Yeah, I’ll get to all the X-Files stuff in a minute, and there’s certainly plenty of it this week. But really, Another would never rise above the level of interesting intellectual exercise if that arrow were the only one in its quiver. Fact is, this series is great at telling a story and developing its characters, and that’s what elevates it to the level of masterwork. I loved all the scenes between Kouichi and Mei – they were some of the very best out of a very good six episodes, and they weren’t horrifying at all. In fact, they were some of the most natural and involving scenes involving two young teenagers getting to know each other I’ve seen in ages. The slight awkwardness between the two of them was perfectly portrayed, but so was the fact that a barrier between them had come down. When you’re 15, nothing brings you closer to someone than the feeling that “we’re in this together”. And a healthy dose of sexual attraction doesn’t hurt either.
The two of them were certainly adorable together, both in reality and in the brilliantly executed fantasy sequence where Kouichi and Mei ballroom danced their way through the classroom – which was all the more effective because it’s wistful and outrageous humor was such a radical change of pace. But what these scenes really did was validate my feelings from the first few eps, which were that this was a sad situation more than a terrifying one. It looks as if Mei was the natural choice to be isolated because she was already a social misfit, with an odd mother and an artificial eye. Fact is, it’s ironically much more humane to have two students be “dead” than one – because this way, at least, they can support each other. The theory that two sacrifices is better than one may not work for the “phenomenon” (I’ll join Tatsuji in not calling it a curse) but it seems like a good idea, just to reduce the likelihood than the designated student will crack under the pressure – as Tatsuji tells us happened as recently as 1996.
Several of Mei’s statements during this sequence stuck with me, though their exact significance (if any) I can’t quantify yet: “I know I’m not dead.” “I’m just another of my mother’s dolls”.” “It’s sad when people die.” I haven’t abandoned the notion that she could ironically be the Another, though it’s a long-shot. We know she had an eye tumor and her eye was removed by surgery at four years old, during which she had a near-death experience. Her mother thought a conventional glass eye wouldn’t be “pretty enough” and gave her the doll’s eye. But what the anime seems to want us to think is that Kouichi is the Another. It’s strongly implied by his father Yousuke (who by the way is voiced by Kitagawa Takurou) that Kouichi was actually in Yomiyama 18 months earlier, but once again, phone static cuts in before the truth is elaborated – he seems to be about to say (unconvincingly) “Oh, you’re right – my mistake.” and then the line dies, and we cut immediately to “Who is dead?” drawn by Misaki on the scarlet desk.
Fact is, I think this is a misdirection or a troll of whatever term you like – it’s much too obvious, for one. For another, Tatsuji tells us (and there’s documentary evidence supporting this) that those outside Yomiyama are unaffected by the phenomenon. Therefore Yousuke’s memory wouldn’t have been altered, and I think a father would remember if his son were dead. In fact, I think that’s exactly why these conversations with Yousuke are in the series at all. So what does this tell us, if not that Kouichi is dead? Well, perhaps it tells us that he really was in Yomiyama 18 months earlier – and it’s his current memories that have been altered to make him think he wasn’t. Implications of that are hard to pin down – if his memories have been altered by the phenomenon, why does it need him to believe he wasn’t in town? Is there someone or something he would be aware of otherwise that would clue him in to who the Another is?
Tatsuji’s testimony – like Mei’s last week – is full of information, some of which I think can be accepted as fact. But again, there’s enough in it that doesn’t add up to make me cautious – as with Mei’s version, I suspect there may be as much to lead us further away from the truth in his words as towards it. He confirms the hypothesis I reported (but did not think of myself) that the original Misaki was in fact a boy, Misaki Yomiyama (same as the town? Hmmm.). His house burned down in May, killing he, his parents and brother. Tatsuji blames himself for opening the door to death by the seemingly noble charade of treating Yomiyama as if he hadn’t died, and blames himself for “running away” driven by guilt and fear – by becoming a librarian instead of teacher. He’s systematically documented the phenomenon, which he equates to an earthquake or typhoon – deadly but not malicious – and tells us that students, family members up to twice removed and (only) Class 3’s homeroom teachers (the current one, Kubodera-sensei, appears about to snap and off himself spectacularly in front of the class as the episode ends) are all in danger, but they must live in Yomiyama. The countermeasure typically has a 50% success rate, and sometimes no one know why it fails. Records are useless while the phenomenon is occurring as they’re altered along with memories, but revert once the term is over.
Here’s where things get dodgy for me. Tatsuji says that the Another from 1996 was a girl named Asakura Mami, who was actually a student in Class 3 in 1993 who died during the phenomenon, but that during the term her name disappeared from the 1993 roster and appeared on the 1996 roster. If everyone’s memories are reverted back to normal after the phenomenon ends, though, how would Tatsuji have remembered that – remembered it well enough to write her name in the margins of the 1996 roster? Unless I’m missing something that doesn’t fit with his theory – perhaps he’s somehow immune to the memory alteration? It does seem likely that everyone thought 1998 was going to be fine, because they had enough desks – until Kouichi showed up, and they were indeed one short.
The challenge at this point is sorting everything into three piles – the relevant, the irrelevant, and the misleading. I believe multiple weird things are happening in Yomiyama, and not all connected with the Class 3 phenomenon. Something – I suspect unrelated – is seriously off with Mei’s mother Kirika (Harada Hitomi) and her doll studio. Kouichi is obviously at the center of the Class 3 phenomenon, but I honestly don’t think he’s the Another for reasons stated above. However, the issue with his father acting as if Koichi had just left Yomiyama 18 months earlier strikes me as crucial, and that implies a central role for those connected to him – namely his mother (who supposedly died 15 years earlier) his Aunt Reiko, and his grandparents. If his memory has been altered to tell him he’d never been to Yomiyama since his birth year, then the memories of the other students would have been similarly altered – and that would explain the lingering sensation that they knew him. Somewhere in that kernel of an idea is where the truth to all this lies – or so I’m betting as of right now. Ask me again after next week and you might get a different answer. In any case I’m having a great time watching this unfold, and independently from the mystery Kouichi and Mei’s relationship is developing into one of the most involving and charming of the year. I look forward to watching that progress just as much as to solving the riddle.