TL;DR – a group of six childhood friends drift apart after one of them tragically dies. Years later, as teenagers none of them have truly moved on and when the ghost of the one who died appears, they reluctantly come together to figure out what needs to be done in order for her to move on to heaven. Sometimes the most beautiful flowers bloom from tragedy.
Aside from being the longest title I’ve ever seen for a TV series, this slice-of-life anime examines life, loss and friendships in a way that isn’t sentimental for sentimentality’s sake. The title translates to “We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day.” For the purposes of this review, I will refer to it as Anohana.
The first thing to highlight is the music. Both the opening and ending theme songs are perfect. “Aoi Shiori” by Galileo Galilei and the cover version of “Secret Base (Kimi ga Kureta Mono)” by Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu and Saori Hayami match the feel and atmosphere of this spectacular anime. If you take the time to find these songs on YouTube with English translations, you will also discover the lyrics fit the themes of Anohana.
The second thing to highlight is the animation itself. The backgrounds and settings are gorgeous to look at, and the character design is clean and distinct. I especially like how they switch between the characters as children in sixth grade and how they are older in high school. The subtle differences is a lovely contrast and you can notice this if you watch the opening credits as they switch between the cast in sixth grade to high school. Don’t miss noting the flower in the opening credits that replaces one of the main characters.
But neither the music nor the animation would be as effective if it was not for the story. The plot surrounds six childhood friends who grow apart after a tragic accident involving the death of one of their group, Meiko Honma (nicknamed ‘Menma’). As they age and lose touch with each other, the impact of the tragedy lingers on in their hearts in different ways; how they deal with it as they age and how it forms a part of who they are and what they become as they get older.
First there’s Jinta, who was the leader of the sixth grade group. Gregarious, excitable, and always seeking adventure. We are introduced to him now in a hermit-like existence, skipping school, eating ramen, and playing video games at home away from the outside world.
Naruko has bright red hair, is awkward, wears large square rimmed glasses, and always looks up to Jinta when they were in sixth grade. I found her adorable and of all the character designs, she’s my favourite of the six. As a teenager, she’s blossomed and is quite the stunner in high school but beneath the exterior, the anxiety and awkwardness remain.
Tetsudo (affectionately known as “Poppo”) is a shaved head little kid who enjoyed hanging out with Jinta and the others. He undergoes the largest transformation as he fills out to be a tall teenager, thick brown hair, who loves his food, and aims to travel to as many places around the world as he can. Of all the characters, his is the one who seizes his life and seeks to make the most of it.
Atsumu is a boy who had a crush on Menma when they were kids. In the current day, her death does not appear to have had any lasting effects. He seeks to leave the past in the past. He’s now grown into a handsome teenager, smart and athletic, and the eye of many of the girls in the elite high school he attends. This is all a façade, however, and as the series progresses it is revealed that he has never managed to move on from Menma’s death.
Chiriko is a long black haired girl who is shy and quiet. Her personality appears to remain the same from childhood to teenager. She attends the same elite high school as Atsumu and they often go to and from school together. It’s clear that Chiriko has feelings for Atsumu but has never expressed them because she has always known Atsumu was in love with Menma. While the quietest, she is the most astute of the group. She understands the position she is in, and acknowledges her own hope (foolish or otherwise) in waiting for Atsumu.
And last but not least is Menma, silver haired, doe-eyed, free-spirited. She hides her hurt behind smiles and is always considerate of others.
When Menma appears to teenage Jinta as an older version of herself, he think he’s just hallucinating. But as time progresses, he comes to believe that she has come to him in ghost form. Events unfold as the paths of the group reunite to fulfil Menma’s wish. Part of the mystery is figuring out what her wish is for even her ghost form doesn’t know what it may be. Jinta is convinced that if he can achieve her wish then she can move on to heaven. Little does he know that he and the others have never let Menma go themselves and only through coming together are they able to properly process their grief, guilt and previous actions.
A beautifully woven tale of childhood innocence lost, how scars when not treated with kindness can turn into hate, and ultimately how forgiveness and understanding can achieve freedom and hope. One of the best animes I’ve seen.
9.5 out of 10.