「Blueprint -思惑-」 (Omowaku)

I’m going to try not to gush over this series, but right now that isn’t going to be easy.

You won’t hear me talk about sound directors much when discussing an anime – perhaps not often enough. Fact is, it isn’t a role that you think about much – the sound design is something we tend to take for granted. But once in a while a show comes along that’s so exceptional in this regard that it demands attention. Ghost Hound was such a show, and Another is, well – another. The sound director is Iwanami Yoshikazu, an industry stalwart, and he’s doing an amazing job here in every way – the hum of machinery, the buzz of static, the calls of crows, distant thunder – Another is a series that can jar your senses with sound and rattle your nerves with silence.

It’s both a good thing and no coincidence that the sound is so good, because this show reminds of of Ghost Hound in many ways. Rather than shock and awe it’s effective in creating an overall mood, an uneasy edge that grips you from the moment it starts and holds you in place till it ends. I know the “horror” aspects of the show are going to pick up, but for now it’s weaving its spell through psychological warfare. I know not everybody loved GH – some found it slow, and convoluted – and I wonder if some of the same charges will be leveled against Another. I loved that show and so far, I love this one, and I’m totally wrapped up in the mystery of what’s happening in Yomiyama.

I’m nowhere close to feeling comfortable in guessing just what that might be, but some interesting things are starting to emerge. Art was a sort of theme this week, with discussions of books and paintings prominent, haiku discussed in class and Kouichi telling his Aunt Reiko (Sakakibara Naoko – Sakakibara? Hmm…) he’d like to be a sculptor for a living. Another boy in Class 3, Mochizuki (Yamamoto Kazutomi) is drawing a lemon that recalls Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – an allusion Kouichi gets immediately but that seems to freak out their sexy teacher Mikami-sensei (Miyamaki Misayo). Mochizuki says a couple of interesting things here – he quite pointedly asks Kou-chan what he thinks of Mikami-sensei (“I’m not sure how to answer that”). He says the lemon in his sketch isn’t screaming, it’s the world that’s screaming – the lemon is covering its ears because it’s terrified of the sound. And when he asks Kouichi about joining the Art Club, he says it “just started back up again this year”.

A couple of other seemingly important players are introduced this week, including librarian Chibiki Tatsuji (Hirata Hiroaki – why do an astonishing number of seiyuu in this show have alliterative names?) who seems to be able to see Misaki quite well, and has been around long enough for Reiko to note that “almost all” of the girls in her class were creeped out by him. Even more crucial this week is Kouichi’s hospital nurse Mizuno Sanae (Yoshida Seiko) who recommended horror writer John Saul to her young patient and acts as his mole when he asks for info about whether a girl had died at the hospital on the day he first encountered Mei. Indeed, Mizuno later tells Kouichi, a young girl had died – an “only daughter” whose parents were devastated, whose name was “Masaki, Misaki – something like that”). But there’s odd interference on the line and distant thunder despite it being a sunny day, and the connection is dropped.

We see this happening over and over – just as someone is about to go into greater detail with Kou-kun about the “curse” of Class 3, something interrupts. Several times it’s been Misaki appearing out of the corner of Kouichi’s eye, invariably causing him to follow her. Classmate Teshigawara-kun (Maeno Tomoaki) makes a comment about ending up in “Cursed Class 3” and is about to elaborate, much to Mochizuki’s dismay. Akazawa tells Kouichi that she’s sure she’s met him somewhere before, and seems about to elaborate further. It’s during this encounter that Kou spots Mei on her way home from school, and decides to follow her. She turns a corner and disappears, leaving Kou confused in front of a strange shop with a sign reading “The Hollow Blue Eyes of Yomi at Twilight”. This is Studio M, apparently a doll shop/museum, and an intrigued and unsettled Kou enters and meets the owner, a creepy old lady who remarks on how unusual it is to see a boy of Kouichi’s age inside.

