I’ve encountered very few works in my life, whether in film, television, literature, or any other medium for that matter, that so capably capture genuine human emotionality as 2011′s Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai). Not only will this 11-episode anime about childhood love and loss inspire you to laugh as well as cry (and oh, how you’ll cry), but it does so with honesty, intelligence, and a categorical refusal to shortchange any of its multitude of characters, respectfully exploring each and every one of the key players’ emotions. And in doing so, I contend that Anohana is as close to perfect as any work of art has ever been.
This beautifully-animated series from studio A-1 Pictures, who also produced Occult Academy (2010) and Fairy Tail, tells the story of five childhood friends reuniting after years of estrangement to perform the most unlikely of tasks. As children, Jintan and his five closest friends formed the Super Peace Busters and spent all their time together in a secret base in the mountains until the group sweetheart, Menma, died in an accident. Now high schoolers, a great friction has developed between Jintan and the others as a result of the incident, a friction that is pushed to its limits when the spirit of Menma appears to Jintan and asks that he fulfill her final wish. In order to put her spirit to rest, Jintan must convince himself and the others that Menma is more than a mere hallucination and that they must in fact reform the Super Peace Busters.
The series exhibits an impressively multifaceted thematic through-line, as each character’s attempt to cope with Menma’s death adds yet another nuanced issue to an already complex situation. For example, the series explores the powerful resonance that childhood love and loss has on us as individuals even as we mature into adults, manifesting in lifelong obsessions and jealousies that might even prove psychologically crippling if left unchecked. At the same time, the series also addresses the intricate relationship between parent and child, specifically the tragic way in which no child is truly capable of understanding the boundless scope of a parent’s love for them, at least not until they have children of their own.
The abundance of dramatic moments that result from these themes in the series’ brief 11 episodes proved overwhelming to this reviewer at least and sent me into an inexorable emotional turmoil until the series’ conclusion. As such, if you’re moved by the series as I was, you’ll likely find yourself compelled to push through the series in as few sittings as possible. Fortunately, although certainly emotionally devastating, Anohana also possesses a levity that provides much-needed reprieves from this harrowing journey through the characters’ often humorous interactions. In this way, Anohana captures more of what is beautiful about the human condition than any other series that springs to mind.
The Anohana Complete Series Premium Edition from NIS America comes packaged in the usual 8”x11”x1” (WxHxD) hardboard case of NIS’s Premium releases. This hardboard slipcase features unique, poster-like designs on the front and back with the series’ title displayed on the case’s long and short spines that it might be displayed from virtually any angle. Two slimline cases house the collection’s two DVDs and two Blu-rays, which slip into the case alongside the 11″ hardbound supplement book, The Super Peace Buster Chronicle. I’ve said it many times before, but I can’t reiterate it enough, NIS’s Premium releases are the things of collectors’ dreams.
The 38-page Super Peace Buster Chronicle is primarily presented in the form of a scrapbook, and includes character galleries (both finalized and sketched); photos from the Super Peace Busters’ youth; an episode guide; the complete lyrics to the series’ end theme, impossibly-titled “Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ (That Thing You Gave Me) (10 Years after Ver.)”; six pages of bonus art; and, most entertainingly, a gallery of the various T-shirt’s worn by Jintan throughout the series accompanied by translations of the writings on each shirt. As per usual with the hardbound books accompanying each NIS Premium release, The Super Peace Buster Chronicle perfectly supplements the limited disc-based special features, which include a clean ending, online episode previews, as well as teasers and commercials.