Released: 2012

Starting in a new school is hard enough. Starting up late in school due to illness is even worse. And if you start up late, with a mysterious and secretive class council hovering over you, plus a quiet and morbid girl with a patch over her eye, and only you seem to be able to see her… well, that’s just anime for you.

Another begins with a bit of backstory: it introduces us to a class who experienced a terrible tragedy with the death of one of its own students. However, one student, unwilling to accept this, simply decided to continue pretending that the deceased student was still there. The other students followed suit, going so far as to include a seat for her at graduation years later.

However, the real story follows Koichi Sakakibara, a young transfer student who finds himself in the aforementioned position. When beginning his time in the new school, it is impressed upon him time and time again that no good will come of talking to or about Mei – the girl that only he can see. He deals with it in the way expected of an anime character: he ignores the near constant warnings he receives, and continues to pursue the girl.

As he attempts to learn more about Mei, strange and tragic events begin to unfold around him. We find out, as Koichi does, that this class, after the events of the backstory narrated to us at the beginning, is cursed. Those initial students had invited death into their class, and so death continues to follow it, and Koichi helplessly watches as his fellow classmates perish – presumably because of his actions.

So, this anime has a premise that is so melodramatic and incredibly anime that it’s hard not to scoff. Give it a chance – it’s a short series at 12 episodes, and takes quite a journey in that time. Some tropes are presented as is, but others are wonderfully suberted, with a wink and a nod to audience expectations.

Mei herself is one of those tropes. She’s the quintissential ghostly, mysterious girl with a dark secret, and the one that everything seemingly hinges on. While Mei does have a secret, and one that proves to be influential at that, she’s really just a small piece in a much, much bigger picture. In fact, when Koichi addresses his suspicions of her part in all of the deaths at their school, she playfully brushes it off, all while acknowledging how likely it must seem given her own weirdness. That alone added a lot of charm that endeared her to me. And once her part in everything is revealed (surprisingly early on), they can play with her interactions a little more. She doesn’t get reduced to a role that makes her simply the center of a puzzle the main hero has to solve; she has her own stakes in solving the mystery herself.

The other main female player is also intriguing in the part she plays. Izumi is the head of countermeasures, and takes her role very seriously; each death that occurs, she sees as a personal affront, and puts forth every known measure to try to break the curse. She is incredibly determined, to the point of madness and unethical methods. This isn’t a new kind of role, and is seen somewhat often, but I think it’s done in a fairly sympathetic way here.

The conflict in this story is rather fun to follow as it plays out as part haunting and part curse, not quite one or the other. The ambiguity of that works, because it really does present a difficult situation for the students suffering. There are ways to solve the problem, but only until the next school year rolls around and these current students have moved on. There are very few people who can remain in place to truly deal with it. There’s no root that can truly end it, and it remains cyclical.

I particularly enjoyed the explanation of why it was taking place, and think it was one of the more interesting takes on a school curse/haunting. Just because the original incident centered around one student did not make it a story about that ghost, but the nature of what a ghost is. Ultimately, the curse comes down less to an individual spirit and more about balance. In order to deal with a literal ghost, they must create a figurative one. There’s something sadly poetic about it.

The way the story plays out is cringeworthy in its escalation of violence, and yet satisfying all the same. The act of “other”-ing fellow students has become so commonplace in this school that it comes as no surprise that it eventually devolves into a witch hunt. Every student fends for his or herself with no regard for the pain and destruction is ultimately has on others. Even when it reaches “resolution,” one can only look back on the heavy casualties it took to get there; and then to remember that it will all begin anew in another year.

This is a nice, short series that occasionally plays with the tropes it employs, and actually strengthens as the show progresses. There are a few interesting female characters (and one or two even survive to the end!), and they aren’t automatically shoehorned into romance narratives. And best of all, it’s genuinely eerie – the story is chilling, and the violence nothing short of creatively devious.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Worth a watch!

Scariness level: Pretty decent, actually, with a little self aware humor thrown in here and there. It’s both scary on a logical level, where the characters are being picked off one by one, and on a slightly more thoughtful scale.

Violence level: Hooo boy. Blood is dialed up to 11 on this one, guys. But man, the creativity in some of them is pretty top notch. I mean, I’ve seen people fail to use the stairs with disastrous results. I’ve seen people fail to use an umbrella. But to fail to umbrella and stairs at the same time? Use your imagination.

Bechdel Test: Passes. Mei and Izumi speak to one another a number of times, about the curse and its effects.

Mako Mori test: I’m not 100% sure if this is technically a pass. I don’t think Mei’s individual story is strong enough to justify it.

Posted on July 22, 2015, in Anime and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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