Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai 01: F.R.I.E.N.D.S..Sort Of

While I wouldn’t count this show as being a stirring pot of teenage drama and waterfalls of tears just yet, it does bring out a lot of subtle qualities you’d come to expect from its genre. It honestly hasn’t been since Clannad that I’ve been exposed to anything remotely as emotional as this show is leading on, and it’s only been the first episode. It’s fantastic in the sense that the potential for this series to really shine is so high out the gate, but it’s also a little unnerving because the show could completely flop if the story isn’t executed consistently well for the next eleven weeks. Despite that, the first episode earned my two thumbs up and is shaping up to be quite the potential tearjerker/heart-tugger for the season.

(I must have a thing for shows like this about close friendships, as if you couldn’t tell from the similarities between the screen cap above my Honey & Clover banner for this site =P)

AnoHana tells the story of six childhood friends who have grown up and apart from each other; but unlike most ‘normal’ instances, a special circumstance has pushed the six of them to be distant and sometimes cold to each other. Jinta, once the optimistic leader of the group, has become very much a house dweller, and daydreams/hallucinates about his friend Menma have indirectly caused him to either be shunned or misunderstood by his other now-distant friends. Naruko Anjo, pictured above, was the first of the friends shown outside of his day-in, day-out life house life to somewhat explain why Jintan’s basically given up the friendships he’s had.

After gathering up enough courage to go outside for a bit and unintentionally yelling at some elderly women outside instead of directly at Menma for annoying him, he runs into Atsumu and Chiriko walking home from school. Whereas Naruko shows more of the “I despise you but I still care for you” attitude toward Jinta, Atsumu just simply dislikes the guy at this point. Chiriko’s always been beside Atusumu and has always kept him level-headed, so she tells Atsumu to try and understand Jinta’s situation a little better. Still, at this point, we’re given vague reasons as to why none of these past friends no longer seem to get along.

Enter childhood flashback! Three-quarters into the episode and we’re given a little more insight as to why Jinta seems to be so attached Menma, regardless of whether his friends thought he liked her back then. It certainly helped to justify why we needed to see three-quarters of an episode of Jinta dragging his feet about life and getting verbally smacked around by his old friends. It also made the feeling of Menma’s still vague situation more important to viewers in another key scene later, and leaving us wondering just what the heck happened so long ago to cause all of the negativity nowadays.

“Your sister was a bit of an airhead, so maybe she hasn’t even realized…”

Unable to catch up with Jinta after he runs off from his encounter with Chiriko and Atsumu, Menma heads to her family’s home to the welcoming smell of curry. But instead of a family welcoming her home to dinner, she’s greeted by a quiet, solemn family and a mother offering dinner to her daughter’s shrine. If at this point it isn’t obvious what Menma’s situation is, the offerings of curry and a picture of her in a kimono certainly helped.

It’s never easy letting family go. Every detail that Menma pointed out about her family when she saw them – her younger brother growing up so fast, her dad’s gray hairs, her own self-awaress – was executed on screen very well. Looking back at Jinta’s encounters with his other friends up to this point made more sense as they all feel some sort of remorse for the still-unanswered past fate of Menma.

After Jinta continues to contemplate on the day he should have let his feelings known to Menma before it was too late, he runs back up to the shed in the wilderness where they all used to play. Once there, he finds Tetsudo who’s shocked to see Jinta after all these years but seems to still admire him for the leader he used to be when they were younger. Judging by his lingering around their old hideout, Tetsudo might be the first of the friends Jinta will be gathering up to make Menma’s once forgotten wish come true.

“Romance lies in the impossibility!”

For a standard introductory episode, I was most impressed by the execution of the story. All of the animosity and negativity gradually swelling amongst the group felt natural and realistic given the circumstances in their lives. Without comparison to other stories written under a similar premise, the show has a great head start with how well its characters are written so far, especially with having only ten more episodes to go before we find out if Menma’s wish will ever come true. Conversely, I can’t help but be concerned that its formula belongs more in a movie format, i.e. The Place Promised In Our Early Days. Ironically, this show draws a lot of similarities to Makoto Shinkai’s film, and it achieved a bittersweet and emotional conclusion in just under two hours. But unlike Placed Promised, AnoHana has great things to come if it continues to flesh out its characters properly. I’m sure Tetsudo’s declaration of squashing the notion of impossible romance will be the main theme for this show, and I’ll be more than happy if the story goes leaps and bounds beyond what Placed Promised accomplished. At least we get to ride this story out for ten weeks!

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