Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Title: Jellicoe Road (On the Jellicoe Road)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 2006

In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

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Spoiler free review...because it’s too good to be spoiled.

So if you have a lot of book friends, you’re no stranger to book pushing. How they’ll recommend this book or that book and then keep nagging you until you read said book. Usually, I ignore these requests, but when the book pusher is one of your best friends you really have no choice, but to eventually read it. (I can’t tell you the amount of nagging I was subjected to beforehand...months and months worth.)

This is one time that I was grateful for the nagging. Overjoyed really. I’m not quite sure how to put all my feelings into words to adequately describe the effect this book had on me. This book will change your life and will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page. In fact you’ll find yourself re-reading this book...several times and each time you’ll discover something more and you’ll feel something new and different. (I’ve read it four times already and plan on a fifth reading in the next month or so.)

The writing in Jellicoe Road is absolutely beautiful and profound. From the first two lines, I was hooked: “My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted.” This passage won’t be ignored and dares you to stop reading. This is one of those books where I’ve literally underlined passages on every other page. The writing speaks to me on every level.

I feel like I went through every range of emotion while reading this book. Primarily because this book has so much emotion in it, without being melodramatic. You feel with the characters and for the characters.

The main protagonist in this novel, Taylor Markham, isn’t immediately likeable (and some readers may never like her). At times I found myself repulsed by her actions and yet strangely sympathetic to them. While I didn’t always agree with her, I understood her. She’s a complex character with complex emotions, or in other words she’s human. She’s someone who I can imagine in real life.

Like her characters, the plot of this book is complex and can seem confusing and disorienting through the first several chapters as there are essentially two stories being told. I’m going to tell you what I’ve told every person I’ve since recommended this book to. Keep with it. There will be a moment when the flow will start to make sense and where everything begins to come together. The gradual piecing together of the stories is a work of art. You will have that “aha!” moment and you will have visceral reaction to it. It will be both beautiful and heartrending at once. I have come full circle as I am now the book pusher telling you to “READ THIS BOOK!”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bride of the Water God by Mi-Kyung Yun

Title: Bride of the Water God
Author: Mi-Kyung Yun (Habaek-eui Shinbu)
Volumes: 22 (ongoing)
Volumes (English): 14 (ongoing)

When Soah's impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God - instead of killed - she never imagined she'd be a welcomed guest in Habaek's magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her! Most surprising, however, is the Water God himself... and how very different he is from the monster Soah imagined.

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No final thoughts with this one either. Another short post.

While the story line is convoluted and often time confusing, Bride of the Water God is the prettiest manhwa I've ever read. The artwork is downright gorgeous, especially the full color panels. I'll be honest though, I'm not really reading this series for the story, but for the artwork. In fact I'm about 13 volumes in and I'm not quite sure what's going on. The story really doesn't hold my interest.

I like the concept of this series, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I like the magic in the story, especially the magic that leaves Habaek a child during daylight and an adult during the evening. I even like Soah, the human love interest, although I think she's a bit helpless at times. The whole human god love story, while not unique, is an interesting idea. However, all that being said, the story is ridiculously complicated and unclear. I'm not sure if this is a translation issue, bad writing, or a me being stupid issue. It could be a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, I find it hard to relate to a lot of the characters and I find the events to be a bit erratic. Also, the motivation for a lot of the characters seems unclear to me. I mean I understand the emotion behind many of their actions, but I'm not always clear why they feel the way they do.

I will say some of this is becoming clearer as the story progresses, and I think the later volumes are actually better than the early ones, but I still find this series to be a struggle to read and at times rather boring. However, the artwork is incredible. Honestly with some of the panels you don't really need words, the pictures themselves have enough emotion that you can get the gist of what's going on. I do feel that 13 volumes in, I should have stronger feelings for the series which is probably why I haven't picked it up in awhile. I'm just not all that invested. If you're looking for an okay story with beautiful artwork, this is it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sand Chronicles

Title: Sand Chronicles (Sunadokei)
Author: Hinako Ashihara 
Volumes: 10 (completed)
Volumes (English): 10 (completed)

After her parents divorce, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Used to the anonymity of city living, Ann can't get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother's hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness.

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As usual there are spoilers. Skip to the final wrap up if you wish to avoid them.

