I’ll get the fanboy stuff out of the way quickly, so we can move on the fun part and speculate: Another is outstanding, and this was a fantastic episode. I love the way this mystery has been laid out – I think questions and answers are being doled out at just the right pace. And the direction of this show is stellar – such beautiful use of silence and body language and expression. PA Works may not have an equal right now in terms of pure visual quality – I could see a case being made for ufotable or I.G. or KyoAni at their high end – but to look at what PA Works consistently produces in terms of background art and animation, I have to give them the nod.
Now on to the speculative stuff, and there’s a lot of it – I took notes again, and I almost ran out of ink. While there are parts of Misaki’s explanation to Kouichi that I question, I think the parts I don’t pretty much confirm two central tenets of my working hypothesis. One, that she’s not a ghost, and two, that she – and someone every year – is chosen as a sacrifice. Someone to be “dead” to counterbalance the error that was made in keeping the dead Misaki “alive” in the class 26 years ago. If indeed Kouichi triggered the current incarnation of the curse by acknowledging Mei, and the class is trying to countermeasure this by adding Kouichi to the “ignore list” – aren’t he and Mei voiding their action by acknowledging each other? If this act of “killing” a student really does counteract the curse – and I’m not convinced it does – I would assume it needs to apply to every student in Class 3, including Kouichi and Mei.
There are obviously some tenuous assumptions elsewhere in her explanation, which I’ll get to in a minute. But there are also more fundamental questions, such as how the class chooses a sacrifice at the beginning of the year. Poor Takabayashi’s death almost seems to preclude a non-supernatural explanation or at least a comprehensive one, since it’s hard to imagine his death by heart attack could be so timely as a matter of coincidence (it disproves the ED death order theory as well). I was struck by a few lines of dialogue here, the first being Kouchi’s grandfather saying “I’m so very tired of funerals.” I also think the teacher’s “personification” lecture – assigning human characteristics to non-human objects – is symbolically important at the very least.
As for the rest of Misaki’s explanation, I must confess elements of it don’t make sense to me. The notion is that the dead were “invited” into the class by the actions of the class of ‘72. Ever since, “Another” – an extra student actually a dead person connected to the class who had died as a result of the curse – joins every year, but somehow the memories and records are altered so that no one knows who it is (thus the “Who is dead?” scribble on Mei’s desk). This dead person – not a ghost but a physical presence – doesn’t like being ignored, so eventually someone figured out that if a live person were ignored to balance out the numbers, death could be held at bay. As a mid-year transfer, Kouichi threw off the numbers – thus necessitating that he be ignored as well – and triggered the curse by not ignoring Mei. But if that were the case, why did a student (Mei’s cousin) die before Kouichi arrived? She also mentions “one per month” but then says “6 students plus 10 family members” died the first year of the curse. As well, if her story is correct, I have a hard time believing anyone could have figured it out at in the first place.
The most obvious explanation is that Kouichi is the “extra” person. A little too obvious, and I think we’re being intentionally led to believe it – just as we were led to think Mei was a ghost. It does make a certain amount of sense – in fact, a case could be made that not only is Kouichi dead, but that he’s in fact his mother’s ghost in corporeal form, as I believe that fits the chronology. I don’t buy it but I very much think Kouichi’s mother is a key to all this. The librarian’s reaction when Kouichi told him his mother had died 15 years earlier when he was born – “So that’s what happened!” – combined with the very conspicuous fact that Koichi asked if he remembered his mother, and Kubodera affirmed that he did (though he sounded almost surprised that he did) is a serious clue that something is off with the timing and the memory. And I think a skillful troll by the author, but we’ll see.
I don’t think there’s any question that we know much more than we did last week, but as the old saying goes “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. I think there’s enough falsehood in Misaki’s theory that knowing the elements that are true isn’t enough to protect us from being led down dead ends by the parts that are false. Mei’s mother, the doll designer Kirika, is certainly going to play a vital role going forward though we obviously don’t know what yet. In any event the nature of the series has certainly changed now that Mei is established as corporeal, and she and Kou-kun have each other for support and confidence as they search for answers. But I’ll leave you with this thought – since no one in the class ever knows who the “Another” is, what happens if they choose the dead person as the one to ignore? I can’t think that would go over well – and if Mei were not a ghost but was in fact the “extra” student all along, that would constitute one heck of a clever misdirection. And one more: if the class decided that a symbolic death is proving insufficient as a countermeasure, what would be their next logical step?