Bonus Post #46- Music: Halloween Special Part 2: Another: Dark Spectacle and Dark Beauty

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Hello anime fans, and once again, Happy Halloween!!! It looks like I’ll just barely be able to fulfill my promise of two horror-themed bonus posts this month (at least in my time zone). Now that I’ve finally said my peace regarding Diabolik Lovers, I figured it would be best to talk about a horror themed anime that I actually really like: Another. Fair warning: I will be spoiling pretty much everything in this show, so SPOILER WARNING! This show is very dependent on its mystery aspect, so I urge you to watch the show without any plot details if you’re a horror fan. That being said, let’s dive in.

As I talked about in Part 1 of this special, I believe that the horror genre has the capability to do some great and interesting things. Again, some of my favorite movies, video games, and anime series have been at least influenced by horror. Another is an anime that I consider to be among my favorites. I had an amazing time watching Another, and felt that its intrigue, mystery, great characters, and tension were extremely well done. I don’t believe that it is the perfect example of what the horror genre can do, but it does a lot of things right in my eyes despite a few missteps. There is one aspect of the show that I absolutely felt the need to talk about though, and that is the opening and closing themes. The opening and closing of Another are extremely important to the show, perfectly displaying the dual contrasting aspects of Another. Let’s start with the opening, “Kyoumu Densen” by ALI PROJECT, and then the closing, “Anamnesis” by Annabel.

 

The Opening: Dark Spectacle

If you were introduced to this show in a way similar to how I was, then the opening is probably exactly what you would have expected. It’s a bit creepy, but mostly loud and bombastic. The fast strings, the operatic singing, the rapid chord changes. It sounds frantic and dark, as if one is being chased through a graveyard by a vampire, werewolf, or death itself. The power in Arika Takarano’s voice and melodies combined with the ghoulish music feels tailor made for a show that features gory death due to supernatural causes.

 I feel like this song and opening visuals were used to emphasize the lack of safety for the characters, and the dark spectacle in the show that is the gore and death. Whenever there are scenes of death in the show, they’re shocking, bloody, and memorable. Take for example the infamous umbrella scene, or how an episode ends with a teacher going mad and pulling out a knife before eventually killing himself (in the next episode, of course). Due to the very premise of the curse, the classmates are never truly safe (even if they think they are or if all signs seem to indicate that they are), and these killings remind them of this.

This shock is especially present at the very end, when subtlety is thrown out, everything catches on fire and the students devolve into something slightly reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies, only with death itself after them as well. This climax, to me, feels pretty fitting. The show has up until this point killed students sporadically and somewhat quickly. It feels like it had been holding back the true carnage, and then unleashed it at this point. Or the entire show has been a stress test. How much paranoia, fear, and panic can these students stand? Once things start to heat up in the hotel, the class finally breaks into all out madness.  I also like the climax because there is still a sense of tension and mystery. You suddenly don’t know who will survive, who has gone mad, and still, who is the extra???

Once again, these death scenes are a bloody spectacle. Some of them are even borderline ridiculous, yet still slightly disturbing. Paranoia and panic are always prevalent in the show, and the climax shows everything falling apart as a result of all of the previous events. The opening seems to relate to these aspects of the show. It’s as if they know that many are going to watch the show because they heard about the grisly death scenes, and therefore made the opening explicitly give off the message that “this is what you came for right? Well, there will most certainly be blood in this show, just wait”. I can understand wanting an attention grabbing, energetic opening for a show like this. It’s certainly not all the show has to offer, and not the main reason why I love it so much, but it’s a pretty good selling point.

If there was a subgenre of music called “Nu Opera”, then I feel Ali Project would be one of the main groups in it. Their sound is quite unique and instantly recognizable. It feels like a perfect fit for horror animes. In fact, when I first watched Rozen Maiden, I thought it was going to be a horror show because of Ali Project’s opening and corresponding visuals. It’s something about the dark theatrics that makes this project so interesting. I feel that it teeters dangerously close to trying too hard to fitting into a horror style (and therefore coming across as cheesy), but I would argue that they don’t cross that line, at least in the songs I have heard thus far. The instrumentations and melodies are strong enough to be considered enjoyable to listen to outside of the context of a horror opening.

The visuals in the opening are also quite creepy and bombastic as well. There are plenty of shots that foreshadow future death scenes, as well as other slightly unsettling imagery such as the dolls and Mei standing in the wind with perhaps the strangest facial expression I have ever seen.

 Misaki Opening.jpg

Honestly, this shot alone made me instantly start questioning who she really was. Another does a really good job at making you guess and misdirecting you. It presents multiple way too obvious to be true options, but then makes you question if they really are out of the question, and then presents even more hints and misdirections right up until the final reveal, which I frankly was not expecting. Another can be one wild ride of an anime, and “Kyoumu Densen” is a wild ride of a song.