Sand Chronicles, beautiful and poignant at times, explores dark themes such as depression and suicide, while reveling in the innocence of first loves and breakups. This series follows the lives of Ann and Daigo, as well as a few of their friends, over about a twenty year time span. It's unusual for most shojo to make it out of high school, so I'm always interested in a series when half the story takes place after graduation.

In some ways this is a typical shojo, love triangle included, but it manages to break out of the same tired tropes in a few significant ways. To begin with, this series is just as much about Ann's struggle with depression and overcoming her mother's suicide as it is about her romance with Daigo. Like real life, and mental illness, it doesn't have an easy ending. Ann's love for Daigo doesn't cure her and while they do end up together, her struggle with depression is an ongoing issue, a daily one, that will be with her for the rest of her life. I liked that love didn't magically act as a cure all. Just like the scars from her failed suicide attempt, her mental illness isn't going away either. While she has better control over it, it'll always be a part of her.

Another atypical thing about this series isn't that Ann tries to move on after she breaks up from Daigo, but that she actually has sex with someone other than the hero. While she ends up dating Fuji, the love rival (which is right out of your average shojo), something less common happens in that she has sex with him. It doesn't last because it's quite apparent to Fuji that Ann is not over her feelings for Daigo. She essentially uses him for sex to get over said feelings, which again isn't the norm in a shojo. It all felt real, like how an actual human being might try to get over a bad breakup. She's a flawed heroine, something lacking in typical shojo. (Or more accurately, her flaws are different from the usual flaws of shojo heroines.) She's not perfect, but her mistakes and awful life decisions don't make her less. If anything I found myself able to relate to her more fully because of these poor life choices.

Even after Fuji and Ann break up, she doesn't immediately end up with Daigo, again breaking the mold. In fact there's a real sense that they may not actually end up together as the story progresses. (Something I worried endlessly about.) She almost settles and marries another man, a complete jackass, but after she confronts him for being a jackass he breaks off their engagement.

Ann sees this broken engagement as just another failure in a long series of failures that add up to her life. In the last couple of volumes she sort of takes stock of all she's lost in her life and tries to pinpoint where everything went wrong. Her introspection at first leads her towards suicide that only as she lay dying does she realize death isn't what she wants. (Of course at this point she's bleeding to death.) Luckily for her, Daigo finds her and gets her the medical attention she needs. This moment is sort of the catalyst that brings the young lovers back into each others lives. I'm not sure if Ann hadn't hit rock bottom if they would have been able to get back together.

I will say that I felt Daigo and Ann getting back together seemed a bit rushed. I would have preferred to have another volume delving more into the time between Ann's failed suicide attempt and their marriage. I would have liked to see how they were able to work through the events of the past together to get to their future. It also would have been nice to see Daigo and Ann dealing with her depression as a couple.

I liked both Daigo and Fuji. I wanted her to end up with Daigo, but I also hurt for Fuji. It's like when your best friend is dating a really great guy, but he's more into the relationship than she is. You know that he's not her one, and while she's trying to force it because she's tired of loving an ex, he has no idea. You can't help but hurt for the guy because you know that once your friend stops forcing feelings that aren't there, he's going to be crushed. That's how I felt about Fuji. I liked him, but I knew he wasn't for Ann. And of course you hurt for your friend because they're not only causing another person pain, and beating themselves up about it, they're also hurting themselves. This basically sums up how I felt about the Fuji/Ann relationship.They were destined for pain.

I have mixed feelings about Shiika, Ann's best friend and later love rival. I felt for her home situation, but the way she chose to act angered me. It didn't bother me that she fell in love with Daigo. It's her manipulating and sabotaging Ann and Daigo's relationship that pissed me off. Ann was her best friend. It's one thing to fall in love with your best friends guy and maybe years after said friend and guy break up (and your friend has moved on) you end up with him. (Love and timing can be weird.) It's another thing to go out of your way to break them up and undermine your friend's confidence and sense of self worth. Especially when you know your friend is fragile to begin with. I place more value in friendship than any other kind of "ship" so it's hard for me to like a character who betrays a friend. They have to earn my trust back, something Shiika was never able to do.