It’s in Studio M that the climactic encounter of the episode takes place. The shop is an unusual place to say the least, and clearly the source of the doll stills that act as scene bridges in the anime. These are lifelike dolls, all looking distressed to some degree, and when the boy goes into the basement he sees a life-size doll in a coffin that immediately makes him think of Mei. He asks rhetorically what she’s doing there, and is horrified when he gets an answer – but it turns out to be Mei, previously unseen. She speaks of a pair of dolls she says are her favorites, as they look peaceful despite being attached. When Kou suggests that’s the reason why, she says no, it would make more sense for them to be calm if they were separated (there are many, many hints that some sort of duality is the key to the mystery of Misaki Mei). Mei then says she doesn’t find the dolls creepy like most people and asks Kou if he does (he says no) and remarks that the green-eyed doll in the coffin looks like her, but “Only half. Maybe less than that”. She reveals the doll’s other green eye, than asks Kou if he’d like to see what’s under her eyepatch, and proceeds to take it off…

I’m going to be very interested in seeing how the reaction to this show evolves, because it’s definitely not a traditional horror story (not yet anyway, and I suspect ever). I’m completely invested in the mystery, and I love the way Mochizuki-sensei is unraveling it slowly, keeping me on edge but not going over the top. While Another superficially seems cold – colder than Ghost Hound, hardly the warmest anime ever – I think it’s deceptively emotional, doing an exceptional job of worming the characters into the psyche and making me care about them. The dominant feeling I get, both from the show and Mei herself, isn’t fear but sadness. I think Ito Noizi’s vulnerable and childlike character designs work well for that reason in exactly the same way Oka Mariko’s designs did in Ghost Hound, providing an emotional connection and firing the protective instinct in the audience, and providing a contrast to the austere narrative style. It’s easy to see this as a classic Production I.G. show, the sort they used to be known for but haven’t done much of lately – psychologically intense, dark, intellectual and technically brilliant. And indeed they’re a collaborator on this show, as they and P.A. Works have collaborated on many series over the years released under the banner of one studio or the other. Another is the best show of the season so far, and an early candidate for best series of 2012.




    1. I hope not, they will have to cut lots of material, i mean they already speed up the anime, he was supposed to find the doll shop, go back home, and then go back to it next day, but in anime he did it same day..

      1. @D-LaN

        It depends on which publisher that’s all, there’s no real scientific difference except for size and number of pages- [Another] has 677 pages while your standard Light Novel has about 250-350 pages give or take.

      2. D-Lan, a visit to a typical book store in Japan would answer your question. (Personal observation of mine. )

        Light novels are lumped together with typical manga in the manga section, whereas works of more mainstream authors like Ayatsuji Yukito (author of this story) and Nishio Ishin (Bakemonogatari series) are found in the regular literature section.

        Kinny Riddle
    2. Well, LN are addressed more to young adults. This novel was also serialized, but its literally style and theme is not so “light”.
      Anyway it seems going pretty well, I personally find repulsive the character design, they made a seinen horror story too moe. I prefer the style of the manga by Kiyohara Hiro. But at least the ambientation is good.

      So far, just time differences. For example, in the first episode only Sakuragi and Kazami went to visit him, and was Kazami who asked for a handshake. Akazawa remains absent in a shadow of “the bad boss” until her showup.
      That was the most freaking thing, I mean Show Spoiler ▼

    1. I love how dark this show is. The art fits the feel of the show well. I couldn’t get into the manga like I could the show. The scenes like the hospital just have an impact that can really only be felt in the adaptation.

  1. Creepy dolls are creepy. But it kinda reminds me of the doll pics I see at Sankaku. And rather than ghosts, seems like the horror theme for this show are Body Horror and Creepy Dolls tropes.

    Well at least it’s safe to say our MC won’t have his face peeled off like in some horror stories.

    The Moondoggie
  2. I really wouldn’t call this the best show of the season (Natsume, heck even Lagrange is way better than i thought) it’s just not clicking with me but the animation is wonderful and i think it’s far too early to call it best of the year. I agree it’s more mystery than horror, but that’s not even enough to keep me interested and this was the show i was most excited for.

    If only Another was 26 eps instead of P.A. Works giving it to HanaIro then i would be okay with this type of pacing, like what Mouretsu Pirates is doing right now.

    1. Those thinking of dropping this series should reconsider. It will pick up its game and take off in a few episodes. This series kinda has a slow build the way Shiki did. You will be rewarded for hanging in there.

    1. I don’t really want to consider that fanservice, it’s uh…too specific.

      I agree about watching this early in the morning, though. I watched this when I was basically half asleep but that really upped the entertainment, it’s like the sounds were echoing in my head.

  3. The pacing from Another and Ghost Hound are quite different so far. We have Kou checking for a deceased girl in the hospital and tailing Misaki, much more active than Taro. Also, we (those that didn’t read the VN) does not know for sure whether the Misaki shown is physically there or only Kou can see her since the two always talk alone.

