Keep your handkerchief at the ready and be prepared to cry all over again.
What They Say:
Jinta Yadomi (Jintan), Meiko Honma (Menma), Naruko Anjo (Anaru), Atsumu Matsuyuki (Yukiatsu), Chiriko Tsurumi (Tsuruko), and Tetsudo Hisakawa (Poppo)…six grade-school students who were the best of friends. As the “Super Peace Busters,” they could always be found together at their secret base. At least, until Meiko died in a tragic accident…
Five years later, as summer was about to end, Meiko, looking as if she had aged accordingly, appeared before Jinta, a freshman of high school. No one could see her but Jinta, and Menma told him that she wanted the Super Peace Busters to grant her a certain wish. But not even Meiko herself remembered what that wish was. At Meiko’s urging, Jinta reconnected with the other members of the Super Peace Busters.
Having been traumatized by Meiko’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 after her wish was granted, Meiko said goodbye to everyone leaving letters to each of the Super Peace Busters.
One year later…once again, we have gathered at the secret base, with a letter to Menma in hand.
This feature comes, somewhat unusually, with two Japanese audio tracks. Wishing to take advantage of the full “surround sound” mix, I opted to listen mainly to the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The bitrate on the audio varied as needed, often staying around 3 Mbps for the usual dialogue parts, but swelling as high as 5.4 for one major scene (noted in a bit). The sound is clear and clean without any notable dropouts or distortions. For the very few times where there is a bigger audio oomph needed, the full surround mix kicks into high gear, especially for the scene involving the fireworks rocket around :57:21, where the full sound stage (front, center, and rear) comes into play. Otherwise, I did do some spot check comparisons and the Linear PCM stereo mix, while lossless and clear, felt slightly more contained, less expansive than the 5.1 DTS version.
The feature first played in theaters in August 2013 and is presented here in its original aspect ration of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. I have to agree with Chris Beveridge’s earlier review that the film has had a beautiful transfer with vibrant colors, crisp lines (from the source, not owing to any kind of noticeable filtering or manipulation) and fluid animation even in tracking shots which always cause some problems in many releases. The quality of animation is in many places a step up from regular weekly television fare showing that the production team made some extra effort to make this “feature presentation” worthy and not just throwing some television animation on screen.
For the Collector’s Edition, Aniplex has provided a significant number of physical extras—for which they have tacked on a hefty premium above the regular edition pricing. The entire package comes housed in a thin card stock box which features a front picture of the five living members of the “Super Peace Busters” as they look in the “present” of the film. The sides draw upon the floating flowers theme of the ending animation to the television series, while the bottom, which could also double as an outward facing “spine” if you chose to display it sideways on a shelf, has the movie logo. The back has the full translation of the unabbreviated name of the work in English. There is also a thin paper sleeve that wraps around the box, something which is commonly seen in Japanese releases and usually referred to as an obi. This contains the release details on the front and the technical grid and other information on the back. Should you choose to display the box with the main picture facing outward, the obi will need to be removed unless you are okay with covering up around 40 percent of the picture.
Inside the box, the film on both a single bluray disc and a single DVD comes housed in a single-width double BD case (with hubs on both the front and back sides of the case). The case artwork insert features the same artwork as the regular BD edition, an image of the five living main characters in their present forms at the foot of a flight of stairs, while in the background up the stairs are their younger selves, with Menma among them, the only one looking back at the teenagers (and at us). The back of the artwork insert is similar to the box’s back. The inside (reverse side) of the insert has the flower pattern in green. The discs themselves feature images of Menma (BD) and Jintan (DVD) as children.
In a separate BD-sized case comes the compilation music CD. The cover insert for that one just uses the movie logo and the flower design pattern on the outside, while the reverse side is similar to that of the movie’s case, though there is also a complete track listing of the contents of the CD. The CD itself features a picture of the six Super Peace Busters as children. It should be noted both cases are of that slightly odd style that sometimes one finds with Hollywood releases, where there is an extra outside hinge on the side of the case. To open the case, you must first unlatch the side hinge before you can open the case.
There is also a 20-page (counting both the front and back covers…as they do in their page numbering) full-color booklet that contains the catalog copy description, character descriptions, character design artwork, and staff and cast credits at the end. In addition there is a two-sided poster of Menma as well as a series of postcards (which I cannot comment on…since they don’t seem to be included in my set). About the only drawback with the poster is that if you wish to display it…be prepared for some rather heavy creasing as it has to be folded to one-fourth its size in order to fit within the box.
In design and concept, this is a very interesting and very praiseworthy piece of packaging, something that really does say “Collector’s Edition” when you hold it while also being quite space conscious at the same time. About the only slight letdown is in the thinness of the card stock which is used for the box, which can easily be damaged from the slightest fall or compression. For nearly 80 dollars at full retail price (and often still close to 70 with discounts), you would expect perhaps a much sturdier chipboard box that can sustain a few knocks here and there. Thus, while I praise the concept, I do find some minor fault with the execution of the packaging.
Following the normal custom of Japanese releases, which Aniplex of America products copy, the discs default to an immediate playing of the main feature. After the movie is over, there is a nice transitional animation featuring Menma which mirrors her appearance in a soliloquy near the very end, then going to the main static background image of the five living characters. A background music piece plays on a loop. The menu choices, including chapter selections, are arrayed along the bottom. The menu is arranged well enough and does its job.
