It’s time for a rant about Another, the 2012 horror/mystery anime series by P.A. Works. As usual, this review will look at art/animation, music/sound, story components, and character elements. A section discussing personal enjoyment is also included. Each of these five categories will get a number score between 1 (so bad it shouldn’t exist) to 10 (perfect masterpiece.) The overall series score is the average of the numbers for each category.
Before we get into the review, a quick note. The best way to enjoy Another is to buy the DVDs/ Blu-Rays, or else on a streaming site to which I’m not subscribed. I watch a lot of anime on Crunchyroll, and unfortunately, the version there is censored. (And the weirdest parts are censored — some violent clips but not others.) If you are one (like me) who occasionally watches anime on unlicensed streaming sites, you’ll find that the videos available all have the same terrible fansubs. This goes for the subbed versions only; I know nothing about the dubbed version because I don’t watch dubs very often. (I have no hate for dubs, though.)
Anyway, if you’re ok with some of the graphic violence being censored, then definitely choose Crunchyroll for high quality video with official subtitles. Now let’s start the review.
Overall, the visuals look polished, detailed, and high production-value. The art style used in Another stands out, and while I like stylized series in general, this one isn’t what I’d call my favorite. However, I do enjoy the colors used. It’s heavy on blacks, browns, reds, and oranges, with nothing too vivid. The art and animation for violent, bloody scenes and blood itself is very good. There’s not any noteworthy scenery or natural backgrounds, since Another mostly takes place indoors. I noticed very little CGI and nothing bad enough to stand out to me.
Use of light and dark is sometimes not quite on point but generally good. The character designs are pretty typical, though I think everyone kind of likes the way Mei looks. Face expressions for characters are not particularly varied or striking, but now and then, there’s an excellent one.
There are some very odd-looking shots of characters moving slowly or stiffly that suggest a low frame rate. But most of the time, animation of movement looks smooth to me. On the other hand, sometimes it’s weirdly in-between. The scene where the teacher kills himself in front of his students looked sort of jerky and unnatural. Maybe it was supposed to be like that.
Most of the music in this anime is great. The atmosphere of the show wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful without it. My favorite tracks from the OST include Mei’s theme (track 6) and the main theme, appearing in different versions in tracks 1, 3, and 5. (There are also a few other variations not released on the official OST. Some can be found on YouTube.) Other Tracks I liked were: OST Track 10 (sad and moving, I’m not sure what the main instrument is); Track 7 (mostly music that sounds like bells, plus piano, and it’s very pretty); and Track 9 (mostly discordant sound effects, to a very creepy and impressive overall effect).
There is excellent use of sound effects to help increase the creepiness or drama or suspense in the anime. The voice-acting is memorable and well-directed, though it features few of the seiyuu I know and nerd out about. The opening song is “Kyoumu Densen” by Ali Project and the ending song is Anamnesis by Annabel. The OP is often mistranslated in part, but with the correct understanding of the words, I like it. The ending is pretty, but it’s so peaceful it puts me to sleep.
Story Elements: 7/10
For the life of me, I don’t understand why people call some shows immature/edgy because of violence, death, and dark themes, while others are given a free pass. Another is one of the shows given a free pass. And I believe it’s a solidly good short horror anime; however, I don’t see it as an anime horror classic, like some say, as much as series like Blood-C. (Which, 8 years ago, was called stupid edgy trash.)
Anyway, Another makes itself clear from the very start that it’s a horror anime. It succeeds in setting up a genuinely creepy atmosphere and within 3 episodes has shown at least one absurdly gruesome and unbelievable death. Violent death continues through the rest of the series, with plenty of suspense and gore, until it reaches a majorly chaotic climax in episodes 10-12. This anime is structurally solid to the point that I consider it noteworthy. By structure, I mostly mean the fashion in which events are arranged into episodes, and in what order key events and episodes are presented. For a 12-episode series, Another has ideal episode/story structure.
The show makes not only for good, classically violent horror, but also a pretty good mystery. There are various horror and mystery tropes used, but most of them are used knowingly and, most of the time, they work effectively. The answer to the main mystery was a little too difficult for me to guess, but that’s probably because I’ve always binge-watched it. In mid September I watched the series for what must have been the fourth or fifth time, and I noticed there are important clues here and there, which can be pieced together if you take the time to stop and think for a while between episodes. (But I’m always so entertained I fly through the episodes.)
Now for some complaints. A few “anime things” ticked me off, like having the obligatory beach adventure in episode 7, or designing Izumi to be a twin-tailed tsundere — like we don’t already have enough. There are a lot of potential plot holes in the story — for example, can these people not just shut down the school? But I suspect dedicated fans could explain most of those, so they may not be True Plot Holes. Moving on, by the end of the series, there is no resolution to the greater concern of eliminating this curse/ supernatural phenomenon for good. The series barely addresses the issue, and when it does, it simply says getting rid of the curse is impossible. Personally, I think that forces fans to throw out a lot of interesting possibilities.
Last of all, while some horror series are thought-provoking or psychological, just as many are empty of deep or interesting themes. Sadly, Another is one of the latter. There are no significant messages that speak to me, at least.
I considered giving the characters category a 5/10, and that’s probably more accurate, because overall, only one character of the whole cast is particularly memorable (Mei). Still, I chose 6/10 because a) Mei is interesting and cute, and b) after watching the show 5 times, I’m attached to Kouichi and Izumi. I noticed more about their personalities on my last watch.
So, the characters are easy to predict and have overused character types for the most part. Genki-boy. Whiny art club kid. Pretty glasses girl. Aggressive twin-tail tsundere. The glasses guy. Etc., Etc. Also, there were minor characters that could have been interesting but were basically ignored until the last 2 episodes, when we’re supposed to know who the heck they are. (Like Izumi’s friend with the short, light-brown hair who goes psycho trying to kill Mei.)
Some of the supporting characters look too alike (like the guy who has asthma guy and the guy who died from head injury.) Supporting characters with really cool character designs were utterly ignored. (Like that guy with thick, long, and dark-red hair.) Even characters that survive don’t get much development after the first few episodes. Mochizuki (the whiny art club kid) has always been interesting and very cute in my opinion. I wanted to see growth and development of his character, but none ever came.
At first glance, two main leads aren’t anything special either. But if you start paying close attention to them and how they act, they’re actually reasonably well-developed and, at least to me, interesting. In a way, they’re unique. I like Kouichi almost as Mei after learning more about him and studying his reactions and lines. Reiko/Mikami is an entertaining character, but again, not developed enough. And as mentioned, I’ve grown fond of Izumi Akazawa, though I’d never get along with her in reality.
Enjoyment and Other Aspects: 8/10
I haven’t examined my own psychology as far as why I enjoy Another enough to watch it 5+ times and to be able to just pick it up randomly when I think about it. The way other fans might casually turn on a slice-of-life or drama anime to watch before bed, I turn on shows like Another, Higurashi (When They Cry), Magical Girl Raising Project, Blood-C and similar shows. But all that to say, for whatever reason, I did thoroughly enjoy Another and continue to do so. On my recent watch in mid September, I found myself enjoying the characters and their interactions more than before. Mostly with Kouichi and Mei.
You may recall, the overall series score is the average of the numbers for each category. Art = 7. Sound = 8. Story = 7. Characters = 6. Enjoyment level = 8. Therefore,
Overall Series Score = 7.2/10.0 “Good”
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Image credit: Another. Dir. T Mizushima. P.A. Works. 2012.