The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Another

Title: Another
Genre: Horror/Drama
Company: P.A. Works
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 26 Dec 2011 – 27 Mar 2012

Synopsis: Sakakibara Kouichi moves to Yomiyama from Tokyo and attends what appears to be a normal middle school. However, his particular class holds a dark secret stemming from when a popular honors student died many years ago. People begin dying in strange ways, and Kouichi — aided by the isolated Misaki Mei — tries to unravel the mystery surrounding these deaths.

The Highlights:
Visuals: The usual strong production from P.A. Works.
Ambience: Tries too hard to be unnerving and is often instead silly.
Deaths: Often convoluted to the point of ridiculousness.
Mystery: Interesting enough with a decent twist at the end, but it has tons of unnecessary padding.

I love horror, but often not for the reasons that normally draw people to that genre. Scares are nice, and a good, gory bloodbath every so often is good for the soul. However, what is best about horror is that because it so often deals with the supernatural and the unreal, the genre inherently encourages creators to go out on a limb visually and present worlds, creatures and situations that are truly screwed up and weird. Horror is best when it tries to unnerve rather than scare. This is something Another could stand to learn.

The difference between “unnerving” and “scaring” is a matter of subtlety. Most of the time Another has an unfortunate lack of subtlety. The early episodes feature many quick cuts to ugly doll faces, as if to say, “aren’t these terrible and creepy? I bet you’re scared, huh?!” The musical cues are those typically jarring types that should probably be accompanied by giant, red “you should be scared now” signs. There’s nothing wrong with throwing subtlety out the window on occasion, but the world of Another simply isn’t strange enough for those types of tricks to work. It’s better suited for, say, the Overlook hotel from The Shining, or anything directed by Dario Argento or David Cronenberg.

The moments I found creepiest in Another are when the show scales back everything and lets the characters and moments speak for themselves. There’s a part at the beginning of the penultimate episode where a character is telling Kouichi and Misaki about something horrible he has done. The whole scene is him pouring his heart out. No music. No cuts to disturbing imagery. Knowing when to hold back and let the characters do all the work is an art in and of itself, and P.A. Works nails that scene. I wish Another had tried that more often, because it’s a natural fit to the semi-realistic setting.

Unfortunately, there’s little opportunity for that once the mystery develops and students begin dying. I’ll be honest: the first death sent me into fits of laughter. It’s so convoluted and absurd that I dare say it’s impossible to take seriously. Subsequent deaths don’t reach that level of absurdity, but they never feel like they fit the story. It’s as if someone watched Don’t Look Now and decided it would be a lot better if it were crossed with Final Destination. The show’s going for big shocks, but the death scenes call too much attention to themselves. That would be fine if the series didn’t want the viewer to take the mystery seriously at all.

It’s too bad, because the mystery is decent for the most part. There is some actual interest in finding out why all this craziness is happening, and the twist at the end isn’t bad. The problem is there’s far too much padding. Stupid teenagers are a hallmark of horror, and Another takes that ball and runs with it. Information is hidden for stupid reasons. Technology fails at convenient times. When information is learned, someone who is out of the loop is sure to bungle things up. And on and on. Taken alone these aren’t so egregious, but when lumped together to prolong the mystery, these annoying elements damage any tension built from the mystery.

Another has the foundation to be interesting, but shaky execution holds it back. It’s not subtle enough to be creepy, nor is it competent enough to be a compelling mystery. It’s too bad that these plot problems waste another strong visual effort from P.A. Works.

The Rating: 4
4/10

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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