“Stand by Oneself”
The view from Igirisu:
Watch this episode right to the very end. There’s a little coda after the end credits that shows Teshigawara and Mochizuki leaving a recording for future students. I think the only explanation for this can be their fading memories, because otherwise Teshigawa of all people should realise that Matsunaga’s cassette tape did more harm than good. Yes, the dead person was sent back to death eventually, but before that happened there was a deadly witch hunt, and the body count ended up higher than ever.
And what a witch hunt it was, with the violent deaths intermingled with the accidental ones. That’s one thing that has made Another so fascinating to watch. It’s never quite clear how many of the deaths really are caused by the curse and how many are human responses to the curse. In the final episode the deaths become more inventive, and I am ashamed to admit to bursting out laughing at one point on first viewing, when a student crawls out from under the killer chandelier to be crushed by a killer pillar. At that point the deaths had crossed over into cartoonish territory and become unintentionally comical, but those few seconds were the only misstep in an otherwise flawless conclusion to this remarkable series.
When I say flawless, it’s flawless on an emotional and logical level. The few loose ends of the episode are tied together brilliantly, with Reiko and Miss Mikami being one in the same working surprisingly well. The lack of interaction at school between Reiko and Koichi just about works in terms of a teacher keeping professional and personal life separate. It is natural for a student to feel happy to comply with that fully, as the child of a teacher is not necessarily an easy thing to be in school. The extra desk in the faculty room was not something I had figured out or spotted, although others probably would, and I thought it was a very clever detail. Finally, we did get a reason for the actions of the manager’s wife: remember the boy whose heart gave out on him? She was his grandmother. Nothing ever happens in this series for no reason. Even in the episode’s final quiet moments there is significance in every word spoken. We’ll be looking at the OVA episode next week, which will throw light on Mei’s unwillingness to visit the theme park and ride on the ferris wheel. Akazawa mourning her cousin who was raised like a sibling was a neat parallel/contrast with Mei and her sister, who were raised as cousins. In fact, Akazawa and Mei have been fascinating by comparison with each other, and that continues right to the end. Mei’s calmness never abandons her, and even when she is attacked by Akazawa she calmly tries to walk away. Perhaps the animation takes her personality a little too literally at this point, because surely nobody would try to just serenely turn their back and stroll away slowly from an assailant with a knife? But the contrast in personalities is necessary, because the other side of the coin is Akazawa, who seemed to have everything together but in the end her failure in her countermeasures role, coupled with the grief of loss, has broken her.
That brings us to the emotionally flawless side of the episode, because Akazawa’s death was one of two moments in the episode that had me almost blubbering, something I think would be the case for most viewers. Inspiring those emotions for a character who has just been coming after our heroes with a knife is an extraordinarily skilful piece of storytelling, but Akazawa has always been a great character who was clearly vulnerable under her mask of capability and self-control. The mournful music to accompany her death was a perfect choice.
“You’re supposed to say that you remember, even if it isn’t true.”
Koichi meant a lot to Akazawa and in another life things could have been very different for them. That comes across clearly at the end. The second moment of near-blubbering is an obvious one: Koichi’s discovery of the truth about Reiko and the realisation of what he has to do. Many a series would have found a third way or taken a convenient get-out from the situation, but not Another. The moment of tragedy is shown from above, and from great distance, the second time Another avoids being gratuitous when showing a death. The choices made by the animators have been exceptionally wise and mature.
“Do you think it’s over now?”
Of course, it’s only over for Koichi and Mei’s year. Maybe one day we’ll have another series and see how a different Class 3 fares with the curse, but until then Another stands as one near-perfect series, at the pinnacle of what can be achieved with anime.
Join us next week for a look at the OVA episode. RP
The view from Amerika:
I’ll let you in on a little secret: when I watch these shows I keep a notebook handy to make little comments to then write about. You’re thinking: no way! Yes, way. I do. But this episode had me so focused that I barely wrote a thing down. The main reason is that the episode is all down to revelation! This is the episode of the big reveal that we’ve waiting all this time for. It’s here! Who is the dead one that has to be returned to death? Holy cow, the answer is…
So before I get there, I want to talk about those subtle strokes that make the picture so much more vibrant. The comedy as Akazawa is about to bludgeon her classmate only to have Professor Long Hair grab her weapon with a “This is not normal” comment was extremely off putting in a wonderfully comedic way. The tension is so high, you needed it. Teshigawara’s breakdown upon seeing his classmate, who he thought he killed by pitching him over a balcony, is wonderful because it shows character depth. For an animated character, I really appreciate that. I mean there’s a litany of things that I could comment on but I want to get to two things more than I want to go on about the great qualities of this series. One: the movie reference of the day. There are a veritable cornucopia of possible movie ideas baked into this story. I say “baked” with intention, as the house burns to the ground. Is it Amityville Horror? Or The Haunting of Hill House? Burnt Offerings, where going back into the house results in the death of the father? I mean, there are a ton of possible references so it’s impossible to say any one of those are involved in the thinking of this episode. Perhaps none were responsible, but when I watched it, I was reminded of many horror movies I’d seen as a kid. Second, we come at last to the big reveal…
You know those moments where you solve the puzzle and do a jig, flailing like a student of Jim Carey? Yeah, that was me! I saw it coming. Akazawa has Mei pinned to the ground, Mei’s eye patch is off. She can see the color of death with that glass eye! I’m about to be proven right – Akazawa is the only one who has survived in the house, the only one left inside! She had the photos with the spaces between her and the other kids. Heck, she even mentioned that she felt she knew Koichi before they met. It must be a spirit thing! Here it comes, Mei looks up and sees… wait for it….
Nothing! Could I be wrong? Then a second later, a lightning blast explodes a window and utterly demolishes Akazawa. As she dies, she remembers why she knew Koichi! She kicked a can into his head a year and a half ago. Still, as my wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man impersonation was put on hold, I was still convinced of my detective abilities. Surely we’re about to be told that Mei did see death, because Akazawa does die! But it doesn’t seem like the answer is coming. Until Koichi calls Mei and I realize we are only half way through the final episode!
Koichi goes outside and the writers kick me in the gut. They played a rotten trick on me last episode, showing me Ms. Mikami die. I could have no expectation of her still being alive; why would anyone think that? We saw the blood spatter! To add insult to injury, they played an additional trick: she was Koichi’s aunt the whole time. Reiko was the dead person that had to be returned to death and between Mei and Koichi, that’s going to happen. I felt a mix of annoyance, despair, trickery and ….
And then in hit me! I had said Reiko was dead earlier in the series! Right up until she drove them to the beach!!! Suddenly my wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man impersonation was back in full force. I leapt up and did my strange jig that I wouldn’t ever want anyone to see, ever. I nailed it!!! All the clues were there! I bailed on the theory because I didn’t know the rule about a dead girl driving but if they can pull a stunt with me not knowing the character was the same person as Koichi’s aunt, I can go back to my original belief! YES! I did get it! All my strange movies and books and shows… they paid off. It’s probably the only time in my life where that would happen, but I’m basking in it. I’m going out a winner.
I hope you, dear reader, can forgive my self-indulgence. I rarely get it right in these situations, but this time, I did. Now, I’ll give the OVA a shot. That’ll be relaxing now that this is all over… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Another Episode 0