I already made pretty clear how I appreciate the works by Guyzware at adapting many animes and Light Novels to a Visual Novel format. This is no easy task, but they are one of the few companies in the industry that manage to do a fine job out of this. Seeking more of their goodness, I found an interesting work among their old titles: An VN adaptation to an anime that I really loved back in 2011, commonly known as “Anohana” among fans. But, why was a game based on such a popular anime forgotten in obscurity? Why its official trailer has so many footages from the anime version while barely tells anything about the game itself? The answer to those big questions became clear as day for me right after the first few minutes playing this game:
For those who play these adaptations regularly (or for those who read reviews about it, such as mine), it’s a known fact that it’s really rare to attract new fans to a franchise through these games, since they hardly make any effort to explain the story by choosing to start the game from a further point in the plot. Recently, Saekano was the closest I’ve seen to a game that was easy to follow even for new fans. AnoHana, however, goes much further! As they retell the whole story in the anime from the very beginning! It’s the exactly same thing: A group of friends had a great childhood together, playing as the “Super Peace Busters”. There was no bullying or discrimination between them. It was the most innocent period of their lives, but this suddenly ended when one of their precious friend passed away on an accident. The trauma from that day played a big role on the change that would occur with each member of this group. Year after year, they grew further away from each other and the once leader of the group – Yadomi Jinta – became a depressive shut-in. It felt like these old days full of joy were forever lost, until Jinta got haunted by a very familiar ghost: It was Honma Meiko (or just Menma) that precious friend who died years ago, now all grown up, like nothing ever happened, aside from her personality, which was still the same from back then.Such a contradictory existence was nothing but the beginning of the absurdities to come, as Menma came to Jinta to ask for something. Probably her last request before she could pass away peacefully. The only problem is that she forgot what it was, but there was a strong feeling telling her that they would need to assemble the whole team again in order to see this fulfilled. This wouldn’t be easy, but Jinta was determined to see this through.
Themes & Routes
Yes! It’s the same story from the anime. It’s so faithful to the original source that, ironically, it became a fatal flaw. As further as story goes, Guyzware didn’t take any liberty here. You go through a whole different route by choosing different places to go, different answers and different people to follow, but regardless of what you do, it will always end in the same way the anime ended. In most cases, your choices will only change two to three lines of dialog or maybe include an extra character during an old scene, but the ultimate outcome will keep being the same. The worst part of this is that the game doesn’t recognize you are watching the same event, so the “skip” function doesn’t work. Without using it, you can’t filter your second playthrough to see only events you didn’t watch before. But again, truth be told: if you could actually do that correctly, each new playthrough would be resumed to just a few minutes.Each “Super Peace Busters” member gets a route. Yes! Even the guys! But this doesn’t mean they will get homo or anything like this, since even though they get a route of their own, it doesn’t mean the story gets romantic. Even Anjou Naruko (hilariously nicknamed “Anaru”) – who is head over heels for Jinta – don’t get a romantic development in her own route. They end up just as “good friends” just like in the anime, which makes sense, since the plan seems to not go too far from the original. Therefore, the only character who ever gets a somewhat romantic ending is Menma, but don’t expect a miracle to bring her back from her grave. Remember she isn’t Tsukimiya Ayu liying in a comatose state in a hospital bed just waiting to be awaken by a Deus-Ex-Machina! Menma really died years ago and she will never come back!To be fair, AnoHana was never about romance, anyway! The main point in this story was always about kids growing up and changing themselves while Menma represented the last portion of their seemly-lost innocence. It is a beautiful story about self-acceptance, friendship, youth, maturity and things that can never go back the way it was. The game still keeps the same theme and does a splendid work with it. But, it’s not like Guyzware is the one that deserves to be praised for this, you know?At the end of each chapter, you will get into a weird segment called “Together in a room with Menma”. The mere existence of such feature defies logic, since there’s nothing particularly interesting or relevant to the plot going on here. Why does this part has a mediocre 3D model of Menma only used here? Why do you get teased at thinking this will resemble a point-and-click adventure by using the analog stick of your PSP to click on different things in the room to interact with them, when in reality, you can only click on Menma? AAARG! This mode is so pointless! And different from the “Today’s Menma” part, each segment takes long to end! What a waste of time and effort!It seems to be a specific order for endings, too. I don’t know exactly in which order they must be done, but some people claim they were unable to see Menma’s true ending at the first playthrough, while I wasn’t able to see Yukiatsu’s ending before achieving other endings first.
They still use the same character design by Tanaka Masayoshi and it looks exactly like the anime, which is great, since the anime was beautiful! There are some simple animations for eyes and mouth, which is mandatory for most Guyzware titles. The lip sync is a bit off, but nothing that should bother too much. There are no notable problems with proportions or dimensions, except for Jinta’s hand in one of his poses…There is a good number of beautifully drawn CGs and even though every route is basically identical, you still must go through all of them in order to see a CG during certain events. It’s a cheap method to make you feel as there’s something new on each route. The visuals are also faithful to the anime, with lots of flowers appearing everywhere during transitions and menus. It gives a relaxing atmosphere.
The voice cast is still the same from the anime version and it’s as great as ever! Great performances from many famous and skilled voice-actors, and considering this story is a tearjerker, good acting is REALLY necessary.
Most tracks were recycled directly from the anime soundtrack, composed by Horikawa Reimi (A.K.A. REMEDIOS) but there are new tracks as well and even some with vocals! They fit the mood of the story and are very catchy and well performed, using real instruments. For some odd reason, “REMEDIOS” doesn’t appear in the credits, though.The Opening and Ending sequence is still the same from the anime series, but it seems they got some problems with video compression, since there’s a significant drop in frame rate.
As for making a Visual Novel adapted from another media that can be enjoyed by anyone, there’s one thing that Guyzware got right when they made AnoHana for PSP: They started telling the story from the very beginning (And not as a flashback). Thanks to that, even those who didn’t watch the original will not get lost in what’s going on. Also: The story of AnoHana is pretty light-hearted, it doesn’t try to appeal for a specific demographic or fetishism and it uses themes that most people can sympathize with. What Guyzware didn’t get right was how much of the source material they should use. Instead of doing an abridged version of the first two or three episodes and them get to the multiple choices and routes, they used ONLY the original story and nothing more.For this reason, I can’t recommend this game for anyone who already watched the anime version. Unless you’re an ultra-mega-hardcore fan of the series who is hungry to consume anything related to it. Otherwise, it’s big a waste of time. Even if you never watched the anime before, I think playing through just one route is enough to get the full experience out of this game. But, if this is the case, why not just watch the anime? It’s still one of the best original series of this decade and right now it should be pretty easy to find!