Fantastic, fantastic episode. Honestly, the direction, the music, the tension, the artwork, everything about this episode was done perfectly. I still don’t dig the everyone can see Menma development, but I forgot all about it while watching Ano Hana this week. Honestly, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this was one of the best episodes of any anime I’ve ever seen. Definitely top 10 material.
As the group march towards their goal of sending Menma towards heaven, the tension between each of these friends continues to rise. Tsuruko snaps at Yukiatsu for not noticing her. Anaru bears her heart out to Tsuruko about Jin-tan. Jin-tan continues to harbor doubts about sending Menma away. Yukiatsu remains torn between moving on and pouring salt on Jin-tan’s wound. While Poppo struggles to redo the mistakes he feels he made in the past. Seeing each of their different motivations as they take the final walk was high tension at its best.
Fucking artwork. It’s gorgeous. Say what you will about Yukiatsu’s motives, or Anaru’s motives, or heck maybe you’re even wondering whether Poppo is or isn’t a Menmasexual. But all of them have their eyes towards the sky, the future, while Jin-tan is the only one continuing to look for escape.
Another great scene was seeing Menma’s brother remind his still grieving mom about the things she’s missed out on his life. Just really well-directed. It’s not over the top, it’s not cheesy, it doesn’t make any of the characters seem selfish or insufferable – just normal, flawed, and hurting – like a real family would be after a tragic loss.
Another great scene (honestly, there was not a single bad minute in the episode) is when Yukiatsu suggests to the group that they re-enact the day of Menma’s death. Ballsy, ballsy suggestion. And Jin-tan, he same as before, tries his damndest to squirm out of it. But what’s interesting is that it’s Poppo who forces the issue and then later stops Jin-tan from making the same mistake in running away again. The only bad part is the show hasn’t done a very good job of giving us much background on Poppo. They’ve given us vague hints about Poppo feeling like he could’ve done more… of something. But it’s not really clear why he felt the need to force Jin-tan to confess to Menma. Honestly, I really hope the reason isn’t that Poppo was Menmasexual too.
But what was really interesting was, as they marched to the fireworks drum, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, what if it doesn’t work? What guarantee do they have that this was Menma’s wish? Heck, what guarantee do they have that granting Menma’s wish would send her to Heaven to begin with? Again, the direction of this scene where Jin-tan and Menma realize that she hadn’t ascended to heaven was just perfect. Menma’s slow realization, Jin-tan’s sudden realization and relief, and then…
Yukiatsu’s mondo explosion. Geez, I feel for this guy. How do you move on from the past, when the past won’t leave you alone?
Ano Hana, to me, has felt like a show that didn’t deserve the traditional happy ending. There was just too many open wounds among these former "friends" for it to work out that way. If Menma had gone, the Super Peace Busters would’ve broken up again. And the gang would’ve likely gone their different ways. The only tie that is holding their friendship together (and really, with all the jealousy, anger and bitterness amongst these "friends", I have a hard time believing they were ever really friends to begin with) is Menma. But even that tie is tenuous. Menma can’t stick around forever, and even if she didn’t, even she wouldn’t be able to hold the Super Peace Busters together.
I honestly don’t have a bead on what they’re going to plan to do next. It’ll be interesting to see how the show wraps everything up in its last episode. A second season would seem very unlikely.