Creepy School, Creepy Dolls, Creepy Everything
As has probably become apparent to those who follow my blog, I have a definite fondness for horror anime, even not particularly good ones. So imagine how happy I am when we get one that is vaguely competent at actually creating a sense of atmostphere and gives us at least some characters that feel like they are contributing more than just a number to the body count? While Another may not be a perfect anime by any means, it gets a gold star for being one of the better horror anime out there or at the very lest is more in sync with the kind of horror I like.
Now given my love of this anime I was absolutely certain I’d reviewed it already but it turns out I was just mistaking the thousand other posts I’ve referenced this anime in for having reviewed it. It made the list of top 5 anime with blood and gore (understandably enough – avoid umbrellas), also made an appearance on my list for best use of dream sequences, and even showed up as a case in my posts on man vs nature. Turns out I’ve added Another to a lot more top 5 lists and used it as an example copious times and yet never actually written a review. Well today I correct that oversight.
Another is a very good anime for a particular niche audience. That audience is one that likes their horror to be more about the slow build-up and the use of heavy atmosphere then rampaging blood and guts from the word go. Because despite the deaths starting very early on in the anime, and they are bloody and violent, each episode feels almost languid in its pacing as we sit through stilted conversations and everyday interactions while all the while the visuals and music keep foreshadowing something about to happen that almost never does, and then suddenly it does happen and whether it is being impaled on an umbrella, suicide, near misses with glass sheets, or even head injuries, Another is going to keep you wondering just what will kill these kids next.
Our main character, Kouichi, has arrived in town to stay with family as his father has travelled overseas for work. Unfortunately he was hospitalised right before school started and so meets his classmates from class 3-3 while lying in his hospital bed. It is an awkward situation to say the least and only gets worse once he joins the class and realises there’s one girl no one ever talks to or acknowledges. Naturally, he decides to go and talk to her.
What follows then is Kouichi trying to unravel the mystery of class 3-3 and once he has the full story rather than half-hints and vague mutterings, he turns his attention to finding a way out of the situation for all of the students who are still alive at that point. It’s during the middle phases when Kouichi and the other classmates start digging into the past and looking for answers where the story really opens up beyond just being creepy for the sake of it and you start to realise the full hopelessness of their situation.
The story then transitions into the third act which is probably the roughest part of the series. The opening act is that slow and rich atmosphere and half hints, the middle phase is the discovery section, and then we move to the climax where the teachers decide to take the remaining students to pray at a shrine on a mountain. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that idea in a horror story.
Needless to say they get isolate by poor weather and then suspicions and distrust boil over. Soon it is classmate against classmate in an incredibly gory and over the top finale. On the bright side, you do get an actual answer to the mystery and the story is resolved, but that ending feels very much like the anime was worried it hadn’t made some kind of prescribed body count and was making up for lost time in those final episodes.
Despite what I feel is an over the top ending, I still really appreciate the care that has gone in to Another’s production. Visually it hits the mark perfectly finding that wonderful balance between being dark and gloomy but still making it easy enough to watch through clever use of lighting and colour. The cast of classmates are interesting to get to know and while they definitely throw a few of the characters away cheaply at the end, prior to that most of the characters act in ways that are understandable enough given the situation. Basically it is a horror I enjoy watching and continue to feel is one of the best examples of anime horror (not that it has a whole lot of competition).
If you haven’t had the chance to watch Another and you are into horror at all it is worth trying. Maybe you’ll find the opening act too slow for you but if you get into it you might just find a new favourite horror anime.
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Images from: Another. Dir. T Mizushima. P.A Works. 2012