Anime Review: Is Horror Anime ‘Another’ Actually Scary?

As with all our anime reviews, this post contains spoilers – in this case about the Another anime series and by extension the Another light novel. Read at your own risk if you haven’t had a chance to watch Another but would like to. 

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I was quite interested to watch Another – I’d seen a trailer for it and it looked pleasantly violent, and even though aside from being set in a school I knew nothing else about it, I’d seen it mentioned in the same figurative breath in comments and reviews as stuff like Mirai Nikki, which was one of the most epically messed up animes I have seen.

Another is, however, a completely different thing. The first episode was, in fact, so remarkably uneventful that I considered abandoning the whole thing. However, when it comes to anime I am a bit of a victim of the sunk cost fallacy, and think that even if the first episode doesn’t grab me at all I have to keep watching until at least the end of the third or I would have wasted that original 20 minutes (yes, this is illogical – that’s why it is called a fallacy). The second episode was as slow as the first, though this is when Another claimed its first victim – my boyfriend, who I was watching it with, who literally fell asleep.

It wasn’t just that the first few episodes were slow – and believe me, they are slow even by the standards of people who have sat through one of those single fights in Naruto that goes on for about 19 episodes – or that basically nothing happened, but the attempts at making everything seem creepy were so contrived that it was total nightmare retardant. Oooooooh, random shots of creepy looking broken dolls. Sinister music playing when such terrifying events as some petals blowing around occur. In fact, nothing that creepy was even happening – if you replaced the soundtrack with that of any high school comedy anime it wouldn’t have looked out of place: there’s a new kid, a girl everyone ignores, he’s chasing her around, the other kids don’t like it… Chuck in some fanservice and you’d have a serviceable romantic comedy premise!

Equally contrived were the attempts to build suspense by having people interrupted at any moment when it looked like they were going to deliver any kind of exposition. Admittedly, a bit later on this was done by things like heart attacks or death-by-elevator, but at first it was just stupid non-events like main dude’s grandma phoning him or a teacher coming over. Given nothing much else was going on, this was unbelievably frustrating.

Finally, in around episode 5 (and this is only a 12 episode series), there is a big exposition dump and it turns out the people and things that were meant to seem sinister and creepy were not at all (so all that cliched stuff was just there to troll us, well, us and the protagonist). Things do get a bit more interesting from here on out, and there are proper mysteries to be resolved rather than just the general ‘what the b’jaysus is this anime actually about?’ mystery, and main guy and strange-but-it-turns-out-not-a-ghost-or-monster-or-whatever girl set about solving them. The pace picks up, but it’s still no rollercoaster ride (it’s more like the change of pace when you come off of crutches after a leg injury), and still about as scary as something from the pen of Enid Blyton.

Episode 8 was a beach episode. They had a contest to see who could catch the most fish. Wackiness ensued. Sure, a guy died at the end but still.

Then, just when I’d written this off as being pure tedium, it suddenly got really good. The final episodes were full of anything can happen carnage, everybody turned on each other and it became a violent free for all, complete with ax crazy smiles, explosions and fights. I think all the good stuff in the trailer was basically taken from the last two episodes.

The twist at the end when it was revealed that the dead person was both ‘the hot teacher’ and main dude’s aunt Reiko seemed like a bit of an ass pull at first, but when I thought back that had actually been set up pretty well during boring earlier scenes. So, he killed her with a pickax. This also explained the red herring of him not being able to remember meeting Akazawa previously or remembering visiting his aunt’s house 18 months before – I totally fell for that and thought Akazawa was the dead person right up until you saw her through the weird doll eye that can see death.

So, this was a very slow starter that did in fact have a decent pay off, though I wonder how many people would have been intrigued enough to stick it out to about episode 9 when it finally gets exciting. You have to make it to episode 5 to even know what the fuck is going on, and that is actually a lot of time. Sure, they wanted to build a sense of mystery but I think there is only so long you can do that (particularly with frustrating non-reveals) before people stop caring.

Still I guess it makes a change from animes that start out really cool and then have lame endings!

Image by Aiko Wang

 

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