Being the time of year that it is, I felt I should stay on the horror theme for my rare contribution. Last year I presented to you all my thoughts on the Higurashi series. This year I’m focusing on an anime that came out at the beginning of this year by relative newcomer studio P.A. Works called Another.
Horror anime are rather difficult to do well. That’s because unlike with live action, you are acutely aware that what is happening is not real. Sure, with live action if you sit back and look at most of the horror shows, you can’t necessarily take them seriously, but at least for me there’s a difference in my mind between watching something with real live people in it, and watching 2D drawings moving. So, horror anime either try to pretend they’re still live action and hope you can immerse yourself in them despite it obviously not being real, or they just go for the crazy, over the top exaggerated sequences with lots of blood and gore and just hope the mood feels right. Another takes the second approach. It’s not a constant bloodbath, but it seems to take much delight in coming up with the craziest, most unrealistic deaths it can think of. I think of it almost like an animated version of the Final Destination films. I’ll try and avoid too many spoilers here, but the first death we see should give you an idea of just how crazy and over the top they can get.
So, the basic premise of the show is that many years ago a student in class 3-3 died during the school year. Some classmates, unable to really deal with his death decided to pretend that he was still alive. Soon the rest of the class, including the teachers joined in. This was all well and good, except that when they took their class photos, the student who was supposed to be dead appeared in the photo. Since that time, class 3-3 has been like a portal to the afterlife, allowing the dead to come back and join the class. This has resulted in class 3-3 always having one extra person in it, although during the time which it occurs nobody is aware who the extra person is. They know there is one, but their memories have been altered so that the extra person seems like they’ve always been there. Also, the person who is dead, or the Another, also is unaware that they are dead. Fast forward 20 some years and we come to where the story starts, with transfer student Koichi Sakakibara joining class 3-3. There he meets the girl with the eyepatch, Mei Misaki. However, the rest of the class seems to not acknowledge her existence. The reason for this is revealed later on, but since it’s a mildly important plot point, I’ll leave that up to the readers to watch and see for themselves.
The character designs and the attention to detail in this show are fantastic, as is pretty much par for the course with P.A. Works. The character designs were based on concepts by Noizi Ito, who’s probably best known for her work as the illustrator for the Haruhi Suzumiya novels. What’s also par for the course for a P.A. Works show is that it meanders a bit and almost gets lost in the middle. We’ll set aside the ridiculousness of the deaths because this show isn’t trying to be ultra serious. It’s not going for the camp appeal, but it is using the gore as a sort of fanservice for people who are into that sort of thing. Don’t get too attached to any secondary characters, because there are a ton of deaths in this show. I’ll admit, one or two of the deaths did sadden me a bit, mainly because I liked that particular character and had hoped that they’d survive the curse. This particular class year seems to be extra unlucky, since they showed previous class records and there didn’t seem to be quite as many deaths from the curse as there was in this year.
A complaint that was tossed around when the show finished was that the identity of the Another, which is revealed at the end, was too difficult to figure out. Much like with The Sixth Sense, all the clues are shown once their identity is revealed, and there are quite a few red herrings thrown in there to keep you off the track, but it’s certainly possible to figure out who it is. I’ll say that I was wrong in who I thought it was, but at least my guess wasn’t eliminated until the very end. In fact, I largely suspect that the person whom I thought it was was who the creators wanted us to think was the Another from the get go. In that aspect, I can only tip my hat to them and say they did a good job in getting me to dance to their tune.
All in all, love it or hate it, P.A. Works deserves a lot of credit for not just sticking with a single genre of anime and trying something different to diversify. How true they were to the source material, I’m not entirely certain as I have not read the novel, written by Yukito Ayatsuji however I can say that if I see that P.A. Works is doing another horror anime, I’ll certainly be tuning in. The ride may be a little rocky in the middle, but it’s still a fun ride.