I loved every volume in this series except for the one that acted as a sort of prequel. It focused on Ann's mother as a teenager. Something I really wasn't interested in. I couldn't find it in me to really care about her. I know it's because she essentially bails on her daughter and while I know her suicide was due to her own mental illness, it still irked me. (I actually thought that maybe Ann's suicide attempt and her feelings at the time of her attempt probably mirrored her mother's experience, only there was no one to come to her mother's aid, but I digress.) It was hard for me to care about Ann's mother as a teenager when I knew the devastation her future act was going to cause for characters I came to love.

One of my favorite episodes in the series is in the last (or second to last?) volume when Daigo meets up with his old elementary class to open a time capsule that was buried when he was a child. I liked the idea that you could sort of meet your younger self again. That who you were never completely dies. The scene is further made perfect when Daigo reenacts the time capsule with his elementary students. It's a sort of bittersweet moment. I absolutely loved this little episode and wanted more like this.

Final Thoughts

Sand Chronicles is one of the more realistic shojo series I've read. It distinguishes itself from other shojo, by the complex themes it explores like suicide, depression, and self hate, as well as the realistic portrayals of its characters, There are no perfect characters in this series and the way they act to certain situations felt authentic. While I feel like there are some rushed aspects to the story, overall it has good pacing. People who like We Were There, Say I Love You, or Strobe Edge would probably enjoy this series.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

We Were There by Yuki Obata

Title: We Were There (Bokura ga Ita)
Author: Yuki Obata
Volumes: 16 (completed)
Volumes (English): 16 (completed)

Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it's first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before.

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This post is nothing, but spoilers. Scroll to the bottom for final thoughts if you want to avoid them.

We Were There has an emotional complexity that isn’t always present in manga, while exploring some of the darker aspects of relationships. The series follows Nanami "Nana" Takhashi as a high schooler and into early adulthood. In fact the first thing that drew me to this series was the long time span between the protagonists first meeting and them finally ending up together.

Takhashi is an average teenage girl who falls in love with her charismatic classmate Motoharu "Moto" Yano. His apparent carefree and confident manner draws Takhashi to him and it's not until she gets to know him better that she realizes he's still grieving for his dead girlfriend and isn't as confident or carefree as his appearance suggests.

Of course Yano can't admit he's grieving, due to his overwhelming anger towards his dead girlfriend, Nana Yamamoto. (You may have noticed there are two Nanas in this series, so from here on out I'll be referring to Yano's dead girlfriend as Nana and his living one as Takhashi.) On the surface his anger seems to stem from the way his girlfriend died, she died in a car crash while riding around with her abusive ex-boyfriend. At times, he's quite callous when he talks about Nana, but later when he has a sort of breakdown begging her to not be dead, you realize that his unfeeling behavior towards her memory was a sort of self preservation. His ego couldn't deal with the betrayal and abandonment of her death.

These feelings are compounded by his mom committing suicide shortly after he moves away from Takhashi during his last year of highschool. It's another woman he loves choosing to leave him. This episode is his breaking point and he pretty much abandons Takhashi and everyone in his past life. This abandonment in turn kind of causes a break in Takhashi who never gets over it. It's like her life stopped at the moment he leaves her on the train station and in a way his does too. His disappearance shadows every aspect of her life. One of the saddest things about the series is seeing the emotional damage inflicted on both Yano and Takhashi. Because of this, neither one is able to fully move on.

There are two secondary characters worth mentioning in the series, Masafumi "Take" Takeuchi, Yano's best friend and later Takhashi's confidant and love interest, and Yuri Yamamoto, Nana's sister and Yano's stalker. Take is the steadfast and loyal friend that any sensible person would fall in love with, but this is shojo so of course he's not going to end up with the girl. While there is some competition between Yano and Take, it's not until Yano abandons Takhashi that Take truly pursues her. I liked Take and would have liked to see Takhashi and him end up together.
At one point in the series, he has a revelation that it's better for him to be with Takhashi, not because he loves her more, but that his love won't hurt her, unlike Yano whose love is always coupled with heartache and pain. He truly wanted what was best for Takhashi, and while it might be a bit arrogant to think he's what's best for her, his motives were good. I mean when you see someone you love, pining for someone who has abandoned them and you know you can love them best, why wouldn't you try your best to win their heart?

