The cherry blossom, or “sakura” in Japanese, is the national flower of Japan and a fixed motif that shows up pretty much everywhere in the anime medium. They are an important element of Japan’s culture, with “hanami” or “flower-viewing” being one standout event on most people’s calendars. Marking the beginning of the spring season, the blooming of the cherry blossoms coincides with many starts – for one, the schooling term begins in April. Taking into account just how pervasive the cherry blossoms are as a motif, we’ve brought you some of the most memorable hanami scenes in recent times, so let’s bloom!
10. Aoba’s first day! – New Game!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2016 – September 2016
Suzukaze Aoba fell in love with the Fairies Story video game series as a child. When Aoba finally grew up and left school, she got her first job at Eagle Jump – the company responsible for making Fairies Story. She will be on the team responsible for the latest installment in the franchise, with Aoba working directly under the lead character designer, Yagami Kou. Her colleagues are a diverse collage of personalities and strengths and together, they navigate the various difficulties that come with making a video game.
As mentioned earlier, cherry blossoms can signify new beginnings. Fresh out of high school, Aoba’s new beginning was her first day working at Eagle Jump. This day was marked with the blooming of the cherry blossoms as the new school year kicks off and from the very first scene we are presented with Aoba’s lilac locks flowing in tandem with the falling sakura petals and sakura hair pins holding up her pigtails.
9. Blossom-Viewing Festival – Fairy Tail
- Episodes: 175
- Aired: October 2009 – March 2013
In the Kingdom of Fiore, magic is a regular part of everyday life. As a result, like-minded wizards and mages banded together to form magic guilds, where they can take on job requests and find companionship. Fairy Tail is an infamous guild known for its sense of family and strength. 17-year-old Lucy Heartfilia is a young mage dreaming of joining Fairy Tail and sets out to find the guild. On her way, she bumps into Natsu Dragneel and his partner Happy, who are looking for Natsu’s foster father, the dragon Igneel. When Lucy is tricked by a strange man and abducted, Natsu shows up to save the day, revealing himself to be the Salamander… the fabled Salamander of Fairy Tail! Natsu offers to take Lucy back to the Fairy Tail guild, where she meets several interesting characters and becomes one of them. Together with Fairy Tail, Lucy battles the forces of evil and goes on several exciting adventures, adventures that never end.
Every single year, the rainbow cherry blossoms of Fiore enter full bloom and the sight is magical – no pun intended. In the series, the main gang have plans to go to the viewing event; but unfortunately, Lucy falls ill on the day. A dejected Lucy decides to miss out on the beauty on account of her health, but her friends uproot a whole tree and bring it to her bedroom window – a touching gesture that made the entire flower-viewing that much more memorable.
8. Haruhi-sama makes sakura bloom out of season – Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi)
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: April 2006 – July 2006
Meet Kyon, a regular high school student who has no belief in any supernatural phenomena and would rather just live a normal life. He attends the same school as the highly eccentric and energetic Suzumiya Haruhi, a girl who is committed to breaking out of a dreary high school life by finding anything unusual: from aliens to ESPers, Haruhi and the new club she’s formed, the SOS Brigade, will find them all! Unfortunately for Kyon, Haruhi has taken an interest in him too, forcing him to join the club alongside the soft-spoken Asahina Mikuru, the stoic Nagato Yuuki and the somewhat popular Koizumi. To his surprise, all three of these club members are abnormal – a time-traveler, an ESPer and a cyborg have all taken up the role of guardian of Suzumiya, whom they have identified as the unknowing god of this realm. In order to avoid any calamities due to Haruhi’s emotions, the club members of the SOS Brigade humour her in any and all of her wacky activities in an attempt to maintain the current order of the world.
After the class rep disappeared, Haruhi’s class did a survey, which led to Haruhi writing a movie – The Adventures of Asahina Mikuru Episode 00. Haruhi being Haruhi; however, meant that Kyon and the others would be enduring a special kind of cinematic suffering. Haruhi was adamant on having a cherry blossom scene in the film; however, the school festival happens right on the cusp of the beginning of winter, a whole season apart from when cherry blossoms actually bloom. However, Haruhi is god and when a god wants cherry blossoms for her movie in winter, they’ll bloom.