  4. don’t know if anyone else here read his books but John Saul’s books are usually about a seemingly supernatural mystery set in a small town in the middle of nowhere. The Supernatural elements are usually a part of the background in the stories but the Monster is almost always human. The authority is usually well aware of what is going on, most likely the whole town as well.

    if the author was inspire by John Saul i am guessing the medical condition of the Students in Class 3 are not the result of a curse or something supernatural but something cause by humans. In John Saul’s books, there are no bigger monster then Humans.

    1. Not sure how to take that: they did reference Stephen King last time too. And though I tried, I seem to can’t find any background on John Saul, except a short entry in Wikipedia, which is irrelevant to his works except a link of the Blackstone Chronicles.

      Until they have confirmed what’s going on, be it a curse or human causes, I really don’t get what’s to be scared about, except those creepy dolls.

      The Moondoggie
  5. I’m in full agreement with Enzo…..best of season so far. As far as speculation, I dont think Mei is dead, but all the students just act like they cant see her. And I think there will be a true supernatural element later on. Gotta love a show that causes you to think…

    1. I was finding myself questing whether or not Mei was actually real and everyone was treating her like she was not there instead watching this episode. Who says the girl Kouichi is talking is actually Mei instead of a black sheep created for there small community.

  6. Yeah now that I think about it, I’m not exactly a fan of the horror genre, I just put up with it because some of the best mystery stories are also horror stories. With that I say [Another] definitely does a good job balancing all the elements but most importantly it has very interesting characters- by that I just mean Kou and Mei =P I just love to see the two of them together =D

    At this point in my life I’ve probably seen/heard every plot-twist in the world already from “The butler did it” to “It was me all along”. My gut feelings tells me that since they made it too obvious that Mei is a ghost, I’m betting that we find out she’s not a ghost and that the people are being jerks… I was hoping that the meeting with the librarian would help push my theory, but it doesn’t look like he even acknowledges her being there…

      1. Oh sorry, meant it as a general comment. Though, it would seem like a poetic reply regarding people who are not fans of horror, or those who do not understand why people watch horror.

        Gaze of Providence
  7. BTW Who else is creeped out by Ball Joint Dolls?

    I own one my self bout half of “normal” designs out there do creep me out. I would have gone into that old ladies shop to be fascinated by the work but at the same time having my skin crawl. lol

  8. Kouichi you want to be a sculptor? First you have to live long enough, start by not entering creepy doll shops…Because that’s how you know your the protagonist of one of your precious horror stories. “Another” you brilliant brilliant show I’m completely invested in this dark mysterious show and I’m dying (no pun intended) to know about Mei.

  9. I know this isn’t the time or the place to say this but why have i only just now heard about the new Eureka7 coming out this april. I learned about it just a few hours ago and after i awoke from my heart attack i had to spread the word and wonder why the anime community isn’t experiencing black outs like myself at the occasion. I can only hope that the producers don’t cater to the otaku like they did with Last Exile but there is some hope since bones (greatest studio EVER) is producing it like its predecessor.

  10. Arrrgh Cliffy!

    I’m glad you mentioned the sound of this show because I realy noticed it this episode. I actually found the noises from the elevator to be the creepiest.

    I haven’t enjoyed a show of this genre since Ookami Kakushi but that pales in comparison to this though there is a similar theme of everyone hiding a shared secret.

    I think the legth of your post for this episode alone highlights how good this show is, many thanks for that. Psyched for next ep.

  11. So this show is making me wonder, are there any actual straight-up horror anime out there? Series that really make you scream and pee your pants? I was just thinking it’s a lot easier to make a really scary movie than an anime since one’s like 13 eps and the other is only two hours. A lot easier to maintain the tone in the movie.

    1. I think that’s basically right. It you tried to stretch full-on horror over a full cour – never mind two – I think the audience would be desensitized to it long before the series ended. Suspense and mind-screwing works much better.

  12. Uncanny, but it seems too forced for me, especially with the unusually calm and listless student body and faculty of the school, most especially class 3. Dolls randomly popping between scenes does not help with my feeling.

    However, the true terror and fear lies within that cursed classroom, wherein mortal lives cling helplessly to life and mutter their secrets in hushed tones, and now they are made aware and fearful by the arrival of our protagonist who is mysteriously connected to a girl who should not exist and sways and walks at the edge of their visions. That is terror, a subtle and hidden one, but a terror nonetheless.

    And what of horror? the dollshop could’ve setup wonderfully horrific scene, despite the owner being forced to look as scary and mysterious as possible. It was uncanny, and a sense of shapeless fear squirms therein. Sadly, they just had to move with the plot instead of delivering with that fear… and on a cliffhanger too.

