The view from Igirisu:
“There’s a right time for you to find out about everything. Just be patient.”
We are starting to get some answers now, although being Another they tend to raise more questions at the same time. Last week’s cliffhanger is resolved with Misaki’s glass eye revealed. That’s straightforward enough; these things happen. But unusually Misaki describes it as a “doll’s eye” and says “it can see things that should remain unseen”. So what are the things it can see? Are we into Sixth Sense territory? She also touches on the reason why people find things like ultra-realistic dolls creepy, known as the “uncanny valley” response to things that are almost human but not quite:
“Dolls are hollow, you see, completely hollow in body and soul.”
…but she goes further, describing the dolls as if they have some kind of sentience:
“That void connects them with death, but hollow things seek to fill their emptiness.”
The question remains about the nature of Misaki’s existence, and again the writing is exceptionally clever. Everything is written to have at least two possible explanations. Of course, we jump to the conclusion that presents itself as the most obvious, which is rarely the correct one in Another. What is Misaki doing in the doll shop/museum? We get a flashback to the shopkeeper saying “I have no other customers”, while Koichi leaps to the obvious conclusion. There is another perfectly logical reason why she isn’t a customer of the shop. Less obvious though is any kind of alternative explanation to this:
“None of them can see me at all Koichi. But if you’re the only one who can see me, how would you feel? Would you be afraid?”
But there is always more than one possibility. It’s an exceptional piece of writing, accompanied by fabulously creepy music which works in conspiracy with the writing to misdirect our thoughts and emotions.
When we get answers to our questions, can we take them at face value? Mizuno the nurse finally speaks to Koichi over a phone that has a reception, and clarifies the name of the dead girl in the hospital, which turns out to be Misaki Fujioka, so last week’s broken conversation where we heard little more than the word “Misaki” was a classic piece of misdirection to make us assume that Mei was the dead girl. Instead, she says “Misaki was my cousin”, but could this be just another layer of misdirection? Another is a series where we simply cannot take anything at face value, and the more we are misled the more we mistrust the information we are given. One thing’s for sure, the name Misaki is featuring a lot. It is a common name in Japan though, which can best be translated as “beautiful blossom”. We have a few cutaway shots of those in Another.
This episode was a glorious example of how to make the viewer uneasy. Things are drawn from odd angles, the music is doom-laden, and everything is leading us down a path to drawing conclusions of the supernatural kind. Even on second viewing, this episode had me so edgy that something simple like a flock of birds flying across the screen made me jump.
We also had our first on screen death this week, and what an amazing subversion of an anime cliché it was. There are endless episodes of anime series where two teenagers walk home together under one umbrella, when one of them has forgotten theirs. It’s a classic way to bring two people closer together. With the talk of class trips as well, we are lulled into very familiar teen anime territory… and then Yukari and Koichi don’t get to have their moment under the umbrella, and instead Yukari is impaled on its spike. It’s an absolutely brutal moment: spurting blood, twitching, broken glasses, and finally a spreading pool of blood. It pulls no punches. It’s probably the most shocking death in the series, heightened by being the first.
We also see the accident happen in some detail, but can it really just be a random accident? If so, it’s the weirdest random accident ever. I’ll think I’ll be very careful what I carry down the stairs in future. Better safe than sorry. RP
The view from Amerika:
Episode 3 opens recapping the moment at the tail end of episode 2 where Misaki is about to show Sakakibara what is under her eyepatch. Instantly, I’m as intrigued as I was last night. And then the opening credit roll and we still have to wait until we see it. At first, I thought she was simply hiding heterochromia, the disorder where one eye is a different color from the other. But then they say the words – her left eye is a dolls eye. My own eyes must have looked like cartoon eyes, popping out of my head. She goes on to explain herself: dolls are hollow and they are always trying to fill themselves.
There’s that thing I love when reading H. P. Lovecraft where you have this sense of utter doom; an existential dread, as they say, that you’re involved in something truly terrifying and there’s no way to stop it. Misaki takes Sakakibara upstairs where they continue talking. The story is unnerving for the audience as much as the characters, but at a certain point, the shopkeeper tells him to that it’s time to go home. Sakakibara looks to the shopkeeper, turns back to Misaki… but she is gone!
I think seeing The Sixth Sense may have tainted me. I’d been suspecting that Misaki isn’t there, and I’m also starting to think Sakakibara’s sister (-ish person, Reiko) isn’t there either. When Sakakibara is speaking to his classmates, they are all unnerved by the subject matter. It’s as if they don’t want to even mention the name of Misaki in case it brings a curse back. Sakakibara is even told “don’t mess with things that don’t exist! It’s dangerous.” Then he says what I found even more disquieting: “I’ll tell you everything next month!” What is so significant about next month? When Sakakibara is talking to his hospital friend and informant, she says Misaki is spelled using the same character as The Future. Hm. This Misaki is confronted with the question and says her cousin was the one who died but they were very closely connected. And then she tells the too-curious Sakakibara, “I don’t exist”. His terror is short lived. His friend Yukari runs out of a classroom towards him but stops in tears, turns and runs to another stairwell. Whether she does this because she can see Misaki or not is not entirely clear. Sakakibara seems confused but there’s no indication that she was seen. Furthermore, the teacher who ran out with Yukari never seems to see her, and she’s nowhere to be found when Yukari slips. …
So at this point, I thought we were watching something moderately dark but with perhaps a mild sense of humor. To my shock and horror, as Yukari falls down the stairs, her umbrella rotates and impales her through the throat. Sakakibara and a teacher run to see what the commotion was, and find a rapidly growing puddle of blood while his friend lies there twitching. It’s a gruesome scene but perfectly placed. Except then… credits. Great Cthulhu! Why do I have to wait to see what happens?
It is of some interest that this is the episode that references Lovecraft outright too. So far, there’s a horror writer to each episode and I wonder about the significance. The first story we were given was Pet Sematary which has to do with the dead being returned to some sort of life… not unlike Misaki. John Saul wrote Suffer the Children, within which we find dolls resembling their children. Here we have that scene of existential dread conjured so perfectly by horror master Howard Philips Lovecraft, and this is the episode that shows us his book. Now the remaining episodes will have a game for me: what horror writer is being represented.
And I am utterly loving it! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Another Episode 4