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Another Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read
Another
Another

What They Say:
Mei Misaki was cute, athletic and one of the most popular girls in her school. Why should a little thing like death change that? Now, twenty-three years after Mei’s mysterious demise, a new transfer student discovers that not only is his school’s student body one corpse short of a full roster, but that some secrets never leave high school.

And what’s more, all of this may somehow be tied to his own family past. What is the secret and how does it all connect? And even if Kouichi does figure it out, will that knowledge help save him?

As the school bells toll a deadly dirge and students begin to die, things that were never properly buried come back to haunt the high school of the damned in ANOTHER!

Contains episodes 1-12

The Review:
Audio:
The audio certainly gets the job done, but it doesn’t feel as full as some of my other DVDs. The disappointing part is that the horror parts sound no better (or fuller) than the more subdued parts. Even when the action begins in the final two episodes, it just sounds a little louder rather than feeling like I’m inside the situation. It may be a limitation of my speakers, but even with headphones on (Sennheiser 555), it still sounds lacking somehow. Not BAD, but lacking.

Video:
The video, quite frankly, doesn’t do the animation justice. I got the same feeling here that I got when I was watching Red Data Girl on Funimation’s player (which is in something like 360p) in that this deserves to be watched on blu-ray to see the quality of animation only. The lines on the characters are a little grainy and the backgrounds aren’t quite as good as they could look, but it’s otherwise fine. Nothing is outright unwatchable, at least.

Packaging:
The artwork that graces the front cover is the same artwork I’ve seen all over for Another, which is pretty disappointing all things considered. It’s kind of disappointing that they didn’t choose something more striking, but working with what’s familiar to the fanbase is the safe bet. The back of the case is much more vibrant (if you can even use that word to describe Another). It features some beautiful artwork from PA Works and the screenshots intrigue me without having to read anything about the series itself.

The DVDs are held in one of those kind of cheap plastic grip things. My Bandai Anime Classics sets have the same grip, if that helps. Bandai’s are much nicer than Sentai’s, as it feels like Sentai’s grip will break apart if I fiddle with it too much. They have to cut corners somewhere, I guess. But unless you’re throwing it around, it’ll do.

Menu:
Menu’s are pretty straightforward, set up more like blu-ray than a DVD. The episodes are laid out one next to another in some pretty nice font and the artwork isn’t the same promotional artwork I’ve seen everywhere else. No scene selection beyond the episodes, though. It plays the opening theme on a loop, which is a nice tune, if not annoying when repeated in 30 second intervals.

Extras:
Extras are strangely on disc two of the set, but all that’s included is a four and a half minute special and the clean opening and closing. The Another Special is simply a full length song with some chibi Misaki art with it. If you’re a connoisseur of the animation, check it out. Otherwise, it’s largely forgettable.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
P.A. Works has slowly become known for high quality animation and artistry with their productions—they were behind Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari, Red Data Girl, and this season’s Eccentric Family—so I had high expectations for at least the animation coming into the series blind (I didn’t check it out when it was simulcasting on Crunchyroll in January 2012). Another is no exception and P.A. Works continues being at the height of animation nowadays. Their backgrounds (what P.A. Works especially excels in) are absolutely beautiful and the gore is absolutely gruesome. The character designs are pretty standard to P.A. Works, but no one’s hard to tell apart.

Behind the director’s chair is Tsutomu Mizushima. He’s previously directed Big Windup, that Genshiken OVA and the currently airing Second Season, and Squid Girl, among others. His directorial credits aren’t exactly mind blowing, but they’re constantly quality (or at least not bad depending on your point of view). With Mizushima is Ryou Higaki doing the script composition. He’s one that doesn’t have much to his name, but he did six episodes of Moribito as well as an episode of Eccentric Family. But that’s literally it. The episodes of Moribito he wrote were big plot episodes, and I love that series enough to trust him composing a series himself.

26 years ago…9th grader Misaki died in an accident. But someone pointed to Misaki’s death and said, “She’s not dead. She’s right there.” Everyone kept up the act through her graduation, making things all the creepier. The teaser ends there, but it gives me hope that the anime could be legitimately creepy.

Back in present day, new kid Kouichi moved from Tokyo and is going to go to the same school that Misaki went to. He got a collapsed lung right before school started and he’s been in the hospital since. A few of the class representatives come visit him to give him some notes and catch him up on what he’s missed so far. Weirdly, he meets (the same?) Misaki on the elevator in the hospital, but she walks away and seemingly disappears soon after. Back home, his aunt Reiko is teaching him about the school, where the group is more important than the individual—unlike Tokyo, where the individual takes precedent. But when he gets back to school and asks about Mei Misaki, no one seems to want to talk. A lot can be said about the ambiance of the first episode, contrasting the everyday elements of a school drama with the mystery surrounding Misaki. It absolutely captures the mood of the show perfectly, giving off the illusion that everything is ok, when it’s everything but.

