I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this “Episode 00”, but it’s fair to say I went in with pretty low expectations, and fair to say they were exceeded. What I figured was most likely was a blatant pander to the fans – when an ep is centered on hot buttons like twincest and yuri it was certain to predictably raise Pavlovian squeals of delight from the viewers, on cue. And no doubt it did that, but “00” was more than that – it was a callback to the clever misdirection and suspense of the first ten episodes of the series. Apart from a pretty huge drop in animation quality, it was a very good effort indeed.
In the main, the purpose of this OVA is to “put flesh” on the back-story of Misaki Mei and her twin sister, so crucial to the series but referenced only in recollection. Misaki Fujioka (Igarashi Hiromi) was lifeless in a dark sub-basement when the series started, but at last we meet the living and breathing girl. She’s considerably more genki than her “cousin” Mei – her hair is lighter in color, her outlook brighter, her taste in clothes flashier. There are plenty of nods to the fetishists out there – feel-ups in the shower, sharing a bath and a bed, holding hands – but there’s also an ever-present sense of sadness in seeing how close these twin sisters are, knowing what we know is going to happen.
The subtext of the twins’ story – the psychology of their separation at birth and why it happened – was important to Another’s main plot but as a secondary focus. Here’s it’s at the center – we can see the guilt Fujioka feels for being the one her mother chose to keep – especially given the difficulties Mei faced (and still faces) with her “mother”. We can also see just how important Fujioka is to Mei and in doing so, we can see just how understandable it is that Mei was such an emotionally hollow shell by the time Kouichi-kun met her. It wasn’t being the class’ designated dead person that did it – it was the loss of the sister she was so close to.
Also of great interest it that we’re at last given a prolonged glimpse of what Mei sees with her doll’s eye – and if there were doubts that we’re supposed to see her ability to see “the color of death” as reality rather than fantasy, this OVA should erase them. And it’s here that the idyll of the first half of the OVA gives way to the sadness and suspense of the series, and we see that this is going to be spiritually in-line with the TV after all. When Mei sees the color of death in her sister it doesn’t come as a shock to the audience of course, and it doesn’t seem to shock her either – for Mei has just entered third-year middle school, and she now knows the curse of Class 3-3. And she knows that as her true sister, Fujioka is vulnerable to the curse.
What does come as news to us is that Fujioka has apparently been suffering from Leukemia – a fact we’re told after an eventful day at the amusement park that recalls the best of the first ten eps of the TV. Another has always had the ability to troll the audience with the best of them, and the Ferris wheel scene with the bird – apparently flying straight at Mei’s doll’s eye – was classic. Yes, I jumped when that bird smacked into the glass with an explosion of blood – but the real payoff was when Fujioka fell backwards through the door (lawsuit pending) and Mei grabbed her hand, the scene playing out in classic fashion until Mei finally loses her grip – only to reveal that they were only a few feet of the ground. Gotcha!
Of course Another has always known its horror constructs intimately, and in getting the audience to relax it set up its true purpose: to walk us right up to the events of the first TV episode. Mei’s attempts to protect her sister come off as pretty heartbreaking even before the leukemia reveal, and all the more so after – and again, this OVA brings back the feelings of the TV show when it was at its best – tragic and suspenseful. It also reminds us of just how off the mark the concluding two eps were, as Mizushima Tsutomu apparently gave in to the Blood-C gene. That “what might have been” reminder is the saddest part of this OVA, but it doesn’t deny us the pleasures of experiencing Another as it was meant to be one more time.
A final thought: It’s certainly been noted that the character who murders Reiko in the flashbacks looks a lot like Kouichi. Well, so does the character who hits on Fujioka in the first scene here, and it really makes me wonder – is Another trolling us yet again in some way, or is it just a matter of character design? I see no reason to think Kouichi was directly linked to either person, so I suppose the most likely answer is the latter – but it’s one more strange element in this puzzle.