DRAMATIC CUTAWAY SHOT TO DOLLS, OMINOUS MUSIC!
Mukashi, mukashi*, I watched the first episode of Another. I had been looking forward to it, as it had been a while since a good horror anime had aired – over a year in fact (Shiki, which ended in December 2010). I’d watched Red Garden in the interim, and been quite pleased with it, but I thirsted for some fresh blood, so to speak. So I was excited for Another.
I queued up the first episode. Hmm, the OP was pretty horrifically terrible… but, well, so it goes. The episode started out decently; I appreciated the attention to detail insofar as the backgrounds went, as P.A. Works took pains to communicate the down and out quality of the setting. And then it just all flew off the rails in a hail of overwrought background music and cheap stabs at creepiness that completely missed the mark. I was practically frothing at the mouth, ready to toss my laptop across the room. This was not the horror I was looking for.
A week later, I tried the second episode, naively having been persuaded that there was a chance it could get better. It did not. I quit halfway through that episode, pissed off as all hell. Fuck this show! Fuck this show. Fuck it hard. I was done.
Fast-forward about ten months. Other bloggers had blogged the show, expressing mirth on a weekly basis. I’d begun to wonder if I’d been perhaps in error in dropping it. I sent forth some feelers, tentacles of curiosity, if you will, and the response was a resounding, “yes, you should watch this, it is terrible and awesome.” Being the open-minded kind of bro that I am, I finally decided to give it another go.
In doing so, I realized that I had come at Another all wrong – I had approached it as a fan of subtle, slow horror, and how wrong that had been. No, I had to approach Another on its own terms, as a badly-written, melodramatic piece of aburdity that would never, ever possess any sort of tension, nor leave me with any sense of unsettlement. I must approach Another as Symphogear by another name, just with less attempts to destroy the moon and more umbrella impalements. And, oh, my bros, was I rewarded with this newfound perspective.
(I do want to point out, though, that in doing this I was not viewing Another “ironically”. I was genuinely entertained by Another, and, as it is a piece of entertainment, I got exactly what I was looking for. It may not have been what I sought initially, but I liked it a hell of a lot nonetheless.)
So, if you missed Another, here is the basic premise: a boy returns to a town he hasn’t been in since his youth, but fails to suddenly gain a harem in the process. Instead, he has health problems which land him in the hospital, and when he arrives finally at his new school, it is to a class with a curse stretched back over two decades. He meets and ultimately befriends a girl named Mei, whom his classmates inexplicably ignore, and later learns that Mei has been chosen as the sacrificial lamb of the year; in order to prevent the curse from taking effect, every year a student is picked to be the student ignored for the duration of the year. The curse takes hold when there are too many students in the class – an extra, dead student is assigned through ~supernatural~ circumstances, but no one can tell who it is. So someone must be ignored in order to bring the class size back to what it should be, preventing the curse (which, of course, is that everyone and their imouto starts croaking left, right, and center in
comical tragic ways for the rest of the school year).
It sounds potentially creepy on paper, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired from a horror perspective. This isn’t the first time a work of horror has had a premise that doesn’t hold water, nor is the first time that the work itself cannot overcome that handicap. Good horror that has elements of its premise that are silly makes you forget that its premise is partially or entirely silly. Another cannot. People are very superstitious – there is no way in hell that a cursed class could last over twenty years, especially with high body-counts every few years. Enrollment at the school would fall, and eventually there wouldn’t be a cursed class, since there wouldn’t be enough students to have that many classes at all. If you doubt me, consider the fact that many airlines still don’t label row thirteen as ‘thirteen’, and that many buildings being built in China still don’t have their fourth floors labeled as ‘fourth’. Superstition is an extremely powerful force.
But, hey – its ok that the premise is stupid. It really, really is. Because you aren’t here to be frightened – you’re here to laugh. You’ll laugh a lot. You will laugh because here is how some of the people in Another die:
- a girl trips down the stairs, and falls on the point of her umbrella, which opens as it falls
- a boy hits his head on a wall after tripping on the stairs; hours later (and in really awful looking CG water), he seems to have trouble swimming, and then is run over by a boat, although the aneurism is what killed him
- a bulldozer’s brakes fail, so it rolls down a hill, and into the front of a house, crushing a girl’s hikikkomori brother
- in her attempts to kill someone else, a girl garrotes herself on some hanging wires she’s become tangled
- someone slashes their neck open in front of everyone, and it splashes into someone’s eye
- a boy is hit by a falling chandelier as he flees a burning building, manages to get out from under it, stands up to run, and then is crushed by a falling pillar a foot from the front door
And this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg as far as the final few episodes go, which are a murderfest in a burning building full of middle schoolers gone totally fucking batshit. Its wonderful.
So, basically, you should watch Another. You will thank me so much, bros.
P.S. Yeah, bros, I totally shipped two of the guys within the first three episodes. One of them kind of sort of pushes the other off a balcony, though, and the other knives a few people… OTP!
* ‘Mukashi, mukashi’ means once upon a time.