iSugio

Another – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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In 1972, there was a student named Misaki in Yomiyama Middle School’s 3-3 class. An honors student who was also good at sports, Misaki was very popular among his peers, and even the teachers were fond of him. When he suddenly died from an unspecified accident, the shocked class decided to carry on as if Misaki was still alive. However, when class 3-3’s graduation photo was taken, they saw someone in the shot who should not have been there—Misaki. In spring 1998, 15-year-old middle school student Kōichi Sakakibara moves from Tokyo to his late mother’s hometown of Yomiyama, due to his father’s work in India. There, he transfers to Yomiyama Middle School’s 3-3 class. Because of a pneumothorax (a punctured left lung), he has to be hospitalized just before school starts. In the hospital, class delegates Kazami and Sakuragi go to pay him a visit. Before being discharged, Kōichi meets in the elevator a young girl in a school uniform with an eyepatch. She goes to the basement floor (where the morgue is located), saying she had to deliver something to her “other half”, and leaves him her name: Mei Misaki.

Based on the mystery horror novel by author Yukito Ayatsuji—with a subsequent manga release from Hiro Kiyohara—Another is an anime series that presents a frightening take on the notion of a deadly curse and bizarre rituals as they both collide amidst the backdrop of a middle school classroom. With a narrative that weaves itself exceptionally well around the intricacies of its characters—with their mysterious pasts and motivations remaining the highlight—the series is effective in establishing them as the prime focus. There is a sense of realism that takes precedence throughout the show, even if the premise is seemingly more akin to that of the supernatural in its portrayal. This approach keeps the series considerably practical, providing us as viewers a plausible view into the paranormal atmosphere that the series entails. While other series may heavily rely on its supernatural elements to promote its story—in turn not focusing as extensively on character development—Another instead uses its supernatural elements to coalesce around the plight of the students, faculty, and family members within the series.

There is a sense of absolute dread that permeates throughout the show, where any moment can lead one unbeknownst individual to an untimely and gruesome death. We, as the viewers, start to feel similar to how the students feel concerning this pervading fear of death, with the rapturous effects of the curse remaining consistent. The series handles the curse as something normal rather than abnormal—a routine measure that the individuals within the series must abide by with strict adherence. The curse is seemingly its own entity, a figure whose omnipresence creates anxiety within the minds of all those who come in contact with it. There is real air of acceptance of this fact by many of the individuals within the show, whether it’s the classmates of protagonist Koichi, to even his some of his family members, Another establishes an eerie uneasiness as the series progresses with each episode. In many instances, one could actually find these supernatural occurrences as easily acceptable given just how ordinary they’re expressed within the show, with little reason to not believe them as reasonable incidents considering the ghastly and all to calculated nature of the students deaths. The series could’ve easily succumbed to just displaying gory deaths to simply appease some viewers, but it refrains from doing so, bringing about a nice touch of feasibility to a series that is primarily centered on a supernatural curse.

The actual structure of the series curtails to this sense of uneasiness as well, with practically each episode being devised in a way that leaves viewers guessing as to what will happen next. The unexpectedness of death is transferred to the series’ narrative, where racing against the inevitability of death remains the livelihoods of these characters. Director Tsutomu Mizushima effectively creates a multitude of suspenseful moments throughout the series that provide real leverage to the dangerous predicament that these characters find themselves in. Whether this is found in a character simply hurrying down a flight of stairs, to a seemingly innocent class trip to the beach turning into a nightmarish endeavor, each episode delivers tension-filled moments that are rather ordinary at first but transform into shockingly twisted incidents of chaos. The characters frustrations in attempting to understand the reasons for their dire situation makes Another a strangely addictive viewing experience. With a mystery that is slowly unveiled with each subsequent episode, the series doesn’t give too much away for the viewer to latch onto in order to find some kind of resolve before the series concludes—the narrative expertly dangles the proverbial carrot in front of the viewer, keeping them guessing right until the very end.

But since Another is based around the characters finding some resolution towards understanding and thus ending the lineage of a horrific curse, the element of character development is important. Without it—in this case—the series would not be as interesting to follow, and where the complex nature of the show would not be as involving. Fortunately, character development within Another is one of its most impressive elements, with the characters in the series each having their own relationship to the curse in some fashion. This is especially viewed in the case of the series protagonists, Koichi Sakakibara and Mei Misaki. With Koichi being viewed as the observer towards the audience, we see the unraveling of the origins of the curse and the social hierarchy of his class through his eyes. His initial understanding—or lack thereof—of the curse offers insight for us as viewers into the incredibly perplexing atmosphere that he and his classmates face. His relationship to Mei is even more intriguing, as each of them are ostracized from their community of classmates due to a stringent rule forbidding their acceptance as individuals. Some viewers may find Mei as the archetype of the “quiet female” within anime, but her development is one of the key facets within the series. We see the initial oddness of her character as something to be weary of, but we slowly begin to see her tragic past and how it corresponds to her actions present within the series. With her immense understanding of the curse and Koichi’s inexperience concerning its ramifications, their relationship is one of growth and trust considering the dire consequences that lie before them—and their deep connection to one another.

