Oh boy, it’s Another episode one! You know what that means: Another horror adaptation for people to gripe about. And, as you can very well imagine, I’m one of those people who chooses to gripe about it, for its own good. No matter what, I will justify this decision to myself regardless of what unscrupulous path the series takes.
Another has done a great many things to sour potential viewers on the experience, which isn’t something good to say when it’s barely gotten off the ground. From the overblown OP with that one Ali Project song that they’ve been pumping out for longer than the past decade, to the noticeably well-trodden character designs, to the predictable atmosphere of “Holy shit, maybe something’s not quite right here” that the generic male lead’s so dutifully oblivious to, there’s plenty that doesn’t quite fall into place for this adaptation. I don’t know if it’s the work of the studio or the weakness of the source material, but Another just doesn’t engage on the level that it could.
Fortunately for Another, the crux of great horror isn’t in the character designs or opening songs; it’s in the very real human emotions of fear and despair that arise therein. To see characters suffer not only physically but mentally as their psyches are pushed to their limits, it’s schadenfreude at its purest. And most importantly of all, it must make the audience feel for the characters involved. Otherwise, it’s just a laughable attempt at shock that fails horribly.
It’s in this that Another does well in so far… just with a little too much misplacement and random cuts of dismembered dolls. What it does on par with the vaguely similar Mirai Nikki is set a startlingly effective mood of unease through the use of shadows and lighting, complemented by a suitably discordant soundtrack of eerie noises. Another also has the advantage of lush backgrounds to project that amazing lighting onto, making a fairly ordinary sunset seem particularly creepy. However, while Mirai Nikki shows some restraint with these two great strengths, Another has so far wringed them for all it could get.
To make my point, here’s an experiment that you can try at home. Look up any creepy ambient music you know, or any soundtracks from horror franchises that strike your fancy. For this purpose, I’m going to use a Silent Hill compilation.
Next, turn on the news or some kind of talk show, preferably a program without any audience participation. Does having the soundtrack on in the background add a malicious undercurrent to whatever the people are talking about? For most of my readers, I imagine that the answer would be an emphatic no. The problem with Another is it tries to shoehorn that soundtrack in when it isn’t needed, lessening its overall impact. At one point, it actually pops on when the lead, Kouichi, has his classmates introduce themselves to him. They sound a little constipated, but there’s absolutely nothing else wrong with them or the atmosphere to warrant using it. I guess it’s making a concerted effort to make ordinary things terrifying, but it just doesn’t work.
Really though, other than all that, Another is one of the most interesting series to air this season. The combination of an intriguing premise and good atmosphere give off a spooky vibe that’s difficult to replicate in animation, and I haven’t been quite as entertained by anything else that’s aired so far. While it isn’t quality entertainment, it is entertainment nonetheless that will hopefully improve as it gains its footing. I enjoyed it despite its numerous detractions, and it has potential to be a compelling series… as long as it stays away from abusing and misusing its goddamn soundtrack. We don’t want another Deadly Premonition on our hands in anime form. Well I do, but not like this.