‘Final Destination’ Meets ‘The Ring’ In This Horrifying Anime

Another 2011

Some anime feels dangerous. So drenched in curses and hushed hegemonic norms, it feels like something you shouldn’t be watching. Another, adapted from Yukito Ayatsuji’s novel of the same name, is an urgent account of generational trauma, the way the sins of our elders unequivocally (and unfairly) persist, leaving future generations to navigate almost sentient violence, anatomical violence with a voice and body. That kind of violence and the need to confront and respond to it is existentially exhausting, the burden younger generations bear through no fault of their own. Gun violence, climate change, regressive policies, and more coalesce into untenable circumstances, means of propping up the elite and reasserting their power while those less fortunate suffer in silence. In Another’s case, that sin is an enduring curse with no end.

Kōichi Sakakibara is the newest member of Yomiyama North Middle School’s Class 3, though on account of pneumothorax, Kōichi joins the class late. His father is traveling abroad, so he’s living in Yomiyama with his grandparents and aunt, Reiko, both eager to start his new school year while simultaneously grieving a mother he never knew—a mother who also, coincidentally, was in Class 3. Yomiyama is a persistent reminder of his pain, compounded by classmates Izumi Akazawa, Tomohiko Kazami, and Yukari Sakuragi’s resistance to connecting with him. That they’re in possession of a secret is clear from the start.

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While hospitalized, Kōichi serendipitously meets Mei Misaki, another classmate of his. She appears behind him en route to the morgue clutching a doll, which is strange enough. Stranger still, when Kōichi finally arrives at school, no one acknowledges Mei’s existence. Not in the sense that she’s simply unpopular. By all accounts, Mei doesn’t exist at all.

The first episode of Another is all contextual, though little of what’s seen is as it seems. Expository twists unravel, imbuing subsequent episodes with just as many questions as answers. A large part of Another’s twisted tension stems from the unknowable, so while I won’t delineate the rules of Class 3’s curse, there is something broadly supernatural at play, a longstanding tradition of Class 3’s students falling victim to inexplicable, Final Destination-esque deaths.

And those deaths are brutal. Rooted in sins not their own, the student body of Yomiyama North Middle School’s Class 3 is routinely and systematically picked off. In Another, no one is safe, and tension is adroitly wrung from the prospect that at any moment, by any means, a familiar and loved face might meet their doom. In its conclusion, most everything is answered, though the road there is as painful as it is terrifying.

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As directed by Tsutomu Mizushima, Another regularly dips into J-horror tropes, though it often puts its own spin on convention. Gorgeously animated, the lush rural landscapes meld effortlessly with Mizushima’s penchant for graphic violence and twisted, surreal nightmare sequences. Dolls, empty corridors, and growing shadows are accessible horror gateways, even among audiences unfamiliar with anime. Best pitched as Final Destination meets The Ring, it’s an urgent, propulsive race against the clock to resolve the curse.

Character design by Yuriko Ishii is stellar—even if it often culls from anime’s more conventional protagonist tropes—and the earnest characterization works well to ensure each violent death lands with maximum efficacy. It’s both unpredictable and horrifying, an unsung gem of horror anime that calls to mind the likes of Higurashi When They Cry and Perfect Blue.

As a rallying cry against longstanding cultural norms, it’s no less effective. Through spilled blood and splatted entrails, Another conceptualizes a world where younger generations are left to fend for themselves against an ever-growing yet unknowable evil. The nebulous threat they face is not only theirs and theirs alone to face, but they must do so against active resistance from the adults in their lives. Viewers might be left wondering why, if the class is ostensibly cursed, parents continue to enroll their students. In the real world, why, in the face of so much gun violence, do citizens and legislators continue to vote against reasonable restrictions?

Another comes out swinging from the start and never slows down. Its real-world parallels threaten to terrify as much as the savage imagery gorgeously rendered on-screen. It’s scary, prescient, and impossible to shake. As school starts around the country, I can’t think of a better companion to attend with than Another.



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