Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another – 12 (End)

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Arrggh… Another, I love you as a series – but this feeling I have right now isn’t what I was hoping it would be when you ended.

I probably don’t need to tell you not to read this post until you've watched the episode, but just in case – don’t read this post until you've watched the episode!

And so begins the longest day of the anime season for me, as probably my four favorite Winter series all come to an end. Not only do I have to say sayonara to my companions and friends of the last three months, but summarize my thoughts about them too. And it starts with Another, a series I adore but which ultimately leaves me feeling a little unsatisfied for a few reasons. That’s not to say I didn’t like the last two eps a lot, but I think they strayed too far from the formula that made this series so great and were somewhat tarnished by conventionality. Perhaps Mizushima-sensei wasn’t “over” the Blood-C debacle quite as much as I’d assumed.

Let’s start with the ending itself. In hindsight, there are things in Another that only make sense if Reiko and Mikami-sensei are the same person. But hindsight is, as they say, always 20-20. There was certainly ample evidence that something was “off” with Aunt Reiko – many of them mentioned here. I think of “Why, Rei Why?” and “My poor Reiko too” as very prominent examples – not to mention the headaches, and “Painting is my real job” and now I recall a very odd moment in episode 3 (which in hindsight was a crucial ep) in which Kouichi and his friends are talking to Mikami-sensei and there’s a quick – and otherwise seemingly extraneous – cut to Kouichi in pajamas on the couch, talking to Reiko.

There’s other stuff too, and some of it is pretty out there. I mentioned way back near the beginning that Reiko’s seiyuu was credited as “Sakakibara Naoko”, which I found odd. But it’s also percolated out in this last week (I think Kanon on ASF spotted it first) that Mikami’s seiyuu is credited as Miyamaki Misayo – which with some very minimal jiggering can be changed to “Yomiyama Misaki”. It seems that P.A. Works was trolling us with these seiyuu names, and I suppose it’s likely the “two” characters were actually played by the same actress. But I think it’s very legitimate to ask – could an unspoiled first-time viewer have taken the facts as presented and figured out that Mikami = Reiko? I’m not so sure, myself – I won’t list all the clues that exist, but it’s some pretty vague stuff – the kind of thing no reasonable person would connect unless they knew what they were looking for. I won’t accuse P.A. Works and Mizushima of cheating, but I’m not sure they were playing 100% fair, either. And I’m not sure the mystery wouldn’t have been just as interesting if they’d let us know from the beginning that the two women were the same person, and made the game a lot more fair in the process. There would certainly have been enough clues that the Another wasn’t a student, some of them already covered in prior blog posts, to suggest Mikami-sensei as a candidate.

Let’s set that aside, though, and talk about the episode itself and why I say it strayed too far from the formula. No, there was no “human blender” moment but I do think the last two eps gave themselves over to a lot of gore and “Final Destination” style coincidences. What I loved most about Another for 10 episodes was the character interaction and the subtle, tense and sinister atmosphere it created. It was the anticipation of terrible things happening that made the show exciting more than the events themselves – and when they did happen (once an episode, or sometimes even less) their impact was all the greater as a result of that. It took us three episodes to build to that terrible moment with Sakuragi and the umbrella, and it hit like a kick to the solar plexus – in the last two episodes, that sort of scene was a dime a dozen (was it really only eight students that died? It seemed like twice that many).

There’s also the matter of what I would consider to be gratuitous carnage and gratuitous coincidence. I don’t know about the novel, but was it really necessary for the anime to show the four kids crushed by the chandelier – and then when the one boy escapes, to have him crushed by a falling column? That was almost comical, to be honest – a Mizushima “Blood-C moment” – and it felt beneath the dignity of what Another has been as a series. It also defies explanation in a way that doesn’t thrill me. The students going a bit crazy when Mochizuki let the cat out of the bag might have been overplayed, but it at least makes sense – they were acting in what they saw as self-preservation. But why did all these students die in such laughably bizarre circumstances in the final two episodes? It’s a degree of coincidence that I don’t think is explained by anything we’ve been told about the phenomenon as we know it, and it feels as if Mizushima-sensei threw it all in for effect. Through episode 10, the horror that occurred in the series was what was essential to build the mystery and the impact it created. In the last two eps much of it was superfluous, and it desensitized this viewer in a way I didn’t find welcome. I felt oddly emotionally removed from the events of the finale, after having been completely wrapped up in them for most of the series, and I think this is the reason why.

