Notice: some spoilers will be present in this review, despite my best efforts; I've made them as vague as possible, but sorry about that anyway.
Another advertises itself as a mystery horror anime; its premise is definitely interesting and right off the bat the production values look promising. Unfortunately, the show starts to fall apart halfway through, the mystery leaves you with many, MANY questions of the wrong kind and is so serious yet so over-the-top that the "horror" tag might as well be read as "comedy".
This show is a prime example of a promising story being told in the worst manner imaginable. The beginning is strong, then it starts going downhill in the middle, with the last stretch being just a mess. This is mostly because of how the mystery is handled: at first, Another does a good job at being mysterious and creepy. You know something's up, yet you don't get many clues or even get thrown off the path to the truth. You (may) feel on edge, yet you have no idea why. Obviously, those are the signs of a good mystery. Unfortunately, it doesn't last - pretty much everything about the mysterious curse is revealed and explained long before the final stretch. The only detail that wasn't exposed was the curse's catalyst for that year. This is quite possibly one of the most disastrous moves I've ever seen in an anime, since from that point onwards the characters get almost nothing accomplished and are just swept along by the flow. They don't even TRY to figure out the last, most important piece of the puzzle, making a considerable part of the show very boring... at least, that's what it would've been if the death scenes weren't taken up to eleven.
Let me stop talking about the plot here for a moment to comment about the death scenes, which are probably the reason why you've heard about Another. Some are creative. Some are nasty. All of them are over-the-top, to the point where they can be hilarious. Sure, many of them serve as cheap shock value to keep the viewer interested, but I'll be damned if they didn't do their twisted, morbid little job well. As soon as the first person dies, a (maybe hidden) part of you wants to keep watching to see if there'll be an even more exaggerated and ridiculous death in the series; hell, the laws of physics seem to be altered every other moment just so this can be done.
Anyway, back to the plot. Perhaps one of the show's biggest flaws is that the supernatural elements are never properly explained. Okay, so many years ago someone popular from the class died, and ever since then that very class has been subject to a devastating curse. Why does that happen? Aside from the curse's annual catalyst, nothing is ever explained about it. It just happens. There's also an issue with dead people and memories (can't talk more about it without giving a big spoiler). Again, why does that happen and how? Never explained. Your guess is as good as mine, really, and if you want to know, mine is that the Grim Reaper has enough spare time to screw around with middle school students every year. Finally, Another also commits two writing sins that really annoy me: the first one is that, in multiple occasions, cell phones will malfunction for no reason whatsoever while characters are holding important conversations. This is a blatant diabolus ex machina and only serves to cheapen the writing. Second, at one point a character we've never seen before goes nuts. The problem is that the reason for that is lazily handwaved, making it seem like a poor excuse just to up the chaos even more. Speaking of chaos, let me ask one very simple question: why is the school still open? Over half a dozen people die there almost every year, yet the authorities never did something about it? And if that's the (really illogical) case, then why in the world are people still enrolling their kids there? This isn't a question that stems from deep thought, IT'S COMMON SENSE.
The sound department is hit-or-miss. The BGM itself is not bad; while it's sometimes effectively used to create a good, tense atmosphere, it's also misused some other times, and it's not very memorable. The OP, however, is just bad. The imagery fits, but the song feels incredibly out of place and is nothing special either. Same goes for the ED. As for the voice acting, it's... OK. Nothing amazing, yet nothing particularly bad either.
Another's greatest weakness is its characters. I don't think they even deserve to be called that - "amoebas" is more fitting, as they display the intelligence and personality of a single-celled being, and that's IF the characters in question have any "relevance" to the plot; if not, "death fodder" fits the bill quite nicely. For starters, we have the protagonist, Kouichi. When the body count starts to rise and his classmates desperately tell him to lay low before someone else dies, what does he do? Keep trying to find out what's going on. Hell, at one point he thought a doll was a REAL PERSON. And guess what? Aside from his stupidity and some stalker tendencies, there is nothing remarkable about him. Even worse is Mei, who is proof that Rei Ayanami expies get carte blanche from the anime fandom no matter what they do. Not only does she have no personality to speak of, in the last few episodes she reveals that she knew the answer to the mystery all along AND withheld a piece of very important info from everyone else. Because of some stupid, never-explained power she has. So basically, everything that happened, all the chaos, bodies and paranoia, almost all of the show, ALL OF IT probably wouldn't have happened if she OPENED HER MOUTH IN THE BEGINNING. Her reason for not revealing the truth doesn't make it any less aggravating.
The supporting cast is just as bad. Even the named ones, some of which have quite a bit of screen time, are so forgettable I don't even remember their names. The only memorable thing about them is, as usual, their lack of brains: one guy - who looks like a girl - likely has NO common sense, as he shows very delicate evidence to emotionally unstable girls; this, surprise surprise, makes them go berserk. Then there's a girl with twintails who wants to stop the calamity; there is almost always a character like this in horror/mystery movies, and she is so loyal to that common, predictable archetype that a savvy viewer will easily know everything that she will do/will happen to her before half of the anime has gone by. But worst of all is the blonde guy. While he arguably has the most "personality" out of the cast, this jackass is the group's idiot, and he EARNS the title. No, seriously, you heard me right, he accomplishes such a DIFFICULT GODDAMN FEAT with ease. His crowning moment of stupidity? Forcibly removing a tape AS IT'S PLAYING from the player to make it stop. Remember: this anime takes place in 1998, when tapes weren't the ancient forgotten technology they are today. Ladies and gentlemen, this is something else.
To make things worse, the blonde had some TOUGH competition for the title of "most brain-dead character" in this anime. You see, a little over halfway through we learn that one of the old students discovered something very important about the curse. He even made a "copy" of that knowledge for future generations. Only one problem: HE HIDES THE DAMNED THING IN AN ABANDONED SCHOOL BUILDING. The thought of handing it over to the school's staff or the police never crossed his mind? Brilliant, just brilliant. There are plenty of more characters, but really, you're not gonna care or even remember about any of them because they're pretty much just going along for the ride to the slaughterhouse.
If there's something that nobody can deny about Another, is that it looks good. The animation is very nice and fluid, with some obvious bumps in quality during the death scenes. The backgrounds have a great amount of detail, being sometimes nothing short of gorgeous. The lighting is good as well, which is great for creating the ideal atmosphere for each situation, something crucial for horror works. It's a shame, really; the anime didn't deserve this quality.
In conclusion, Another is a mess. It may be pretty, morbidly entertaining and have a strong, interesting beginning, but it is unfortunately plagued with bad, forgettable characters, a terribly mishandled mystery, half-hearted or straight up missing explanations and many other writing flaws. It serves as a great example for what not to do in the mystery horror genre, and I wouldn't recommend it - unless you like tearing apart bad works of fiction as you're watching them or find over-the-top deaths to be hilarious.
Thank you for reading this review.