Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない) is a 2011, 11-episode anime produced by the Super Peace Busters, an artist collective consisting of director Tatsuyuki Nagai, screenwriter Mari Okada, and character designer Masayoshi Tanaka.
The show follows the reclusive high school student Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi, who begins to see the apparition of his childhood friend, Meiko “Menma” Honma. Knowing that she is no longer alive, he dismisses her as a stress-induced hallucination. However, Menma’s presence soon becomes something he cannot simply ignore.
Trying to find out why Menma is here, Jinta begins to reunite with his childhood gang, also called the Super Peace Busters. He finds that as they have drifted apart, each of them has dealt with the death of their mutual friend and the disillusion of their gang in different ways. Over time, these friends come together, often clashing over their differing views, and try to find Menma’s true wish.
If you look up “anime that make you cry”, or “anime about death”, Anohana almost always takes one of the top slots. It’s a tour de force of human emotion and a potent exploration of grief, growing up, and finding peace despite loss. Each of the six Super Peace Busters has their own strategy of dealing with (or avoiding) the death of their close friend, and this makes them all feel realistic.
The character design of Anohana works incredibly well with the characterizations in the script. It’s hard to look at Poppo and not feel his smile. The Peace Busters each play off of a trope or two, but the depth of the script gives them so much more to relate to. As the show flips frequently back to the young Peace Busters, the childhood designs work double duty as adorable glimpses into what was and as a contrast to who these kids have become.
The animation is also very expressive. This isn’t an action show, so they could have gone with more simple animation, but characters move expressively and it makes the quiet moments shine even brighter.
It’s easy for some shows about death to feel “cheap”. Using a character’s death as a gut punch is an easy way to get people to feel sad, but Anohana goes much further than that. The death happened before the plot begins, and we are only here for the aftermath. We are here to explore the scars that grief leaves on us. In this way, Anohana is unlike almost anything I’ve seen before.
There are very few, but obvious, downsides to this kind of show. For the main one, if you aren’t up for a bummer of a show, Anohana can probably wait. One of the primary points of focus is the death of a young child, so yeah, it’s sad. It also deals with some other aspects of growing up, including one scene of an older person being sexually threatening, so there is a minor content warning for that.
Weeb level: 1/10. There are some broad video game references, and as mentioned, there are tropes which are kind of dipped into, but this show is very approachable.
Fanservice: 3/10. Anohana explores adolescence, and therefore does not completely ignore sexuality, but the moments related to this are few and far between, and it does not feel out of character or overly exaggerated.
Quality: 10/10. I love this show and can recommend it to almost anyone. It’s a stand-out in what it tries to do, and at 11 episodes, there isn’t a moment wasted.
Where to Watch: Anohana is currently available through Crunchyroll/VRV and Netflix.
And with that, I will leave you with a song that has brought me to tears more than a few times.