Review: Another

 

4.5 our of 5 stars. Intelligent horror similar to Final Destination, but it also manages to make the characters in it real human beings. Only some misdirection, a bad choice of opening song, and an ending that relies heavily on last-minute revealed information mar it. Miles above American horror even as it takes inspiration from it.

Kouichi is returning to the place of his birth. He’s briefly transferring into the local school for a couple of years while his father does research in India. But the class he is entering has a secret: 26 years ago, the members of that class pretended a girl who had died was still alive. This opened the door to a horrible curse, and Kouichi may have just broken the only protection the class had against it. Soon, the deaths start to mount…

I can’t really go in-depth on the plot, as it’s one of Another’s strengths. The way it twists and turns to tell the story of a school that is perilously “close to death” is part of the compelling nature of the anime, and too much information would spoil the story. But it is quite a story. The curse itself is reminiscent of the Final Destination movies, in which random, spectacular deaths happen to others with increasing frequency. However, it doesn’t embrace the conceit of a “death” character. In fact, it’s something which the locals seem to have accepted even as they fear it, and they have their own countermeasures.

It’s a lovely animated series, with strong backgrounds hinting at “rust equals blood,” and with eerie character designs. The pacing starts out slow but it winds up being a strong point. What it achieves that many western horror films fail at is making you care about the characters and situation, and this forgives a lot of sins. The gory deaths aren’t just done to faceless people as a show of cleverness, but it works with the sense of dread to show a malevolent, if impersonal curse that can take anyone, at any time. Combined with the mystery behind it, there’s a surprising amount of tension and “must see” to Another, and it makes for an experience not like many other anime.

There’s some downsides to the series, but not many. The biggest is the opening above, sung by Ali Project, notable for the .hack series songs. They do not fit the tone of the series at all, and the opening itself highlights another, if minor flaw. The series actually misdirects you for a large part of it; while I wont go into details, the opening is not that evocative of the actual plot. The last problem is that the ending only works because of a fair amount of added last-minute detail. While some had been present during the series, one pivotal point as far as I knew wasn’t even broached, and comes as a surprise. The actual last scene of the anime is chilling in a “was he right?” sort of way though. Very subtle, and can be taken two ways.

For Christians, um, yeah. NC-17. The violence is gruesome, and towards the end heartbreaking. It’s done for effect, and is very graphic, designed to shock people into realizing that this isn’t some cozy curse. I generally only recommend Christians who are into horror to watch it, as a lot of its usage of the violence I think is to shock people out of the usual violence tropes, and make the curse seem malevolent. The spiritual aspect is not particularly demonic, as more of a tragedy of time and place. But the violence is extended and often used for absurd effect; one non-violent scene even references the Omen, and it helps to remember the philosophy behind that scene in the Omen was to prolong the violence to get people when they opened eyes shut out of reflex. The death scenes are definitely grotesque, and again are similar to the Final Destination series in gore. I have to say for all of its effectiveness as a horror series, I can’t recommend it to most believers.

This is the dilemma. As a horror/mystery series, it works very well, and its definitely worth the watch for knowing fans of that genre. But as a believer, I can’t recommend it because the violence is purposefully grotesque and could be scarring. I’m used to a fair amount of horror because as a teen growing up in the late eighties, that was as much my bread and butter as action movies or the arcades. But I realize others might not be, and so I’d pretty much warn against Another except for fellow believers with that same tolerance for violence in art. It would be a toss-up whether or not it could be made with less violence, as the absurdity of some of the deaths paradoxically make the curse far more threatening than if it were less grotesque and more conventional. So proceed with caution.

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8 Comments on “Review: Another”

  1. Fred Warren says:

    I liked this series…not sure what that says about me. :) I agree it worked well as a horror story, did a good job building suspense and creating a pervasive sense of foreboding, and it was very well drawn.

    As far as takeaways, what struck me was the idea that this whole chain of events was set off by a response to a tragic death that seemed proper and reasonable on its surface, but ultimately amounted to community-wide denial and a rush back to business-as-usual. Failure to grapple with the reality of what happened and honestly vent the accompanying grief left a void that was filled by something much, much worse. The shunning and scapegoating of students who were suspiciously “different” fed the horror and evolved into a sort of mass psychosis that was perhaps more terrifying than the curse itself.

