AnoHana continues it’s so-far almost perfect run with a near-flawless fifth episode. It might not have packed as many theatrical moments into it as episode four, but made up for it with some serious emotional drama.
In small doses, more is revealed about the day of Menma’s death and the feelings behind it. Yukiatsu blames himself for it just as Jinta does. Why? Because right after Jinta called her ugly and left, Yukiatsu followed her and confessed – not just that he liked her, but that he loved her. He even tried to give her a hairpin as a gift, but – though stunned – Menma still chased after Jinta and presumably, that’s when the terrible event happened. Yukiatsu spells this out in an emotionally charged scene with Jinta, where Takahiro Sakurai reaches emotional depths as an actor that I’ve never heard from him before.
There’s plenty of drama for all the characters, though. Anaru finds herself tagging along on what she thinks is a date but turns out to be enjou kosai. Those friends are seriously bad news – not only cheap, but they treat her like shit. And Anaru is so naive that she had no idea, even when her “date” suggested they ditch the others. Fortunately she happens to pass through the same train station as Yukiatsu and Tsuruko, who clues him in to what’s happening. He deftly saves her by scaring the scumbag off, but spoils the rather redemptive moment by asking her out on the train (after, oddly, asking if she were a virgin). This is yet another tragic part of Yukiatsu’s character – he’s obviously obsessed with Menma, but just as much with Jinta. Consumed with jealousy over Menma appearing to him, and willing to ask a girl out whom he’s not even interested in just to see if he can steal her affections from Jinta.
Thins are a real mess here for everyone, really. If there was any doubt that Tsukuro loves Yukiatsu, the fact that she kept the hair clip he’d tried to give to Menma shoukd dispel it. The scene where she tried it on was heartbreaking, all the more for her flat, deadpan delivery. She’s a cold one, whip-smart and analytical – her read of Yukiatsu as “rotten to the core” was ice. But she’s in love with the wrong guy, just like Anaru – both of them hopeless for boys who still obsess over a dead girl and can’t even see the live one standing right in front of them. Poppo seems immune from the romantic entanglements for now, but he’s certainly not emotionally detached – he believes in “Jinta’s” Menma, and with his oddly spiritual streak he’s convinced himself she’s stuck on Earth and unable to get to Nirvana. But his attempts to talk to her only make her sad – she may be dead but her identity crisis is all too real. She doesn’t know what her wish is or even why she exists.
At the very center of all this, of course, is Jinta – the center of all the love and jealousy and resentment the Super Peace Busters can muster, and still the only one that can see Menma. As a child he loved being at the center of attention but now, as a “whipped dog” he recoils from it. Yet he can’t escape – he’s tried in his own way to honor Menma, but feels it isn’t enough. He can’t let his feelings of guilt go, and doesn’t even have the small pleasure Yukiatsu gets from projecting his anger outward – all of his resentments are focused inward, on himself. He’s in no condition to have everyone depend on him, but it seems to be his inescapable fate – where the Busters are concerned, that role will always fall to him.