The Ghosts of The Flower Whose Name We—alshdlghldshlhhglg DAT ANARU ANIME (AnoHana something something)

[gg]_Ano_Hi_Mita_Hana_no_Namae_o_Bokutachi_wa_Mada_Shiranai_-_03_[78F1A893].mkv_snapshot_17.48_[2011.05.01_20.40.47]

Rightly or wrongly I’ve lumped two shows together this season for their melodramatic conceits and their eye-popping character designs for some of their female characters: Hanasaku Iroha, and AnoHana. It’s also unfair because Iroha has more than one eye-popping character design and the other show only has Anaru… but Anaru is Anaru so it’s even steven.

I’m not here to discuss the salacious content of either show, I’ll leave that to the experts. I’m here more to ask a question: what exactly is Menma? What is this character that is so far interactive only to Jinta, but for all intents and purposes a dynamic character whose story is still unfolding in the narrative?

[gg]_Ano_Hi_Mita_Hana_no_Namae_o_Bokutachi_wa_Mada_Shiranai_-_03_[78F1A893].mkv_snapshot_01.09_[2011.05.01_20.39.04]

Jinta calls her his hallucination, this ‘spirit of summer’ (a salaciously suggestive term – in keeping with the pornographic gags she has with him), while Poppo and the others seem to think of her as a ghost.

Menma on the other hand, mentions (in episode 03) that she has a ghost, but it seems that this ghost is autonomous of her (and is perhaps what Poppo saw in the forest). Having an online handle prefixed by “ghost” doesn’t make me any kind of expert on the supernatural at all, so I truly am baffled by this Menma character.

It’s a good kind of baffled, as my annoyance is limited to the overt lolicon fapbait character design and porno gags. I am truly intrigued by the metaphysics that govern her and the show, which is an otherwise down-to-earth provincial teen drama. Menma spent time visiting her family in episode 02 and demonstrated some ability to manifest herself physically in some kind of force.

There she observed her mother attend to her shrine in their living room, then in the succeeding episode spend time on Jinta’s mother’s shrine. Death hangs heavy in this show, and is indeed perhaps the most significant factor in Jinta’s withdrawal from society. But enough of that, I want to know about the dead.

[gg]_Ano_Hi_Mita_Hana_no_Namae_o_Bokutachi_wa_Mada_Shiranai_-_03_[78F1A893].mkv_snapshot_06.59_[2011.05.01_20.40.19]

Why does Menma manifest the way she does? How distinct is she from ghosts? If she’s this way, what of the other dead? Can they interact with each other? I’ve ruled out Menma as a Jinta-unique phenomenon, because we experience her as viewers, in the third person. She does things independent of Jinta. She’s not just a hallucination limited to one person.

She’s not a ghost, she’s not a figment of Jinta’s imagination, and now the other boys are claiming to have seen her or versions of her. How does all of this work? Sure I can wait until the show explains it to me, but if anyone can do so without throwing spoilers around, it’ll be quite a feat.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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33 Responses to The Ghosts of The Flower Whose Name We—alshdlghldshlhhglg DAT ANARU ANIME (AnoHana something something)

  1. Sorrow-kun says:

    This is one of the more interesting questions posed by the show so far. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about it.

    There are a couple of reasons why I’d prefer Menma to be a Jinta-unique phenomenon. Firstly, the show has been, otherwise, down-to-earth, so the presence of a supernatural figure sticks out like a sore thumb. Secondly, if the characters had to overcome their problems by themselves, as opposed to having the help from a supernatural cheerleader, it’ll be more difficult for them to cope (ie, more drama for the audience) and they’ll come out of it on the otherside as much stronger, sympathetic characters.

    I don’t think this is done and dusted, and that there’s a clear conclusion to the question of whether she’s a hallucination or not. The fact that Menma can interact with things outside of Jinta’s sphere of influence isn’t really that meaningful when we consider that no one has actually interacted with her back. The little things, like Anaru feeling something on her neck when Menma hugged her, or the dog barking at Menma, may have been added to be deliberately misleading. Let’s not forget, Jinta isn’t the most reliable of narrators anyway. The speculation is rife (and fairly compelling) that the “ghost” that Poppo saw isn’t anything supernatural at all.

    All these characters have lots of skeletons in their closet, and I hope the show focuses on those rather than revealing to us whether Menma can walk through walls or float down the liffey.

    • The thing that prevents me from limiting Menma to a Jinta-exclusive phenomenon is her autonomy. She has adventures separate from Jinta. Her world doesn’t revolve around him (relatively). Jinta cannot narrate scenes he is not present in: Menma visiting her own home, for example — which occurs while Jinta was with Poppo.

      As for the ghost that Poppo saw, I like both theories (cosplay/crossplay: Tsuruko/Yukuichi).

    • otou-san says:

      Puzzling over Menma’s nature is a great part of the appeal of this series so far, although I wonder how long it can be drawn out. First off, a spirit of the dead that actually knows it’s dead doesn’t sound much like a ghost at all; both western and Japanese ghosts tend to have unfinished business and an unwillingness to let go but Menma is surprisingly casual.