    • dmdutcher says:

      Yeah, the denial was a point. What could have been a poignant memory was transformed by Yomihara being “close to death” into an opening for the dead to come back. What terrified me about the movie the grudge, and what J-horror does that american horror doesn’t, is strip the horror of any moral purpose. The school was just unlucky to be built on a bad spot; horror happens not because anyone did anything wrong by themselves, but in combination with sort of a demonic geometry of time or place.

      I have to ask-what did you think about the last scene? “Is it over?” *Misaki smiles* I’m wondering if she or kouichi really was the dead one after all-a lot of the information came filtered through her, and the way they resolved it broke some of the rules they established. There was also a couple of subtle shots that made me wonder. Misaki and Kouichi holding hands; she’s hesitant to touch him under the sand castle at first reminded me of the talk about the dead people’s hands being clammy.

  2. Fred Warren says:

    Mm-hmm, the horror is always out there, like a force of nature, waiting for somebody to blunder into it. You don’t look under the bed not because it’s *wrong* to look, but because bad things *inevitably happen* when you do so. It’s like accidentally putting your hand on a hot stove–the stove burns you, and it doesn’t care about your intentions. Our horror does tend to be more moralistic–the monster gets you because you’re a bad person, or stupid, or careless.

    I’ll have to run that last episode again. It seemed pretty clear to me that they had a positive ID on the dead character, but I agree it wasn’t at all certain that they’d broken the curse for good, which also leaves the question of Misaki’s and Kouichi’s status uncertain. I seem to remember that Misaki says straight-out at one point that because of her second sight, she knew it wasn’t Kouichi, but…I don’t know.

    There was also a brief fantasy sequence early on where Kouichi and Misaki started dancing around the classroom, heedless of their oblivious classmates, and it was absolutely shattering because it was such a break from the misery of their situation and it came out of nowhere–they’re both so happy, and you desperately want it to be true, and then…sorry, it was only a daydream.

    • dmdutcher says:

      I guess it was the out there nature of the reveal that makes me think it wasn’t the actual person. Another seemed to do a lot of misdirection, and dropped elements that were predominant in the beginning. The actual mechanics of the curse didn’t seem to indicate the person who was the dead one would be likely, and it was kind of a late-game revelation, especially the manner of their original death. They did say they forgot her after, but pretty much everyone who knew her had died.

      That scene was pretty awesome, because I thought they had finally snapped over the isolation. The end though, that was heartbreaking. Especially the chandelier that they had been teasing from the opening, when it dropped, it was so abrupt that it startled me. It really was a good series.

      Oh, I also watched Girls Und Panzer finally, I’ll review it later. Thanks for writing about it; it was like Angel Beats in that I wished it was longer.

  3. [...] Dutcher offers reviews of Another and Girls Und Panzer that are directed toward Christian viewers. [Cacao, put down the [...]

  4. Fred Warren says:

    Watched the last episode again, and I’m still of the opinion that the resolution is as it appears to be. The most substantial evidence, I think, is that this round of the annual cycle of death ended with the elimination of the identified character. The rain came down, and the killing stopped. That, together with the detailed flashback of all the clues pointing to it, was enough to convince me.

    I’m not nearly as confident that they managed to end the curse altogether, and given the little vignette at the end of the closing credits, neither were they. :)

    • dmdutcher says:

      I guess I didn’t like the identity of the character. I thought it was a cheat. They spent a lot of time setting Mei up to be it, to the point where just acknowledging her existence made people keel over. The big bloodbath only started when she was outed wrongly as the dead girl and people’s antagonism rose to actual violence. The actual dead girl just seemed to come out of left field, and it only made sense because of a last-minute flashback explained to us how she was killed. Pretty much every other character had a stronger case to be one.

      Still was an awesome anime though. I’m checking out the light novel now to see if it adds more to it.

  5. Fred Warren says:

    “I guess I didn’t like the identity of the character. I thought it was a cheat.”

    I can’t really argue with that. I sort of enjoy left-field reveals myself, but they could have left a more substantial paper trail on this one without making it too obvious. That the character was one of the most *likable* in the cast didn’t help either–and the reward for niceness was not one, but *two* nasty deaths. In this fictional universe, the most fatal flaw of all is bad timing. Eek.

    “I’m checking out the light novel now to see if it adds more to it.”

    Let me know how that goes.


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