Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
DVD - Complete Collection
Koichi Sakakibara has come to the town of Yomiyama from Tokyo for his ninth grade year while his father does research in India. He has a chronic lung condition, which prevents him from beginning the school year as a member of year 3 class 3, and when his classmates visit him in the hospital, something seems off. He soon meets a strange and mysterious girl named Mei Misaki, who appears to be part of class 3-3, but no one will acknowledge her existence. When Koichi hears rumors of a curse on his class and people start dying, he knows there's something more going on than meets the eye. What is the secret of class 3-3? Why are people connected with the class dying? And more importantly, is there any way to stop it?
There's a legend at Yomi North, one of Yomiyama's middle schools. Twenty-six years ago, in 1973, a popular student in class 3-3 named Misaki died. The class was so distraught that they began pretending that he had never died, even bringing his desk to graduation. Misaki to them was alive...but they realized that they may have gotten more than they bargained for when his ghost appeared in the class graduation photo. Now class 3-3 is closer to death, and with that come some very specific problems with only partial solutions...not that transfer student Koichi Sakakibara knows this. He is spending his ninth grade year in his mother's hometown of Yomiyama while his father does research in India. Due to a lung condition, he has to start school a month late, and as a result is completely in the dark as to the legend of Misaki and the curse that was laid upon class 3. He befriends a mysterious girl named Mei Misaki, whom the rest of the class seems not to see. Confused, Koichi begins looking into things, with disastrous results.
Like many a horror story, there are aspects of Another that are terrifying and others that are intensely frustrating. Both we as viewers and Koichi as an active participant in the story know that there is something going on that we don't fully comprehend, and the students' unwillingness to tell seems to worsen the situation at every point, at least until about halfway through the series. While we do eventually understand why they are keeping Koichi in the dark, it feels as if everything could have been avoided had someone just opened his mouth and said something. This feeling, however, is rather less than it is in the novel duology upon which the series is based, possibly due to time constraints: the first volume of Yukito Ayatsuji's novel ends exactly halfway through episode six. That said, this is a very faithful adaptation, with the script quoting the novel in places.
The opening episode of the show lays things on a bit thick, but there is a reason for that which can be discerned by a second viewing. In fact, even if you watched this streaming when it first aired, it is worth watching again in order to pick out all of the hints and clues that the show is larded with. It is possible to solve the mystery from the facts presented, but it is also difficult to discern precisely what facts one ought to be paying attention to, as numerous red herrings abound, which makes for a lot of enjoyable viewing for mystery fans in both an initial watch and a rewatch. Less effective is the overuse of ominous music and ball jointed doll imagery. Clearly they are both meant to unsettle you, but the dolls in particular are just so overdone and trite that they lose some of their effectiveness. What it lacks in these two areas, however, the show makes up for in shock value with some of the death scenes. The first major death of the series is brutal and terrifying, both in terms of its appearance and how it happens. A few others come close to achieving the horror of this first, although the most emotionally upsetting one is never shown up close. Also very well done are the nightmare sequences, of which there are two. In neither case are you certain that they are dreams and not reality, and both are very scary, albeit in slightly different ways.
In terms of scariness, the dub is slightly more frightening than the sub, possibly simply because there are no subtitles to read in order to distance oneself from what is happening on the screen. The dub cast is well matched to the sub cast, and Greg Ayres and Monica Rial do a good job as the leads. Some of Mei's lines in the dub can sound a bit stilted because of the break-up of the lip flaps, and Jessica Boone's Akazawa has some difficulty in pronouncing names (somehow “ta-KA-ko” doesn't have the same ring to it as “TAKA-ko”), but there really are no truly weak voices. The Japanese voice actors sound a bit more deliberate in some places, but really, both are effective and you should choose based on whether you prefer your voices in English or Japanese.
Visually, Another is wonderful. The town is covered in rust, giving it a forlorn, abandoned appearance and calling to mind dried blood, and every setting is distinct. The rooms in the old school building are very different looking from the newer one, and research was clearly conducted as to what cell phones looked like in 1998, among other day-to-day items. The opening theme's imagery falls under the “sort of overdone” heading, and Ali Project's song doesn't quite fit with the show, but overall attention was paid in all the right places.
Another may have its faults, such as some of the imagery and some clues being almost too obscure, as well as one or two clearly contrived plot points, but on the whole it is a well done mystery/horror hybrid. All of the answers are there if you look for them, even those that don't appear to be, and with good visuals and voices, this is a story that fans of Ryukishi07's works will want to check out.
And just as an exercise, try reading the title a different way – if you break down “another,” what do you get? “An Other.” That might be worth thinking about as you watch the show.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Good voice work in both tracks, great backgrounds and horror scenes. All of the clues are there...
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