Ano Hana, episode 8: a ghost story

This was the first episode where I thought Ano Hana stirred the melodrama plot unnecessarily. It also, in my opinion, takes a huge gamble towards the end, by getting a lot more liberal with how it uses Menma.

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After learning that it was actually Menma’s father who put the kibosh on the fireworks plan, the gang decide to go to Menma’s mom to try to convince her otherwise. Instead of an understanding ally, what they found was a still heartbroken mother who has been unable to come to grips with her daughter’s death, and who’s grudge against Menma’s former friends comes out full force. After the somewhat overdone foreshadowing in the last episode, I thought Menma’s mom remained a sympathetic character. I could understand her grief. And even though she’s obviously not totally… sane, having a bunch of kids come back, doing random things saying it’s for the sake of your dead daughter… That’s sort of like a kick in the pants.

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And thus, begins the unfortunate trolling of Jin-tan. His deciding to go it alone in fulfilling Menma’s wish was the predictably selfish response of the story "hero". Anaru’s confession adds to the overwrought awkwardness, but I’m glad she got her feelings out there.

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I think Ano Hana’s drama is best done when arises naturally from the characters being themselves. A nice example of this was the discussion between Jin-tan and his dad, as well as the later talk between Jin-tan and Menma’s younger brother. The story wasn’t set up to have a hero. Jin-tan wasn’t set up to be a hero. So Jin-tan deciding on his own to be Menma’s hero feels disingenuous and bolted on just to get a rise out of the viewers.

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And then the show takes, what I think is a huge gamble in suddenly pulling Menma out of her Jin-tan-only box. We have seen her affect the real world before, she might’ve rustled up papers, sent a shiver down someone’s spine, but it was all intangible stuff. Things you could blame on natural causes. She supposedly baked some raisin bread before, but we never saw that. Theoretically, it all could’ve been a part of Jin-tan’s imagination. But now she takes it a step further and makes phantom calls to everyone from Jin-tan’s house. Jin-tan blames it on Menma, which sets Yukiatsu off. And to be perfectly frank, like everyone else, if I were Yukiatsu I would’ve pounded Jin-tan to the ground. It’s a ridiculous story no? Do you believe in the ghost girl story, or do you believe the high school drop-out hikikomori who apparently can’t forget about the past?

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But before anything further could happen, Menma knocks the diary to the ground, where the group find… a brand new page written in the diary… by the present day Menma.

This is a big break from what we’ve seen Menma being capable of doing before. For better or for worse, it also gives the show a convenient plot device for everyone to start buying into Menma. To be honest, for me, it wasn’t really an issue of whether Menma was there or not, but whether Jin-tan’s belief in Menma would set off the events that would rebuild his life and his former friendships. I was happy to consider her as a ghost. A figment of Jin-tan’s imagination. Like Boonta Willis in the Sixth Sense. If you were to put yourself in anyone’s shoes besides Jin-tan’s, before the phone calls, and before the diary, you could assume that Jin-tan was just a little nuts, and you were going to go along with him just to humor him. But now, having Menma affect the physical world in ways that’s clearly tangible, it becomes harder to accept that. It’s also fair to ask why she hadn’t done this before. Why now? Besides the fact that it was the convenient time to do so. I never understood why she talked to everyone as if she could communicate, when she knew they couldn’t see her or hear her. If she had the ability to write words on paper, why go through the charade of speaking through Jin-tan?

The gamble here is that, the show needs a good way to explain this. The story still has to make sense if we couldn’t see what Jin-tan sees. Additionally, they can’t abuse this. If Menma starts writing notes to everyone to pass around, I think it makes a farce of what we’ve seen so far. I guess we’ll see.