As with many series dealing within the realm of mystery and horror though, Another may initially appear as a series with narrative issues for those viewers accustomed to a linear form of storytelling. While the series promotes its narrative primarily through the discoveries made by its characters, the series doesn’t necessarily allow information regarding what the curse actually is to reach viewers in a prompt manner. With this in mind, Another is a very unhurried show, and one where discovering everything it has to offer is a lengthy process. The show spends plenty of time towards showcasing how the curse is affecting the current group of students, with an assortment of side characters that detail how the curse came to fruition in the past. This approach may not satisfy some viewers looking for elaborate explanations in each episode, as the show doesn’t divulge many of its revelations until practically the end of the series. Questions such as, “If the curse is specific to that class, why not just switch to another class?” or “Why don’t they just rename the cursed class to something else?” come to mind as plausible solutions to the apparently erroneous storytelling at hand, but the series takes considerable time in addressing them all to some capacity—eventually. While these questions raised may seem as straightforward solutions to some, the series ultimately rearranges aspects that we may have perceived to be truth, only to find out that we were completely wrong. This could be seen as a strength or weakness of the show depending on the viewer, as some may become frustrated due to the length in which it takes to finally address some past clause—only to have newer questions arise. For others, this approach will make the show even more captivating, with intrigue found within every episode.

With animation done by P.A. Works—the studio behind such series as Angel Beats! (2010) and Canaan (2009)—the visual quality of Another is excellent considering its realistic approach. While the series doesn’t call for an abundance of action sequences or elaborate displays of supernatural energy, the series does well to establish a nice atmosphere of realism that further grounds the series. One should not expect Another to focus extensively on delivering such instances to begin with—the series is one constructed to bring about the nonconventional through the conventional—thus removing any sort of exaggerated visual aestheticism. By presenting everyday visuals, the series delivers its otherworldly presence through a purely simplistic viewpoint. Whether this is viewed through the likes of an empty school building, to the confinement of a dark room consumed within freakishly lifelike dolls, Another’s visuals are nicely implemented to accommodate the pragmatic approach the series takes.

Even with some of the structural issues that specific viewers may face, Another is still a well-crafted series. It’s ability to retain its supernatural premise while expressing it through the outlet of conventional means makes it strangely more appealing as well frightening. The slow unveiling of the series’ plot is its biggest strength, and where Mizushima shines as a director willing to not compromise suspense for the spectacle of hideous deaths. The series could’ve easily fallen into a formulaic approach seen within past horror anime, but Mizushima nicely handles the depth of the characters as well as their discovery of the madness behind the curse. While it does takes awhile for the story to progress, once it does it becomes an extremely captivating experience. The story exhibits a real sense of fear and anxiety without being contrived—it would seem that all these bizarre incidents within the series could truly happen, even if one doesn’t necessarily believe in such paranormal affairs. This element of the series, alongside its believable animation and intricate plot, makes Another one of the more intelligent anime horror series to come about in some time—and certainly one of the most impressive overall series of the year.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • Ali

    Oh man, I completely agree with you about this show. What I love most about it is that the supernatural elements are played out as natural disasters. For me the best parts of this show are the sound and music. Those two alone created the dread and weary atmosphere that I felt while watching this. I really enjoy how they were able to make me fear for the lives of all the characters and how slowly they feed us information. That got me into so much brainstorming sessions about the nature of the supernatural, and what should be done in order to prevent it from taking more lives. I for one wish to see more of this in anime because to me, making an anime scary is a very hard thing to do because it is animated. However, when it is done well, it can keep you up at night hehe.

  • Miguel Douglas

    Indeed Ali. The suspense that was shown through the series was just fantastic, with the viewer not knowing what was going to happen. I too was thinking about the actual curse as well – it was so interesting to see how the curse was just a normal facet of these characters lives, with each of them approaching it in a different way. And yes, the music and sound really heightened the entire experience. It was so moody, it seriously crept me out at times!

  • Carailace

    Great review :) I just finished watching Another yesterday, I actually watched all of it in just a day as it was so interesting. It literally kept me up at night as I would never guessed that it was going to end that way. However, one thing I’d have to say about this anime is that the characters could have been much more unique themselves, even though the character development was interesting, the characters themselves were a bit cliché.
    —Carailace