As a J-horror fan I’ve watched more than my fair share of indifferent titles that are little more than by-the-numbers Ringu/Ju-on cash-ins. They either suffer stories which lack originality and discipline and have cardboard characters or the visuals have a bland made-for-TV air about them. The horror anime Another has impressed me so much that I have to rank it as one of my favourite recent horror titles regardless of medium.
Please watch the anime before reading. Spoilers ahead.
Knowing that the director of Blood-C, Tsutomu Mizushima, was working on this did little to dent my enthusiasm for Another which had an interesting premise. I found Blood-C a crashing bore but the initial dullness turned out to be a deliberate move on the writer’s and director’s part because the final episode ended in gouts of blood and huge revelations so this time I was a lot more patient. Mizushima has adopted the same slow build-up approach here only with more of a story to beef up the proceedings and intrigue the viewer so they remain hooked from beginning to end all while reinforcing and exploring the dynamics and themes surrounding individuality and the group. Now, the final three episodes look like they’ll provide more bloodshed and horror and the scariest thing is that it feels believable because what we have been witnessing is a belieavable clash between the individual and the group through Kouichi Sakakibara and Mei Misaki, the two main characters who transcend their facticity and refuse to conform.
The anime started off slowly but surely by treating us to glimpses of the curse which has been consistently entertaining as it bumps off the cast of cute teens Final Destination style. There are even nods to classic horror films like The Omen for the genre savvy.
The cursed class believed they could hold off the curse by ostracising one of their own in order to ensure that the dead student isn’t upset in any way. This means targetting Mei Misaki. The social pressure that teens may feel and a deadly curse has made it easy for them. What they didn’t count on was having a transfer student who is totally ignorant of their scheme. Enter Sakakibara. Rather insanely they don’t tel him about the curse and hope that he will just ignore Misaki as well. Unfortunately Sakakibara’s refuses to conform. Ever since his entry into town Sakakibara has arrived in town two things have beset him – the mysterious curse at the heart of the story and constant entreaties from his relatives to conform with others in his class. It almost works but he is too authentic an individual to just go along with others.
Although he is initially ignorant of the curse and happy to conform with the class Sakakibara is thrown into a situation he has no control over and it frustrates him. His fellow students, by denying him knowledge, have reduced his options and so when he encounters the curse he can’t help but feel threatened and the glimpses of Mei Misaki intrigue him. Like any sane schoolboy he finds the mysterious and beautiful Mei Misaki too appealing to resist talking to her and so he begins to find out about the curse.
As the first post I made about Another shows I had Mei pegged as central to the mystery but she is actually on the periphery and forced there rather cruelly by her fellow classmates. The fact that she had been ostracised, was around when dramatic and spooky things happened ultimately gave the impression that she herself was some part of the curse but she is a rather normal human being. In any case Mei conforms with what her fellow classmates want not because she wants to fit in but because she is naturally withdrawn and accepts it would be easier. As it turns out she recognises the futility of the actions.
Sakakibara sympathises with her position as outsider but finds himself ostracised alongside her which just redoubles his determination to end the curse and to protect Mei. Sharing the bond of being outsiders their friendship grows and it has been cute to watch and who hasn’t dreamed of doing this in class with their crush?
Come episode 10, Mei and Sakakibara have cracked the curse but things have gone horribly wrong. This has led to the dramatic events in episode 11 where the class scenting a cure for the curse have abandoned all individuality gone on the rampage hunting down our lead duo.
Seeing the students turn on Mei in episode 11 was very disturbing and it touches on all of those points about conforming to group psychology and the desperation that the students must feel at being subject to a curse that can kill them and their loved ones at random. We feel it all the more as an audience because the careful and slow build up has been relentless with these themes. In this instance patience with director Mizushima’s story-telling pays off because Another has gone from chiller thriller to absolutely haywire blood-bath and the transition is believable. At risk are the two individuals we care most about. All they have against the threat of the majority is themselves.
Another has been my favourite show of the winter season without a doubt. The final episode is next week and the main question has become: Who will make it out alive?