I felt for Take and I knew he'd get the short of the stick when all was said and done. He probably had the clearest vision of all the characters in the series. At one point in the series when Take discovers that Yano has been living with Yuri (who we'll visit later in this post) during his missing years and Yano's response to his finding out is "If you were on a boat with 2 people and that boat were to sink, who would you save? The one you like more? The one who's prettier? Or the one who's nicer? I would save the one who can't swim. Nana [Takhashi] is strong. She can swim on her own. Yamamoto needs my help." Take fires back saying something about Takhashi drowning and Yano being too obtuse to see it. Yano is obviously taken aback by this information and I think it's what motivates Yano to reevaluate some of the life decisions he's made. It's a scene that stuck with me. I also think that if this scene hadn't happened, that Yano would have continued living in the emotional void he'd created for himself. He never would have made his way back to Takhashi because I don't think he would have realized the damage he'd done there.

So in a round about way this brings us to Yuri. Yuri is probably the most emotionally complex and fucked up character in the series. She grew up with a mother who always put her more beautiful and popular sister first. Yuri lived in her sister's shadow when Nana was alive and continued to live in her shadow even after Nana's death, believing her mom would have preferred her death instead. She couldn't break free from her sister. Her dad abandoned the family while her sister was still alive, so she didn't have any support there either.

She had formed an unhealthy infatuation for Yano before he even started dating her sister. She kind of saw her sister's death as an opportunity to win Yano. They have sexual relations soon after Nana's death and so begins a truly fucked up one sided love story. Yano feels intense guilt over this incident, not only because he used Nana's sister to get back at her for cheating on him and dying, but also because it was Yuri's first time. This part of his past almost causes Yano and Takhashi to break up in high school and it causes a lot of the future drama he deals with.

Yuri pretty much stalks Yano to the point where Yano alternates between treating her with contempt or callous disregard. Yuri, feeling abandoned and unloved by everyone around her, threatens suicide. I don't think she would have done it. I honestly think she used it as a ploy to manipulate Yano into a relationship and it worked. Yano has a bit of the savior complex. It's like he actively looks for broken people to protect. (Who doesn't have a friend like that?) This kind of gives meaning to his own life and I think made him feel like he was somehow making up for not being able to save his mom or Nana.

Eventually, Yano and Takhashi find their way back to each other. This of course is after Yuri finally admits that the reason her sister was in the car with her ex-boyfriend was to finally and completely break it off with him. (Essentially, Nana was trying to protect Yano who had been beaten up by her ex-boyfriend when they first started dating.) I have never wanted to punch a fictional character so much as I did Yuri when she made this confession. What kind of person watches someone suffer (for years!) and withholds vital information that could ease said suffering? It's such a dick move. I guess I should be glad she bothered to give the information to him at all. Giving him this information severed their hold over each other and allowed Yano to not just forgive Nana, but himself as well. In cutting this tie with Yano, Yuri frees herself from the codependent relationship she initiated and you get the idea that she's not only going to be fine, but she'll thrive on her own.

I'll be honest, I had mixed feelings about Takhashi and Yano ending up together. On the one hand, I was glad that Takhashi and Yano were able to deal with the ghosts in their pasts and move forward in a relationship together, but on the other hand I really liked the idea of Take and Takhashi together. I know Take will be fine and he'll eventually find someone, but I kind of wanted his someone to be Takhashi. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to stand it if Yano and Yuri had maintained their relationship, and Yano was only ever going to leave Yuri for Takhashi. He wouldn't have for anyone else, so I guess it's good they ended up together. I also like the idea that second chances are possible and can be lasting. The last volume in this series is especially good and just powerful.

The writing in this series is beautiful. There are some truly profound observations in the series, reflecting on love, loss, and just plain life. The emotions in this series felt authentic and I found it easy to relate to the characters, even those I wanted to shake. It's interesting, because I didn't hate anyone in the series, not even Yuri. I didn't always like what they did, but I genuinely hoped that they all found happiness in the end. Speaking of the end, I loved the ending to the series. It's basically just Yano and Takhashi going through the routine of being together again doing normal things. It was a well earned normalcy and I know I had a ridiculous smile on my face while reading the ending.

