”Childhood friends are forever right?”
High school drop-out Yadomi Jinta wakes up one summer day with a loud and very clingy girl by his side. She is his childhood friend Meiko Honma, also nicknamed Menma. At first, Jinta believes this is just his stress manifesting itself, but he is soon proven wrong. Truth be told, Menma died in an accident 10 years ago and she is back requesting Jinta to grant her wish.
In their childhood, Jinta was the leader of the Super Peace Busters, a little gang of six adventurous children with the ambition to protect the peaceful life they lead. But the death of Menma has Anjou, Jinta, Poppo, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko all drift apart.
Menma seem very keen on having her six childhood friends gathered, but what she is unaware of what has happened since her accident. For Jinta, Menma’s death leads him to seclude himself from the outside world while Anjou tries desperately to pull him back to reality. Yukiatsu and Tsuruko remain close much thanks to their devotion to school, but frankly they are really lonely. Poppo however seem to be the one that is most carefree, balancing work with travels.
When Jinta is convinced he needs to help Menma with her wish, the Super Peace Busters gather once more. However, not everyone is doing it for the sake of Menma’s happiness…
Judging it from its first appearance, this anime seem to be very much like a mash up of Honey & Clover and Kimi ni Todoke. And I can assure you that it is. Both character design and animation in Ano Hana strongly resemble its predecessors. The correlations do not end there. The opening song Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei, describes not only a lost time all our characters miss, but it also tells the strong bond they once shared. A perfect describtion of a complicated story with all its characters somewhat trapped in their past.
The character design is as expected from Animation. All are simple on the outside, but with many confusing issues dwelling on the inside. Because of this, our main characters are easy to understand, although at first glance they may seem much too complicated. Each and every one of them is realistic enough for the audience to relate to; like Anjou, who tries to reach out to both her surroundings and herself, like Yukiatsu trying to come to terms with his feelings towards Menma and the others, like Poppo so carefree yet determined or like Tsuruko, the responsible one that watches over her friends.
At a young age, all these children are forced to deal with the death of a friend. Instead of being drawn closer to each other, they distance themselves and grow up denying their past and the accident that took their friend away. The story is not only about how these children grow up, and constantly become reminded of Menma, but also about how much of a complicated love story it grows to be as the story closes in to its end. In all its turmoil of feelings the plot is well planned. Although written by different people, the viewer is never to be confused.
Although it might be easy to think this is another love drenched slice of life series, I’d say it also delivers a message of coping with reality and of letting go. There is something magical about Ano Hana, something magical enough not to be missed. What it is, you need to watch to find out.