It almost goes without saying that this was a great and emotionally powerful episode of AnoHana – they pretty much all are. But I continue to be amazed by just how much this series gets right, and by how much punch it can pack into 22 minutes.
Case in point – one relationship that hasn’t gotten much play is that between Jintan and his Dad. In the average show that wouldn’t be a surprise, but this one doesn’t miss a trick – the characterization is as subtle and realistic as any I can recall. And Jintan’s father is an interesting chap – incredibly patient and tolerant (some would say too much so) but clearly frustrated by his son’s slow decline. So we really got a chance to see something that had to happen – Jintan realized just how hard this was for his Dad, and just how much his Dad had been doing for him. Seemingly remote to Jintan’s life, he knew everything – that he was working instead of attending school, that he’d visited the Honma house.
That visit was not only the catalyst for Jintan’s insight, but also a chance to explore another character I was just thinking needed some attention – Menma’s little brother. The ep didn’t waste any time addressing last week’s cliffhanger, revealing that it was Menma’s Dad fighting their fireworks plan. But Menmama had a surprise in store – she deeply resented the other Busters for surviving while Menma died. She accused them of doing the whole fireworks thing for a lark, not really for Menma at all. It was a hard scene to watch, and the kids were clearly stunned and hit hard by it.
Poor Otouto walked in on that scene – and one couldn’t help but wonder if his mother didn’t feel the same resentment towards him for surviving Menma. Indeed, he sought ought Jintan later to apologize – and to pour out his frustrations over having parents who couldn’t seem to appreciate that they still had a child living. I really felt that it had been something he’d been yearning to say for a long time – with no one to say it to. But what did Jintan start to say to him, right at the end of that scene?
The emotional crescendo of the episode, once again, took place at the Secret Base, with all the Busters together. Everyone but Poppo seemed ready to “give up the ghost” (sorry) and let the whole Menma thing go. Yukiatsu as always was the angriest, and as always as much at himself as at Jintan – and it was hard to say if he was angrier at Jintan continuing to insist he could see Menma, or that he couldn’t see her himself. But finally, at long last, Menma took matters into her own hands – cold calling the other busters, and actually managing to write a message into her diary. Thus ends all doubt as to whether she was a figment of Jintan’s imgagaintion (not that I ever thought that) – whatever she is, she’s a real entity with the ability to communicate beyond Jintan and to impact the world around her.
What happens now, with a mere three episodes left, is still unclear. There’s still the nagging worry that they could “go big” and give Jintan a fatal illness – thus explaining (though there are already simpler explanations) his nosebleed, fainting and indeed the reason why only he can see Menma. But I sure, sure do hope they don’t do that – I feel it would be a terrible mistake. There’s so much power in the simple, straightforward situations as presented – just the survivor’s guilt all the Busters are feeling is powerful enough to drive the climax with room to spare. They’re all in such pain, all for different reasons, but it all boils down to this – they feel that on some level, Menmama was right. Why spoil that by tacking on a soap opera plot twist at the end? As if that weren’t enough, Anaru finally confessed to Jintan this week (a home run scene for Haruka Tomatsu) – not just her love, but her guilt at feeling glad when Jintan had rejected little Menma and hurt her feelings.
As for me, I can’t help but feel that, on some level, Menma’s wish is directly connected to Jintan’s Mother. There’s a real and clear connection between them – Menma has dreamed of her, and seems to think of her often. Just how that ties into her wish is hard to say, but the other paradox about that wish was pointed out by Anaru – if she really is in Jintan’s house, doesn’t granting her wish make her go away forever? Is that what Jintan really wants?