Final Thoughts

I loved this series! Its realism will illicit strong emotions from readers, making it difficult to not feel along with the characters during the series. You'll have moments when you might love and hate a character all at the same time, which I think shows that the author nailed the complexity of the human condition. The writing is amazing and I wish the author would write more and it would be translated into English. Given the opportunity, I would read pretty much anything this author puts out. I think this series would appeal to people who liked Say I Love You, Sand Chronicles, or Ao Haru Ride. All of these series deal with some heavy issues and are a bit edgy compared to other series.

On a side note, I watched the two live action movies of this series and loved them! They're a great adaptation of the manga series, and the music is beautiful. If you get a chance I highly recommend watching the movies.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Say I Love You (Movie)

Title: Say I Love You (Sukitte Ii nayo)
Writer: Kanae Hazuki (manga), Asako Hyuga
Director: Asako Hyuga
Release Date: 
July 12, 2014 
Country of Origin: Japan 

Mei Tachibana is a high school student. Due to a traumatic incident when she was a kid, Mei has been unable to make friends or have boyfriends. By mistake, Mei then injures the most popular male student named Yamato Kurosawa. Somehow, Yamato Kurosawa likes Mei Tachibana and tells everyone unilaterally that Mei is his friend. One day, Yamato Kurosawa saves Mei Tachibana from a stalker by kissing her. From that kiss, their love story begins.

I don't intend for this to be a long post so there's not a final thoughts section at the end to skip to. I'll try to keep this relatively spoiler free.

Say I Love You is easily my favorite movie adaptation of a manga series, a title Kimi ni Todoke held until this movie came out. It's an adaptation that manages to maintain the essence of both the story and the characters. The two leads, Haruna Kawaguchi (Mei Tachibana) and Sota Fukushi (Yamato Kurosawa) give a spot-on performance of the manga characters. They easily could have walked out of the manga panels and into real life. I also think Rika Adachi did a superb job as Aiko Muto. The self loathing and seething anger leaped from the screen.

The other characters had varying degrees of accuracy. For instance, the movie version Megumi Kitagawa wasn't nearly underhanded enough when trying to win Yamato's affections. (Not to say Arisa Yagi did a poor job. It was just a character change in the script.) I will say that I preferred Kai Takemura's character in the anime and manga better than the movie. I feel like the movie didn't develop him enough, so he's a pale imitation of the original. Again, this isn't an acting issue, but a modification in the script. Movies are shorter so they sometimes have to sacrifice character development of secondary characters in order to leave more time for developing the main characters. Disappointing, but understandable.

I actually thought all the actors did a good job. Even with the minor character adjustments from page to screen, the nature of the story didn't change. It still had all the qualities I love about the manga and anime. Basically, I pretty much love this entire franchise. The order goes anime, movie, and then manga, which I know is weird. Usually the manga would have the number one or two spot for me after I've watched all appropriate adaptations, but I think it's a series that just comes more alive on the screen. Of course this order may change by the completion of the manga series, but this is where I am now.

The movie did a fantastic job bringing the emotions of the characters to life. Mei is a ball of intense feelings and this comes across clearly in the movie. Many of the scenes between Mei and Yamato are tense with pent up emotion. The actors had good chemistry which I think helps in a romance.

One of the things I love about this series, which probably comes across most strongly in the manga series, but is apparent in all its media formats, is the truth that no one is completely bad. Even some of the most villainous characters find redemption in the manga and I feel if the anime would have gotten a second season we would have seen more of that rather than just with Aiko and Kenji. Both characters that you don't like right away in any adaptation.

Like I said, this really isn't a long post and I'm not really deconstructing the movie by any means. I liked the movie and think it's one of the best adaptations of a manga series (don't even get me started on Ao Haru Ride - I'm saving that for a later post) I've ever seen. While minor changes were made to characters and situations, the movie stayed true to the mangaka's creation. Also, One Direction's "Happily" is a perfect fit to this movie (and I'm not a One Direction fan by any means). The song will forever be firmly associated with Say I Love You in my mind.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Title: Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Writer: Mari Okada
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Episodes: 11

Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends have become estranged after a tragic accident split them apart. Now in their high school years, a sudden surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day and come to terms with the ghosts of their past.

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I'm trying to keep this post spoiler free, but no promises. Skip to the bottom for a quick summary of my review.

