Review: Anohana

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Note: possible spoilers are in white

Anohana is a tale of grief and recovery, love and jealousy, and of course, friendship. The main characters are make a close-knit group of friends as children, with Jintan as the leader of their group called the “Super Peace Busters”, and Menma who is loved or envied by all. Menma is considered the prettiest and sweetest of the girls, but she dies tragically and suddenly. Years later, Jintan is a hikikomori and the group barely interact. However, one day Menma’s spirit visits Jintan and everything is set in motion again.

The music is lovely, the animation is clean and bright. So nothing to worry about there. The characters are distinct both in design and personality, as they have a touch of realism to them, and personalities that are distinct without having to resort to 2D “types”.

The anime is short, only 11 episodes long. The story is a heart-wrenching tale of loss that progresses at a steady pace. This anime made me cry. I didn’t even know why I was crying at times. It makes everyone cry. The Anohana crew sure know how to pull some strings, and that’s admirable! If you are really into dramas or interested in exploring grief and friendship, this anime is for you. However, Anohana could be labelled a ‘melodrama’ due to its excessive use of intense emotions. You don’t have to be too far into the anime to be swamped with scenes full of crying or shouting. Some characters overreact, raging unexpectedly. Such intense emotional scenes should have been saved for the climaxes, such as the ending, but their overuse instead dulls the effect of emotional climaxes,.

Furthermore, the anime did not go as deep as I wanted. It lacks specific details- what happened immediately after Menma’s death for everyone involved? What happened in the years in between? And moreover, the characters could do with more depth as they only exist in relation to Menma and their friendship group. They don’t seem to have any real aspirations outside of their friendship group, which would have made the characters more well-rounded and therefore realistic. For example, Tsuromi studies hard- maybe it’s a reaction to Menma’s death? Or maybe it’s because of her dream to become a …? Furthermore minor characters such as Jintan’s mother and father were not fully fleshed out, but had great potential and relevance to the story.

Furthermore, the problems that have been taunting the characters are … yawn… so repetitive! X is in love with who is in love with Z. Tears, repressed love and melodrama ensue. It get boring and is uncreative. The anime would have been more interesting if it explored other problems beyond unrequited love. Also the fact most of the characters still had the same childhood crushes even into their late teenage years seemed ridiculous and childish… I mean sure, one or two characters would be fine… but almost all of them? And none of them had moved on?

However, I am happy that Anohana is able to depict characters moving on from mourning and guilt, especially Jintan as it is a story of hope and action for those who feel unable to progress. If you want to watch a sweet, tear-jerker, Anohana is for you.

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Review: Oniisama e (Brother, Dear Brother)

Oniisama e is about its characters: the sweet and naive schoolgirl, the prideful and manipulative Sorority head, the suicidal, heartbroken drug addict, the basketball star with a secret struggle, and it goes on. Character development is an extremely important ingredient in this anime, and each character in this series is well explored and developed, even the penpal (“Brother”) has a significant role in the anime. However, sometimes I felt some characters could have been more active, or that the explanations for their actions were pompous or unbelievable.

The anime is old, and based on an even older manga. The animation is absolutely stunning, as they give attention to detail and pan paused shots. Similarly, the music is beautiful and conveys the feelings of the anime.

On one hand, the manga is potentially groundbreaking for its time, as it discusses topics such as lesbianism, incest, drug use, divorce and disease. On the other hand, Oniisama e sometimes feels outdated and slightly conservative in its portrayal of such themes and its characters, despite the fact the anime is supposedly ‘happier’ than the manga (not by much, I would say).

The structure of the anime is, well, very loose, but well plotted as most character arcs are resolved and well-placed to drive the action. Sometimes this makes it fun to watch, since you never know what’s going to happen next, other times, there are weird shifts in mood and theme. The anime is also 39 episodes, which is pretty long. This is both an advantage and disadvantage in comparison to the 3 volume manga- the story is expanded, but also hella long. The anime is exciting at times, but can also be pretty boring and slow.

In the end, the anime is a character-centric drama that revolves around the themes of love, friendship and growing up, so if you’re not interested in those themes, don’t watch it.

P.S: there is a hell a lot of crying, but then it’s not surprising since the catch line at the end of every episode is: “Brother, Dear Brother… there is no end to my tears.”

Trigger warnings (because this is a triggery anime)
– self-harm
– eating disorder
– psychological manipulation
– suicidal thoughts
– death