I really, really love AnoHana. It has so many moments of profound emotional truth that I leave every episode exhausted from the ebbs and flows. But for whatever reason, I find myself feeling very strongly tonight that the show is going to rip my heart out and stomp it to pulp. Only a show I love this much could do that, and I don’t know why I feel it so much more strongly this week than last – but that’s what my gut is telling me. Sure hope I’m wrong.
I could give a litany of things that I loved about this episode, one of the best of an impressive bunch. But a few do stand out. First, the moment when the “A” Team (Jintan, Poppo and Anaru) were looking at Menma’s old drawings and Poppo mused that old men must think high schoolers have their whole lives ahead of them – while the kids were looking back wistfully on their elementary years as the time they could do anything. That’s an insight of real depth and so true, both to the characters and to life as a whole.
Another one of those moments for me was when Jintan was lecturing Anaru about skipping school – though not without noting the irony of that. Jintan was 100% right about that snowball effect of skipping (and I can speak from experience here). One day is easy – too easy. That’s the problem – at some point it’s easier to skip than go back. Whether this stuff is coming from Okada-san or someone on the writing staff I don’t know, but for a ghost story this series is amazingly grounded in real human experience.
But then, just about every Jintan scene this week was wonderful. Honestly, I just don’t see how anyone can not feel for Jintan – he just breaks my heart. Hasn’t got a mean bone in his body and just wants to do the right thing, but somehow it’s all gone wrong for him. He’s carrying so much pain and self-directed anger that it’s turned him prematurely into an old soul. Yet, when the chips are down and someone is in trouble – Anaru, Menma – he forces himself to step up no matter how uncomfortable it makes him. Heroism isn’t doing stuff when it’s easy – it’s doing stuff when it’s hard.
I’m not saying Jintan is a hero, but everything has been hard for him for so long – I think he just got tired of it all and couldn’t bring himself to leave the house. As long as he was only hurting himself, he couldn’t break himself out of it. In that sense Menma’s return has already accomplished something, whether it was her wish or not. The moments where he gallantly stands up for Anaru despite being terrified at drawing the eyes of others themselves are just gut-wrenching and heartwarming at the same time.
As for the wish itself – which I’m beginning to think could conceivably end up being as much a red herring as the nature of Menma’s existence, though I wouldn’t bet on it – we made some small headway from the diary. Whether this theory that Menma’s wish was for the gang to send a firework to heaven with a message to God to help Jinta’s Mum is true or not, it seems to be serving it’s purpose. It continues to bring the Busters together (though the “B” Team is on the sidelines of this one, so far) and it’s forcing Jinta to re-immerse himself in the outside world. It’s not clear what that firework would represent now, with Jinta’s Mum passed away – but what it clear is that it’d cost 200,000 yen (about $2500) for the gang to get it made, and they need an adult’s help. And the adult who can stop the whole project is none other than Menma’s father. There’s a mystery surrounding that man that we haven’t see the last of, yet. And whether there was a deeper meaning to Menma’s mother calling her “Onee-chan” or not isn’t clear yet – she might just have been referring to her place in the family unit (she has a little brother, if you recall).
Only 4 episodes left to sort all this out – the wish, Jintan’s future, his relationship with Anaru, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko (poor girl was almost ready to believe she was being asked on a date this week) and then there’s Poppo. Have his tales of world travel been tall tales, or did they really happen? Come to think of it, I’ll probably be wiped out just by the show ending, never mind what the ending itself is – I’ve grown so addicted to my weekly fix. That makes the prediction in the first paragraph something of a done deal…