archtypes and being depressed, their yelling at each other because apparently no one knows how to communicate with other people they have supposedly known their entire life.
Which is kind of the crux of Anohana's problem; its too busy beating you over the head with the "Be Sad" stick to actually give you a reason to get invested. Its so comically overdone that I would almost think it was trying to be ironic, if it weren't for the fact that there is no levity. Its either beating with the Sad Stick, or its making one or two characters be slightly happy for a bit in order to truly emphasize how depressed another character is.
I can't say Anohana is really that offensive of a show; it decided on a mood it wanted to have, and it stuck to that mood. But considering how much better it could have been made, and how much more impactful it could have been, I just can't see it as any more than some really sad pretty lights to pass the time.
(The sound design is pretty solid though, gotta give them credit for that.)