Another: Inescapable Horror Tied With Overwhelming Grief

So uhhhh after my last review (Andersen Monogatari), which I know was probably a bit obscure, I'm back with a sort of return to form. Today we're going to be talking about 'Another', a twelve-episode adaptation of the light novel by Yukito Ayatsuji. I watched about... five minutes total of the prequel OVA, so I won't be covering that, here, just the main series. I mean, you won't be missing much with that, honestly. But anyway. Onward.

Another follows a young man named Kouichi Sakakibara, who transfers to a new school, which is haunted; more specifically, there is a curse on his class. That's a bit blunt but, yeah. He becomes acquainted with a girl named Mei Misaki, who is also in his class, and together they start investigating the curse and how to actually prevent it. It's fun, it's fast, and it's a bit like an anime adaptation of Final Destination (with all that that implies).

A big, big part of the plot is that the stakes are real and high for the characters involved- not only are the students of Sakakibara's class in danger of dying from the curse, but so are their family members. I think that there are a lot of places that the writer could have stumbled and fallen in regards to characterization with this premise- because it's very, very difficult to become invested in the stakes of the horror without a personal connection to the characters involved. If you can't relate to a character, or at least find a place of interest with them, you become detached from their fears and ambitions.

Thankfully for Another, the classroom setting was handled extremely well, and the dynamics of the characters were well-developed. Though it falls back on tropes and character archetypes as shorthand, each of the students in Sakakibara's class are interesting enough to stand out as distinct. Even when they occasionally do stupid shit, they do come across as people and not just anime stereotypes. That's extremely impressive for a twelve episode series based off of a light novel.

Moving on- as we must move on- let's get to the art style. I'll be straight up. I think the style by itself is generic. I think that with a different director, it probably wouldn't have looked half as good. But despite the generic character designs and background art, the scene composition, the usage of color, and the overall strength of direction all come together to make it very visually pleasing. It hits every note you would want a horror production like this to hit. I especially loved all the shots of the doll shop that Misaki lives at- you can't go wrong with creepy dolls, and this show knew exactly how to utilize those creepy dolls.

Another thing that's just... absolutely essential to a horror production is sound design. I won't spend as much time on it here, but the sound & music in this anime does not disappoint. The opening thing is great, the OST is great... It really sinks you into the setting, and you get immersed in it.

Now, it's opinion time, and I'm gonna have to shoehorn something negative in here so that I don't sound like a freak on the internet that delights in the wanton slaughter of high schoolers. I have... a problem... with horror anime. I have trouble getting invested in horror anime. I like horror as a genre, but I'm more of a psychological thriller person than a grindfest splattercore one. And I think there's a lot of horror anime, and anime that uses horror elements, that focuses more on the "killing people in a vaguely hedonistic manner for shock value" thing. And I won't deny that Another kills off a lot of characters in a vaguely hedonistic manner for shock value. And you know what? Those bits were actually my least favorite parts. I thought they were overdone and silly. The horror in Another didn't really come from the on-screen deaths so much as it did from the build up to those.

What makes Another tick? There are two answers to that. One, the problems of the class at large, and what Sakakibara has to do to solve those. Two, the problems Mei Misaki has, and what she and Sakakibara have to do to solve those. It's sort of a macro-micro thing, in that Misaki is what gives the emotional tie to the class and invests the audience. But anyway, let's get into the first one- the curse on the class. A very basic summary of it, as this review is meant to be, you know, a recommendation for people who want to know whether or not to watch Another, and I don't wanna use big spoilers- a basic summary of it is that there is an "extra person" in the class, a ghost of sorts.

The presence of the ghost brings with it the random, catastrophic deaths of people in the class and their close family members. There are a lot of different ways that a writer could work with this premise, and I think what we got out of Another was ultimately the most interesting way- this curse is most akin to a natural disaster, something you cannot prevent, only protect yourself against.

And on some level, I think, in a way that's perhaps only clear in hindsight, that is one of the clearest representations of grief I've seen in an anime. When someone you love dies, you would do anything to have them back, for any length of time, to see them again and say everything you never got to say before they were taken away. But that's unnatural, and it's not something you can ever really have. Grief begets grief; nothing good can come of disturbing the natural order, and nature will rebel against you. Another is about the price of losing a loved one, and knowing that the only way to move on from it is the hardest one- to confront the reality of loss.

On to Mei Misaki- she's the ahh.... designated waifu character of this show. And she's great! And I love her! And she has a great character arc. She's creepy, people ostracize her, and only Sakakibara reaches out to her and helps her come out of her shell. There's a bunch of stuff set up about Mei in the first couple episodes of the show that I don't want to get into because there's a minor plot twist with her about halfway through- but again, the show's character writing was very strong, and she's a prime example of that. The way the class is collectively ignoring her is well-written, I think, and Another really explores the pain of that sort of mass bullying. I'm not as familiar with Japanese social norms and high school bullying etiquette, but I think it was handled about as tastefully as a horror show can handle that- and it definitely adds to the horror element.

Now, I'm not giving Another a perfect score, because it's not a perfect show. I think it accomplished everything it set out to do, but I found the final episode or so largely unfulfilling until the big plot twist reveal TM. I think the deaths are sort of silly and a bit over-done, even accounting for schlock value. And I hate having to bring it up again, because I don't want to sound biased, but a lot of the show's base issues just come from the fact that it's an adaptation of a light novel. Like I've really been trying to avoid bringing that up. But you know I think that light novels tend to have a sort of problem with... let's call it, waifu-ism? Another is very waifu-ist. Like I love Mei Misaki, but I think that they had a bit of a hard time balancing her arc out with the show at large. Lots of shows these days have that problem though, and I will say that, out of all the light novel adaptations I've watched, this is probably my favorite one.

So now we're here, at the end of the review, the review I wrote and posted on my poorly-coded Neocities website because I have loud opinions I want other people to care about. I think Another is as good a horror anime as you'll ever find. It's just schlocky enough to be entertaining, just sincere enough to get a genuine chill out of you, and it handles its themes incredibly well. I would definitely recommend this anime if you're interested in horror and mystery; it handles its material very well.

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