As children, Jinta, Meiko, Naruko, Atsumu, Chiriko, and Tetsudo form a tight friendship group; but beneath the apparently close bonds between them lurk tensions and divisions. One day, these tensions lead to a confrontation that results in tragedy: Meiko drowns in a local creek. Shortly thereafter, Jinta’s mother dies of a terminal illness. Years later, Jinta is an angry and withdrawn high school dropout who spends most of his time at home: when Meiko appears to him and tells him that she needs him to grant her wish so that she can move on to the afterlife, Jinta thinks he is suffering from hallucinations born from his guilt over Meiko’s death. Gradually, however, she convinces him that she is not an hallucination; reluctantly, Jinta agrees to contact the other members of the group, who equally reluctantly agree to help Jinta grant Meiko’s wish, even though none of them can see or hear Meiko. As they struggle to work out what Meiko’s wish might be – she can’t remember what it is, only that it needs to be granted – old tensions and emotions re-emerge, forcing the group to not only solve the mystery of Meiko’s wish, but also come to terms with the events of the past and the personal agendas by which they were underscored.
Originally created by artists collective Super Peace Busters, and aired on Japanese television in 2011, “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” is an extended study of grief, guilt, regret, unrequited love, and the dynamics of resentment and bitterness that often lurk beneath the benign surface of apparently harmonious friendship groups. It also explores the mechanics of blame, and the way in which obsession reinforced by trauma creates psychological and emotional narratives that remove us from our own participation in tragedy and hurt. The somewhat overcooked denouement doesn’t detract from the emotional effectiveness of the story as a whole, while the quietly ambiguous epilogue speaks to the fragile tenacity of hope and the possibility for new ways of being even in the face of death and the collapse of certainty. Critically acclaimed and commercially successful upon it’s release, “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” probably suffers by comparison with Naoko Yamada’s hit 2016 feature “A Silent Voice”, but is nonetheless an affecting and intelligent exploration of difficult existential terrain.
© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.