--- Warning: Contains spoilers ---
When it comes to anime, the horror genre is a tricky one. A fatal flaw arises right from the beginning, as each person has their own definition of horror depending on how imaginative they might be. While some may immediately think of a bunch of gruesome killings, others may think of more eerie supernatural events, and the list goes on, but because of this, the genre has a high chance of failure depending on each person's perception of horror.
Unfortunately, Another just happens to fall way outside my definition of horror, and seems to fit very nicely within comedy.
But hold on a second, this anime isn't just a horror, it's also supposed to be a mystery as well. Every year we're usually greeted with at least one mystery anime per season that I only consider mystery simply because that's what they are labeled. This is because, more often than not, anime that are supposed to be predominantly mystery, surprise, have no mystery to speak of in them, and Another is no different.
Alright, well, saying there is absolutely no mystery might be a bit of an exaggeration, but can you really consider Another a mystery? When you get down to it, it was ultimately about finding out who the "Another" was so that they may be able to stop the curse that has been running rampant for 26 years. The problem with this is that for the first four episodes, it was all about Kouichi figuring out who Mei was, seeing as she had the same name as the girl who died 26 years ago, which is what people believe started the curse in the first place. So when we figure out that she is just a normal girl, everything up until this point felt like nothing more than another useless time sink.
Here is where it gets into episodes that are completely wasted in favor of cheap shock value to try and keep the viewer hooked. Until episode 10, what did they actually learn about the Another? Nothing of any value. Where's the mystery in that? I don't find random deaths to be mysterious or horrifying in any way, and this is what the series focused on the entire time. One could argue that this narrowed down the possible suspects, but the characters did nothing with this. Even though they might have not been able to do anything to stop the curse, they could've at least devoted more time to actually trying to figure out who the Another is rather than waste time with other daily activities.
Throughout the entire series, there were only two episodes that truly served any purpose, one of which was the beach episode. Now, where would any anime be without a beach episode? It's practically mandatory these days, however, it wouldn't be Another without a token death scene in almost every episode now would it? The only good thing this episode did was provide us with one of the bigger clues, which made it very easy to figure out who the Another might be, as it proved that deaths could happen outside of Yomiyama. Meaning that the Another had to be on the trip. The only problem is that the explanation they gave in the next episode made any speculation as to who the Another was entirely useless. It was said that the person who died actually had gotten a brain injury while still in Yomiyama, and would've died later that day regardless of him being run over and torn to shreds by a boat on the beach. With this, it was practically back to square one since you wouldn't know whether or not the information given could be trusted or not. Although, any good mystery relies on misdirection, and this is one thing I can credit Another for at times, as it did try to send you down a wrong path or two as the series progressed, but this small aspect alone doesn't make up for how horribly executed everything else was.
The only other episode that had any purpose was episode 9, and regardless of it being the most frustrating one, it did provide some crucial information. As the events played out, Kouichi and his band of half-wits found a tape telling them how to stop the curse from continuing. Now, here comes the frustrating part, one of the geniuses amongst the group had the brilliant idea of ripping the tape out of the tape player to stop it from playing, instead of simply pressing the pause or stop button. You seriously have to invent an entirely new level of imbecile to describe something so moronic. Considering the current standards for incompetence in modern society have set the bar so ludicrously low, this newly discovered form of stupidity deserves some kind of fucking award. The author clearly was looking for an easy out so that they could extend the series just a bit longer, which resulted in the wonder that is the final two episodes.
However, there was one thing that was the ultimate "Fuck you" to all of the viewers. More so than the whole tape fiasco in episode nine, and that's Misaki Mei. Not only did they try to make her seem far more important than she was for the first half of the series, but, in one of the worst reveals I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing, they confirm that she was able to tell who the Another was from the very beginning. So with this, anything of relevance that happened in all of the previous episodes was for naught, and that's just absurd. She could have at least tried to speak out and tell the other students that she knew who the Another was, and before you say they wouldn't believe her, take a second to think about this. All of these morons in Class 3 believed in a completely nonsensical curse that was nothing more than superstition until it was proven to be true in the final episode. Yes, nothing could've been done regardless if she told someone or not, but due to the fact that she actually knew the entire time, the mystery was already technically solved since the beginning. It was only a matter of figuring out how to get rid of the Another, which took seven episodes of cheap deaths, one episode to figure out how to stop the curse, one episode of half the class dying and/or killing each other, and half of the final episode to reveal and kill the Another.
