What do you get when you cross unsettling content, creepy animation styles, strange mysteries, and plot twists? Well, it probably would have to be Another, the next series to get ticked off the review marathon checklist.
Another is a short-form Horror series by P.A. Works that is adapted from a Japanese Horror novel of the same name. Fun fact, P.A. Works is also the company behind the Nagi no Asukara that I put on my "Five Anime of Fall 2013 You Should Be Watching" list. Don't be fooled though, this series is nothing like the happy child-friendly show that Nagi turned out to be. This series is a horror series. It still seems weird that the same company can come out with something as childlike as Nagi while putting out the opposite just the year before.
Firstly, the characters get a mention for this category (it seems like I pull this card too often). I liked Kouichi and Mei in their main character roles as they weaved their way through the twisting plot. While Kouichi has some bad character elements (he makes some odd decisions), I generally liked his every-man attitude and his determination in the series. I also enjoyed Mei for her ability to simultaneously make a scene even creepier and more interesting in the early series. Later on this continues, just minus the creepy bit (to an extent).
The rest of the cast gets decent character development too. The class of 3-3 is a bit big for everyone to get a fair share, but the focus on Izumi, Yuuya, and Naoya worked very well. Their roles in the series, particularly later, become clear and they form a valuable part of the cast. Also, the early episodes managed to build a good character with Yukari too before...
The music of the series tends to flop around a bit though. Sometimes I thought the track fit perfectly with the scene and elevated the tension significantly. The ominous background music that gets played in some scenes is a good example. Other times, it felt like it was a total miss. So, I'll even it out in the middle as a mild "good".
Oh man, that animation is beautiful. This series isn't just well drawn, it also matches the horror genre perfectly. The color pallet used by the series is overwhelming favoring the darker direction to excellent effect. Even the lighter colors like pink seem darker when juxtaposed with the darker surroundings. In effect, this animation style gives the show a visible sense of dread, perfect for a horror series. The animation is flawless in general. Thank you for this P.A. Works.
Next, the plot is excellently intriguing. Although only 12 episodes long, this series is jam packed with a ton of red herrings and plot reveals. It makes very careful use of the "things aren't always as they appear" idiom that usually causes a reveal to smash you when you least expect it. Even things you think make no sense are likely to make sense later on, it's just that good.
This plot is also brutal. Spoiler avoidance kinda failing here, but the last two episodes are horrific in all the right ways. As I said at the beginning of the review, this series is incredibly unsettling. What do I mean by unsettling? I mean that feeling that you get when everything just feels wrong. That feeling that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and there's no hope. There's no easy way out.
That is what horror should be like in my opinion.
Minor spoilers here. Skip to "The Bad" to avoid these.
The answer to the main plot is almost as horrific as the rest of the plot too. Just when you figure that this series can't possibly get any more unsettling and sadistic, it drops a bombshell. Yes, I should point out that, for the first time in this marathon, a series managed to throw me a hard curve ball plot twist that I completely missed. They didn't try to explicitly hide it either, that plot twist was in our faces the whole bloody time. Amazingly done guys. You got me.
The series tends to rely heavily on cliches and tropes, some of which may make certain elements predictable. Furthermore, it makes the characters themselves pretty predictable as well. This is obviously a pretty common problem these days, but it does indeed detract a bit from the horror feeling that it should give off.
During the first viewing of this show (particularly the early episodes) you'll almost certainly not entirely understand why some things are happening. This is unfortunately intentional as part of the plot, but it also has the bad side effect of making the decisions made by the cast make little sense. This will be off putting to some and the eventual answer for some of these things might not be enough for some, although I thought it was good enough.
Lastly, this is nothing like American horror (at least our movies). I've disliked American horror for its reliance on shock terror rather than real horror. American horror tends to throw momentary terrifying shock scenes at you that quickly subside, hence "shock terror". My English teacher once made an important point that I've used to color my annoyance with American horror: Terror is the ability to make someone scream or unsettled for a short amount of time, horror is what comes afterwards and sticks with the viewer for long periods of time. This series is most definitely an example of the latter. While there are some terrifying elements, it generally uses a steadily building atmosphere of dread and the events later in the series to visibly make the viewer cringe as they watch.
If you're looking for something scary that you'll scream at, you might not find it here (so that's why it would be bad). If you're not looking for screaming and instead looking for nightmare fuel, go ahead and more this section up to "Good". This show will fuel your nightmares.
I think this series was easily great, perhaps even worthy of a top spot in the oncoming November awards, though time will tell on that one. The plot is nice, the horrific elements that run alongside are great and succeed in unsettling the viewer, and the animation is absolutely great. The plot twists and red herrings serve to heighten the tension of the series.
On the other hand, it suffers from a bit of trope and cliche overuse. It makes things a bit predictable at times (though not all the time) and it feels a twinge bland on occasion.
The series also is thematically different from most American horror, particularly movies, in that the series does not exist to scare you or to make you scream, it exists to carefully pull your emotions out and knock you off balance every time you think you have it all figured out. You'll be horrified by the events of the plot and how everything wraps up. The series will most certainly offer up plenty of nightmare fuel for you but if you're looking for shock scares, you're in the wrong place.
I'm running out of things, so Evangelion 2.0 or Date a Live are all I've got for the moment. Expect one of them next time.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a consistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it, although usually I will finish the whole series before the review.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.