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‘Anohana’ 10 years after: Freeing the tortured souls of our youth

Anohana - super peace busters
"The best memories..."

Some of the best and fondest memories in life happen during our youth. The hot summer days filled with fun and awe. The games, the hideouts, the endless adventure. The friends we made along the way. But as easy and free being young can be, tragedy can strike at any given moment and, without warning, take those happy memories away. How do you respond to life’s sorrows as a kid?

First aired a decade ago today, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011) answered that question many of us in our younger years—and even in the later, more adult years—didn’t bother asking. While at its core Anohana is a coming-of-age story built around a tragedy, which is what people tearfully remember the show for, there is a level of emotional complexity to Anohana unmatched by other similar anime shows. The themes of love, friendship, and change are seen through such honest and unfiltered lens that it’s scary how much I can relate to the characters and their circumstances—and I imagine a million other people can too.

But going back, how did Anohana teach us to move on from tragedy and free the tortured souls of our youth?

Anohana - super peace busters
"You and the end of summer and the dreams of the future."

So, a lot of people probably don’t realize it, but Anohana was also part horror story. Think about it: Jintan and the rest of the Super Peace Busters are literally being haunted by Menma. Jintan suffered the greatest because he was initially the only one who can see Menma’s ghost and technically, he cared for her the most. For Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo, the haunting came in other ways such as regrets, insecurities, and unrequited feelings.

We see these characters go through varying shades of denial and disbelief, which are completely normal reactions to finding out you’re being haunted by your dead childhood friend. And they were only freed when they confronted the ghost of Menma and all the unwritten letters and bottled-up emotions of five years ago. But there’s more that they needed to confront—the ghosts of the Super Peace Busters.

After the untimely passing of their sixth member, the Super Peace Busters informally disbanded and went on separate ways. The special bond was broken, the secret base, forgotten. While Menma was definitely pivotal to the group’s breakup, we can also chalk it up to people changing or, in this case, growing up. Many of us feel embarrassed when we remember our past selves, and sometimes we forget how much of our young history was true to who we are. That it was our stupidity that allowed us to mature. We also forget the people that were there with us and for us during our young, naïve moments.

Anohana - Menma
"I believe that we will meet in August 10 years later."

For the Super Peace Busters, freedom from their ghosts meant accepting their past mistakes and regrets of the last five years leading up to the present. It was a major goosebumps-moment in the show: all five of them gathered together, just crying and letting it all out and Anaru’s fake eyelashes falling. It was truly the friends we made along the way.

The ending of Anohana is famous for making even the toughest, most robotic people bawl like a baby. But tears are not the only thing the show wants to impart to us, the viewer. Over the course of 11 episodes, Anohana teaches us that forgetting is not the answer to life’s sorrows. The Super Peace Busters thought they could escape their ghosts by moving on from Menma when, in fact, they should have been moving on with Menma. You don’t have to forget, you just have to live it all out—all the best and worst memories. And it looks the anime is doing good on making us not forget.

True to the lyrics of the heart-wrenching Secret Base (10 years after Ver.), the Super Peace Busters are returning this August, 10 years later. Details about this fated “reunion” are currently still under wraps, but it’s safe to say that this summer will be an unforgettable one—like all of the best memories are.

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