Well as usual, so much happened there that my head is spinning a little. I really should take a few hours to digest and compose my thoughts before blogging an episode of AnoHana, but there’s so much churning around in my head that I need to get it down while it’s fresh.
There was much activity in the realms of both the material and spiritual this week – a lot of really major, significant development. To start with the finish, the headline to me is that Jintan finally admitted to himself that he doesn’t want to see Menma go away forever – even if it’s to Heaven. He’s still working towards the fireworks project (a red herring?) and I doubt he’ll give it up, but he’s finally admitted the truth – both to himself and to Menma. In addition, of course, he also admitted that she was pretty and cute – almost as cute as the fact that he’s still bumbling and embarrassed about saying it all these years later.
Already noted is the wonderful way this show has of developing all of the core cast pretty much each and every week, and this was no exception. Sure, Jintan and Menma are at the core of all that happens – but the others, most obviously Anaru but no less Yukiatsu and Tsuroko – never feel vestigial or tacked-on. They’re fully rounded, complex and it feels as if they’re real people, which is as high a compliment as you can pay a writer in some ways. Yukiatsu had another strong week – clearly, he’s the most extreme character of the bunch but no less real for it. He’s capable of such humility and kindness – prostrating himself before Menma’s father to beg for help with the fireworks (my guess that it was he, not Menmama opposing the scheme a wrong one), comforting Anaru after recognizing her pain. He’s right, they are kindred spirits – both seemingly forever doomed to be being the “other” and Jintan is the source of both their pain. Yet he’s so often petty and spiteful – so consumed with jealousy over the fact that he can’t see Menma that he seems more concerned with that than the miracle that she’s present at all.
Of course, just about everyone in this series loves the wrong person – and if Anaru is miserable at losing out to Menma even after she’s dead, Tsuruko is no less miserable at seeing Yukiatsu chase after a girl who doesn’t even appear to be interested. Where Anaru at least wears her emotions on her sleeve, everything is a facade with Tsuruko – the light glinting off the glasses but blocking the view of the eyes (window to the soul, heh). I’m not sure still just why Yukiatsu is asking Anaru out – sympathy, perhaps? Or is it that he just wants something that should be Jinta’s? Whatever the reason it’s enough to make Tsuruko feel pretty hopeless about her chances, since Yukiatsu seems to pretty much take her for granted. And Anaru can only see Jintan, though to her eyes he appears to live solely for Menma.
Of course a shift is happening now, as we approach the end of all things. Menma, who has previously functioned mainly as a catalyst for the others’ development, is finally emerging as a key player at the heart of this. It’s no longer just the impact she has on The Busters, or her family’s dynamic – she’s a real entity now. Both physically – manifesting to the others via her cooking and writing (my guess that the diary being a vital cog a correct one) – and dramatically, where she’s increasingly at the heart of events. There were numerous moments with an ominous tone, but the entire sequence between she and Jintan at the river – where the aforementioned confession by Jintan occurred – was magical and unsettling.
From the moment she saw the ghost carp in the water and felt the cold wind, something wasn’t right – and that feeling carried over onto Jintan’s arrival on the scene. The river represents transition, obviously – a barrier between this life and the next? Was this where she died? Jintan seemed quite certain that she’d disappear if she stepped into the water – so much so that he took a terrible fall trying to stop her. And there was a slow-motion moment of Jintan splashing into the water that felt significant – that water that represents death or at least transition. He looked back and frowned as he saw Menma had no reflection, lending yet another weighty note to things. I can’t say with certainty what all that represented – but clearly, this was a hugely important and symbolic scene.
It seems almost impossible to believe there are only two episodes left – but then, it seems almost impossible to believe so much plot and character development has been packed into only nine episodes. The previews for this show never reveal much – Anaru is going to have yet another new look next week, but other than that I can’t say I gleaned much from it. Given how brilliantly this show has been executed, I have a great deal of faith that Mari Okada will pull off a solid ending – especially given the sense I have that this entire show has been meticulously planned out from day one (seemingly the key element in successfully beating NoitaminA’s 11-ep timeslot). But I also feel, more strongly than ever, that the ending is going to be bittersweet at the very least – and at this point I’d guess more bitter than sweet.