Another anime review

Another anime review
26 years ago, in a third-year classroom of a middle school, there was a student named Misaki. As an honors student who was also good at sports, she was popular with her classmates. When she suddenly died, her classmates decided to carry on as if she was still alive until graduation. Then, in the spring of 1998, a boy named Sakakibara Kouichi transfers to the class, and he grows suspicious of the fearful atmosphere in that classroom. In particular, there is a beautiful, aloof girl named Mei Misaki who wears an eyepatch and is always alone drawing pictures.

When I first heard about Another you would not believe how excited I was. First of all, it is a horror anime, a real-life bona-fide animated J-horror of which there are incredibly few. Secondly, the fine artists of P.A. Works, who have only just finished giving us the beautiful and generally enjoyable Hanasaku Iroha, would be making it. And finally, it would be an actual novel adaptation (opposed to a light novel) which would only add to the novelty (pardon the pun) that Another would bring to the season and year's smorgasbord of anime. Yes, I was very excited and I was still excited as a creepy opening sequence explained a little of what I've included in my synopsis, accompanied by the beautiful artwork I had hoped for and expected and voiced in the manner of two school girls sharing a creepy rumour. Excellent, I could not have asked for more from the first thirty seconds of Another - and then I hear the OP. It was listening to the worst anime theme the ALI Project have ever provided that I started to suspect that, somewhere in the labyrinthine construct of this studio anime production, something had gone very, very wrong. Yes, the opening theme had made me very afraid but I doubt in the way that the makers had been intending.

That pall of twilight shivers never lightened; in fact, it darkened deeper and blacker than purest night as my high hopes took a high dive into an abyss of despair. Problem one: every good horror show needs a great protagonist, Another gives us Kouichi Sakakibara. Let me be blunt, Kouichi isn't a stereotype - he doesn't have enough personality to be a stereotype. If you ordered a "Kouichi" from Domino's they would send you a pizza base. Yes, he is meant to be a placeholder character that we can all project ourselves onto so it's as if we're the hero and it is as if we are the ones exploring the dark mystery of what appears to be Japan's on shore equivalent of Silent Hill (only if that had been true...) but it's impossible for me to use Kouichi as a viewer avatar - I'm just not that bland. That all said about him, how about the supporting cast? Well...

Problem two: why does everyone Kouichi meets feel the need to mutter vaguely about everything? From the very moment they meet in the hospital, all of his classmates glance around nervously and share cryptic out of context sentences like some secret cabal and it is all so horrifically clunky that Steven Seagal couldn't make the dialogue more stilted and wooden. The painfulness is threefold: firstly, people keeping secrets don't talk like that, so it kills any sense of realism. Secondly, when combined with the show's habit of conveniently interrupting any moment of possible exposition, it feels cynical and contrived and also terrible for the shows pacing - after spending half the show telling and showing the viewer practically nothing all the exposition comes in an info-dump episode that horribly stalls what narrative there is. Thirdly and most damningly, very few characters ever emerge from the amorphous cabalistic whole that Kouichi's classmates represent until far, far too late in the series and never really made an impression on the story. If I hadn't seen it I would never have believed these cardboard characters could bleed.

Problem three arises when people start dying. Deaths in horror are and pretty much always have been the primary tool the genre has had for producing its namesake (i.e. horror) in its viewers. Sadly, for the horror writer, the wholesale desensitisation of the media enjoying public has made plain old death rather ... passe, so the brutality or rawness of the depiction needs to increase in order to create the shocking event the writer desires. Once again, Another misunderstands that point. Yes, more needs to be done for something to be shocking but too much takes you past shocking straight to comical. The deaths in Another are absurd. If I write a scene where one of the nicer, more enjoyable characters in my show dies in a disturbingly horrible way and my audience's first reaction is to cry "bullcrap" at how contrived it was then I failed as a writer. The only thing Another effectively and comprehensively kills are the laws of physics.

If my words alone are not enough then I'll give you our Editor Emeritus, Carlos's, uncensored thoughts too:

I had my reservations about Another from the very beginning. While the screenwriters feel the need to compulsively name-check famous horror writers in the early part of this show, they seem to have forgotten one of the key components of those previous works: getting us to care about the folks going through these ordeals. We are instead subjected to what amounts to a preposterous Rube Goldberg machine of grotesque, highly unlikely deaths in the vein of the Final Destination series, and instead of fear and sympathy, I actually made a guessing game of who was dying next and how based off the often ham-handed hints (at one point in time I scored five in a row). In my experience, if there's one thing damning you can say about any self-proclaimed horror series, it's calling it "predictable" - and if real life was this easy to figure out, then I'd have won the Powerball years ago and I'd be cruising the world in my luxury yacht.

My uncanny ability to figure out what was coming in every episode of Another is hardly a gauge of my own talent at augury, of course, but rather, the poor handling of the writers in delivering anything remotely suspenseful. What was incredibly frustrating was being able to correctly pinpoint the "culprit" (as it were) just three or four episodes in, despite all the late-game red-herrings the writers throw us near the end. So I ended up spending the vast majority of the series shouting at the screen in vain as these idiot characters ran blindly, headlong into the "Yomiyama calamity" like lemmings off a Scandinavian cliff. Sure, they're junior-high-schoolers, I get that, but some of the deaths actually made me laugh because they were so contrived. And don't get me started on the sub-Battle Royale crap in the terminal episodes.

There is nothing organic or realistic about Another: it's a creator playing with dolls pretending to be human beings, and having completed the series, I almost wonder now I even bothered wasting my time on this. Violence and gore are poor substitutes for characterization and suspense, and if you're looking for a genuinely creepy horror series, then stay as far away from this as possible. However, if you're looking for a manual of how *not* to survive a low-rent horror series, then by all means, take a look for yourself.

So yes, Another fails as an effective horror show; the characters aren't in the least bit empathetic or relatable, the plotting and pace are awkward thanks to stalled reveals through stupid vague dialogue and contrived plot events (including where a characters has a heart attack just at the moment they are about to reveal the truth to Kouichi. I was half expecting Light Yagami to jump out of the bushes and cry "Just as planned!") and the big shocks are often too stupid for me to do anything but laugh. That all said, does Another have a worth outside of being a horror? Well, it certainly offers a great feast of excessively gory moments for you gore hounds out there and many scenes are genuinely laughable, I got more full belly laughs out of Another than I get from many so-called anime comedies. The visuals are simply breathtaking too, from the backgrounds to the character designs and gorgeous scene setting. It doesn't make up for what is a joke of a series though but if you like gore, have a vicious schadenfreude sense of humour or are just interested in some scenery porn then you might get something from this. Please don't take that as a recommendation though.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Another. Watch it now:
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