This episode was quite the tear jerker, and by far the strongest episode of Ano Hana yet. It makes you cry, but it’s not the kind of thing where there are a couple especially sad moments: the creators took their time to wring out every last tear from every single character and pile all the emotions together into a bundle of fireworks for a spectacular climax. Yukiatsu’s replaying of the day of Menma’s death worked brilliantly, just like blasting a hole in a dam. They didn’t let up on the tension at all after this, following up with a breakdown from Anaru, a conversation between Jinta and Menma, Yukiatsu’s talk with his wig, Menma’s hug with her brother, and culminating with the fireworks launch. Rather than having a few cry-worthy moments, as in earlier episodes, this episode had me right on the border of breaking down and sobbing for the majority of the time. It made for a much more intense and memorable experience.
The way they dealt with Menma’s mother was quite nice (I’m going to guess that the part for her parents to play is mostly over). In any other show I would have expected Menma’s mother to end up coming to the fireworks launching, to forgive everyone and to finally let go of Menma. Unfortunately it’s never quite that easy. But you can tell that, with the help of her husband and son, Menma’s mother has come a few small steps closer to accepting her death, as she cries to see the fireworks launching in the distance.
Poppo and Mysterious Girl Tsurumi even get some time in the spotlight as well. Tsurumi, as we’d guessed, is in love with Yukiatsu, and it turns out that she can actually be rather jealous, although she doesn’t seem to blame Anaru. Poppo’s cheery exterior does serve to hide some scars from Menma’s death, it turns out: it seems that he blames himself for being able to “only watch”. I wonder if he was actually there and knows what happened when Menma died.
The biggest surprise of the episode came when Poppo began pressuring Jinta to reenact that day, joining in with Yukiatsu and Anaru. I haven’t really been able to figure out why. Perhaps he knew what Jinta would say, and wanted to help him say it? I kind of doubt it though, considering how downright scared he looked as he was chanting. My guess is he was trying to confront his own regrets, and I think that the final episode will probably have the answers.
To feel truly human, characters need to be flawed, and this is another area where Ano Hana truly shines. Take, for example, Jinta, who wants to keep Menma to himself even though he knows it’s best for her to be reincarnated. I already mentioned the case of Menma’s mother; there’s also the different jealousies of Anaru, Tsurumi and Yukiatsu. All of the characters have experienced growth, but it’s gradual: it isn’t easy for them to overcome their flaws. Yukiatsu tries to force Jinta to overcome the same problems he has, but still talks to his wig at night. Anaru wants Jinta to love her, but cannot help feeling somewhat glad that Menma is gone. Tsurumi believes that her love for Yukiatsu is hopeless, but can’t let go. Jinta wants to set Menma free, but calls her back at the last moment.
This episode was sad, but Menma knocking herself on the head and looking sheepish helped to cheer me up at the end.