Review: ANOHANA Is A Beautiful And Bittersweet Anime Series

After watching just 20 minutes of the anime series Anohana, I knew that it was a show that I would like because of its wonderful characters, plots and visuals. However, I decided to hold off judgment until I had finished watching all of the show. And by the time I had watched it in its entirety, I realized I had experienced something really quite special - an intelligent animated series dealing with serious themes in a way that is both mature and meaningful.

But first a word of warning: don't be deceived by Anohana's gentle opening, cute character designs and colorful backgrounds - it is very much a tearjerker. The coming of age tale centers around the death of a member of a group of childhood friends collectively known as the 'Super Peace Busters'. Each of the remaining members of the group deals with the grieving and loss in his/her own way, but one thing is common to all of them: their lives, including their friendships, have been changed forever. That is tragic, senseless and heartbreaking. 

Thanks to more than a few funny moments, the show does not end up being just one big melodrama despite its heavy subject matters such as death, trauma, regret, reconciliation and loss of innocence as one grows up. The humor offers some (perhaps much needed) relief from all the strong emotions that the anime evokes. 

What really sets this show apart from many others is creator Nagai Tatsuyuki's masterful portrayal of his often flawed but always interesting characters. The way they grow and learn to deal with life's tragedies, as well as the interactions between them, are well considered and totally believable. As a result, viewers are able to relate to the characters, and the story should bring back memories about themselves and their friends from yesteryear. This sense of nostalgia is present throughout the series, and its emotional ending is especially powerful. 

The series is beautifully animated with some nicely drawn backgrounds and characters. Menma, the female lead, is adorable as the girl who sadly lost her life. Jinta, the main character of the show, has the looks to reflect his status as a young outcast. The characters' movements are fluid and their body language often gives more than a hint of what is inside their minds. The music complements the visuals well, with the more emotional scenes being accompanied by some sad music for extra impact. 

In the end, Anohana is bittersweet, thoughtful and beautiful at the same time. It brings back memories and teaches us a thing or two about life. It is a rich and rewarding viewing experience particularly for those who like mature dramas. 

Anohana is released in Australia by Hanabee Entertainment. The DVD package contains the complete series on 2 discs.
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