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.