What They Say:
Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends have become estranged after a tragic accident split them apart. Now in their high school years, a sudden surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day and come to terms with the ghosts of their past. With their childhood friend Menma back in their lives, the “Super Peace Busters” put their personal issues aside and work together to grant her one true wish. But to do it right, they’ll have to overcome years of shame, hard feelings, and heartache.
Contains episodes 1-11 plus “The Super Peace Buster Chronicle” hardcover art book. This full color, 38-page art book provides a deeper experience of the title with character bios, scrapbook-style photo selections, an episode guide, rough sketches, illustrations, and more!
The audio presentation for this release is just in its original Japanese as no dub was created for ti and we get a Linear PCM stereo track for it encoded at 1.5mbps. It’s a solid track that captures the design of the show very well since it’s mostly dialogue based with some cute music cues and a few acting out moments to give it a bit of fun and life. The opening and closing sequences are the strongest parts of it simply because of the larger, full sound that comes from the design of it, but the show itself is no slouch either, especially with some great incidental music and all sorts of background sound effects to make it a lived in world at key times. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this eleven episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second where the extras also reside. The show is one that is full of bright and appealing colors and some very fluid animation throughout, making for a smooth and engaging experience. The transfer captures this very well with some very rich colors along the way and hardly anything noticeable in the way of background noise. Colors are solid and very strong throughout and the detail in the backgrounds comes out in a very appealing manner. Line noise is essentially non-existent and the overall look here showcases a striking piece of animation work and gives it the quality look it deserves.
The premium edition packaging for this release is, like just about all others from NIS America, spot on. The front piece puts all six characters together laying on the ground, head to head, with a rich green grass behind them. With the varied colors of their own hair and clothes, it really is very eye-catching and draws you in easily to circle around the cast members. The other side gives us just an image of Menma herself where she takes up just less than half of the cover but it goes for soft whites, pinks and other pastel colors to really give it a good feeling for her and the bright smile she has. The hardcover book inside is great, entitled “The Super Peace Buster Chronicle,” as it details the characters and episodes. There’s a good section of character sketches and bonus artwork that shows some of the promotional materials. I particularly liked the couple of pages given over to Jintan’s t-shirt collection with all of them translated here.
And we also get, naturally, a pair of clear thinpak cases that uses more artwork that isn’t used elsewhere with the set so far. They’re both pieces that showcase Menma, one by herself and one with Jintan. They’re very appealing since both have her smiling and the overall mix is both light and dark which helps to showcase her situation. The back covers change the locales, ages and adds more characters but it mirrors the general feeling by showing off the cast of characters. Each volume breaks down the overall number of episodes and their titles while listing individually what each format accommodates for that particular disc. Technical specs and clean and clear and easy to read for both formats as well. The cases don’t provided any reverse side artwork nor any show related inserts.
Anohana has an appealing design for its menus with some good animation to give it that little extra bit of life and draw you in. The main design has a pair of images set to the left and right sides at different sizes that shows off some of the characters with a rich array of greens and blues behind them in the natural backgrounds. It’s quite appealing as it’s tied to a soft white background white some moving white flowers along the edges and corners that helps to expand the motion. The layout keeps you looking around and taking in the designs and easing you into the feel of the series. The navigation strip along the bottom is solid and easy to access, though I do wish it would highlight the episode you’re on when you pull up the pop-up menu during playback. Submenus load quickly and we had no problems navigating the monolingual release.
The extras on the second disc here are kind of meager overall as we get a clean version of the first ending sequence, the online previews for the episodes and a series of teaser and commercials. With the varied endings here, it’s a shame we don’t get a better look at those but it’s a complicated use of the endings in general.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally titled Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, Anohana is an eleven episode series that was part of the noitaminA block when it aired in 2011 from A-1 Pictures. Coming alongside a pair of novels, it later spawned a new ongoing manga series, a game and a newly announced feature film that will debut in 2013. Like a lot of the shows in the block that play with a slightly tighter number of episodes, Anohana works to tell a distinct story with a beginning, middle and end, though they may be cut short at times to advance things. It may feel a little odd, especially the beginning of this series, but in the end you know you’re getting an engaging tale of characters in interesting situations that will come to a resolution. It’s not just part of an ongoing work overall. And Anohana has the added distinction of being one of those series that should leave you crying at the end of it too.
The series revolves around a small clique of childhood friends several years after a tragedy visited them. While they were all quite different kids, they were also all good friends that used to play in an abandoned shack in the woods where they came up with the Super Peace Busters, a fun bit they came up with to do good and just have fun. Through some of the flashbacks, we see how fun this group of elementary school students were together and the silliness that bonded them together, as well as stronger feelings. Jintan came across as a natural leader even if he wasn’t the smartest or most athletic and Meiko, aka Menma, was the most innocent and playful who really drew things together. Add in the goofy Poppo, the introspective Tsurumi, the well to do and aloof Yukiatsu and the girl next door in Anaru and you have a very good mix of kids.
What broke this fun group though was the tragic accidental death of Menma, an event that everyone felt guilty about for various reasons and caused them to split and change for the next several years. With all of them in high school now, most are doing alright, but Jintan has become a total recluse and has disconnected from everyone. To make matters worse for him, he also lost his mother to illness after Menma died and now it’s just him and his father. For Menma’s family, we get some very good material interspersed over the set showing how they dealt with it, particularly her mother who hasn’t made any forward progress at all and has kept her son and husband at a distance because of it. Her son, Menma’s younger brother, is a really great little addition here that gets brought in a few times and just brings some really good resonance to the show.
While we might have an interesting show just giving us a look at how this group deals with the after effects of her death years later, it wants to give us a different challenge. While it’s an awkward start as we’re just kind of dropped into it, the gist of it is that Menma has come back and is only visible to Jintan. He’s pretty much accepted it right out of the gate with the series, not giving us much time seeing how she first appeared before him, and she begins to nudge and push him. She appears the same age as him and the rest, but her presence starts a cycle of events that brings everyone back together bit by bit and exposes their guilt over her death, their mild trust in that he really does see her and that they have to work together to figure out what it is that she’s come back for. It’s somewhat predictable in the approach and some of the stories, but it’s well told as it invests us in the characters and the connections from the past that comes into play in the present. There’s a lot of real love there that we see explored from when they were kids and how that loss of Menma has affected them. Watching that play out is the bulk of the show, and it hits some very good emotional notes, but it also gets playful often as well since Menma’s child-like personality provides that aspect.
Anohana is a strong character driven series with a mild supernatural angle to it. Well, okay, maybe it isn’t mild, but it’s not something that’s done in a way that makes it feel completely cliched. With a good cast of characters, it takes some solid turns as we see how those childhood relationships have fractured yet still existed and grew over the years since Menma’s accident. There’s a lot of connections here and they all unfold well and not without emotion, making it natural and honest. Everyone is dealing with a lot of issues here and within eleven episodes it covers it well, providing some closure but also making it feel like real life. The loss of a child affects family and friends in a significant way and Anohana explores it well, creatively and with some great honest emotions.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Langauge, English Subtitles, Clean Ending 1, Teasers, Commercials
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
Running Time: 255 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.