Am I the only one who sees a problem here? There was no actual deducting or piecing together of the puzzle. All Mei had to do was convince Kouichi that his aunt was the Another (which went over far too easily by the way), and it was over. I'm not saying that all the deaths could've been avoided, but I'll be damned if Mei isn't partially to blame for sitting around doing all of nothing for the previous eleven episodes. This is in no way a mystery. The beginning of the series could be considered an infinitely better mystery than the latter half, as you really have no idea who or what Mei is and what role she actually plays in the story until half way through the fifth episode.
Not only was the "mystery" handled very haphazardly throughout, but the horror and supernatural aspects were as well. Even now, this series isn't listed under supernatural, most likely because horror usually blends with supernatural in some way, but knowing that this series has supernatural elements only makes everything far worse. From the beginning, we're introduced to the central plot point: the curse that started 26 years ago that still takes the lives of people today. The problem with this is that throughout the series, the curse felt like nothing more than superstition. Almost every single death throughout the bulk of the series, and especially the ones in episode eleven could be logically explained in some way rather than only explainable by taking supernatural elements into consideration. There was only one death that truly felt so farfetched that it could only seem like the work of the supernatural hand , and that was the elevator death in episode four. However, no matter how small the chance of it happening is, it was still within the realm of possibility. I understand that hospital elevator cables snapping may seem ridiculous, and it really is, but you can't rule out this having happened at least once in documented history.
As for the rest of the deaths, they're all easily explained. The umbrella death in episode three? Dying by falling down a flight stairs is entirely possible on its own, but regardless of this being in the original source or something P.A. Works changed, Dead Girl #1 falling on the umbrella was purely done for trying to hook the audience, and there is no easier way of doing that than making some over-the-top death scene which all the mindless little sheep will endlessly ejaculate over. Episode five? Heart attack. If I honestly have to explain this one, I'll probably lose what little hope I have left in humanity. Episode seven? Simple suicide. The real question here is why did the teacher who commited suicide have to make such a spectacle of his death? Here's a hint: shock value.
And they aren't don't yet, oh no. Not only were most of the deaths earlier on in the series blown way out of proportion, P.A. Works felt the need to try and make episode eleven able to rival the entirety of a series like Higurashi in terms of deaths and overblown character reactions. So here we have a bunch of teenagers scared for their life each and every day, wondering if they'll be the next ones to die, and through the magic that is the adolescent mind, one of the previously mentioned half-wits lets two unstable girls listen to the tape so that they may also learn the marvelous way of how to stop the curse. Queue a ridiculous amount of jumping around between scenes that would make even Shinbo jealous of their artistic direction. To say this episode was shizophrenic would be quite the compliment.
Even though there may seem to be a lot going on in this episode, there is absolutely nothing to it in the end. It's just a meaningless massacre where everyone is dying from a series of random events like having a pillar falling on top of them, being incinerated by flames or simply being killed by one other in some twisted way due to mass hysteria, paranoia and/or plain idiocy. This all goes right back to Mei, as this entire thing could've been avoided if she had spoken up sooner about who the Another is, instead of letting the entirety of Class 3 believe it was her. Even once she revealed to Kouichi that she in fact knew who the Another was (we heard this twice), Kouichi never bothered to ask her who it was the entire time before or after they were being hunted by everyone else in the mansion and Mei never brought it up again. Not only was there no real mystery to begin with, withholding the information that could've easily solved this "mystery" a couple episodes ago puts her at fault for just about everything. Not the Another.
Either way, no matter how you look at it, every single death in this series was very highly dramatized to the point of absurdity for the simple sake of selling Blu-Rays. People like nonsensical violence, that's just how it is. Many series have success through using shock value (Madoka, for example), so I can't necessarily blame P.A. Works for this, as they were just trying to make money like everyone else in the world, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it was all completely superficial with no deeper meaning other than people dying for the sake of dying. If I wanted to see that, I would just turn on the news.
