Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment

Title: Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Anime Studio: A-1 Pictures
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Coming of Age
Released: January 27th, 2019
Classification: 12
Language: Japanese / English
Discs: 2
Extras:  Web Previews for episode 2-11

Jinta and his group of childhood friends had become estranged after a tragic incident split them apart. Now in their high school years, an unexpected surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day. They must overcome the burdens of their past and come to terms with years of shame, hard feelings and heartaches.

All I knew about this series coming into the review was the general synopsis. The paranormal element was enough to sell me on seeing it though, and so when it dropped through my door, I was happy to have that opportunity. In the end, I wasn’t disappointed.

A-1 Pictures handled the visuals here, and they’re certainly no strangers to nice-looking anime. From Sword Art Online to Blue Exorcist, and back around to Black Butler and ERASED, they tend to do a really good job in this department. Interestingly, while still very pretty to look at, this felt different from most of the other series I’m familiar with from the studio. The art style was more like a modern movie, which was marvelous, especially given its almost ten years old.

From an audio standpoint, both the dub and sub cast do a great job. I must admit though, I found myself leaning more towards the dub cast here. In particular, I thought that Erica Lindbeck (Kanae in Skip Beat!) was superb as Anaru. And boy were the vocal performances important here. The series is entirely reliant on the interactions between the characters as they reconnect and deal with their grief. A poor vocal performance would stand out here more so than it would in a series less focussed on story, and thankfully, none of the cast fails to shine.

The story itself is deceptive too. Early on, we figure out that Jinta is the only one that can see Meiko, and for a short while, we get some gags based around his crush on her in life. This soon gives way to something more emotionally driven though. From Meiko’s childhood friends to her surviving family, her death hurt each of them. On top of that, they all have differing levels of guilt about the girl’s passing.

None of this is rushed in execution. Even when a character opens up and reveals their own concerns quickly, everything feels deliberately paced. It’s in how they work through their emotions – and doubts about Jinta’s ability to see Meiko – that we get to see them all develop. It’s honestly an absolute joy to watch build. Throw in some nice subtle moments, such as Anaru feeling a weight on her shoulders when Meiko hugs her, and we have a well thought out series.

After doing everything right, the danger was always that the final moments of the series would feel underwhelming. In this instance, that’s not the case though. The last couple of minutes when the cast play hide and seek one last time packs a heavy emotional kick. One that left me in tears before the credits finished rolling.

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Likable, authentic characters and an emotional storyline about dealing with grief make for a strong pairing. When you throw in that the series looks and sounds great too, and this is pretty much as good as it gets for coming of age anime. This is an easy 5 out of 5.

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