Once in a while I will moan about not having enough horror animes to enjoy. You see I’m one of these incredibly annoying people that both wants to watch horror movies and is really scared of…everything. Really, I have skills guys. This is the exact mindset with which I approached Another when I first heard of it.
I may be judging Another somewhat unfairly. I was mesmerized by the early episodes and felt really let down when the ending was considerably less interesting to me. But if I try to look at it objectively, there was nothing really wrong with Another, I simply did find that bloodbath ending as tense or interesting as everything that lead up to it. And when I think about it, that tends to be a generalized trend in horror stories. After all, once the mystery is solved, it becomes very difficult to sustain the tension. Few things are as scary as the endless possibilities of the unknown.
Spoilers for Another!!! Spoilers you guys! You have been warned.
When thinking back on Another, I find that I remember it much more foundly in hindsight than I did right after watching it. I’ve been trying to ferret out exactly what had rubbed me the wrong way at the time and one of the things that keeps coming to mind is the character of Reiko Mikami.
For most of the series Mikami-sensei is the students’ assistant homeroom and art teacher, as well as Kouichi’s aunt. Her work, as well as the tragic events taking place, keep her rather busy offscreen. Nevertheless, she is presented as a generally calming presence in Kouichi’s life and a sort of safe harbor of sanity. One of the few adults who seem to be really listening to the students and actively trying to find a solution to the curse.
This is of course to build a certain trust between the kids (and by extension the audience) and Mikami-sensei, making that big reveal all the more emotional and shocking. Except it didn’t quite work for me. And I’m not sure why.
In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that I laid a lot of the blame for the elements I did not like in Another, unfairly at the feet of Reiko. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure there was anything to improve about the character in the first place.
One this I did notice though is that we don’t hear much about Reiko when we read about Another. Isn’t it a bit odd that the main antagonist of the series isn’t more popular?
For instance, I did google image search for “Another anime” and I had to scroll all the way down and show more results before I got the first image of Reiko. I had just searched the character name a few times for this post. Scientific – I know… OK I also did a search on Another Cosplay and people don’t dress up at her much either. OK so that’s probably because they ALL cosplay as Misaki.
The point is that the entire plot of Another was to discover the extra one, and no one seems to care much about her at all. But why?
The fact that she is an average, relatable, slightly forgettable character should have added to her appeal as the unwitting monster. It’s way more devastating to have such a turn form an otherwise inconspicuous character, than from a huge personality that commands attention whenever they’re in a scene. Besides, it’s not as if Another was so full of eccentrics. It’s much more of a mystery and event driven plot than a personality story.
But does the antagonist need to be memorable? Would the ending of Another have been more impactful with a stronger or at least more memorable villain?
When you take a step back, Reiko is in fact a rather well constructed character. Innocuous but charming. Her past is fairly uneventful, at least as far as we know, but it’s also very realistic. It’s exactly the type of trajectory you would expect from a small-town teacher and it fits perfectly with her personality. There’s no plot holes to fill or anything suspicious about it at all…
Moreover, her personality is friendly and generally bland but punctured with enough quirks and eccentricities to elevate her beyond a simple stock character or plot device. I remember thinking as I was watching the show that she seemed cool, like someone I would want to be friends with. And wasn’t that the point all along?
That’s a pretty impressive thing to pull off when you think about it. Everything in Another is designed to make you feel uneasy and suspicious. A suffocatingly oppressive atmosphere prevails through the entire movie. For a character to be even passably likable under those circumstances, takes a bit of work. So why aren’t people singing the praises of “the extra one”?
I don’t have an answer to this one. Did you guys like the reveal in Another? Do you think Reiko’s character was missing something? Did they err to far on the side of ordinary?
51 thoughts on “Reiko and the dilemma of the extra”
I know I’m posting on an old post. I didn’t read through the comments, so you can take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.
So I think in general most horror stories don’t really scare me. I mean they generate tension, but I’m never actually frightened by them. So normally, what I look for is what is the horror supposed to symbolize. For instance, Freddie from Nightmare on Elm Street is supposed to symbolize the fear of that the familiar surroundings are really fraught. (I know that sounds strange, but bear with me.) His history is as a child molester, someone who fits in with normal every day society and preys on children.
Then he attacks people as they sleep, which is normally when people rest. Depending on the movie they may be using this metaphor to symbolize some other larger societal ill, or just some underlying racism. Because horror movies have done that a lot.
I will get back to that point in a moment though. I don’t think Reiko is the antagonist. She really is just another victim (quite literally.) The antagonist is the curse. It’s this force that is outside of anyone’s control or will to change. Reiko is only really partially aware (in my opinion) that she is the “extra.” (There is a bit of a hit toward the end that she might know that she is dead, but it’s really not clear if that just comes about because she is about to be killed.)
So if the curse is the antagonist, what does that say about the metaphor. Well, the curse is an act of “God.” It doesn’t have a rhyme or reason. It is death.
And in this case, we have a teen and a family who are still grappling with the deaths of two family members. That is the metaphor the story is going for (I think.) This is a story about a teen trying to deal with the inscrutable way death just claims people.
