No. We are not talking about scary ghosts–that is reserved for Otakutober. Today we’re talking about all of the friendly ghosts and spirits that make for some really beautiful stories. Not to mention it’s around the time of Obon Festival right now and Obon is all about honoring the spirits of the deceased, so I figured talking about some anime honoring spirits would be nice for today’s installment of Hotsui Matsuri. Two anime in particular stand out more than all the rest when it comes to the gentle spirits & departed souls. Both are absolute tear festivals, and one may be toeing the line of what “spirits” in anime are. But it’s what I wanna talk about this time, so get ready to be big sad.
Hotarubi no Mori e is 100% the anime (well anime movie) I mentioned that was toeing the line. This tells the story of a girl named Hotaru who gets lost in a forest belonging to a mountain god (as well as yokai), where she meets a masked boy named Gin. Hotaru visits Gin the rest of the summer, and then she continues to return every summer as she grows up and gets closer to him in age. The entire 44-minute movie is shows as their relationship grows, but there’s one sad hiccup–he can never touch her (or any other human) lest he disappear. See, Gin is sort of an in-betweener. He’s not quite a human nor is he fully a spirit. Instead he was a human who was abandoned as a baby and found by the forest spirit who placed a spell on him to allow him to live. But having one foot in each door, means that he’s both a spirit and also not a spirit (Schrodinger’s Gin). But again, due to the spell put on him, he can never touch a human being or he’ll disappear. So naturally, if you want a super cute, super sad, slow-burn until your eyes are burning from tears anime. This is definitely it. Bonus points? There’s even a festival that is featured as the backdrop of one of the most poignant moments of the film. This anime is like absolutely perfect though as it features some really beautiful backgrounds and shows other youkai living in the forest where Gin lives. Plus it takes place in summer so….perfect viewing experience for Hotsui Matsuri.
The other anime I want to spotlight is one we probably all knew I would talk about when it came to gentle and departed spirits: Anohana. If you watched Hotarubi no Mori e and didn’t cry, I could believe that. However, if you watched Anohana and did n’t cry–you’re a fucking monster. This is a beautiful show about a group of childhood friends who grew apart after one of them died as a child. The girl, Menma, returns to the main character Jinta as a spirit. At first he (being a complete hikikomori who rarely sees the light of day) believes her to be a hallucination since he’s the only one who sees her. However, he eventually accepts her presence and helps her to try and attain her “wish”. This brings together the old group of friends that have drifted apart. Though Menma is the only spirit in this show, we learn that some of the other characters are haunted in their own way over her death. Despite the premise sounding positively bleak, Anohana is a beautiful and energetic anime that is a celebration of friendship, of youth, and loss. Honestly, Menma is who this blog post was inspired by. When I think of anime that celebrate the deceased, she is the first thing to pop into my head. The impact she’d left on her friends who never got to say goodbye to her was large on not only them but also her. This anime is largely about bringing the group of friends back together. After Menma’s death, they had grown apart and grieved on their own and in their own ways (more often than not, finding terrible ways to cope). It was what set them apart, but when she returned to give them a little push, they banded back together to cope and grieve together for once. It’s just–it’s a really good anime okay guys? Like it’s honestly so good. It’s the perfect example of an anime that remembers someone who died and gives them purpose. So like, if you’re not going to watch Hotarubi no Mori e, at least watch Anohana (it’s on Netflix!)
I know those were only two recommendations. But both of these anime are EXTREMELY good. I also think that they are standouts in my mind when it comes to anime that fit Obon time. Both are bittersweet, beautiful, and heartfelt anime. I would 10/10 recommend both of these. However, if you’re planning on watching any of these, remember that there is a pretty darn good chance you will cry. Like ugly cry. Like bring a box of tissues cry. IT’S WORTH IT THOUGH. But you know what? Let me know if there are any other anime that feature spirits of the friendly kind. And not youkai (future post perhaps?) but actual ghosts of the deceased. I love stories that feature them in non-horrific ways, so let me know of any you’d recommend!
Thanks for joining us for day 4 of Hotsui Matsuri! Join us tomorrow for some more folklore/tradition/and festival content! And until next time, stay weebtastic~
3 thoughts on “Nihongo Legends: Anime About the Dearly Departed”
Hotarubi’s soundtrack is amazing
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YES. 100% agreed. Makoto Yoshimori did so well on the soundtrack honestly. Which is amazing in itself because I’m pretty sure I heard that he finished the music only like a month before the film cane out. I wonder if he catered it to the animation? Because it fits so well!
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Omg lol if he did finish it only in a month, that’s genius
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