    So what kind of fear should there be behind that girls eyes? Show Spoiler ▼

    There is also a Chaos magic symbol in the basement of the dollshop if anyone noticed.

    Gaze of Providence
    1. It should be shown alone to the protagonist and not to the audience, it should leave us guessing of what lies behind it, and would be filled by our most terrible imaginations pulled from the darkest corners of our minds.

      So Mei’s eye = “Eldritch equipment?” Well that’s something to be scared about. XD

      The Moondoggie
  13. Kouichi’s fascination with the puppet shop reminded me a lot of Kara no Kyoukai, especially with his particular interest in the doll that eerily looks like the female protagonist.

  14. Hm. you really summed up what I was thinking… this isn’t a horror show so much as it is a mystery show. It’s tense, but it’s not scary. I do prefer it this way though.

    For me, best show of the season is still hard to decide, but it’s probably going to be between this and inu x boku (latter is definitely sleeper hit.)

  15. I typically dislike and avoid horror stories/stories made to freak you out and sleepless, and the gory, slasher-types. Why watch something that makes you feel scared? I’d rather have entertainment that makes me happy and/or feel humane. Get away from problems for a few minutes (or hours if marathoning). I actually don’t get nervous in supposedly scary situations in-real-life (like some of my friends do – I just laugh at them), maybe because I don’t watch shows or films that suggest that dark corridors at 3AM or random noises outside the window should be scary.

    But these reviews are making me think twice. Oh boy…

      1. Just finished watching the first two eps. 🙂 Thank God for the mouse-wheel – I can turn down the volume quickly (rather than turn the knob). I’m actually more sound-sensitive than visually-sensitive (even when I play games, I turn down the volume when it gets creepy) when it comes to these type of things. So if the goal was to creep me out, it very much well succeeded. And if the goal is to make me watch another episode, it does great there as well. Great art as well – I look at the sky a lot.

        Good think the scare factor doesn’t transition much to me post-viewing. Or so I’d like to think…

        I was wondering if Mei having a reflection on the street mirror has some significance. Though to think of it, in most media, ghosts do appear on mirrors. And she has a shadow as well! I’m out of theories as of the moment. Might as well accept the fact that she IS an ethereal being.

    1. I know not what others feel, but when I watch, read or listen to horror, it makes me feel sort of alive.
      Show Spoiler ▼

      Gaze of Providence
    2. I dunno about you guys, this series may be tagged as horror, but nothing so far is horror on it. It’s more mystery and so far no horror for me, and those random shots of dolls the show keeps on showing isn’t horror either. The show is full of mystery though, and that is one driving force that makes me like this show.

      Speaking of horror, the only anime that made me feel the same feeling of those people watching horror movies on cinemas was Ghost Hunt, watched it with my brother and sister and I swear it feels like a horror movie because it made them closed their eyes, scream, wants all the lights in our house on, wants to ask for companion when going to toilet, and wants the lights open while sleeping. Haha. Of course, in any horror movies, being scared means that the show completes its objective.

      1. Yeah – definitely – it’s more mystery (i.e. how/why is Kouichi associated with death) and suspense (SHOW WHAT’S UNDER THAT EYE PATCH f*&$^@#!). So far . . . . .

        Horror can be subjective, and the staple horror shows or films have screaming and blood. There’s been very little blood shown so far (I only remember the one in the hospital scene) and no screaming so far. But I think it’s too early to say. I always expect the unexpected so I don’t shriek like a ten-year old.

  16. *twitch twitch, cower* AUUGH T^T. fdlgksnflgiushdfg I’m killing myself with this show. why.. whyyyy am I still watching this, if Rinne no Lagrange is my guilty pleasure of the season, this is my guilty addiction. x_x. just wake me up when next week comes around. I’ll be hiding in terror until then @_@.

  17. I saw the first ep and was cowering in fear at the visuals and the glorious audio, but now I just couldn’t feel an inch of suspense with this ep 🙁 maybe it’s because I start my next semester tomorrow it sux.

  18. “I have no other customers.”

    Show Spoiler ▼

  19. It getting better at the creepy, a lot better at the creepy. All my friends are what the fuck at the dolls. I can’t wait til I see more of these as they’re doing a really good job of it so far. Definitely going to be one of my favorites for the season if not the year. I hope they keep up the good work. If I didn’t read the manga at the moment, I know I would have seriously been creeped out lol.

