Another Anime

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

A couple weeks ago, I said that horror and anime often don’t mix, and that’s mostly true. In anime, horror mostly deals with gore or “torture porn” and the supernatural. The former mostly deals with characters being constantly tortured or falling to over-exaggerated deaths, while the latter mostly refers to monsters and demons with exaggerated facial features. In any case, the anime relies on exaggerating whatever method it’s using to create shock value because it wants to remind you that what you’re seeing isn’t real, so they can get away with overplaying that disconnect. 

But there are some creepy anime thrillers that can get under your skin, and a select few that could be considered true horror shows. One such show that is definitely horror is one that’s part junior-high drama, part supernatural murder-mystery with disturbing imagery, and part anime-version of the Final Destination franchise – by which I mean, you can expect some of the most bonkers, ridiculously bloody kill scenes.

That show is Another. We follow 15-year-old Koichi Sakakibara, whose mother died after childbirth and whose father is abroad on business. He’s the new transfer student in a rural junior-high school with a horrible secret. Of course, he gets assigned to the one classroom that is said to be cursed, and even though he’s well-versed in horror (Koichi is often seen reading Stephen King or John Saul), Koichi doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. There are a lot of special rules he’s supposed to follow but doesn’t know about, and there’s a quiet and weird girl with an eyepatch whom both teachers and students seem to ignore – as if she’s either invisible or a ghost. Are there supernatural beings haunting the grounds of the school? Is there really a curse that claims the life of a student each month? Is Koichi next? 

Before I go any further, part of me wants to advise you to skip the first 2 minutes of the show or so until the opening credits first kick in. Before that, the prologue deals quite a lot of unnecessary exposition including detailing part of the curse, how it started and what will happen throughout the first half of the show. The problem is that it makes you aware of much of what is happening way in advance of our protagonist. This makes it a bit of a frustrating experience watching the first two episodes, knowing full well what’s going on before we get confirmation through Koichi. It’s up to you, of course. But it’s worth considering.

What Makes It Great

The first thing you’ll notice is how Another is meticulously designed to create an ominous atmosphere that will crawl under your skin. The show plays with low lighting, deep shading and forced perspective that makes the characters look isolated and smaller than their surroundings and placing the camera in twisted positions to make the audience feel uneasy. Then there is the eerie musical score, which builds a dark mood and a feeling of suspense throughout the show, feeling at home with the best horror movie soundtracks. Likewise, the sound design complements the score by isolating the sounds to focus on one thing at a time, and distorting sounds with static and echoes.

When it comes to the show’s mystery, Another knows how to masterfully weave in clues and hints with new revelations that will keep you on your toes. Even if you think you know where the story is going, there are plenty of surprises in store. The use of cliffhangers make this perfectly suited for the binge-watch era. 

Of course, you want to know about the death scenes, and let me tell you, Another does not disappoint. The kills are shocking and a few are even emotionally devastating, and almost all of them are ridiculously gory and over-the-top, akin to what you’d expect from the Final Destination franchise. Are you afraid of stairs, or elevators? You will be after watching this show. A glass window, or even going near the water become deathly endeavors, with impalements, electrocutions, nasty broken necks becoming commonplace as the show goes on. No matter how small the accident, you can rest assured it will result in a bloody and painful “accidental” death. By the time the series approaches its end, anticipating how the next death will happen nearly becomes a sport unto itself. 

What It Brings to the Conversation

What you wouldn’t expect from this show, at least at first glance, is an exploration of grief and the painful process of moving on. Though it doesn’t go as deep as other horror movies or TV shows, Another has something to say about the shock that comes from losing someone and how desperate one becomes in trying to reject one’s new reality.

But the biggest theme that Another focuses on is that of superstition and paranoia. Beliefs and curses, and most of all how far people are willing to go in order to save themselves from that curse plays a huge role in the second half of the show. Even if you’re not entirely sure a curse will come for you and kill you, would you give up a chance at living? What if it comes at the cost of someone else’s wellbeing? From bullying classmates, to deadly wounding them, Another shows the desperation and paranoia that can turn anyone into a madman. 

Why Non-Anime Fans Should Check It Out

Though more characters get introduced in the second half and you may have a bit of a hard time keeping track of who’s who, Another is an accessible entry into horror anime. The mystery is intriguing, yet you don’t need to know a lot about Japanese culture or myths to follow along, and the story is simply yet full of twists and turns. This show is also an easier entryway into J-horror, with its supernatural story that’s easily explained yet introduces the audience to the way Japanese horror uses ghosts and poltergeists and spiritual beliefs.

Watch This If You Like: Final Destination, The Ring, The Grudge. Sinister

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Another is streaming on Crunchyroll. 

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