Menma, always there yet out of sight… [Ayazaka]
Ever wondered what AnoHana would be like if we, the audience, couldn’t see Menma either? Would we believe Jinta from the start? Would we, like the rest of the gang, feel that he was hallucinating, stuck in the past, and slightly out of his mind? It certainly would be a very different experience, watching the reunion of friends unfold from the other (and majority) perspective. But would it still be as interesting and gripping?
Asymmetric information, a topic mostly studied in the context of decision-making pertaining to business, politics, or war, occurs when one party has superior information access or control than another. It’s one of the focal points of any conflict and an important part of Game Theory. But in the field of entertainment, where viewers usually find themselves with a different understanding of the current situation than characters within a series, this translates to empathy, suspense, and drama. Most of the time, the audience is given a higher vantage point than the characters themselves, and are eagerly anticipating when a ticking time bomb will explode. But there are also times when characters know details that the viewer does not, anxiously awaiting the Just as planned moment of revelation.
It’s not really any different in a coming-of-age drama like AnoHana… here Jintan is the one who holds the greatest trump card— he’s the only one who can see Menma, the only one who could interact with her without obstacles. It gives him a tremendous advantage in the central conflict of the series— this game of guilt and blame that’s been tearing apart an once irreplaceable group of friends for years. It’s part of the reason why Jintan, compared to both Yukiatsu and Anaru (the two other friends directly affected), is climbing out of the past quicker and with arguably the least mental baggage.
It would have been even faster if the others had believed him…
We’ve spent much of the series being frustrated by Yukiatsu, eagerly awaiting the moment when he would realize the truth. At the same time, we’ve also been shocked by his own (and very messed up) ‘method’ of coping with the past. But we knew that Menma’s spirit had been around from the start, and that his antagonism towards Jintan had never been anything except misdirected rage born out of sorrow and guilt. However, to turn the tables around— if we had always seen Jintan talking to thin air while avoiding reality through his hikikomori lifestyle, approaching ex-friends only to pour salt on old wounds that no one wishes to touch…
Still entertainment by asymmetric information, just from a different direction. A perspective where certain other disagreeable characters may possibly have became a lot more reasonable.
Personally, I would love an OVA like that~
Postnote: I’m also becoming a real big fan of Yukiatsu (ever since he saved Anaru). He might be bitter and blunt and a big hypocrite, but those ‘uncool moments’ really shows just where his courage and heart lays~