7. Tada meets Teresa for the first time – Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai (Tada-kun Doesn’t Fall in Love)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2018 – June 2018
Tada Mitsuyoshi is a high school sophomore with a passion for photography who has never really been all that interested or concerned in romance. Things get a little interesting when Tada meets Teresa Wagner, a foreigner who asks him to take a picture of her. After he takes the photo, they go their separate ways, only to cross paths again in the same day. Caught in a massive downpour, Tada invites Teresa to his family’s coffee shop to dry off. While they’re there, Teresa explains that she was separated from her companion, Alexandra Magritte; but they soon reunite and say their goodbyes to Tada. Expecting it to be goodbye forever, Tada’s surprised to see them show up at his high school as transfer students! Joining Tada and his friends in the photography club, Tada’s second year of high school might just be the year he finally starts seeking a little romance.
Tada’s first ever meeting with Teresa was a fated meeting indeed. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and Tada was absorbed in his photography. The set-up for their meeting can really go underappreciated; however, under the falling cherry blossom petals, Teresa asked for a photograph of herself from Tada, the photographer. To add more fuel to the fated cherry blossom-stained fire, there is a Japanese expression that is quite popular in anime: the idea that a newfound love or one’s first is the arrival of “springtime” in their life. Spring being the season in which cherry blossoms bloom and stain the landscape a gentle pink.
6. Tomoya and Nagisa meet for the first time – Clannad
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 2007 – March 2008
Okazaki Tomoya is a cynical delinquent who believes he’ll never become anything. He often skips school with his friend, Sunohara Youhei. One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a girl from his school muttering to herself. She then exclaims “sweet bread!”, catching Tomoya’s attention. Her name is Furukawa Nagisa and she quickly thinks of Tomoya as a friend, but he isn’t too moved by their encounter. However, he starts seeing more of her around school and so he eventually befriends her. He learns that Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and she wishes to revive the school drama club. Tomoya decides to help her, with the assistance of four others. As Tomoya interacts with each girl, he learns more about them and their problems, trying to help each one overcome her obstacles.
Spoiler alert – these two are quite the formidable ship for several reasons. Now that we’ve established that Tomoya and Nagisa become romantically involved, we can touch upon the brilliance of their first ever meeting being backdropped by lush cherry blossoms. With a whole new school year underway, Spring was in full swing for Tomoya and Nagisa; perhaps more so Nagisa as she was excited to start her third year and hopefully finish it this time. For Tomoya, it was the start of the final year of his high school journey, but bubbling under the surface was a romantic prospect right under his nose, and perhaps even a change in his negativity towards life in general. Appropriate that they meet in the events of the episode titled “On the Hillside Path Where the Cherry Blossoms Flutter”, giving an even greater sense of their meeting being a) fated; b) a new beginning; c) romantic.
5. Sakurako’s introduction – Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru (Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
Tatewaki Shoutarou meets the enigmatic Kujou Sakurako, an eccentric woman whom he believes is behind a disappearance in his neighbourhood. He soon realises that she is an expert at bone analysis and keeps a collection of reconstructed animal bones in her home. Her obsession with bones, particularly of the human variety, invites a lot of concern from other people. Shoutarou begins accompanying Sakurako on several unsolved cases, which usually present decomposing corpses and the strange, niggling feeling that there is more to the flurry of incidents than they’re catching onto...
In the pilot episode of the series, we catch one of Shoutarou’s flashbacks to his initial encounters with Sakurako. By the way, “Sakurako” as in, “Cherry Blossom Child”, yet another indicator of their inherent value to this particular story. From the start of episode 1, we’re shown the beautiful pink explosions of cherry blossom trees as Shoutarou heads to school. However, that scene is marred by the death of a black kitten. Shoutarou quickly decides to handle the situation and as he’s lost in thought, we’re shown a mirage of Sakurako standing in front of a cherry blossom tree, with Shoutarou just behind her with the dead kitten. Symbolic.
4. Yukari and Nyamo go flower-viewing – Azumanga Daioh!!
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2002 – October 2002
Mihama Chiyo really stands out in her high school freshman class. The reason? She’s a teeny-tiny ten-year-old academic prodigy! However, Chiyo’s homeroom class under teacher Tanizaki Yukari is one filled with various strange and interesting characters, so she actually fits right in! Alongside students like the hyperactive Takino Tomo and her best friend Mizuhara Koyomi; the tall and enigmatic Sakaki and the transfer student Kasuga Ayumu, who may have many… interesting ideas about reality. Together, the girls experience school life and get into some wacky adventures!
