Another (Who is Dead?)
If horror is one of the great loves in life, anime would be my secret mistress I cheat on horror with ever now and again. In fact it was anime that got me back in to horror after being generally uninterested in it for nearly a decade. It was anime and going to conventions for anime that introduced me to Sushi Typhoon and obscure J-horror titles that I never would have known about. One of the benefits of animation from Japan is not only the visual style that appeals to me but the twisted gore and hyper sexuality that more often than not goes hand in hand with the genre. For something a little different I’m not going to talk about a movie but rather a series; this series is called Another.
Another is based of a 2009 mystery horror novel written by Yukito Ayatsuji. It was later adapted into a Manga series (Japanese comic) and a 12 episode Anime that ran from January to march of 2012. This isn’t really a bizarre trend in Japan. Many series are developed from Manga or regular novels. In recent years thanks mostly to the internet it has become increasingly more accessible to anyone who has an interest in finding such materials. Japan has answered this massive worldwide interest in Anime by desperately adapting everything they can think of into various series. Honestly the amount out there now is staggering and grows year by year.
The story of Another revolves around a legend that says 26 years ago a popular high school student died. The entire class was grieving until one day a random student jumped up and said they could see their dead friend alive and well sitting at their desk. Slowly the rest of the class started to act like this student hadn’t died at all. They say that at the end of the year- during the class photo- they could even see the deathly image of the student smiling with their classmates. The following year something tragic happened and every since the class has been cursed.
We cut to the year 1998 and a young man named Kōichi who transfers from the big city of Tokyo to the small town of Yomiyama. Before he is able to join the local high-school he has a sudden medical emergency when his lung collapses which forces him to miss the first three weeks of school. While there he meets a small group of classmates from room 3-3 which is where he is to be placed for the year. They act somewhat suspicious but never really allude to why. They ask him several questions like if he had ever been to the town before but after he explains that this is his first visit they leave.
On one of his last days in the hospital; Kōichi is in an elevator where he suddenly meets a small girl named Mei with an eye patch. Mei,is carrying a creepy ball jointed doll and is apparently going to visit the morgue. When Kōichi eventually makes it to class he is amazed to see that this strange girl is a fellow classmate but the odd thing is nobody seems to act like she exists.
One of the major benefits of this series is that it’s a mere twelve episodes to get the entire story. It’s long enough to really flesh out the characters and their motivations as well as really push the mystery surrounding this alleged curse on class 3-3. It’s defiantly a slow burn like a lot of Japanese horror but I think that’s what made it so effective. I went in to this series with no previous knowledge of the source material and the plot just kept me guessing right until the very end.
The kills are fantastic and wonderfully gory. I won’t give too much away but essentially imagine this series as kind of a final destination scenario. Students and their families are subjected to a random series of events that lead up to their grizzly deaths. I’ve always loved the Rube Gold Machine approach to killing off characters. The last few episodes are a friggin’ bloodbath.
Beyond the gory ends of the hapless students the story really focuses on how we connect with people. Bonds that seem unbreakable can easily be tested when your life or the lives of others are put at risk. It’s interesting to see how certain characters that you do grow to know would change after they become desperate. It also shines a light on the strength it takes to make decisions that -on the one hand- would save lives but, on the other come at an immense personal cost.
Some of the problems with the series are not so much from the storyline but the fact that it’s an anime. There is a “beach” episode. Before I get in to the episode I’d like to explain first that the “beach” episode is a thing not exclusive to this series or even ten series. The thing that it is cannot really be explained. It’s like “the baseball episode” or the “volleyball” episode. These things exist in anime for a lot of reasons. Usually to break up the series with a light-hearted self contained story with ample amounts of fan service and or comedy. Why not just take all the main characters and put them in bathing suits. It usually serves no purpose and when I started watching the episode (I believe it was episode 9) I rolled my eyes pretty hard. I was pleasantly surprised however when the “beach” episode ended in a healthy dose of sadness that moves the plot forward.
Another thing that really bothered me was how the entire plot could have been unraveled if the students, or anyone in the town was just upfront about the circumstances of class 3-3 especially considering Kōichi missed the first three weeks due to illness. Again this is something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s very common when dealing with superstition or death that you simply “do not speak of it”. It can be frustrating as an audience to watch. Lastly, I don’t feel as though they went in to detail enough about the big plot twist at the end. I love a good mystery but part of the fun for me is trying to figure it out before the big reveal. While some evidence they present is purposefully misleading the last part I really feel was totally out in left field. Maybe there were more clues to it in the original source material.
For fans of J-horror or anime or any combination of the two;Another is a series that you just can’t miss. For new comers to Horror Anime in particular I think it’s an excellent series to get acquainted with. It has a lot of familiar elements prevalent in Japanese animation speckled in there with a little Whispering Corridors and a healthy dose of Final Destination. The series length of twelve episodes is also pretty painless and the plot will keep you wondering just who is dead?
The series isn’t available in the west yet or even on DVD but your old pal the internet has got you covered. I found it sub-titled in about 30 seconds on Google. Check it out.
ALSO Random Dance Sequence