Dark, disturbing, and beautifully designed, "Another" jumps right into the creep factor. It opens on the voices of two students, hushedly exchanging information about Yomiyama Misaki, a popular boy who died 26 years ago. After his death, his junior high classmates were supposedly so heartbroken that they pretended he was still alive through graduation, unintentionally drawing the supernatural into their small classroom and beginning the cursed mythology surrounding Yomiyama North Middle School's Class 3.
Fast-forward to the present day, and we meet our protagonist, Kouichi Sakakibara, an aspiring artist and avid reader of John Saul horror novels. As a midyear transfer student, he's unaware of the haunted history of Class 3. He's supposed to be filled in on his first day, but when Izumi Akazawa—the confident and self-appointed "head of countermeasures," whose job is to protect the class—is absent, her class representatives fail to step up. He begins nosing around, triggering the curse—and by episode three, people start dying randomly. The audience is left wondering how much of the school's supernatural history is myth or fact.
But forget about Sakakibara for a second. We're soon introduced to our main secondary character, Mei Misaki, a cryptic eye-patch-wearing girl who cuts class to sketch on the school's roof. She's small, lonerish, and creepy—my three favorite traits. A distrustful, media-conditioned part of me pessimistically assumed she'd be a one-dimensional goth-girl love interest for our protagonist, but the anime steers clear of romance, letting Misaki's soft, almost monotonous voice speak for itself. And she certainly doesn't mince words: When Sakakibara is bothering everyone with his questions, she listlessly asks, "Your classmates haven't told you?," before walking up to him, looking him straight in the eye, and announcing, "They associate your name with death."
While anime and horror are both frequently perceived as genres steeped in sexism and objectification, "Another" proves this isn't always the case. Anime has gained an unfortunate reputation for being sex-filled and degrading (as if American television isn't), while horror too frequently uses gratuitous murder scenes as a way to linger on the bodies of young, attractive women. "Another" fares pretty well with gender; even the apparently obligatory "beach episode"—an anime trope where the characters take a break from the plot to visit the beach in skimpy outfits, for seemingly no reason—pushes the plot forward and highlights its theme. While it is disappointing that even the middle school girls aren't exempt from panning bikini shots, the lighthearted nature of the beach episode provides a romanticized glance into the world of teenagers. And the episode still abruptly ends with another death, quickly drawing the audience back into the reality of the anime's campy horror universe.
Throughout the series, students and their loved ones are dropped down elevator shafts, chopped by propellers, and even impaled by umbrellas. But beyond the blood and gore, the darkest message is delivered by Mei: "No matter how many relationships we seem to have, we're all alone."
The school abandons Class 3, and the students turn on their classmates, going increasingly insane in their desire to outlive one another. By the final episode, we're left unsure whether the deterioration of the class' order is from the curse, or brought on by the students' suspicion, paranoia, and dog-eat-dog drive for survival.