      As for her manipulation of physical objects, it’s hard to say.

      Let’s not forget, Jinta isn’t the most reliable of narrators anyway

      This is a great point. The problem is, when Menma was making muffins, he was actually around other people for a time (i.e., witnesses), so one does have to assume they’re having separate adventures as gl says.

      Ultimately, it may not be that important; as fun as it is to speculate on what she is, the important thing to the story and characters is that she is. She’s a means to an end, and whether that end is Jintan’s subconscious goal or something that’s guiding him from beyond, viewing the characters through the lens of the Menma Experience seems like the focus of the anime (and the real joy of it).

  2. Aza says:

    If you frame freeze in that scene when Poppo saw her “ghost”, you can see that the ghost is wearing a wristwatch.

    Now, Menma herself doesn’t wear a wristwatch. However, if you look at character design pictures, two characters are drawn with a wristwatch. Of the two, one is shown having a dress that looks like Menma’s AND later states to have seen Menma’s ghost followed with a smug “See, you’re not the only one who can see her” to Jinta.

    This all could be a red herring, but I’m pretty sure Poppo didn’t saw Menma’s real ghost. And Menma’s comment about her ghost existing might be a cause of lack of insight on her side – she simply doesn’t contemplate her existence and just goes with the flow.

  3. bluemist says:

    One thing’s for sure, Menma (of Jinta) is not a Saint Yuuki character that only interacts with the person who has trauma. Not sure what the anime producers are trying to achieve with those Menma-only scenes, it kinda suggests to me that she is a middling-tangible object. Not a ghost, but not exactly a human.

    I’m having a bit of difficulty in suspending my disbelief in this show. Sure this is not just slice-of-life from the get-go, but my mind keeps wanting logical/fantastical explanations of why she exists, of which the anime explains none so far. In the first episode I was kinda predicting that the ghost Menma would disappear once somehow the characters are finally at peace with her of some sorts, and Jinta would remember that experience as really just a summer illusion or stress, but because of the recent reveals that “everyone has their own Menma ghost”, now that logic is impossible.

    • No explanation is really required for the parnanormal stuff to appreciate a show like this… as long as Menma fighting an alien empire or the Walpurgisnacht. You should check out Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Laura Esquivel novels where magical stuff appears in the mundane as if it’s the most normal things in the world — but interestingly and entertainingly so.

      • otou-san says:

        Haruki Murakami is a great example of this as well (although some of his stuff is straight up fantasy). My main man Jun Maeda does the same, but we’ll leave that for another time. A time when I actually want to address the inappropriate comparison between Jun Maeda and Esquivel or Murakami. A time called never.

        • I really should read Murakami, as he seems to be a useful cross-reference for a number of shows and content. I might miss a bunch of ‘remembering love’ moments for his work in the things I’ve seen and read.

          LOL.

  4. It is an interesting question. My best guess at the moment is that she is a ghost of some sort but that she’s ‘anchored’ by Jinta’s memories and trauma. That she wouldn’t be able to start interacting with the living world if it weren’t for the strong pull of his mind. Kind of like in some fiction where spirits and ghosts are anchored to an object or a person and that entity in the living world is what allows them to manifest. She’s clearly autonomous from Jinta at times but at this point I’m going with the anchor theory, that Jinta originated her reappearance.

    • I think the anchoring idea works, regardless of what kind of paranormal phenomenon Menma is. It’s not like she’s “oh, I’m free to do anything I want… lemme check out Europe”

      • foshizzel says:

        I was thinking the same with Menma she probably is stuck to Jinta, or has unfinished business with him and the friends they share since hes looking for her “wish”.

        Fun series so far I think it has more drama than Hanasaku Iroha, just because Anohana has the whole people died thing running for it. Death to me is always more dramatic than oh you have to work for grandma deal, but that’s just my own preference for drama.

  5. Bumphgb says:

    I think it’s a fairly solid fact that she is a ghost, what others have seen has been in no way like Jintas experience so far and Menmas independant existence away from Jinta seems to be for our benefit so as to make sure we understand that she isn’t a figment of Jintas imagination.
    I have a sneeking suspicion that Menmas wish will more likely be that Jinta forgives himself for what happened that summer. So far I’ve really enjoyed this show, far more than I thought I would after reading the synopsis at the time of the release of the first episode.

    • Menmas independant existence away from Jinta seems to be for our benefit so as to make sure we understand that she isn’t a figment of Jintas imagination.

      Yes, pretty much. Jintas absolution from his own self-blame and guilt is pretty obvious as a goal. He wouldn’t be able to function and grow otherwise.

      I do previews with ExecutiveOtaku over at THAT Anime Blog, but based on the clips and synopses nothing really strikes me as interesting. I end up just trying out so many shows at the beginning of each season and just drop those that interest me the least.

