Horror Anime often have a sense of familiarity when it comes to character designs and story structure; nonetheless there has been a few that reached that level of suspense that somehow made such things beneath notice. Supernatural Horror has always had a certain thing that the plot revolves around; that is either its characters, some hidden secret or curse, and just how the human factor comes into play in its core plot. I have heard quite a number of good things from my friends about the horror anime “Another” but I never allow ’hype’ to get the better of me. It is with this mindset I come into this series directed by Tsutomu Mizushima and thankfully, the series did not disappoint. No, it is not the best horror-mystery anime I have seen, but I am glad to report that ‘fan service’ is none existent in this 12-episode anime series.
Sickly Kouichi (Atsushi Abe) is young man in the 9th grade who had just arrived in a small town to attend school. He had just been discharged from a hospital when he came across a girl with an eye patch named Mei Misaki (Natsumi Takamori) who then proceeds to the sub-basement. Although Kouichi was freaked out, he thought nothing of it. But once he arrives to attend classes in school and to meet his new classmates, things take a turn for the bizarre. Mei Misaki turns out to be one of his classmates and mysteriously, no one seems to see her. Kouichi becomes concerned if this is some form of bullying, but then, he begins to wonder if he is the only one who can see Misaki…is she a ghost or something worst such as a harbinger of death? Kouichi is about to learn the secret of Class 3.…
I did not read the original manga by Yukito Ayatsuji but I am sure changes have been made for cinematic purposes. There is something to be said for the screenplay by Ryo Higaki. It was obvious that there was misdirection at work here, and the script does pull out all the stops to make the viewer wonder just what is the mystery behind Mei Misaki. Is she a ghost or something else? Does she really exist or not? To achieve this, episodes 1-5 pay more attention to the cryptic ways of its characters; it brings forth the confusion and the fear of the major characters and just how everything seemed to fit, and yet many questions do arise. The direction also does a good job in its editing, as the dialogue itself were made to encourage questions. The firs t 5 episodes of the series may perhaps be the series’ strongest points; as the story was able to grab the viewer into an experience that promote puzzlement. I had no issues becoming intrigued in its plot and I wanted to see how everything would play out.
See, “Another” does an excellent job in making one think that it is one thing when it is a point of fact that it is something else. Once episode 6 hits, things begin to make more sense, and yet there lies another mystery about a curse. It was quite wise for the direction and the screenplay to play on its stronger qualities to enthrall its viewers. Characters such as Izumi Akazawa (Madoka Yonezawa), Mr. Chibiki (Hiroaki Hirata) and other supporting characters become more developed to drive the flow of its script. It was a good way to develop the plot and the characters in a sort of a symbiotic manner, that one area really wouldn’t work quite as well without the other. There was a certain way that I enjoyed about the way it molded and ended one mystery just to introduce another; episodes 6-9 made certain that while certain became connected, it also introduces new twists and possibilities as our main protagonists appear to be caught in web of deaths and tragedy, while maintaining the mystery of just who or what is the ‘extra’. I really don’t want to spoil the series, since the mystery around another mystery is something that requires its viewer to know as little as possible about its script for it to become effective. While I did enjoy this series, some machinations in the script did feel a little cheap at times, since the script would have ‘interruptions’ within the exchanges between characters to tease its viewer.
Episodes 10-12 is when the series really begins to wrap itself up. It becomes some sort of morality play as the characters in the series begin to really become fearful of their situation. I did not like the way it appeared to stoop to certain ‘slasher’ devices, and parts of it became a little too melodramatic to promote the usual histrionics. However, despite its weaknesses, the last three episodes still managed to come off strong. Strong, but it wasn’t as impressive an execution as with the first 4 episodes. While the final three episodes did come dangerously close to stereotypical elements, episode 12 proved to be much more rewarding than expected in terms of dramatic and heart-breaking impact as the 'secret' became revealed.
“Another” is a mystery-horror series about curses and human nature. It is not exactly the fear of death that drives the story, but rather the reaction to one’s fear of death. The death scenes can be quite grisly in their own way, but the direction practiced a sense of restraint to not allow the series to be driven by blood and gore. Some death scenes felt like it carried references to “The Omen” (it is even stated by one of the characters) while some fatal accidents seemed to have been inspired by the “FinalDestination” horror franchise. The set designs were real good and I appreciated its attention to detail in character designs. Change of clothes and how the outfits can reflect the moment and the seasons were impeccably done. Some anime stick to one or two outward appearances by the characters, but not so with “Another”; the characters often have a change in appearance depending on the situation.
The voice acting was also superb as Natsumi Takamori doubtlessly stole the show. The way she voiced Misaki had a flair that exuded mystery and provoked an unsettling feel. I know I said that some exchanges in dialogue felt cheap, but really, one would be hard-pressed to notice because of the excellent Japanese voice cast. Misaki was doubtless the strongest character, while Atsushi Abe provided the necessary support to the Misaki persona. The Chibiki and Akazawa characters provided links between the present and the past; and this made the 'phenomena' feel more credible in its narrative. It was a little too bad that some characters did become minor casualties (as with most stories of this nature) to further the feeling of dread within its storyline.
While I loved the way the mystery was developed in “Another“, I just wished certain other things such as rules were introduced to make the story even more compelling. I really don’t have much to complain about the series’ plot development, and I really liked the way the how’s, the why’s and the what’s were defined, but it sure felt like something was missing as some devices were left unexplored. I guess while this story was done, it sure left behind a lingering question, that everything will start all over again. If so, how would Misaki and Kouichi fit in all of it? I guess the creators wanted to leave everything open for another season since this is a series about death itself. Yes, this anime series and the manga were successful enough that a live-action movie was released in Japan last August 2012. “Another” is a fine exercise in horror anime. It paid a lot of attention to its details and it may be worth more than one watch that it gets a high recommendation from me. [4 Out of 5 Stars]