On disc extras include a set of trailers and television commercials, as well as the special announcement video, which itself can be heard in either audio track version (stereo or 5.1…whatever real difference that makes). In addition, there is the textless version of the new on air opening that was used in the rebroadcast of the show, featuring a new opening theme, “Circle Game,” performed by Galileo Galilei, the same group who did the original opening song. (The song also serves as the opening theme for the movie). An okay, but not spectacular, set of on disc extras. Physical items are mentioned above in the Packaging section.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For starters, it must be stated that there is little point in watching the feature film of anohana unless you are completely familiar with the 2011 television series. This is not meant to be an independent piece viewed in isolation nor an entry point into the property. The opening moments of the movie would be a massive spoiler for anyone getting their first taste of the work, as it starts right in the midst of the final interaction between Menma and the five living members of the Super Peace Busters that concludes the television series. Thus, from this point forward, I’m going to assume that readers of this review have already seen the television series and are familiar with the franchise.
The movie follows a very loose structure that moves backward and forward in time, weaving together past events with the new “present,” which is set during the summer following Menma’s final departure from this world. One year later, the five remaining members of the childhood friends who make up the Super Peace Busters have decided to gather at the “secret base” again, this time bearing letters which they wish to send to Menma. The movie follows each of the five in order, using the letters as a framing device that allows each character to talk both of their present and the past. It’s something of a round robin as we start with Anaru, moving to Jintan, Poppo, Yukiatsu, and Tsuruko, before returning to Anaru and Tsuruko before ending with Jintan. After the round robin of the living, we do get Menma’s viewpoint again, including a replay, from Menma’s perspective, of her final interaction with her friends (which also gives the whole piece ring composition, as near the end we match up where this movie started).
The story is not told in chronological order and feels much more like a reminiscence upon the series, not a digest or alternate retelling of events. As with memory, there is a certain stream of consciousness feel to the work, which could make it utterly baffling at times to someone with only passing knowledge gained by reading reviews or summaries of the plot. That is not to say that the movie is utterly derivative and empty of anything “new.” The most significant addition is not any of the action which takes place in the “present” of one year later. It comes from an extended flashback to Menma’s past, told from her perspective, where we learn about her own back story, something that was lacking to an extent in the series. We learn much more about how Menma joined Jintan’s group of friends and in the process, begin to understand better Menma’s behavior during life, including her goofy smile in response to Jintan’s declaration “How could anyone be in love with such an ugly girl?” on that fateful day. If you’ve ever wondered how she could be so calm and so cheerful after hearing what for most children would be an incredibly hateful and dismaying experience, a look into Menma’s past provides what I would consider an answer.
Other than this one new revelation, the movie, of course, does not alter the events of the series. It is not just a recap, however. It is, as I said before, more a reminiscence of events past. Nostalgia and loss are probably the strongest emotions the viewer is meant to feel…as well, perhaps, as an urge to revisit the series. Most of all, the movie serves as a final coda, filling out some things, closing out others. The door to a future installment is not shut firmly, but such a project would have to take shape more as a spinoff focusing on some of the characters, not any further events tied directly to Menma’s story. Her story is, indeed, at an end. That does not change with this film.
As a final, last look back at the series, the movie does provide closure if one felt that the series ever lacked it (which I don’t). The production team also worked hard to press some of the same emotional buttons which they were aiming for with the series, especially in a strategic reprise of the series’ ending theme, “secret base–Kimi ga Kureta Mono (10 years after version)” sung by the voice actresses for Menma (Ai Kayano), Anaru (Haruka Tomatsu) and Tsuruko (Saori Hayami). Have your hankies or tissues ready for that. We do get an instrumental arrangement of the original opening theme along with a great number of repeated musical motifs from the series, though a new opening theme by Galileo Galilei is used, as noted above in the Extras. There is more effort in trying to bring back memories of the series than any attempt to create a new path through music.
Overall, for those who enjoyed the original series greatly, this is a wonderful, sad, sweet, elegiac trip down memory lane, with a few bits of information about the current lives of the living characters thrown in. It’s at least worth seeing, if not necessarily owning at the prices Aniplex are asking. If the series was a major favorite of yours, it might be worth the premium.
One year later, Jintan and friends look back at their encounter with Menma the previous summer, an encounter that changed all their lives. As happens with looking back, memories are recalled with all the emotions attached to them. In addition to the living characters, we also get to see key moments told from Menma’s viewpoint, including a very interesting look back at her past, which helps to fill out the story and perhaps even answer a few nagging questions one might have. This is not a work intended for newcomers, as there is no help provided for the lost. It is definitely best watched after completing the television series. When seen together, it does provide a good coda to the show while at the same time working to revive the viewer’s own memories of seeing it before. That might well be the ulterior motive, to get you to watch the series again. If you enjoyed it once before, that’s not such a bad thing.
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Japanese 2.0 Linear PCM Audio, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Textless Opening (Special On Air Version), trailers, TV commercial collection.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A (concept) B+ (execution)
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex of America
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Running Time: 99 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.