  6. Cokesakto says:

    I haven’t watched the show yet, but from your description, maybe it’s like Gabriel Garcia Marquez-style magical realism, where the fantastical happens with the mundane, and to draw attention to it is to miss the symbolic point of their usage.

    • It could very well be the case, though I haven’t read any Marquez at all in years (I’ve only read Love in the Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude anyway). I do remember that in Marquez, there supernatural elements are presented to be casual/business as usual to the characters but nonetheless a spectacle for the readers. That’s my impression of them anyway.

      Here in AnoHana Menma is clearly not ‘normal’ phenomena for anyone.

  7. vendredi says:

    Omo actually mentions about Hanasaku that it feels very much like a J-drama (http://sharekoube.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/its-so-japanese/). AnoHana gives a very similar vibe, what with Menma’s presence – while animation and Japanese drama certainly overlap in places, it’s fascinating to see how both shows pull from it – but that’s a whole other discussion.

    I admittedly have not seen a lot of Japanese drama (most of my exposure has been Chinese or Korean, and even then those are rather thing), but the setup of being able to spend one last transient season with a departed loved one seems a common enough trope.

    Also, it’s important to note that summer, in Japan, is traditionally “ghost season”. The Bon Festival is generally celebrated during August, rooted in the belief that the spirits of the departed come to visit during the summer, and the circulation of ghost stories during this period is popular. So while there’s certainly a suggestive streak to “spirit of summer”, there’s also one that’s very rooted in traditional Shinto folklore.

    • Unfortunately, I can’t penetrate omo’s fog of vagueness to get whatever he’s saying so I’ll have to take your word for it. The slapping thing he talks about is all over the Spanish colonial tradition of telenovelas (soaps). I’ve seen so much dramatic slapping on TV from a very young age so much so that Tomino didn’t really surprise me. So whatever.

      I think the Shinto folklore bit does give a better context for Menma being a ghost and the timing of her appearance. I just wonder what took her so long. Why did she let Jinta and the rest drift this much apart? Why did she grow even though she looks like lolicon fapbait anyway? Has she been traveling around the world up until now?

  8. Jack says:

    I’m fairly certain Menma is a ‘real ghost’, with a limited power to interact with physical objects and travel unspecified distances. Who knows how far she could travel from Jinta, but she doesn’t seem especially limited in any way.

    The ‘ghost’ that Poppo witnesses is just that other guy dressing up as Menma, for reasons unknown.

  9. sadakups says:

    Nice. You’re also in the Anaru boat.

    For Ano Hana, everybody wants to know the deal with Menma’s death and that “other” Menma that supposedly appeared in the previous episode. I wouldn’t make one myself, but there are theories that people are getting into like the ones mentioned here, namely Other Menma is either Yukiatsu or Tsuruko cosplaying as Menma; or that crazy theory from /a/ that Yukiatsu pushed Menma in the stream which lead to her death, and Menma is asking for Jinta’s help to lead him to that. In other words, this show is getting people to talk. I’m expecting a cheesy ending with this one as probably Menma’s wish is to get everybody together, which already happened, but there’s something else definitely.

    For Hanasaku, I like watching it as well, but considering that it will have two seasons, it’s not exactly as compelling in every episode like Ano Hana is, but still manages to get it moving despite weird and “oh god not this again” moments.

    So yeah, we all win with both shows.

  10. jpmeyer says:

    Anaru jelly

    (Ewwwwww)

  11. Bruno J. Global says:

    Whatever phenomenon Menma is, I’d like to think of it as a narrative device to get the story going. Anyway, there’s this: http://pastebin.com/jZTCtw5q

    Oh, and if ever this anime come to our local TV, I hope the title gets translated into “Ano na nga ba ang pangalan ng bulaklak na nakita natin noong araw na ‘yon?” or AnoNgaBa in short.

    • Well, that’s obvious. It is a narrative and any major element must do that or be the thing that is moved.

      I don’t want spoilers so I won’t read the content of the link.

      LOL it sounds like an Ai Ai de las Alas kind of show.

      • Bruno J. Global says:

        It’s not a spoiler. It’s fanfiction that most likely won’t happen, but it might appeal to you. Actually, there are no spoilers for this show since it’s an original work; only thing out there is speculation.

  12. abscissa says:

    “Why does Menma manifest the way she does? How distinct is she from ghosts? If she’s this way, what of the other dead? Can they interact with each other?”

    Coincidentally, I have answers to those. I’d explored the similar questions on my recent post. But of course, these are just my way of rationalizing Ano Hana.

    So here’s what I can say, a ghost is various facets of the mind, mainly the consciousness, personality, energy, and soul that remains after the body dies. As a matter of fact, it’s not just simply as a dead or missing person, but a social figure where history and subjectivity make social life. So how do they interact? There’s this Ghost as Energy Theory and it pretty much fits with Menma’s definition.

  13. Pingback: Last Flowers » Behind The Nihon Review

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