In this week’s edition of Andrew’s Anime Corner (yeah that’s what we’re calling it now) Andrew takes a look at the chaotic terror of Another and how it remains a benchmark for animated horror.
Horror works best when we never know what’s around the corner or under the bed. Although the Final Destination films eventually devolved into parody and pastiche they had the right idea. Death is scary and it can come in any shape or form imaginable. Death is unfair, chaotic, and often meaningless. Death does not discriminate and
Another’s bleak setting and decaying imagery hammer this point home.
Another is set in 1998 in the small fictional town of Yomiyama. In 1972 a student died in the third class of Yomiyama’s North Middle School’s third year. Class 3 as it’s often referred to in the anime. Class 3 are cursed by a series of ghosts, known as the Casualty, that cause deadly accidents to happen to class members, the teachers or to their families. The ghosts are former pupils or teachers that return to haunt the class in physical form. They are treated like a normal member of the class up until the school year ends when they disappear. Because of the curse’s warping and distortion of memory it is free to continue to plague the class. Several countermeasures were set up over the years but they rely on very specific circumstances. The arrival of Kōichi Sakakibara, a late transfer from Tokyo, upsets the countermeasures and the Curse of Class 3 begins to wreak havoc.
Kōichi is a weak, ill boy. He transfers late due to a collapsed lung and has difficulty adjusting to the over-friendly or openly hostile attitudes of his classmates. Only one seems different, Mei Misake, a mysterious girl with an eyepatch who, for all intents and purposes does not exist to the rest of the class. This is a condition of the curse. Due to the presence of the ghost there is an extra person in the class and so someone must be ignored so that the ghost can be accepted. Failure to do so results in gory accidents, murders and suicides that seem random to those outside of Class 3.
Another is a slow burner. But a very sinister one at that. The majority of the characters are pale and thin and director Tsutomu Mizushima deliberately exaggerated facial expressions to make them all the more gaunt and haunted. Interspersed between frames are subliminal images full of decay. Derelict buildings, rubble and rotting garbage are often seen between the long scenes of exposition and short, brutal bursts of violence. Much like other great horror anime such as Shiki or When They Cry, Another relies on these slow build-ups and quick bursts to keep viewers anxious and afraid.
The first person to die trips down the stairs and impales herself on her umbrella. The older sister of a student and nurse at the hospital Koichi visited is crushed in an elevator. One boy is chopped up by a speedboat, upsetting the age-old Beach Episode anime trope. Class 3’s teacher kills himself in front of his students and a school trip in August ends in mass murder. Another is gory to the nth degree and is not suitable for the faint of heart, the heavily pregnant or the elderly. The blood and gore may be horrifying but it is the icing on the already ghoulish cake that is the anime series.
Many of the dialogue heavy scenes take place in a supremely creepy doll museum, owned by Mei Misaki’s mother. As Koichi and Mei converse about the curse, its origins and how to stop it an army of dolls look down on them. Some are missing limbs, other hang limp from the ceiling and even more are displayed in coffins or in deathlike poses. It is a microcosm for the world of Another. The universe is cruel and creates natural or supernatural phenomenon that has no rhyme or reason. The characters of Another are dolls to be played with and cast aside in brutal displays of spiteful power. The revelation of how to break the curse is startlingly simple but the curse itself is a different beast.
By the final episode of Another the characters, even with the help of curse expert Mr Chibiki, are no closer to finding out how it started. Mei Misake theorises with Chibiki and Sakakibara that the curse was started when the student who died in 1972 was given spectral form by the belief of his classmates. If that’s so then how did the proceeding ghosts gain physical form. Another provides no answers only leaves the question dangling for viewers to think on. This is perhaps the show’s greatest strength though its flaws are numerous.
Another is often a victim of pacing problems. Its dialogue heavy scenes often last upwards of twelve minutes, basically half an episode. A great many of its characters are brief sketches before being brutally disposed of. The stopping of the curse seems too simple for such an ambitious mystery series full of red herrings and enormous revelations. That said Another is still a great horror anime, which is a rare thing.
Humanity is on a constant search for purpose in life. It is different for each person and many go through life without ever finding meaning in it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Another is full of doom, grief, and violence just like our own world. But we can’t just give up. The clouds will always part to reveal the sun and, if we’re lucky, everything will seem less chaotic and dreadful. Another leaves a lot unexplained but it reveals enough that we are able to hope for a better tomorrow. Andrew Carroll