Another – Episode 1

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Sakakibara Kouichi (Abe Atsushi), newly-transferred third year to Yomiyama Chuugakkou from Tokyo has just moved to the countryside. While recovering from an illness in the hospital, he encounters Misaki Mei (Takamori Natsumi). Curious, he decides to try to approach her but soon finds the girl, and his new school and classmates, at the center of a terrible, decades-old secret.

Originally from the novel of the same name by Ayatsuji Yukito, and later manga adaptation, Another (アナザー) is P.A. Works’ latest project and incorporates the best qualities in suspense, mystery and horror in an attractive, stylishly smart package. Another is directed by Mizushima Tsutomu (Blood-C; xxxHolic series; Shinryaku! Ika Musume series) and features OP “Kyoumu Densen” by ALI PROJECT; ED “anamnesis” by Annabel.

 

Yomiyama: whether bathed in the colors of a dusk sky’s dying sunlight or blanketed in eerie fog, one can’t help but be reminded of all the rural charm of Hinamizawa, another exurban village of the damned.

 

During his in-house convalescence, a few of Kouichi’s new classmates from class 3-3 drop by to introduce themselves and wish him a quick recovery. L-R: Akazawa Izumi (Yonezawa Madoka); Kazami Tomohiko (Ichiki Mitsuhiro); Sakuragi Yukari (Nonaka Ai). It’s of great personal satisfaction to see Nonaka-san in particular feature in this series.

Girl of mystery. But don’t bother: Misaki Mei has little interest in talking. Curiously, the doll she is carrying at her side when Kouichi first encounters her in the hospital elevator also seems to suffer injury to its eyes. Speaking of dolls, they are a common motif throughout the episode i.e. they are so common they are omnipresent from the opening sequence, punctuating certain situations. Perhaps they correspond to specific events relative to certain characters later in the plot. If so, they might be vital clues with hidden meaning. Or maybe they’re just there to add to the whole creepy sense of foreboding that pervades the atmosphere.

 

After his recovery, the air is tense at first as Kouichi starts classes at his new school; as he takes his seat, everyone seems to willfully disregard the haunting figure in the back corner of the room –a figure Kouichi immediately recognizes as Mei. Is this a classwide conspiracy? Although following his self-introduction he is given a friendly welcome by most everyone, several keep their distance, eying him with sidewise glances and skepticism from the sidelines. It seems not everyone is intent on making nice with the new kid.

Kouichi’s growing fascination with Mei drives the latter half of the episode; and he begins seeking answers by interviewing his classmates. One of his more friendly acquaintances, Yukari, in fact shudders at the mere mention of the name “Misaki” before quickly recovering to mask her reaction behind a feigned wall of ignorance. At this point he is still unaware of the massive taboo he is trespassing upon, that what he is trying to investigate has been put to silence long before with the understanding that acknowledging it is forbidden. But whatever ambiguity that may have lingered in his mind is precipitately dispelled when he rushes to meet Mei on the roof of the school.

 

Of course, this is where the plot officially lets you know that Mei (e.g. her presence/influence whether passive or active) is the key and that all further development past this point hinges on her. However, why not take things a step further and implicate the protagonist as having something ominously murky surrounding him as well?

She is coy, almost trifling, as she toys with Kouichi’s curiosity. But before she leaves, she warns him against trying to talk with her again and gives him a chilling, cryptic revelation that his name is connected with a bizarre death that had occurred at the school. So ends episode 1 as the unwitting hero struggles against a growing sense of uneasiness regarding the strange girl Mei who appears and disappears out of thin air.

 

One of the show’s already apparent strengths lies in its musical score. ALI PROJECT, mentioned above, skillfully establishes the dark, unsettling tone befitting the series with the OP in their trademark “Black Alice” style. However, props must be awarded to Otani Ko (Gundam Wing series; Blade of the Immortal; Tokyo Magnitude 8.0; Shakugan no Shana series), a skillful veteran composer who has contributed his works to a number of excellent anime titles throughout his career and whose background compositions help vitally underscore the subtle sense of dread throughout the scenes. The dramatic tension throughout the dialogue is in large part thanks to his spot-on scoring.

Overall, episode 1 is a very strong opening act that beautifully sets up the rest of the unfolding story. Night is coming. Will there be another tragedy?

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