It was a dark winters evening and I was wondering what to watch. I gazed my eyes upon my shelf of anime and one particular one stood out. Another.
Definitely one to reflect this winter evening.
Another is a horror series that follows our male protagonist Sakakibara Kouichi, as he’s transferred to a new class. 26 years ago, in a third-year classroom of a middle school, Misaki was an honour student in class 3. With a talent at sports, the boy charmed everyone making him popular with classmates. Tragedy hit when the boy suddenly died, resulting in his friends carrying on as if he was still alive until graduation. Enter Kouichi. In the spring of 1998, he grows suspicious of the fearful atmosphere in the classroom. In particular, he meets a beautiful, aloof girl named Mei Misaki who sports an eye patch and always found alone drawing pictures.
So what is it about the incident 26 years ago that continues to haunt class three?
I first came aware of Another when randomly watching trailers on YouTube, becoming rather intrigued by the dark haired girl donning an eye patch and a very creepy doll in her hand. The anime looked pleasantly violent and even though all I discovered from the trailer that it was set in a school, it didn’t give much else away. I then did a quick Google search to discover more, and soon realise it was in a lot of peoples top 10 anime list. I was on Amazon purchasing the DVD not long after.
Whilst I’ve watched a lot of anime during my 27 years on the planet, I’m pretty new to the J-horror genre. I was excited to say the least and once I was introduced to the creepy opening sequence, my excitement levels had been tripled. The opening sequence explained a little of what I mentioned in the synopsis. I was introduced to the beautiful animation the series consists of and the creepy voice of Mei sharing a creeping rumour that the series is based upon.
However, after completing the first episode I found myself in a position I didn’t want to be in. Do I carry on watching? I know what you’re thinking, “it’s one episode Matt!” and you’re right. But the opening episode is remarkably uneventful. I refused to judge any anime after one episode, I like to give it the 3 episode trial. If after 3 episodes I’m still not convinced, perhaps it’s time to move on. The second episode was as slow as the first. ‘Oh no’, I had myself thinking.
It wasn’t just that the first few episodes were slow – think of it as when you’re watching Naruto Shippuden and you come across 10 straight episodes that are constant fillers – or that basically nothing happened, but the attempts of trying to make everything seem so creepy got a tiny bit annoying. I was imagining what the anime would be like if it played some summer happy-go-lucky soundtrack, rather than what seemed liked a forced sound effect list that, at times, seemed a little out of place to what was actually happening in the scene.
The story itself seemed so far from a horror, I began to think whether Another was a victim of a marketing job that completely mis-sold its premise. It’s a story about a new kid in high school, a girl everyone ignores, the new kid chases the girls around, the other kids don’t like it…pretty rom-com right?
It isn’t until about episode 5 in the 12-episode long series, where we get a giant exposition dump. We discover that the people and things that were portrayed to be sinister and creepy, are not at all. All the clichéd stuff that was bringing the series down was done to fool us. This was starting to make Another seem a little more original. From here, things got a lot more interesting and the mysteries that were beginning to be unfolded were a lot more interesting than the main guy liking a girl who may turn out to be a ghost. The pace picks up slightly, but it’s still not enough to get the heart pumping. Kind of like the pace of when you fast walk to make the train since you don’t want to run and look like a bigger plonker if you missed it.
Fast-forward to episode 8 and we are sat on a beach. There was a contest to see who could catch the most fish. This is a mini-series consisting of 12 episodes and there’s an episode dedicated to this. A guy faces his fate at the end, but still. What on earth?
Just when I start to think whether to give it a 1 or 2 star rating…Another suddenly gets really good. The final four episodes made me wonder why the creator couldn’t have made what come before it much more heart-racing and exciting. The final episodes had me on the edge of the seat as no main character was safe from meeting a bloody end. Everybody turns on each other, from best friends to romantic links, the series becomes an all out violent free-for-all.
Complete with crazy girls swinging axes, a fight for male dominance and huge explosions, it’s clear to see that everything in the trailer was straight from the last few episodes.
Ok, so there’s plenty of spoilers in this review, but this is about the end so…revert your eyes if you haven’t seen the anime.
When the twist is revealed at the end that the dead person who is causing all the mayhem in class 3 was both “the hot teacher” and Kouichi’s aunt, Reiko, it seemed a little like a bit of a ‘cop out’ at first. After I had time to look back at the whole series, it had actually been set up pretty well. Even throughout the dull scenes. This explains the red herring of him not being able to remember meeting Akazawa previously or remember visiting his aunt’s house 18 months before. After much debate, Kouichi kills her with a pickaxe.
The last few episodes saved Another from being a let down. It’s a slow starter, and when I say slow starter I mean a VERY slow starter, but the end gives a decent pay off. I wonder with a second viewing, whether I’ll be able to appreciate the first half of the series more, seeing a lot more meaning into the dull build up. You have to wait to episode 5 to discover the real story of Another, and in a series that only consists of a dozen episodes, that’s a long time to wait. It almost seems as though the creators wasted 5 episodes that could have been best spent to add more mystery and complexity to the series.
Still, I guess it makes a change from some animes starting off with a bang but then to disappoint with a lame ending.