    Sora no Kaze
  20. Holy shit! I have to wait for another week to see what happens next T^T. By reading the manga, everything is totally spoiled when you watch the anime. But maybe, they’ll do some changes… And as what I’ve read from the manga, under that eye patch is…

    Click at your own risk 😀

    Show Spoiler ▼

  21. Why is it with characters, not just in anime other story mediums that is drawn to a situation that may increase their chases of getting killed, horribly cursed, soul eaten or a combination of the three? i understand that can be listed as; A. wanting to understand the unknown, B. Solving a mystery linked to said character who is dragged into situation like Silent Hill for example or C. Heck I was just “curious”!, this guy seem to have “fatal attraction” syndrome since there is nothing visibly compelling him to pursue a girl (cute as she may be) he “supposedly” never met, like when he seem to pay half attention to his grandmother, father on the phone and classmates who want to be friendly but nooo that’s pushed aside when ever “she” enters the scene. I’m liking the show but felt that he should be a little conscious of his actions and how the other students are hiding something from him since he is pretty spontaneous in hi actions for being the silent/shy type

  22. Just out of curiosity, is RC gonna join in on the bandwagon against SOPA and PIPA?

    It just seems like most of the Internet is against it and everywhere that I normally visit is putting up posters or shut down to protest them…

  23. Did anyone else notice that the creepy shop owner mentioned that Kouichi was her only customer? If he’s her only customer, does that mean that she can’t see Mei? Did Mei sneak in? Food for thought…

  24. Like I said last week, I never really had the stomach for horror that would scare me shitless, especially in-your-face guro, scaring for scaring’s sake rather than to add to the plot. (The mindless orgy of guro-porn in the last episode of Blood-C comes to mind)

    But if it’s mainly just suspense and mystery, I find that I can take it quite well.

    I would be quite delighted if it turns out there is actually a logical explanation for this whole mystery, in essence making it a detective fiction that debunks all the superstitious myths surrounding the mystery. (Though if done properly, I wouldn’t complain too much if supernatural elements are indeed involved)

    Kinny Riddle
  25. is it worrying that i do not think the dolls are creepy, i think instead that they are cute, and easy to love, esp with their sadness in their faces. but yes good review, will go watch the episode now, i hope its as good as you say, if its as good as the first then excellent. and im looking forward to how this series turns out. i do hope it will end as well as it has started, as that way it may make it into my top 15 anime series of all time, (along with things like jigoku shoujo and madoka). and soon as im someone who’s watched a lot of anime, and has a keep eye for rt and music and animation,that is saying something (even if i do say that myself).

    thanks for the review, keep up the good work!

  26. “including librarian Chibiki Tatsuji who seems to be able to see Misaki quite well”

    I don’t think there was any indication that he could see Misaki at all. When he was talking to Kouichi he didn’t look at, or refer to Misaki. At this point, it seems that Kouichi is the only one who can see her but there are some ‘Sixth sense’ moments that make you think that other people can

    1. I believe that Mei is definitely alive, what’s with the reaction of the one in-charge of countermeasure when he saw the MC running after Mei, and the reaction of the two classmates when he entered that library.

      Mei is being ignored for some reason, be it a curse or ostracized.

      The Moondoggie
    2. My guess is that only the people in Class 3 can see Misaki, teachers included. But every one of them (besides Kouichi) choose to ignore her because they know she’s a ghost. After all, the myth is that when Misaki died 26 years ago, her entire class decided to pretend she was still alive. Perhaps they weren’t pretending at all. (Cue dramatic music, dun Dun DUN) After 1 year, everyone in the school would have already known about the ghost of Class 3, including the teachers, who might have decided to impose the rule about not interacting with Misaki, who would always be there.

      Anyway, this could be why the old lady in the doll shop say that he’s the only customer at the moment, even though Misaki was there as well. The other possibility could be that the old lady did not consider Misaki a customer. Maybe she work there?

      The other reason why I believe Misaki’s a ghost is because so far we can only see Misaki when Kouichi is also in the scene. A prime example would be when Kouichi was in the hospital chatting with the nurse. At the same time on another floor, the elevator was shown opening and closing, which might imply that Misaki was there riding the elevator. But if she’s really there, we couldn’t see her, and perhaps that’s because nobody was around, whether they be from Class 3 or otherwise.

  27. Random comment: Mochizuki’s explanation of his lemon painting and Munch’s “Scream” is spot on — in the Munch the world is screaming, hence the red pulsating sky, and the man is overwhelmed. I liked that they used the art reference in the anime but also that they “got” what they were referring to.


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