Enjoyed the production quality of Hanasaku Iroha and interested in following a technically competent adaptation of a popular mystery-horror thriller? For Winter 2012, I would certainly suggest Another, the latest anime series by P.A. Works! Having just been simulcast today on Crunchyroll, Another is looking to be one of the most intriguing anime series this season with its stunning visuals, menacing ambiance, and a macabre tale. I would as for to say that it may even be this year's Shiki, and the year has only just begun.
Another is based on a 677-page novel by Japanese mystery author Yukito Ayatsuji published in 2009. The character designs are by Noizi ito, whose charater design portfolio includes popular anime series Suzumiya Haruhi and Shakugan no Shana. The story follows a young junior high school student, Sakakibara Koichi (pictured in the image above, right), who transfers into a class that has been cursed for 26 years since the mysterious death of another, beloved student, Misaki Mei (left). Blissfully ignorant of this fact, strange events unfold around Koichi as he must himself eventually learn of the fate of Misaki Mei and face the curse of his quietly suspicious Class 3.
Summaries aside, the most appreciable aspects behind Another episode 1 is the set-up and execution. Most of the backstory I discussed was covered within the first few minutes of the anime, presented in a ghost story-like telling of Misaki Mei's story between the disembodied voices of two presumed classmates accompanied with ominous, visually stunning images rapidly cut to briefly show the setting and school during the time of Misaki Mei without revealing too much as to the details of her death. As such, more questions surface than answers with regards to Misaki Mei and the mysterious Class 3 to which she belonged. I think this is a perfect way to open the series in how it drew my interest.
This initial sequence sold me on Another in how it effectively communicated points of the story I came in completely clueless about (I never read the novel; I can't read Japanese) while building tension and establishing an ominous atmosphere needed for a horror mystery like Another to be successful.
Then I found out the opening song was by Ali Project. Perfect for this kind of anime series, for those familiar with Ali Project!
After the opening, we're introduced to our protagonist transfer student as he is thrown into his first uncanny encounter with his classmates, who visit him in the hospital after finding out he admitted there for respiratory treatment. The most unsettling aspect behind their sudden visit is that they never actually met before they decided to visit him in the hospital, so their arrival is accompanied by a momentary, awkward silence.
While the first few minutes of the series are devoted to set-up with dialogue and introductions of the main suspects, P.A. Works goes all out on execution with our protagonist's encounter with Misaki Mei. Even though this is their first horror anime production you would think they were experts on the genre with their use of creepy, non-diegetic sounds to signal the heightening tension in the protagonist's encounter and how he has unwittingly become involved with the enigmatic Misaki Mei and mysterious Class 3. There are many breaks in dialog during this encounter and throughout the episode filled with either complete silence or appropriate tension-building non-diegetic sounds. At the latter stages of the episode, the diegetic sounds of distant thunder signaling how even the protagonist was beginning to recognize that something was amiss underscored the mastery of sound production employed and made me wish I had surround sound capabilities to watch this anime with.
Out of all the visuals employed in this first episode, I have to say the imagery of the dolls were the most prominent. While their significance has not yet been explained, their brief appearances are effective in building the tension and the uncanny atmosphere.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the first episode of Another. Between the aesthetic expertise of P.A. Works, the effective sound design and the potential for the plot to build into a thrilling mystery-horror, I am excited to watch more of Another and would recommend it to everyone.