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As in most seasons, winter of 2012 has given us a good variety of anime to check out. For comedy I’ve been enjoying Kill Me Baby, and I’ve gotten my slice-of-life fix through Natsume Yuujinchou Shi. But most of all, I’ve been quite pleased with the mystery and horror of Another, which has done an excellent job with not only its atmosphere, but its plot as well. Essentially every scene of this series has fulfilled specific purposes, presenting more pieces of the puzzles and delving deeper into ominous tones and motifs. For this post, I’d like to focus on how the characters have been presented over the course of the series so far, and how Another has managed to effectively alter viewer perception of them without actually changing their core personalities.

Note that there will be spoilers for the first five episodes in this post! Don’t read on if you haven’t finished episode five yet. This is definitely not a series you want to be spoiled for, as the story relies heavily on clever plot twists.

The main character of Another is Kouichi Sakakibara–our viewpoint character and transfer student who struggles to understand the bizarre situation of class 3. He is a surprisingly active protagonist for a horror story, but that may be because Another is so deeply entrenched in mystery, that the plot really requires a main character who is trying to figure out what is going on with his classmates. They all seem like perfectly normal students, but there’s clearly something suspicious in the way Mei is treated, and in the fact they’re all rather secretive and foreboding whenever certain events and people are brought up. Not to mention, there’s a bit of suspicion right off the bat regarding Kouichi’s surname–and, as it turns out, there was probably suspicion in regards to him being a transfer student, as well. As episode five has revealed, the curse is triggered by an “extra student.” The fact that Kouichi was quite visibly an extra student likely worried some classmates right off the bat–but once some of them started dying… well, it’s hard not to suspect Kouichi, regardless of how normal he might appear to be.

Kouichi’s situation steadily grows worse and worse from episode to episode. There is tension right from the start, but in the first couple episodes Kouichi was at least able to make friendly acquaintances with some of his classmates. Teshigawara especially was a cheerful, friendly guy, but there was also Mochizuki (art boy) and the class reps (Sakuragi and Kazami). But the fact that nobody could talk to Kouichi about the very things that were troubling him… Well, it’s kind of an impossible situation to work with. Nobody can tell him to pretend Mei doesn’t exist, because 1) That would sound extremely weird (and paranoid), and 2) That would acknowledge that Mei does exist, and potentially trigger the curse. Sakuragi dying right in front of Kouichi certainly didn’t help matters–and when the nurse died in episode four, Kouichi lost the one person who was actually trying to help him figure out what was going on.

And now that the class has decided to pretend Kouichi doesn’t exist (the simplest way to keep anyone from saying anything more about Mei or the curse), his situation has become very sympathetic. And yet, at the same time, there’s now a renewed vigor and hope, now that he’s gotten the answers he needs as well as an ally to help him form some course of action. Will Kouichi and Mei be able to find a way to stop the curse? I’m certainly curious to find out, and I at least hope they’ll be able to get through this series alive!

I’ll get to my thoughts on Mei, but first I want to make special mention of Akazawa. Right off the bat, the show establishes there’s some kind of connection between her and Kouichi, as she feels like she recognizes him somehow. On top of this, she’s mysteriously introduced as “head of countermeasures,” and over the next few episodes is shown to be keeping an eye on Kouichi (and at one point in episode two, looking quite upset when she sees him running after Mei). But through it all, she’s never portrayed as a cruel character–just a serious one. She even interacts with Kouichi quite normally and rationally, but there’s certainly a bit of a threatening feel to her.

And when she does take serious action against Kouichi (getting the entire class to ignore him), it’s made clear that she doesn’t like doing something so unfair to him–but it’s reached the point where something drastic has to be done to prevent any more students from dying. She can’t afford to have anyone talking about Mei anymore, and by having Kouichi “not exist,” it’s possible that his interactions with Mei will be nullified as well. How effective will this plan be? I’m curious to find out. And if more students continue to die, I’m curious to see what she will do next. Though her actions have been understandable given the situation, she may become increasingly antagonistic over the course of the series.

The “star” of Another, and the character who has changed the most in terms of how she’s been presented, would undoubtedly be Mei Misaki. From the very beginning, she’s been showcased as the mysterious, foreboding character–likely a ghost of some kind haunting the class, and someone only Kouichi could see. And if not the ghost of the Misaki who died 26 years ago, then perhaps the ghost of the Misaki who died in the hospital shortly before the start of the series.

But as episode five presented, Another pulled a fast one on us–Mei is not a ghost, and everyone can see her. She’s not the Misaki who died 26 years ago, nor is she the Misaki who died in the hospital (who was, in  fact, Mei’s cousin, whose first name was Misaki). And as it turns out, Mei’s not even the cause of any of class 3’s misfortune. In fact, she’s being ignored by everyone, in hopes that the “extra student” won’t trigger the curse that kills classmates and family members each month. What could be more depressing than this for a ninth grader? Not only does everyone pretend she’s not there, but if any of her classmates or teachers acknowledge her existence at all, they risk setting off the curse: a chain of bizarre, unpredictable deaths.

I think it’s fascinating how Another has managed to pull such a massive plot twist like this, and still keep Mei’s general personality consistent through it all. In the first four episodes, it wasn’t like she was purposefully acting like a ghost. She would “disappear” at times–but this was simply her trying to avoid Kouichi and keep the curse from starting. And if you go back to earlier episodes, you can notice a few times where students do indeed see Mei (examples: Akazawa sees Kouichi running after her in episode 2, Kazami sees her on the roof in episode 3, and of course Sakuragi sees her [and blatantly reacts] just before dying on the stairway).

I wonder how Mei was chosen to be the “nonexistent” student. Was it because she shared the same name as the Misaki who died 26 years ago? (Which may be a first name, just like Mei’s cousin.) Or was it because Mei was already a loner to begin with? Was she always “the quiet, weird girl with the eyepatch who lives at a creepy doll shop”? It seems her only close friend might have been her cousin, who is now dead.

I find this terribly sad, and in a way there may be at least one positive outcome of Kouichi getting the silent treatment–Mei at least has someone she can interact with now. I imagine they’ll become good friends, considering that they really have no one but each other at this point. But will the curse continue killing their classmates? And if so, what will Kouichi and Mei be able to do about it? My guess is they’ll try figuring out who the “extra student” is… But then what? Do they need to kill him/her? What if the extra student is Kouichi himself? Or Mei? Or Akazawa or Mochizuki or Teshigawara?

Suffice to say, I’m really anxious to see where the series will go from here! I foresee plenty more mystery, and potentially some more scenes of horror and tragedy as well. And perhaps… even some romance??? Another’s taken me by surprise several times already, but such a development is certainly in the realm of possibility. I just hope Kouichi and Mei are able to make it through somehow!