April 16, 2011

Anohana Pilot Episode: When We Were Friends

Posted in AnoHana tagged , , , , at 7:24 pm by meotwister5

Life goes on, days pass by, and people come and go in our lives.  We grow older, perhaps a little wiser, and we encounter many people in our journey through life.  Some stay for only a while, some stick with us for some time, and some stay for what feels like a lifetime.  When we were children we certainly felt like the days would stay the same forever, stuck in our youth.  What we didn’t know back then that things change, the world changes, and sometimes the most unforeseen event could tear us apart when we thought we’d be friends forever.  We drift apart because of one thing, one thing that changes everything.

If you’ve seen Cross Game episode 1, sometimes even for mere children, death can be that thing.

It's not what you think (I think).

A social recluse for a while, Jinta is probably classified as a NEET who just recently seems to be bothered by a young girl who is somewhat trying to annoy him all day just after waking up.  He doesn’t go to school much less leave his house, and he’s annoyed that this girl who he somewhat recognizes is annoying.  As people come and go throughout the day he slowly begins to realize who this girl is, and why no one else seems to see her but him.  Is she a figment of his imagination, or maybe even a ghost.  He ventures outside as the girl, Menma, tells him she has a wish.  He now recognizes her as an old friend of his.  He meets some of the people he once called his friends when he was a kid, and finally confronts just who this is.

A young girl, his friend Menma, had died when they were young, an event that pulled apart the friendship of 6 kids devastated by the loss.  He anguishes over the loss that had tormented him for years and had pushed him into his hermitage, and now is again forced to face the guilt and regret he has carried for years to try and fulfill the vague wish of a young girl’s spirit.

Everyone has their regrets.

Loss and regret are two very powerful emotional baggage and, as Cross Game’s Kitamura Kou personifies, can also be the most powerful driving factor towards one’s life.  On the other end of the spectrum lies Jinta, a young man so tormented by his loss and regret for the last thing he had done to Menma that he has shunned the world and became a NEET.  Medical jargon would call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but for everyone else it’s the effect of an event so devastating that it changes everything and everyone.  Jinta has apparently become so shocked by what had happened, an event we don’t get to see in it’s entirety but only through vague representations, that he has not only shunned his own friends but society itself.  Guilt seems to rule his heart, for not being able to apologize to her when he had the chance, and lives with the regret that he may have to live with this regret for the rest of his life.

As I may have mentioned before, guilt and regret can tear people apart.  I’ve said that I can understand his and Kou position totally because I still live in such a state, and I understand how differently people can cope.  It’s easy to blame Jinta for not man-ing it up and living with it, but it’s much harder to try and understand that what had happened between the two of them, just before she died, was such a major emotional event.  Think about it, a personal insult from someone she was closest two and probably loved with all her heart, and this was the last thing she had heard before the universe deemed it necessary to take her life.  If anything, she too was left with a deep seated regret just like Jinta.

... Shit.

And it was with death that left him scarred and tore a group of friends apart.  It is also from this that we have our premise.  A cliched premise to some, but a picture perfect execution allowed to unfold with such suspenseful clarity that you could only but empathize with him and all his old friends even if you knew what was happening.  It’s so easy to use death as a central plot point and build everything from there, but so difficult to keep the pace up and keep the show from degenerating into a sappy emotional tearfest.  Okada Mari has taken a page from Adachi Mitsuru, perhaps THE master of this premise, and shown that she too can do it with the same deft and careful touch that prevents everything from collapsing into melodrama.  Adachi himself is getting on in years (he’s 60 this year), and if Okada can keep this up, we may be seeing his successor should he retire (I hope not!).

We have friendship at the center of it all, and it would seem to be Jinta’s job to get everyone back together as perhaps to fulfill Menma’s wish.  It’s been debated if this wish would somehow bring her back to life, in some ways similar to Clannad, but that of course remains to be seen.  I for one would not prefer such an ending, but if made well, would be perfectly acceptable.

Ghost or imagination? You decide.

I think I’ll use this section to give praise just how awesome spring 2011 is shaping up to be, and much of it right now has to be Okada’s writing.  She’s penned perhaps the 2 biggest hits of the season so far, and impressive feat when some writers don’t even write one every season.  It takes a lot of time and care to create the screenplay of one season, much more if it’s two.  My first experience with her work was her adaptation or Toradora which was the series that reignited my faith in the high school romantic comedy, and her adaptation of Wandering Son is perhaps one of the top contenders for the series of 2011.  I am certainly putting her now on my to watch list, as it really takes a different amount of talent to create two blockbuster screenplays in a single season.  Bravo.

Damn... just... damn.

So… is she a figment of a mind riddled to the core with guilt and regret, or really a ghost that has come not only to heal his battered heart but the lives of their circle of friends as well?  Wouldn’t be much of a show if it was the former, but regardless, a powerful start that harkens to the day that Kitamura Kou realized all he had to do was cry.

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