Of course there was much to be admired in this show, and in the ending, too. I thought the moment when Chibiki arrived with the gorgeously understated “This is not normal.” was beautifully handled, both for impact and for irony. The moment when lightning struck the lodge and the glass shattered was one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful sequences of art in animation I’ve seen in many a season – and that was before the impact became clear. Akazawa’s death was a bit heavy-handed, but the cinematography and art design made up for that. And while it had already become pretty obvious just by process of elimination whose arm that was reaching out from under the rubble as Mei hefted that pick-axe, it was still a very powerful moment, and Kouichi’s pain was intense and difficult to watch. This is the fundamental dilemma of the “solution” – there’s no tangible way to differentiate the Another from a person, and they themselves think they’re alive. In terms of their own actions, the Another has done nothing wrong, the genius of this premise. Could everyone do what Kouichi did, even knowing what he did?

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12 comments:

  1. I am happy to say I guessed Reiko when most people were voting for Kyuubey. :)

    That being said I didn't guess that Reiko was Mikami-Sensei hence I was thrown off when Mei said the Another was there with them & Reiko was nowhere to be seen. But guessing half the mystery is not too bad.

    That all being said while I found Another enjoyable to watch every week, I also find it largely forgettable.

    Yes I like the way they set up the Reiko/Mikami mystery but on an emotional level it just didn't work for me. Kouichi's relationship with Reiko felt flat and Mikami's relationship to the class seemed even less significant. I know if they focused too much on Reiko that would have given it away. But I guess ultimately seeing Kouichi crying over Reiko did nothing for me & that's disappointing.

    But even a bigger issue is I felt the series said ultimately nothing. I understand narrative wise why Kouichi had to kill Reiko but after all that senseless student killings, just to have your main character "have to kill his aunt" felt rather pointless to me. What exactly was the series trying to get across here?

    I think the series biggest fallacy was dropping the "ignore" thing so soon. The episodes when Mei and Kouichi were connecting because they were in the same boat were ultimately the most interesting to me because they felt more human & real. And probably in these final episodes the only scenes that rang true to me were Kouichi trying to stop people from killing Mei.

    I also was bothered by how over the top these last two episodes were. But honestly I think I could have forgiven that if as I said above the series had something to say with all the gore & killing. For example I actually was not so happy with Shiki's direction in the final episodes but ultimately it bothered me less because I thought Shiki presented compelling themes which Another unfortunately lacked.

    Ah well I don't regret watching Another but it's not something I ever need to see again.

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  2. How were we supposed to know that Mikami and Reiko were the same person when they had different hair colors, dark and light brown respectively. Also how come nobody said Mikami sensei on the beach trip. Reiko was one of the biggest choices for the another, but that whole thing with her being Mikami was a bit deus ex machina.

    I agree that this episode was even more superficial than the last one; as Another's strenght, of creating a motley deaths for characters we know and to some extent cared about, was completely compromised with laughable "dead ends" for nameless people. It would have been so much better if the real cause of death were the nutters running around with knives rather than a burning house. Also a lot less deaths would have given a lot more shock value.

    Example: if say the chandelier fell on someone and they got hurt, then someone else came started helping them and Kazami comes and kills them. No face, just a knife through the middle for the helper and a far shot of his back as he bends down to finish the one under the chandelier.

    Also I feel short handed that rather lifting the curse, they just ended it this time. I mean in almost all shows they do that for a reason, ITS BETTER. That the curse is just handed over to another group of students is sad and isn't really a great way to finish off the whole mystery as it has been fully solved. Why is the curse there? How does it actually work? Is there someone behind the scenes who is pulling the strings?

