Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Anime reviews #6 - Another

Another by Yukito Ayatsuji

Mei or just meh...?

Another is the anime adaption of the homonymous Japanese horror novel. It is centered on the typical average generic run-of-the-mill schoolboy Koichi Sakakibara and his struggle against a curse killing his classmates and their relatives. Luckily this anime draws out some interesting events and details out of this generic high concept plot, but nevertheless it is too single-minded to truly leave an impact.

1. Story

Transfer student Koichi arrives at the scene (Yomiyama North Middle School), is told about the curse that in some years kills students in class 3-3 (cause, why not?), and the method how to ward off the curse, namely for the student body to ignore one classmate - the one believed to actually be dead and therefore an extra to the class roster. That classmate turns out ot be curious, incurious Rei-Ayanami-soundalike Mei Misaki (really! it's the same exact voice, and I was truly surprised the seiyu wasn't actually Megumi Hayashibara!) who he is drawn to immediately - but once again there's no payoff to the obvious paring (more on that below)...

So students and/or their relatives die one after the other in gruesome scenes (the level of violence feels forced and unneeded though), culminating in an all-out massacre at the end.

I forgot why he even did that, even though I watched the series twice.
Was this scene really necessary?

In the end, Koichi and Mei walk down a road together, and DON'T kiss or anything WTF, leaving the viewer (or in other words ME) severely disappointed.

2. Characters

The merit of Another lies in its characters, most importantly the lead female. Koichi has few interesting character traits, he's the average clueless transfer student protagonists all setting and plot details are gradually revealed to. Other than Mei, Koichi himself is also played as the possible dead person in the early episodes.

Then again, maybe this is not that unrealistic? I have never lost anybody dear to me myself, so I wouldn't be able to say for sure.
I don't believe you.

His insouciant way of going through life (e.g. he's not trying to actively get information from his father) doesn't complement him much as a person. There's the dumb jock-ish guy and the fierce redhead class president (actually "head of countermeasures") getting angry at him all the time (you know, like in, I don't know, EVANGELION! and there's also a troublesome twosome like that in Narutaru), and some other side characters. This roster isn't particularly interesting in itself, but Another has a nice, positive way of portraying the student interactions, and even some standout moments like the beach trip that make you wonder why the silly supernatural bullshit had to be in the story in the first place. Honestly, it would be so easy and effective to make a slice of life anime where realistic characters are just friends having fun or suffering from drama - the only thing I've seen in that vein was Welcome to the NHK and that one sucked only because of some extremely stupid things happening that easily could've been left out of the story altogether! Nooo we can't have that, instead we get "We have to have a supernatural bullshit CURSE and so classmates keep dying but it's not like they were any of my best friends anyway so I don't give too much of a fuck!" Sigh. Just once...

So, Mei Misaki, our Rei of this story.

If I wanted to put more work into likening Mei to Rei, I could make the similarity very very obvious.
"Never" seen that look before...

It's easy to see how Koichi would fall for her. She's pale, quiet, mysterious, very reclusive (and it doesn't help she is the one ignored by the rest of the class at the begining of the story), frail, and not very adept. At living. So, since she's not exactly like every other girl ever, a dream come true to have as a friend or even more! Oh, she also has only one eye. We later learn that her twin sister (also called Misaki, but in her case it's her first name) was the first victim of the curse - but despite having lost her beloved twin and only friend Mei isn't nearly as troubled and depressed as Rei is for some reason (I mean Mei is still troubled and depressed, but just not on that level). The dead twin reveal only happens late in the anime, but still this aspect - which is one of the rare things that is able to effect me emotionally - truly should have played a bigger role in this anime. Apparently there is a bonus episode focussing on Misaki and Mei's interactions, but I haven't seen that one yet.

Once Mei gets off the class ignore list, her sheen does somewhat come off. It was clear from the beginning she wouldn't turn out to be the dead one (because too obvious), but she still was better as an enigmatic character than as just another (PUN) face on the group shot. There is one magic moment in the beach episode where an octopus grabs hold of Mei's arm and she gets scared for her life - as hilarious as this little moment is, it is also demonstrating clearly that the aura and purpose of the character has changed.

In the last two episodes there's an all out witch-hunt on Mei in a burning hotel. After seeing all the cutesy little character interactions beforehand I really didn't care for the massacre at the end which didn't flow well at all. To add insult to injury there are a few really stupid moments too, like everybody and their dog GOING BACK into the flaming inferno (multiple times even!), and even after watching the series twice I cannot recall if the "main" side characters survive or not. Koichi's boring-ass aunt Ritsuko turns out to be the actual dead person, and the curse goes on and on (at sea? no, at the school, moron). Happily end of story - but no happy ending. After experiencing all that violence and drama together, Koichi and Mei just HAVE to end up a couple, right? RIGHT!? But no, they don't even hold hands while walking towards the end credits. Such a simple opportunity, and once again missed. PFFF

3. Themes

So Another's selling point was to deliver a gory horror mystery, and it delivers on the gore part at least. Horror stories involving teenagers are not a particular novel genre, of course, nor are stories revolving around curses. Another is an extremely straightforward story, there is little room for any hidden meanings (yes, even if one character is at one time wearing a shirt inspired by a Dali painting). As the calamities decimating the class do sometimes involve random unrelated people (e.g. motorboat driver), the curse seems to be comparably powerful and could be likened to Light's tomfooleries in Death Note.

Even in antiquity, some writers thought that all possible themes already had been covered in writing. Judging on how few stories actually dare to make the main character evil, I for one do doubt that.
Apparently, someone had had this thought before me.

"Things are not always what they appear to be at first" is how Another could be summed up.

4. Opinion

Another was a pretty well made anime. I for one didn't care much about the horror plot or the bloodbath at the end, but your mileage may certainly vary in that regard. I certainly did get some enjoyment out of the character interactions, but there certainly was a lot more potential available in the scenario - just imagine if e.g. Misaki had been part of the cast and would have been killed only in the middle of the plot! Drama would have ensued! Tears could have flown (the policeman said)!

Visual style and animation were pretty good. I definitely would watch another (PUN) season if one was made (which is extremely unlikely though).

PS: Mei being able to move her glass eye and even being able to see with it was stupid enough to be noted in a postscript. And why didn't they just ABANDON HAVING a class 3-3 at all!? The concept of skipping a number is very well known to the superstituous Japanese: "Sometimes levels or rooms with 4 don't exist in hospitals or hotels." (Wikipedia)

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