OK. Those are just some thoughts. Sorry they’re so jumbled. I haven’t really worked through them.
Great comment. I agree that Reiko isn’t the antagonist in a straightforward sense more in a literary theory sense. The story being structured in a general us vs them (or us vs the other) traditional arrangement, Reiko in the reveal is the representation of the other for the narrative purpose. A bit on the nose for a show called another. And it’s not a bad way to go. Creating an othered character that is also a victim and therefore easy to relate to gives some flexibility to the sturcture.
I definitely can see how the antagonist being such a mundane character could be a let down for some people.
It’s sort of tricky because anything else would have made it obvious which is worse if you ask me
Very true. At least it was unexpected… But, sometimes if it’s TOO unexpected it’s terrible. Like the one Scream movie (… 3? 4?) where it turns out to be someone who wasn’t even a character to choose!! 😕
It’s been a WHILE since I even thought of Another… but I do remember enjoying that teacher’s role.
Might be time to take a trip down memory lane lol.
Good horror is always a treat, be it game, movie, or anime.
Agreed – it’s rare though
Reiko-san is one of my fav characters in another. I am glad there’s another fan write post about her.
I am not sure if you watched movie (not anime) or not. It’s really… (T_T) OMG
I’ve only seen the anime…
I just finished watching this anime two days ago and I fully agree. When the ‘big reveal’ happened I wasn’t too surprised or fazed. I like how they tricked you into thinking it was a classmate all along though, I appreciate that
I would have liked it if it turned out it was Misaka all along
Consider that the “extra” isn’t the syymbol of evil, she is the sacrifice TO the evil. A symbolic death to avert a real one. Not unheard of in primitive cultures.
Could be though it makes the original curse much less intresting to me when considered that way.
I wasn’t let down a bit. Someone so squeaky clean couldn’t possibly be good. Normal people always raise my hackles in horror flicks. All those deaths at the end reminded me of 1950s B movie horror flicks. For me that is a good thing.
I think the comments are just about 50 – 50 so far. I’ve rarely seen such an even split
Why do I think about Mysterious Girlfriend X when I see Misaka?
The following is my very first comment about another I ever made:
“Hm, currently I’m afraid that they’re going for a sinister atmosphere in a way that makes it boring rather than actually sinister, because you simply get used to it (you get no breaks). As if they’re going out of their way to emphasise that something’s wrong; as if they’re afraid that we might miss it otherwise. I’ll definitely continue watching it, though.”
That was the most positive I was on the show. Interestingly, apparantly I was worried Reiko might bite it early on. Funny how things turn out. I was still interested in what’s going on early on, despite not liking the show’s mood, but I sort of lost interest once the dying started. I remember some of the deaths reminding me of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I also remember not hating the ending.
I don’t hate the show, but it’s among my least favourite things PA Works has ever done.
Also Mizushima and horror don’t seem to go well together for me (Another, Mayoiga, Blood C). I like him with comedy and slice of life, though. He might be too positive to pull off horror for me.
wait was another a comedy? Did we just get it wrong?
I did find this anime a bit enjoyable but I was pretty freaked out by the dolls. Ugh don’t like dolls… Creepy as heck.
I did find a lack of caring for any of the characters and so the ending just kind of ended. It has been awhile but I do remember enjoying the ride and then hoping that the next episode wouldn’t have any dolls.
kinda describes my experience as well. Why must all dolls be scary?
I loved Another, and I loved Reiko, but I try to avoid talking about her character given it tends to dive into full on spoiler territory. While I’m not all that concerned with spoilers generally, in a horror/mystery having someone just tell you the reveal outright kind of punches a lot of the first time tension in the face and even though it become obvious early on where the story is heading (mostly due to Reiko’s persistent presence without having much else to do with the plot) I still think there’s some value in feeling the reveal yourself the first time. On rewatches, Reiko’s character becomes even more interesting because of how they balance her ordinary nature with her overall role in the plot.
Thanks for sharing a great post and sharing some love for a great character.
I never realized how divided people are on this anime in general. That’s interesting.
There’s a lot of people out there that don’t like it (though the same is true of Shiki). I love it for the atmosphere, same as Shiki really. That slow creep as you realise everything is wrong but not sure what just works for me.
See i never heard any criticism if Shiki. Of course the rock I live under is pretty sound proof
A lot of people find the slow pace of Shiki really mind-numbing and drop it in the early days of the show.
Another tops my list of most hated anime- by a massive margin!
When I think of why I hate it so much, I never think about the actual Another. It seems a pretty decent idea… sure it never goes anywhere, ‘cus the show is pure shit, but it would’ve been interesting in any competent show. (I did mention I totally hate this anime, right?)
Making an anime that’s a B-grade horror movie is just dumb. It has boring characters, and the main character is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and the plot doesn’t even try to hide how arbitrary the deaths are. This type of low grade horror is really only entertaining if you feel the protagonist is in danger… so this was honestly the most damaging case of plot armor I’ve ever seen! (I guess because the show mistakenly thought itself a detective anime, when it was really just exposition to move between the different jump scares)
Thank god I didn’t watch Higurashi before this, or I’d actually expectations!