    I was hoping that PA would make something better than Higurashi or Skiki, but their usual malaise struck right at the death to bring what was a great show to a good show. The klast scene with Koichi was great but Shiki did it with so much more grandiose that it felt weak when I think about afterwards.

    A last minute thought is was it Koichi who was Mikami's unknown attacker, cuz it sure looked like him. The way Mei acted towards the end was also suspicious.

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  3. I knew that Reiko was the "Another" because of a spoiler I had accidentally stumbled across when the show first began. If you knew it from the beginning, it was actually pretty obvious. I think the biggest hint was that when Reiko had a headache, she didn't show up to school the next day either.

    But to be honest, these last two episodes of the series were actually my favorite. It got a lot of comparison to Higurashi, and Higurashi happens to be one of my favorite series. Another was a great mystery, and the deaths were gruesome, but I never felt like that were all that scary. All of the deaths were caused by an outside force, but when they were done by actual human beings, I thought they were much more scary. The last two episodes were the first in the series to make me flinch.

    I also didn't think that this episode's deaths were anymore ridiculous or "Final Destination-esque" than the rest series. I mean, the first death with the umbrella. I mean, that's pretty farfetched. I don't even know if the average umbrella even has a point like that on it.

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  4. ?? Huh. Since episode i thought they were the same person. Does it actually make a difference whether they are the same person or not??
    No one talking about how koichi killed Reiko twice???!?

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    1. I don't think that was supposed to have been Kouichi that killed her the first time - just someone who looked vaguely similar.

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    2. The vaguely similar must have a reason right? Unless they are trying to make that an unresolved mystery. Which is nagging me, but not as nagging as to why they just put it there and left it there.

      He did say goodbye Reiko. Good bye mum.
      Think he gone crazy that someone who looked like his mummy is alive.
      Good thing the memory wipe made him sane.

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    3. He killed Reiko twice. Koichi visited the town 1 and a half year ago but he did not remember.

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    4. Not really: it was mentioned specifically that Kouichi ONLY came back for the funeral itself, and he's actually never been in Yomiyama prior to that. So he couldn't have killed his aunt.

      I blame the limited character designs for the confusion.

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  5. I too guessed it was Reiko many episodes ago, but I didn't connect that she was the teacher (why should I? Aside from both of them being hot they really don't even look alike!) so I thought she was out of the running. Now I'm a sad panda because I liked Reiko :'(.

    I actually think the first half of this episode was probably the weakest the show has been all season. I actually literally laughed out loud when the chandelier fell on the kids. The previous deaths seemed more interesting because they were a rare event, at most once per episode. When it keeps happening again and again over the course of 5 minutes, the effectiveness is completely lost and it just becomes absurdity. The reveal was handled very well though, to me that section was one of the STRONGEST of the entire show. Really, really strange for the final episode to contain the show at it's worst right alongside the show at it's best.

    Also, wow, that entire hotel must have been built out of solidified [ Hank Hill ] Clean Burning Propane! [ /Hank Hill ] All the time they spent up in there and not one person showed a single sign of distress from smoke inhalation! It's an engineering and architectural miracle!

    Goodbye, Reiko-san, if it's any consolation to you in the afterlife you were by far the most attractive lady in this show.

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  6. Dam. It seems like i was the only person who knew Reiko = Mikami sensei...
    Or perhaps I just thought i knew it, when actually it was never said?
    Someone please clarify. Was i confused all along (making me right) or was I correct all along (making me wrong)?

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    Replies
    1. The anime never made it explicit that they were the same person. In fact, I would argue that they obfuscated so much that no unspoiled viewer could have guessed, under reasonable circumstances. I mean - how do you explain the changing hair color? Hairstyle I can almost see - but color?

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    2. So my subconscious have been tricking me since episode 1??
      That means my subconscious mind is smarter than me!! He was pointing me in the right direction but I failed to notice!!
      But the sensei and the aunt both being Mikami was a dead give away anyway. Pats brain on head (Lol)

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