Do you ever have that late night craving to watch anime, but you don't want to watch something you've already seen, and you really aren't feeling the anime in your to-watch queue? When I have nights like this I inevitably end up browsing Crunchyroll or Youtube until I find something to sate my craving. This was the mood I was in when I first stumbled across Anohana.

I started the first episode and for the first five minutes I didn't expect to continue the series. (I try to give anime at least two episodes before calling it if I'm not feeling it.) When Menma shows up as this loud energetic girl I thought "here we go another sister with a brother complex" (then I thought "oh, she's a annoyingly cutesy neighbor, not his sister" which wasn't much of an improvement) and was already slating this as a did not finish series. Then the Moment happened;[View Spoiler]

[the moment when the audience is let in on the fact that she's his dead friend and he's convinced that he's finally losing it.]

I mentally stopped shelving the series and found myself completely engrossed. With each passing second, minute, and hour I became more and more absorbed in this series. The emotion in this series is raw and beautiful. It basically follows a group of friends and how they deal with the death of their childhood friend. [View Spoiler]

[There's a bit of a paranormal element to the series, but throughout most of it the audience is convinced that Menma is really just a symptom of the main character Jintan's grief of not just losing Menma, but losing the rest of his friends.]

What makes the series so compelling is the realistic way in which the characters deal with their grief as well as the way in which these childhood friends begin to reconnect with each other. While not everyone can relate to the death of a loved one, there isn't a single person who can't relate to growing apart from a friend, possibly to the extent of hating someone who was once a treasured friend. Watching the group's friendship reawaken over the reemergence of Menma, even if most of them are convinced Jinta's just stuck in the past, was something I connected to on a personal level. The hurt feelings, misunderstandings, awkward moments, self-hate, and unrequited love that the characters experience throughout the series added another level of realism to this slice of life.

There isn't a character in this series I didn't like or care about. They were all hurting for the same reason and a host of different reasons related to the situation. Watching each character work out their feelings and realize they need each other had my emotions in constant free fall. I think I pretty much cried my way through the last two episodes. I related to Jinta's determination, Naruko's insecurity, Atsumu's surliness, Chiriko's acceptance, Poppo's escapism, and Menma's endless capacity to love.

My favorite relationship in the series is probably between Atsumu and Chiriko. They're the only two of the childhood group (named the Super Peace Busters) who remained friends as high school students. Atsumu's simmering grief over Menma and the way in which Chiriko supports him in her quiet, yet forceful way, shows a level of tenderness that's hard not to sympathize with. When Chiriko sets the stage for Atsumu to not only reveal his grief, but also to confront his resentment towards Jinta I couldn't help, but think that's true friendship.

I also loved how the audience gets to know the characters not just as teens, but as their past selves through flashbacks. We're given glimpses into these children's lives primarily on the last day of Menma's life. Through this we get a better idea of how they were effected by tragedy. [View Spoiler]

[One of the more powerful scenes in the series is when Menma reveals herself to the group through her journal and they're finally convinced she's not just a figment of a deranged mind. In this scene we see a past memory superimposed over current day and it was just perfect.]

My only issue with the series, and it's a minor one, is the hint of fan service in some of the drawings, particularly of Naruko. While this is a subtle thing, I still found the suggestive poses annoying. One of my biggest pet peeves is unnecessary fan service in animes where it doesn't really make any sort of sense to have it. Anohana is one of those animes.

The ending of this anime, and I'm not going to spoil it because it's one of the most beautiful endings to an anime I've ever watched, is amazing in it's perfection. Make sure to have a tissue handy as only a monster would be incapable of shedding tears while watching it. My previous statement might be a bit harsh, but seriously if you watched this series and didn't have any sort of pang or feels you might be dead inside. (Not sure that last statement was more or less harsh than the previous. I need to work on my diplomacy skills.)

Final Thoughts

This is an instant favorite! Not only is the story realistic it's highly engaging. The characters have a level of depth, often missing in a series, that makes it impossible not to experience their emotions as your own. There's a good chance you'll experience some ugly crying while watching it, so keep a tissue nearby. I recommend this to people who liked Bokura ga ita (We Were There) or Sunadokei (Sand Chronicles). All three are highly emotional series that deal with grief in real life situations.