Tonight, an anime episode managed to shed more tears than Hugh Jackman in The Fountain.
Halfway into the episode, Jinta visits his mother’s grave with his father. Why do I begin this post here? Ironically, this scene is somehow a brief respite from the eye of an emotional hurricane that is leaving almost nothing in its wake since the start of the episode.
The gang returns to Menma’s home, hoping to enlist her mother’s help in procuring fireworks from her father. Seeing the entire group of friends there causes something to snap in Irene. What results is a teary stream of consciousness flooding the entire room. Irene accuses Menma’s friends of abandoning Menma; by growing up, they’ve abandoned Menma.
Ever since Jinta started to bring Menma up, it has mostly opened up old wounds. With Irene as the latest casualty, Yukiatsu pleads (in his own haughty sort of way) with Jinta to give the Menma talk a rest. Admittedly, he says, he’s the last person to judge, but he doesn’t want to see anyone else get hurt. Anjou, taking cues from previous episodes, observes that Yukiatsu is again mostly referring to himself.
Taking Yukiatsu’s words a little too close to heart, Jinta decides to fulfill Menma’s wish on his own, despite the fact that Anjou and Poppo had always been on his side. Jinta works harder than ever, but for what? Doesn’t he still need permission from Menma’s father to get any fireworks? Jinta must be frustrated by the latest state of affairs. As such, he’s channeling his pain and anger into work.
Jinta collapses when he overexerts himself and it’s now Anjou’s turn to tell Jinta to stop trying so hard to fulfill Menma’s wish. When it falls on deaf ears, Anjou confesses that she has always liked him. In fact, she was happy that day when Jinta denied his feelings for Menma, only to be dejected when he ran away in embarrassment. Nevertheless, when Menma died, Anjou never stopped feeling guilty for daring to feel that tiny sliver of happiness at Menma’s expense.
Anjou has never been as vulnerable in this anime as she is now, pouring her heart and tears out to Jinta who remains relatively stoic. Blinded by his mission, Jinta cold-heartedly walks away from her. As he returns to his work, Anjou collapses to the floor and calls herself an idiot.
The bottle of pills (multi-vitamins) sort of looms ominously in this shot, but I don’t think this show is heavy enough to go there.
Let’s pause for a moment and wonder what Anjou was hoping to accomplish in that scene. How did she expect Jinta to react? It’s out in the open now that she likes Jinta, so she must be concerned for his well-being. Her self-admitted guilt, too, plays a part. On yet another level, however, Anjou probably thinks Jinta’s relentless desire to fulfill Menma’s wish as a sign of his undying affection for Menma. This is most likely what motivated her most to confess her feelings.
Jinta finally returns home after a long day, and the realization that Menma might disappear if her wish is fulfilled finally hits him. He too starts to cry and when Menma notices it, Jinta claims that he’s thinking of The Dog of Flanders. I’d chuckle if I didn’t think he was a complete asshole for not even attempting to comfort Anjou in the previous scene.
When Menma embraces Jinta, she suddenly has a flashback of his mother and cries too. Maybe for the first time in a while in anime, tissues are used for their originally intended purpose than anything else.
During the night, Jinta reflects on how Menma’s death left a gaping hole in the community. All the interpersonal connections are like intertwining threads of fabric, each running in support of each other. When Menma’s life was torn away from the community, the threads that lead to her are frayed.
In the morning, Jinta visits his mother’s grave with his father and, as mentioned at the start of the post, I feel as if this is the one tiny ray of sunshine in the emotionally turbulent episode. Here, Jinta reflects on his relationship with his father. It’s a low=key relationship, but one he’s thankful for. Jinta’s dad has always delicately kept himself from adding to his son’s troubles.
Meanwhile, Menma wanders through the town alone and just so happens to eavesdrop on Poppo while he’s on the phone. When she hears that her friends had a fight, she goes on her own mission. Jinta’s household phone begins to ring up everyone in the gang with the exception of Jinta. It is heavily implied that Menma called them.
At the end of Jinta’s shift, he runs into Menma’s younger brother and although he rarely got to know her, he too harbors angst over his sister’s death. With his mother consumed by Menma’s death, he naturally feels neglected. Upon receiving those feelings, Jinta begins to say something, but the anime cuts away from the scene and leaves us in the dark as to what those words were.
We next see Jinta arriving at Poppo’s place to return a handkerchief to Anjou only to discover the rest of the gang. Aside from perhaps Poppo, everyone else seems poised to confront Jinta over the mysterious phone calls. Jinta won’t admit to calling them, standing steadfast in his assertion that Menma truly exists. Yukiatsu is mere moments away from punching Jinta when Menma’s diary mysteriously falls to the ground. When Poppo picks it up, he finds a new entry in Menma’s handwriting. The ED starts to play and we are left gasping for breath.
