The view from Igirisu:
This OVA episode takes places before the main series but it is essential to watch it afterwards, as it gives away information about the nature of Mei’s relationship with Misaki (as will this article – spoilers!). This spoils the central mystery of the first few episodes of Another, so don’t be fooled by this being “Episode 0” or whatever; not all prequels can be watched first.
This is a relatively disposable episode, as per most OVA episodes, but it is useful in putting a few things into perspective. Mei’s reluctance to use her ability to see the colour of death makes a lot more sense when you realise that she had the ordeal of seeing it surround her own sister. Her almost inhumanly calm demeanour throughout the main series also makes more sense in light of this episode. She is never as bubbly as her sister, definitely the quiet one of the two, but her personality is still different here to anything we have seen before. This is probably the only episode of Another where Mei strongly shows her emotional side, particularly her rage when Misaki dies, and after that she presumably just shuts down on an emotional level because of the trauma. That explains her lack of a reaction to adversity, and it takes Koichi (and only Koichi) to eventually stir some feelings in her and get her to open up about her past, but never during the series do we see an outburst of emotion such as the moment of fury when she almost smashes that mirror, a crazed look in her eyes. She does retain something of the sense of humour she shows during her time with Misaki, but it darkens. The characterisation is very clever.
OVA episodes often have fanservice, but I was still surprised to see that happening with Another. We have had the beach episode, but this was on another level, with Mei and Misaki bathing together, and the usual fanservice tricks employed of selective “camera angles” and bubbles that defy gravity only in one key part of the body.
“When did you become such a pervert Misaki?”
But I think it’s justifiable for a couple of reasons. Firstly this is a very emotionally impactful episode, and it is nice to have some light and shade. The fun moment also heightens the revelation of Misaki’s approaching death by contrast. Secondly, it makes the point that, although these two have been raised as cousins, in a very short time they have become the sisters that they truly are, and are completely comfortable in an intimate situation.
Once we know that Misaki is doomed, the rest of the episode is a tour de force in how to keep the viewers on edge. We don’t know how the end is going to come, and Mei’s protectiveness towards Misaki heightens the tension while retaining some humour. The red herring of the near-death experience on the ferris wheel doesn’t quite work, because you can see that it is on it’s way down and not too far from the ground, and Mei would obviously be able to see how close the ground is, so her horrified reaction as Misaki slips from her grasp doesn’t make sense. But it’s still a fun moment of misdirection because of the dramatic irony. We’re waiting for disaster to strike.
And then, after a happy day with disaster averted, Misaki simply crumples quietly to the ground without warning. She has fallen victim to an enemy that Mei cannot protect her from: leukaemia. It’s a heartbreaking ending, and brings us full circle to the moment of Mei’s first meeting with Koichi in the hospital. But this time we know exactly why she’s there. She is fulfilling her promise to give a doll to her sister, but now can only place it on her coffin. It makes you want to watch the whole series again, and actually I would strongly recommend that. A rewatch with the knowledge of what is going on, seeing how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together so perfectly, is a rewarding viewing experience.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode-by-episode examination of Another, and will join us next Saturday when we embark on a journey through another fascinating anime series: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan. RP
The view from Amerika:
After a tense series, I’m expecting a nice “wind down”. Think again, fool! This is not a wind down but a wind up! We’re going back to the beginning. In a move I’d credit with the likes of Joe Straczynski, the story comes full circle and we meet Mei’s twin. This is an episode that fills in the blanks about Mei before she becomes the class “dead person”.
It starts off innocently enough with the fun of the two girls playing the part of doppelgangers to scare off a guy who is hitting on Misaki. (Ok, let’s take a second: Mei is the girl we’ve known with the doll’s eye, Misaki is her twin.) Misaki is wearing an eye patch like Mei but on the opposite eye because of a sty. The two girls dress identically but one wears pink, the other blue. Before the opening credits begin, we see a cherry blossom as the two girls stand together. I cheated completely and looked it up, but in anime, the cherry blossom denotes friendship. I’d argue that with the petals falling, there’s also the end of innocence. This is an interesting thing when you pay attention to the words in the credits at the end of the episode. But before that…
The bath scene had me shocked and boggling as Misaki starts fondling Mei. Again, these kids, who are too young, have me wanting to leave my own computer room. I’m not a prude, I swear, but when it comes to the idea of watching teens, I don’t want to watch them in compromising scenarios. I have kids this age! I am certain that some of their friends will grow up to be beautiful women, but let me tell you: right now they are children and by all that is good in the world, I don’t want to watch them in lewd situations either, even if they have their own show dedicated to them meeting Cthulhu, or traveling in time, or something else that I’m interested in! The only thing I can think is that the animators of these shows don’t have teenage kids. (Or the cultural norms are very different than those I grew up with!) Thankfully, the scene is mostly innocent fun and doesn’t last long.
As the two girls lie down, Mei looks at her twin with her glass eye and sees the color of death and whispers, “why”. This is a beautiful moment and ties the whole series up (and explains why I thought Reiko was dead from the beginning). The family bird squawking out “Why Rei, why?” was the first major giveaway to me. Why did she have to die? Why was Misaki going to die? The simple word is heartbreaking and moving, and just another feather in the cap of this show.
They then go to an amusement park and I was immediately reminded of The Prisoner episode The Girl Who Was Death. Considering we know Misaki will die, this is apt. Or you can reverse the word “was” and get Mei: The Girl Who Saw Death. With the rollercoaster, it’s not a leap. It’s just an unexpected place for me to find inspiration.
So now we get to the JMS-style stuff. I love that we see Reiko meet up with the guy who eventually kills her. I love the writing that gives us a line like “the river of time is cruel”. And I laugh at the line, “It basically scared me dumb”! Outstanding. I did wonder about Misaki’s comment “working girls are strong” but it seemed innocuous enough, until it came up later and Misaki explains that she has to make her own money. I wondered if “working girl” was a euphemism for prostitution. There’s no indication of it, and she does say she works at a tofu shop, but Misaki is the one who grabs Mei. Mei even asks when she became a “pervert”. Then came the ferris wheel of doom. When Misaki falls out the door and Mei is holding her, her fall shocked me. Again the animators and writers pulled a fast one. She is standing safely on the ground. But wouldn’t Mei have seen that coming and not freaked out? (I guess that’s why she says she was scared dumb!)
Then as they two girls are going home, a horrifying thing happens. Misaki collapses. It’s unexpected, unprovoked and utterly heart wrenching. The hospital scene brings us full circle. Misaki dies in the hospital and Mei meets Koichi. The circle is complete. We know the rest. The after credit scene shows the doll on Misaki’s grave? Morgue storage? It’s a sad ending to a great series, but it brings everything around.
The end credits are, as they have been all the time, lovely, but the line about memory, happiness and innocence fading is so truly sad. While I liked this series immensely, that simple idea makes me terribly depressed. It’s valid, but maybe that’s why I love holding onto my youth; I refuse to give in to the fading of those wonderful times. I refuse to go out thinking about sad things.
So I’ll focus instead on this truly mind boggling question: why was there no 4th floor in the hospital? What was the significance of that? I guess we’ll never know… ML