June 26, 2011

Ano Hana Finale: Flowers for A Lady

Posted in AnoHana, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:05 pm by meotwister5

Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.

– George Eliot


The fireworks are done, but Menma is still around.  Everyone begins to wonder what it is they’re all really doing, for themselves or for Menma, and when they congregate at the shrine everything they’ve been keeping inside for so long start to explode like the fireworks they worked hard to make.  Some hidden agendas and truth come to light as the group despairs at how Menma has not yet taken her leave of this world.  Jinta could only listen as the other four of his friends begin to tell their own personal tales, their own reasons, their own beliefs, hidden since that fateful day years ago.  Yes, even Poppo has skeletons in his closet.  After a while they have a good laugh from all the drama they’re showing.  At home again Jinta finds Menma lying on the floor, weak and disappearing, after finally fulfilling the promise she had made to Jinta’s mother.  The tears he sheds are proof of that, and now it is time for her to go.

But he refuses to let her go until everyone has a chance to say goodbye.  He drags her to their secret base where everyone is.  Everything after that is, well, better to watch than for me to explain.   Suffice to say that when it’s time to say goodbye, underneath all the tears, should be a smile.  At the end they offer flowers for a lady as everyone finally moves on.  Menma is bid goodbye, but not forgotten.

Having Menma revive back as a person would have surely ruined the show for me.  I should perhaps thank god that she didn’t because letting her do so would have undermined the very basic themes and premise of the story and pretty much everything the characters have had to go through.  What would have become of their struggle to move on with their lives if Menma would only have just revived?  Each one of them had already come to grips with the fact that she wouldn’t, and that to some extent they have their own reasons for wanting her to move on to the next plane of existence for both selfless and selfish reasons.  Having her move on, or even come back in a very different form, is to me the ideal ending for this tale about people coming to grips with the chains that bound them to the past and breaking free of them.  Some have said that she came back as the flowers, some will say that she had really gone to heaven, but these are ultimately beside the point.  At the end of the day and her life, the people she had left behind are finally starting to move again, no longer tied and no longer burdened.  As Menma’s wish was to finally let Jinta cry and show everyone the true face he had hidden for so may years, she too could finally move on.

The biggest issue I’ve had with the series since it began to show it was, perhaps like other viewers, the buckets of tears Menma has a tendency to shed almost every episode.  She is a cry baby, to be sure, with a teenage (?) body but still the mind of someone who was stuck at eleven years old.   On the other hand, this show is a drama and at times melodrama despite the mix of magical events and realism it presents.  Melodrama is oftentimes a double edged sword: just enough drives the emotional point home more than any other method, but going beyond the limits each person has makes it cringe-worthy or even downright laughable.  E very difficult balance in execution, and there have really been the times where it felt like Okada Mari pushed the boundaries a tad bit too far in my taste, and I have a relatively high melodrama tolerance.  I’d say it’s probably because Menma cries a lot, perhaps too much in fact, even when keeping in mind her emotional maturity.  The series managed both a deft dramatic touch that let the emotions flow effortlessly out, and at the same time relied on tried and tested emotional manipulation to get the point across.  Some will like it, some will hate it, and for what it’s worth I think Okada did better at her attempts than most writers do.

It was almost surprising how both simple yet complex the wish Menma had to fulfill was.  To learn that it was not really her wish but Jinta’s mother’s wish that Menma promised to was a twist I didn’t really see coming.  On the other hand, it brought a much deeper emotional connection for Jinta who I still think was the most tied and weighed down character in the entire series.  Yes I agree, he has spent much of his life since then hiding his feelings and his emotions from the world, and it really brings to light my belief that Menma was more an angel with a message than someone who has unfinished business with the world.  She came back with a reason that wasn’t her own but for someone else, that it was not really her who was stuck in the world of the living but her friends.  It’s a rather nice reversal when one assumes lingering spirits are the ones with unfinished business, because here we have a spirit who doesn’t really have regrets left behind as much as being given a task benefiting those left behind.  She remained in the world not to be saved but to save, to borrow a line from the Bible.  By her promise she came to save Jinta from his emotional shell, and by extension everyone else, and with her mission accomplished she could now return to the world above her.

It is argued that the ending of the show didn’t resolve all loose ends and didn’t really fix up the issues each of the characters are facing.  I agree with this sentiment, but I see it as both as a real presentation of reality rather than a plot fault because, in truth, who would have really managed to fix all their problems at that point.  Menma’s death was the beginning of the problems they were forced to face, and meeting her again was really just the first step to personal healing they all would need to go through to finally be able to move on completely.  Menma’s appearance managed to put into real perspective each of the issues each character had to face, but she was not the one to cure them.  For everything she’s done, her presence merely put them on the road to recovery; she cannot make them travel the road.  She made them see the problems they’ve been having since childhood, but she cannot make them face them.  At the time it was time for her to leave the second and final time, she had shown them the roads they can travel, but she cannot make them move.  They would have to do so themselves.

That is why Jinta’s still struggling to go to school with Anaru.  That is why Yukiatsu and Tsuruko still find a bit of awkwardness between them.  That is why Poppo is struggling with books he would have studied if he went to school  Each one has a road they have to catch up on after time almost stopped for them that time.  Menma put their time back into motion, and each one still has a long road ahead of them.

NoitaminA may not be the most popular spot on the weekly anime schedule, but this does not reduce the sheer quality of many of the shows it airs.  Maybe for some 11 episodes is too short, not enough to present the visions it has for itself, but it would be a lie to say that it fails to achieve much of what the shows and adaptations set out to do.  Ano Hana, as an original production, is no different.  In eleven episodes we get in a nutshell a what if scenario that could easily occur to any one of us, and shows us the different ways people would have to cope with the fallout of such catastrophic emotional events.  This was masterfully brought about by strong writing and great voice acting.  Sure enough, this is perhaps one of the strongest drama driven shows of the year, if not the past few years.

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