What an episode. Emotional and heartfelt — everything appeared to be falling down around Jinta until Menma’s little trick saves him from Yukiatsu’s rage. All the tears in this episode did come close to overdoing it. Ano Hana is, after all, a once-a-week half hour affair. As more and more of the cast shed their tears, I was afraid that the anime was doing itself a disservice. One can’t help but feel that each tearful moment is less and less effective compared to the previous. Thankfully, the episode front-loaded the heaviest scenes (Irene and Anjou’s) at the start of the anime.
Now that the rest of the gang has gotten a sign from Menma, who will continue to deny her existence and thus attempt to bury their pain again? Yukiatsu is the most obvious candidate, but this would be almost too obvious. Considering how Tsuruko hasn’t had the focus on her much at all, now would be as good a time as any. I said last week that she’s an underrated character and this episode only adds to my opinion that Tsuruko is vastly underused in the anime. I know this is Jinta’s show, but this is why something like Ano Hana could benefit from a longer running time.
Anjou’s scene reveals another limitation of the half hour format. I feel as if this was her most significant moment all series long, even if it is half a confession of love to Jinta. Even if only during this scene, Anjou elevates herself from being just another side character. It is thus a disappointment that we don’t revisit Anjou again until the end of the episode where she once again fades into the gang of friends. Another half hour could have included not just Anjou’s reaction to her own confession, but how she felt when Jinta simply left her.
I was looking forward to this anime when it came out and was crushed when I found out it wouldn’t run for more than 11 or 13 episodes. Then I was crushed again when Anjou basically got rejected. I know I was expecting too much, but is it so hard to make the childhood friend ever win in a love battle in the animu universe?
I wouldn’t want the anime to be any longer. Long series tend to be bogged down by filler or redundancy.
As for Anjou’s “rejection,” 1) they’re all childhood friends, 2) I’m not sure Jinta’s act of walking away is necessarily a rejection and 3) Jinta was under a lot of stress so some awkwardness is understandable. I do find it strange, however, that Jinta is all too willing to be gallant for Anjou in front of company, but when the two of them are alone, he couldn’t even extend a gesture of kindness as she cried.
If they end up together, it’ll probably feel like a cop-out to me. They’ve yet to finish their arc, but just look at it objectively. Does she deserve him? Or does he deserve her? Are they even compatible for a relationship? And most of all, is Jintan READY to go there? I think it’s clear that he’s still way too messed up to make a decision, let alone be in a relationship. And she hasn’t exactly done proven herself either. They’re just kids who have more important fish to fry than worrying about “ending up together”.
I agree. Plus, it won’t exactly fit the story anyway if they end up together. The main plot, right now, is about dealing with Menma’s death and everyone’s subsequent guilt as a result of it. Any relationship between any of the characters deserves more than simply playing second fiddle to the main plot.
Very good, thorough, and balanced review.
Nice to see I’m not alone in thinking that Jinta was really cold to Anaru in that one semi-confession scene.
Did you cry too?
Naw, but my eyes did started watering about 35 mins ago. Craziest thing.
I was so pissed off at Jintan in this episode that I didn’t feel anything at those teary scenes.
Which is why I try not to take a rooting interest in anime characters’ love lives.
Oh no, not because he refused Anjou, imo it’s obvious that nothing would happen between them from the start. It’s because of his character, he is so selfish and self-centered it annoys the hell out of me. Such a brat.
Ah, I see what you mean. Well, we’re talking about someone who lost both his mother and a close friend in childhood. Yeah, other people have been through similar shit and don’t manage to come out self-centered, but eh, we can’t all be strong. He’s just a kid, after all. We wouldn’t have much of a show if he wasn’t flawed in some way.
Wow, I just realized I haven’t cried at all in this series so far. Not even teary eyes. I don’t know why
Should you be crying? I’m sympathetic to the show’s characters, but that doesn’t mean I have to cry.
I guess you’re right. I am sympathetic to them but I don’t know I just feel that with so many tears shed all over the place from the characters like this, it seems like the anime wants you to cry too. I agree when you say that each tearful moment is less and less effective compared to the previous. If every other scene is a character getting angry and then breaking into sobs, I think the director is going for some sort of reaction.
Uh sorry the anonymous was me, just forgot about the boxes up top. >.>
You wouldn’t be wrong in that the show’s trying to provoke a reaction, but that’s just the show doing its job. Every story should be aiming to evoke some sort of reaction or else what’s the point? I agree with you that this episode wanted us to feel something, so I gave it points for making me sympathetic of the characters. At the same time, I docked it for undermining itself by cramming too many crying sessions within such a small window.
Is Menma going to go away after they grant her wish? Is this how the show is going to end?
I don’t think anyone knows yet besides the creators, but it would seem likely.
Jintan said the wrong thing to Menma spontaneously (“who would love an ugly girl like…?”) that lead to her demise and was undoubtably hesitant to say anything to Anaru in her current tearful state for fear of saying the wrong thing to make things worse. Jintan was afraid of expressing himself at that point since the last time he did, tragedy occurred.