In 1972 a popular student at Yomiyama North middle school died. His classmates took it badly, remaining so much in denial about what had happened that they pretended he was still alive, even bringing his desk to their graduation. When their graduation photo was taken, they were shocked to see the dead boy there in the photo with them.
This started a curse which I found initially rather difficult to grasp, but basically each year an extra student joins the same class (3-3) but he or she is already dead, unknown to the others. Then students from class 3 and their families start to die in violent and tragic circumstances. 26 years after the original death, transfer student Koichi Sakakibara finds himself in the middle of this terrifying situation, and able to communicate with a creepy girl who nobody else seems to be able to see.
Over the course of twelve episodes a highly complex story pans out, with nothing quite as it first appears to be. As per every year since 1972 the race is on to find a way to escape the curse, while the death toll starts to mount. The first death is incredibly brutal, shocking, and out of the blue, and has probably the greatest impact on the viewer of all the deaths, with the possible exception of a knife suicide in front of the students. This is most definitely not a series for children and has actually been banned in China. There are full-on horror deaths, often by very inventive means. Perhaps unintentionally, one of the deaths in the final episode made me laugh out loud, because it crossed the line into cartoonish violence; not quite a piano on the head, but in the same ballpark.
The deaths might be shocking, but I wouldn’t describe them as gratuitous. In fact, there is one occasion where the animators wisely shied away from showing the death at all, beyond dangling feet. I’m sure you can guess why.
With a premise where one person in the class is not who they appear to be, I was impatiently waiting for the inevitable paranoia to kick in and the students to start turning on one another through fear and desperation. The series saves that moment for the last couple of episodes, but the pay-off is exciting and shocking in equal measure. It’s probably a terrifyingly accurate reflection of human nature at its most basic. The survival instinct is strong.
Much of the enjoyment of this series comes from trying to piece everything together and figure out exactly what’s going on. There are plenty of well-integrated red herrings and I must admit to barking up the wrong tree for much of the series. It deserves a second viewing, to spot all the clues along the way. It’s very clever, and perfect viewing for Halloween.
I’ll leave you with the opening credits, which really are pure Halloween in visual and musical form. We will be looking at Another on an episode-by-episode basis next year. RP