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?