Kouichi keeps seeing Misaki around the school and starts to follow her around. When Kouichi meets Misaki at a doll store, she tells him about the girl who died 26 years ago. What the teaser didn’t reveal was that Misaki appeared in the class photo during graduation. What had once been rumor, myth, or a tale appeared now true. Even Reiko is trepidatious around the issue, skirting it rather than outright saying anything. This is where the horror aspect falls flat, as the only reason it continues to be a mystery is because the characters don’t want to say information they clearly know and likely will reveal later. These moments take me out of the moment and make me wonder about the creative decision making to even bring it up if no one’s going to say anything. It’s worked with the kids at school because they’re initially skirting the issue, but Reiko had been nice and rather forthcoming with Kouichi, except about this issue.

When Yukari dies (the tip of a particularly sharp umbrella goes through her throat. It was rather gruesome and I said outloud, “Why did they animate that?” but I suppose it served its purpose of being horrifying), rumors start to run rampant of the curse of class 3. One more person will die every month because of this curse. But they’re a way around that. See, the curse only happens because there’s one extra student in class 3. But if you ignore one student, then the “right number” will be restored and the calamity, as Misaki calls it, will be avoided.

The day after Kouichi learns this, the teacher returns to class in big fashion. Because he stabs a knife through his throat in front of the class, frustrated that he could do nothing to save the students and families that keep dying. And then you find out that he murdered his long sickly mother, who he lived with. It’s these kinds of things that are so good about the series, I think. They can easily be construed as gore for gore’s sake, and it kind of is, but it’s extremely shocking and it works within the story. More importantly, it doesn’t FEEL like gore for gore’s sake. The mystery, however, is weaker. It’s maintained, but through very stilted dialogue (in English) and much could be solved or at least worked out easier if people just talk to each other. While I found the secrets interesting, well put, and compelling in the first fourth, by the eighth episode, I’m more frustrated with the secrecy and tiptoeing.

The constant buildup of mystery and intrigue stops immediately in the eighth episode (the obligatory beach episode). Character interactions start to be better and dialogue flows much more naturally and the once very sketchy series became much more watchable. After all, a series is about its characters and Another was focusing much too much on its horror and mystery, throwing character growth to the wayside in favor of serving the plot. Even on the “story” side, the show needed something to break up all the doom and gloom. Of course, horror resumes at the beach (which is outside the city, a supposedly safe place) when another student dies.

Things get dicey when they learn that if they kill the extra student in class, then people will stop dying off. But when Naoya tries to kill Kazami, who’s believed to be acting suspicious, he’s fraught with grief. It’s also learned that Misaki can see a special color surrounding dead people and those close to death. This could have solved the mystery of who’s the dead person in episode one, but Misaki has sworn not to use the eye again. This information is broadcast to the rest of the students during their trip to the Yomiyama Mountains. All hell breaks loose when the cook dies and a fire starts in the kitchen. Everyone turns on everyone else in the climactic finale of the show.

My qualms with the finale lie in the same problems I had with the middle of the show, in that it did not need to become a complete gore-fest just for the sake of it. The draw of the show was its mystery and its horror, but turning to shock as the sole source of horror is a cheap trick, all things said.

The dub is written and directed by Chris Ayres and his brother Greg plays the lead role, Kouichi. The dub is alright, an above average fare at best. Some of the script and line deliveries are stilted, but it’s watchable overall. What is curious is that a walla in episode four is still in Japanese. I don’t know what’s up with that (or maybe I was hearing things). Jessica Boone as Izumi and Chris Patton as Naoya are the standouts of the dub cast. Even when the lines themselves are a little stilted, their deliveries usually give the best performance possible. Even Naoya’s occasional swearing doesn’t sound awkward, as it might in a lesser dub.

In Summary:
The first four or so episodes of this series were particularly good, but it derailed rather quickly. I said before that I believed in Higaki, the script composer, could do well because he wrote some Moribito. And while his script writing was mostly fine, what lacked was a comprehensive story in terms of tone. Another didn’t fail in storytelling, it was, with the exception of turning to gore rather than mystery, compelling. However, a series can’t be just about shock and gore. There needs to be some more substance and the first few episodes promised substance, but never delivered. Emotional beats of major characters worked (Izumi and Reiko’s death in particular), but the rest seemed there to be part of the pile, not to contribute to the narrative.

Features:
English 2.0, Japanese 2.0, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Another Special

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 30, 2013
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes

Review Equipment:
Radeon 7850, 24 in. Vizio 1080p HDTV, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II

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