So, what exactly was Kouichi's role in all of this? Being the protagonist of the series, one would imagine that he would be the one solving the mystery by piecing together the puzzle; yet he's just as useless as the rest of the cast. His purpose was finished once he figured out the story of Mei and why she was being ignored by their class in the first place. After this, he, just like everyone else, was tagging along for the ride until the conclusion finally came around. Did he piece together evidence based on everything he's heard and encountered to come to the conclusion that the Another was his aunt? No, that was Mei. The only purpose he served in the end was providing us with irrefutable proof that his aunt was the Another by recalling memories that even he forgot until Mei spoke with him about it during the final episode. While this wasn't necessarily bad, as he does get points for not being a beta protagonist like you would imagine him to be, it certainly wasn't good.
Now, assuming you're not counting the death fodders that people like to call characters, by simple process of elimination, Mei is the only character left to go over, and she is by far the worst character in this series. Random Dead Kid #92 was more memorable and even had better characterization and development than she ever had. There was no real depth to her character, and unlike Kouichi, she served no purpose other than actually causing more problems for everyone around her, making her more of an antagonizing force than the Another was. Add in the fact that if she didn't have something unique to her design, she's completely indicernable among the myriads of Ayanami Rei clones out there. So what, she has a sad past, but who hasn't gone through something like losing a loved one nowadays? It could've been much worse, and I actually expected it to be seeing as just about everything else was expanded upon so ridiculously in this series. The only ounce of development that actually she received was during the mid-point of the series, which is arguably the only decent portion of it, and that's just because you finally learn about her as more than "The bitch that no ones gives two fucks about."
However, among the countless death fodders and pitiful excuses for characters, there is one who stands among the rest, simply for being one of the ones I hate to see the most in any given work: and that's the catalyst for an overdramatized event. In the case of Another, it would be the woman who owned the mansion that Class 3 went to on their trip. She had all of maybe 3 lines the entire time she was on screen, and was viewed as a side character of no importance, yet, out of nowhere, she decided to go on a random killing spree. This came on suddenly and was completely unwarranted, which just detracted from the main focus of the finale. During the final episode, they did decide to leave us with one terrible justification for her actions: she was said to be emotionally unstable due to the death of her grandson, but this should in no way trigger her actions seeing as his death happened earlier in the series, and by the fact that she went on the murdering spree BEFORE the news was leaked about Mei presumably being the Another. She merely served as a catalyst to help drive home the paranoia in the already unstable kids staying at the mansion, thus triggering a few of them going batshit insane after they found out that Mei was believed to be the Another. I don't even consider the old woman to be a character, but a horribly written plot device that was bad enough to actually be addressed.
One of the biggest problems with this series is, of course, the ending. Stating the obvious, they need to kill the Another so that the curse will be stopped. The only problem with this is that, while the curse is stopped for this year, each person whose life was taken by the curse has a chance to be brought back to life the next year. So, in the end, killing the Another does nothing for anyone in the future, only for the present year. Not only is the curse absolutely ridiculous, it adds on yet another layer of absurdity to everything by giving a nonsensical reason for how it started and why it continues today. Said given explanation is that 26 years ago, the people of Class 3 decided to believe that their classmate who had recently died, wasn't actually dead. Due to this, the curse continued to run rampant each year simply because it could, and it can never be stopped. In the end, the supernatural aspect is nothing more than a terrible excuse to shovel garbage down the throats of the people who eat up pointless deaths. And that is not how horror should work.
If there is any credit I can truly give to Another, it's the simple attention to detail that's present in things like the background, exemplary of almost every P.A. works anime. Sadly, this is quite easily the strongest point of this series. The atmosphere was great at times, yet seemingly over done at others. The main problem with this is that an anime can't be successful with only a few parts out of the many that make it up, especially not something like the atmosphere which requires other aspects of the series to be good in such a manner that it enhances the experience. More often than not, the atmosphere was ruined not because it was actually overdone, but because the scene taking place was horribly executed. In turn this made everything that took place work against any positive aspect the atmosphere might have provided. In combination with the overbearing OST that sounded like an angsty teenager turning their stereo up to over 9000 in some apparent misguided sense of rebellion against society; it more than kills any good mood that a scene might have been giving off in record time.
At this point, I think it might be P.A. Works who is cursed. Every anime they've produced has had a strong beginning, a core that gets progressively weaker and ultimately yields a poor conclusion. This trend hasn't changed through any of their work, and Another is no different. It had the potential to be a good mystery, but started to focus on all the wrong aspects as it progressed, and became nothing more than another twelve weeks of my life wasted.