The Closing: Dark Beauty

I want to start this section with a quote from the legendary Edgar Allan Poe:

“Regarding, then, Beauty as my province, my next question referred to the tone of its highest manifestation — and all experience has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones”

I feel that this quote explains why I love “Anamnesis” so much. I’ve talked before about Annabel and Myu in my Sankarea post. As beautiful as “Above Your Hand” from Sankarea is, “Anamnesis” is by far the most beautiful song I have heard by Annabel thus far.

No matter how crazy and violent an episode of Another gets, it always ends with the soft piano and haunting voice combo. It’s a sudden and welcome calm feeling. It really illustrates to me that Another is more than just those death scenes. There’s an underlying sadness here, especially as the surviving characters start to surprisingly grow on you.

 

This song couldn’t be any more different from the opening. The instrumentation is much more hushed, and the tempo much slower. There is a definite power in this song, but it’s anything but in your face. The beauty in Myu’s arrangement and Annabel’s voice is unmistakable, and yet there’s still a strange foreboding feeling to the song. It feels retrospective in a very heartbreaking way.

It’s that dark beauty that makes this song so amazing to me. Another could have easily ended with something like the opening, and “Anamnesis” could have been a generic ballad about memory, but they of course didn’t. Anabel decided to make something truly special and beautiful, with emotions that feel very real. It lulls you into the atmosphere Myu and Annabel create, surrounding you with a very sad, and yet calm and lovely feeling that cannot be soon forgotten. It may be one of my favorite all time songs.

The closing’s visuals are very simple, again contrasting the opening. Still images of the characters in a clean room, smiling. The room feels as if it is some sort of afterlife, or idealized memory of their innocence before the curse befell them. Perhaps one of the more notable characters is Yukari Sakuragi, the girl who was impaled by her umbrella. This happens very early in the show, so the majority of times you see her in the ending, she is already dead. These visuals combined with the melancholy music makes one think about these characters. How their youthful innocence and/or their lives were lost, all due to a curse that they seemingly can’t control. Sure they tried, implementing strategies they thought would work such as pretending Mei didn’t exist, but it failed miserably. Even when they eventually defeated the curse, they only drove it off of them, only for it to return in the future to a new class. The characters all grew on me as the show went on. Even Izumi, a character I was initially annoyed by, eventually earned my sympathy. All she wanted was to protect the class, which drove her to madness that indirectly lead to her death. Because of this, her death was one of the most tragic.

The sadness present in these characters and in this closing showcases why I love Another as a show so much. Sure the death scenes are interesting to watch, and the tension and atmosphere were really great, but it was the tragedy of it all that really stuck with me after watching. It’s a kind of depressing look at innocence and lost youth that only horror can really provide. I’ll never forget the ending, when they discovered that Reiko was the dead one in the class, forcing Kouichi to kill her as she pleads with him not to. There was so much emotional weight to that scene. Reiko (unknowingly, I might add) was the one causing all of the death, and now Kouichi has to kill his own aunt in order to stop it. Reiko obviously doesn’t understand the situation, and probably wouldn’t believe she is dead even if they flat out told her. Remember how I said that horror can be used to achieve amazing things? Well, Another uses horror to create moments like this, as well as its mysterious and tragic story.

In the original Silent Hill game, the most memorable part for me wasn’t the final boss, or the monsters, or any of the levels (though they’re all absolutely incredible). It was the realization of a character’s back story. Without spoiling anything, this realization happens in an extremely heart breaking moment that left me shaken and speechless afterwards. The world (and the “otherworld”) Silent Hill creates is extremely well put together, and acts as a catalyst for some amazing moments and stories such as the one I described. Another does a very similar thing. Its world isn’t nearly as deep as Silent Hill’s, but it still creates this threat and mysteriousness through the curse, and uses this premise to create a very tense atmosphere and make the audience feel for these characters.

The final time “Anamnesis” is played, it is during an extremely bitter sweet scene. Mourning for those who perished, joy for those that survived, and sadness that they may forget what happened due to the curse. The full intro of “Anamnesis” with the strings is perfect for the scene, leaving me very moved. It is a beautiful and poetic way to end the show, and really shows that Another is more than just its death scenes.

I hope this may shed some light on why I appreciate this show so much, and why I feel it is a fantastic work of horror.

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Thank you all so much for reading! Things got pretty hectic in my school life, but I’m glad I was able to post both parts of my Halloween special! It was a lot of fun to write.

So what did you think of Another? How did you celebrate Halloween? Let me know in the comments! I know I’m going to play some Survival Horror, as well as start watching the anime Boogiepop Phantom (it looks really promising). Thank you all again, and see you next time!

 

 

 

 

 

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