In episode 19, Nyamo is invited by Yukari to go flower-viewing at night, heading over to a hotel bar. Nyamo’s preoccupied with the prospect of an arranged marriage looming over her life yet also confused by her own insecurities. They arrive and meet up with Yukari’s corporate manager friend, Eiko and enjoy a candle-lit affair in a dim and intimate setting, with a large cherry blossom tree watching them through the window, surrounded by several smaller trees.
3. Byousoku 5 Centimeter (5 Centimeters Per Second)
- Episodes: 1 (movie)
- Aired: March 2007
Toono Takaki and Shinohara Akari are close friends and classmates who are separated when Akari’s family transfers to another region of Japan for occupational reasons. They remain in contact through mail; however, when Takaki finds out that his family will also be moving, he decides to meet Akari again. With the passage of time, their relationship fades; however, they both remain in a state of melancholy curiosity, wondering if they’ll ever meet again.
The central motif of this entire film is the cherry blossom – the first piece of information we receive from this movie is that cherry blossom petals supposedly fall at a speed of 5cm per second – hence the title. The scene is littered with the beautiful falling petals as Akari’s soft voice gives more life to the scene. She runs off ahead of him, opening up her pink umbrella as she says, “Takaki-kun, let’s go flower-viewing again next year”. The time skips to Takaki in high school; however, the film is still decorated with various pink hues, almost as an indicator that spring never really left.
2. Retsuko’s Hanami – Aggressive Retsuko (Aggretsuko)
- Episodes: 100
- Aired: April 2016 – March 2018
Caught in the rat race and working an unsatisfying job with unsatisfying colleagues and an unsatisfying work environment exacerbated by her lazy, sexist pig of a boss; Retsuko the red panda is always stressed. Her colleagues always suck up to the boss and dump endless work onto her. The only way for Retsuko to relieve her stress: singing death metal at the local karaoke club every single night; channelling every single day’s pent up rage. For her, karaoke is a personal sanctuary that remains secret; however, is screaming your lungs out to your favourite jams after work everyday really something to hide?
Aggressive Retsuko’s original run was a 100-part series featuring episodes that were only minute-long shorts. In the 50th episode, Retsuko’s office heads out to the park to watch the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Retsuko is at peace in the beauty of the park, left to her own devices by the rest of her colleagues. Literally 5 minutes into the viewing, Retsuko gets ridiculously bored and pops open the cooler box filled to the brim with cans of beer. You can imagine the rest – a faded red panda with microphone in hand screaming a deathly ode to cherry blossoms! Drunk Retsuko soon passes out, and the scene cuts to her colleagues finding her dozed off under the cherry blossom trees.
1. Arima Kousei, meet Miyazono Kaori! – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2014 – March 2015
Arima Kousei is a gifted pianist who in his childhood, was known for his incredible ability to play the piano. However, after the death of his mother, Kousei is rendered unable to hear the sound of his own piano playing. He avoids the piano as much as he can now, to the chagrin of his admirers and rivals; opting for a quiet life with his friends Sawabe Tsubaki and Watari Ryouta. However, when he meets the beautiful violinist Miyazono Kaori, his world is shaken as he’s forced to literally face the music.
This is yet another anime that has centred the season of spring as a motif throughout. Kousei’s dark period of being unable to hear his own playing can be likened to winter and his fated encounter with Kaori is a literal change of seasons. Their first meeting is of course, decorated with the flower of choice – the cherry blossom, and the composition of the scene is enough to leave anyone breathless. We know for a fact that Kousei himself felt something significant in that moment. The title “Your Lie in April”, is a bittersweet signifier of that relationship.
We understand that there is always some meaning we can glean from the various elements we see in our favourite shows; however, there are very few elements that have quite the variance in meaning as the sakura tree and flower represent in context. Flowers have long been regarded as symbols of beauty, fragility and grace; but the character afforded to the cherry blossom in every single appearance it makes in anime seems to go beyond the physical aspects of the flower itself. Are there other hanami scenes in anime you’d like to discuss? Drop a comment below and let’s go flower-viewing!