Wow you sound like me when I talk aboit Mayoiga…urge to kill rising…
Another director = Mayoiga director
Pure coincidence I’m sure
I didn’t really mind. Now, I must say that I remember rather little of the actual plot of Another, but perhaps I just never tried to assess it as a mystery. I enjoyed being scared and disturbed, and Reiko’s reveal gave a sense of “oh shit, it’s her all along?”, because it’s pretty horrific if someone you see every day and barely think about happens to be dead…
Maybe overthinking it was my issue
Like I said I never figured out why I went from this is awesome to mehhh whatever let’s kill more kids already
Yes, if you simply derive pleasure from watching kids get killed (like I did), everything will all be great!
so the usual Tuesday…I mean…
Wonderful post. I don’t know if I ever told you, but Another is one of my favorite animes of all time. In fact I became so obsessed by it, that I bought it on dvd, and went on to buy the novel and the manga. (And now recently I bought a new book which has a new story and a prequel).
I loved this one. The atmosphere was terrific, there were plenty of shocks and when it comes to your question I am one of the few people around that did like the ending. I liked the fact that Reiko was someone who I did not see as the one who would eventually turn out to be the extra. Exactly because she was so unassuming and one that was in the background. It did feel a bit like cheating as the show did really do it’s best to let you believe it was a student. Honestly the book is exactly the same, and as such it doesn’t change anything.
Overall though I wasn’t upset by the ending in the slightest 😊 Thanks for writing a post about this wonderful Anime series 😀
Well then! An anime we both saw! Awesome. I’m glad you enjoyed it too. Its one of my all time favorite OPs
Haha, yeah I know…I really should begin to bingewatch more shows lol. But yes this one for me was really special and one that I have seen twice, which is even more unique since there are few animes that I have seen that I have actually watched more than once 😊
You have excellent taste! I haven’t seen it for a good while, but to this day, I can’t look at an umbrella without a slight chill…
that was an amazing scene. Very pretty choreography on it
Yes… “Pretty…” 🙂 Seriously, it was very, very effective. I was just getting to like that character, too…
Now that I think about it, you know what really resonated with me in this show? Misaki’s isolation at the beginning, and how Kouichi just couldn’t let it stand (if I’m remembering the names right…). That drew me in and guaranteed I’d sympathize with both of them.
And then stuff happened…
Thank you 😊Haha…oh wow, when I think back on THAT scene….it sents chills down my spine again. Not to mention a lot of shocks. Ever since I saw that, I’m not walking down a set of stairs again with an umbrella lol 😂😂
I must admit I didn’t understand why she was the extra the first time I watched the anime 😌. When I read the manga I could see it was a bit foreshadowed that it was her ( well I already knew it was her, but this time I could look for clues)
Maybe I should read it as well…
I think a lot of people just generally didn’t like the ending. Like you said, it’s not the fault of poor character construction or anything. I think the unreliable narration is what rubbed most people the wrong way. Unfortunately for Reiko, she gets lumped in with that.
You’re on point when you say it’s difficult to maintain the dark atmosphere of a mystery after it’s been revealed. I actually liked the radical shift in tone at the end. It was satisfying to see all the tension that had been winding up throughout the series unravel into complete chaos. Usually in this genre you get either violent shock horror, or we get atmospheric horror, in Another we got two for the price of one.
On Another note, I think Misaki is just SO popular that she overshadows every other character. I felt that Akazawa was a good character too, but she also seems pretty underrepresented in the fandom/community.
There is definetly a huge Misaki fandom but I still feel it’s a bit odd to have so little acknowledgement for the “horror” personified. I really beleive there was some failing in the character construct but I can’t figure out what…
Maybe part of it is just that she isn’t really “evil”? Y’know? The curse is more so the villain than she is, unlike sayyy Tanako in Higurashi or something.
Maybe. Seems she didn’t quite capture the audiences’ imagination.
I mean, I found her plot twist relatable as I’m slow to pick up on things (like REALLY slow and unobservant). But I kinda felt cheated in a way. The whole idea of the extra was emphasized to be a student, which was probably the whole point as to throw off that Reiko was the extra, which lead me to be almost disappointed in a way? Like I was secretly hoping it’d be one of the main characters rather then her in a plot twist of plot twist sort of way. I can’t find the right words but it kinda felt like a cop-out, a really well done one, but still a cop-out.
She might have fallen a bit as well as being TOO relatable in a way. In a series were seemingly no one is the average person, her being ordinary was both off putting but over-lookable. I find there’s a lot of characters that while they aren’t bad characters so to speak, are just to normal to really be noticed in comparison to others in the series.
I haven’t thought critically about this series in awhile, so thanks for your thoughts!
Those are both excellent points. To be singled out by normalcy is a little sad…
Oh my, what a coincidence. I just got done talking shit about this anime on Facebook. You’re not the only one let down by it… I have about an encyclopedia’s worth of issues with it.
I’d elaborate, but I don’t want to hijack your post, and I pretty much went over everything in my review a few years ago.
I saw this a while ago and Im not sure what I expected you know…