Closure can be the hardest thing.
What They Say:
Jintan, Menma, Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo – six grade-school students who were the best of friends. As the “Super Peace Busters,” they always played together at their “secret base” until Menma died in a tragic accident.
Five years later, Menma appeared before Jintan, now a high school freshman. No one could see her but Jintan, and Menma told him that she wanted the Super Peace Busters to grant her a certain wish. But not even Menma herself remembered what that wish was.
Having been traumatized by Menma’s death, the five had drifted apart, but after giving vent to their bottled-up feelings in an emotionally-charged moment, they gradually went back to being the “gang” of years past. And then Menma said goodbye, leaving letters to everyone of the Super Peace Busters.
One year later – once again, they gather at their secret base, each of them with a letter to Menma in hand.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only but we get it in both the PCM stereo mix and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix using that lossless codec. The feature is not one that has a very big mix to it with what it does since it’s primarily dialogue driven, but it works that well since we often get multiple characters together talking in a circle which lets it move around a bit with some good placement. Sound design works well for a lot of this with the subtle moments but it has a couple of bigger moments with some mild action that stands out all the more because it’s not the main thrust. The music makes out quite well across this feature and some of the swells of the instrumental pieces works really well in both mixes. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in August 2013, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the film has a great looking transfer here that largely sits in the high thirties throughout it. The film has a lot of great detail to the character designs, backgrounds and some very fluid animation which is captured wonderfully here. It’s also accented by some fantastic color design that gives it a lot of vibrancy and pop that stands out in a striking way across the entire feature. The film certainly adheres to the look of the TV series, but it nudges it all up a couple of notches without overdoing it, the end result being a gorgeous looking work that is captured beautifully here. I’m sure someone can find a flaw to have with it, but the presentation here is sterling.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice for the limited edition and what it includes as collectors items. The box is a soft type that holds two clear Blu-ray cases inside, one for the feature discs and one for the soundtrack disc. The front of the box gives us a good sideways image that, while dark, is appropriate here as we get the main cast out under the stars with smiles and a positive and optimistic view of things. The back of the box goes with an appropriate quote from the film against a soft white background while a few different shades of green flowers float across it. The wraparound on the package provides the rundown of the discs technical features in clear form – for both formats – while the front serves as a decent promotional piece to highlight the packaged extras and the content itself.
The feature case has some good artwork of the main group together in their usual outfits set against the beautiful backdrop of part of the city. It has such rich greens and blues to it that it’s a pretty engaging looking piece that captures the attention well. The back cover mirrors the back of the box with the quote and flowers while the reverse side goes for a green look of oh so many flowers together dripping into the white background. The CD soundtrack case has just the film title across it against the flowery green background which carries over to the back of the case as well. The reverse side plays the same in a lighter form while the left also breaks down the tracks from the CD.
The pack-in extras are great here as well. We get a small but gorgeous selection of postcards of great quality, a really cute two sided poster of Menma in two different ways to look at her and a full color booklet that provides a look at the story, the cast and their character designs as well as a staff breakdown. Combining all of it together and you get a pretty terrific looking release here for what goes beyond just the movie itself.
The menu design for this works well as we get some really nice lead-up animation that lands us at a static screen with the main cast together from the front of the box. The lead-up piece is nice as it’s all white with the flower symbols floating through it with clips from the show while Menma walks along from the right to the left. The logo is kept along the left with a good sized piece that has the full subtitle while the menu navigation strip is kept along the bottom. This is kept simple with a soft white strip that has green highlights that blends nicely when doubling as the pop-up menu during regular playback. The submenus load quickly and easily when needed, since you may want to adjust the audio settings or subtitles, and extras access is quick and easy.
The extras for this release are minimal but about what you’d expect as we get the clean opening sequence, a look at the trailers and TV spots and the announcement video as well. There’s also the physical items included in the packaging section to add to all of this.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the original anime series from 2011 connecting so well, the popularity of the two novels and the fact that there are a few manga spinoffs and a game, it wasn’t a surprise to see AnoHana get a theatrical adaptation. The work itself is ripe for it and it gives the creators a chance to revisit the property and look at it from a slightly different way. I’d previously seen the TV series, which is a good rollercoaster ride of emotions, so I was pretty much steeled when I went into this feature to have a similar experience once again since it knows exactly how to tug on the heart strings. With A-1 Pictures taking their TV work and animating it at a level or so above that, it does its best to capture that mood and feeling and make it even more.
The film doesn’t quite retell the story that we had in the TV series, though it is largely a retelling through a different perspective with a bit of new nuance. The structure that it wants to work is decent enough, though you can get lost in it a bit. The premise involves six friends from grade school that were like a lot of kids in that they had all sorts of games they played together, they had a secret base where that played up being superheroes of sorts and they also fell in love in different configurations. It’s almost always guaranteed to happen when you have a group of diverse kids that spend time together that someone is going to take an interest in someone else as they grow older. Some of it may just be childhood crushes at the time, not understanding true love in the adult sense, but a love nonetheless that can blossom into a whole lot more.
Unfortunately, the death of one of the group, the most innocent and simple of them all in Menma, caused the group to split over time and lead their own lives. All of them have suffered in different ways and the film explores that as years later during their high school period, Menma comes back and is visible only to Jinta, the ostensible leader of the group and the one that she loved. Through him, she manages to interact with the others in awkward ways that helps each of them deal with pain, shame, heartache and other emotions swirling in them that have caused their lives to not move in the way they wanted. This is the crux of the TV series itself, where each of these character arcs are explored in detail and connected in great ways because of the complicated relationships that exists. In this feature version, we do touch on them to varying degrees, some more than others, but enough so that you understand how the death of Menma impacted them and how they’re trying to find that kind of closure while they can since she is there.
Where the film adds in its new material is that with some good narration pieces by Jinta and Menma, we get to look at a year or so after the events of the TV series to see how people have progressed and moved forward. And how they’re all coming back together, staying in each others lives in hopes of having Menma reincarnated and a part of their lives again, and also bringing closure to their stories with her with a letter burning ceremony. The series and film both work these idea of communication and it’s a strong piece, one that does work towards closure, and seeing how these kids are handling events after such a series of traumatic events and the way it impacts them is very well done.
Coming at it as a standalone film, it definitely conveys the story well and it has a good bit of emotional force behind it. I do think that it lacks some of the real impact though because the time investment is far different, eleven episodes versus what’s about four and a half in terms of runtime for the move as it clocks in at a hundred minutes, and that does change things. I know these kids stories. I lived through them in the TV series and suffered with them and felt the angst. This isn’t a clip version of it, but it doesn’t have quite the same impact for someone who hadn’t seen the more detailed version. For me, what we get here is a good bit of additional material, a new way to look at particular events and a fleshing out of certain aspects that don’t radically change things but enhances it overall.
I was really hesitant going into the AnoHana movie because in a lot of ways I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it try to do things differently? Would the additions enhance or detract? Did I really want to experience this tragedy again? For the most part, the film does what it sets out to do to enhance things and to be a bit more accessible by being in a movie format. I love the quality of the film, seeing a bit more of what these guys went through and what the epilogue aspect to it all is like. But I’m not quite sure it was necessary unless they were doing a full on sequel to move us forward a whole lot more. Aniplex USA has put together a fantastic package here though, my only regret being that it’s not a heavy chipboard box. The visuals are fantastic, the included bonus materials are a great seller and the work as a whole is one that you really want to share. You shouldn’t be the only one to experience this story and this is an ideal way to introduce someone to it.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Textless Opening (Special O.A. Version), Theatrical Trailers, TV Commercial Collections
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.