|[I'M GOING TO TRY AND MAKE THIS AS SPOILER-FREE AS POSSIBLE, BUT I'M JUST GOING TO ADD THIS JUST IN CASE: SPOILER ALERT]|
Plot(I'm going to try and write this without referring back to the Wikipedia page or re-watching the first few episodes.)
Sakakibara Youichi, a transfer student in his year freshman year of high school (NOTE: I'm saying this based off what I [do not] know about the Japanese schooling system. I'm no expert, I'm no anything, but I think middle school goes up until 9th grade, or freshman year in the US. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'll search this up later), is set to attend Yomiyama North Middle School for his final year. However, his kidney collapses upon arrival and he's forced to stay in a hospital near the start of the new school year. Due to his absence, he missed the chance for formal introduction into his new school, giving reason to the visit by a few classmates.
Sakakibara is placed in class 3-3, described as being "the class closest to death" due to a curse which started almost 26 (27? 1998-1972, math math) years prior to the events in the anime.
A brief background of the curse: In the year 1972, class 3-3 of Yomiyama North's 9th grade lost a well loved classmate. He/she, referred to as "Misaki" in the anime, was a very popular student, having lived in and attended schools in Yomiyama since kindergarten. After his/her death, many could not accept the idea of his permanent leaving and decided to act as if he'd/she'd never, well, died. They continued to talk and interact with his/her empty desk as if a living person were occupying it. At graduation, they even brought his/her desk to the ceremony. Due to their actions, they (and future generations of the same room) became the class that "accepted death".
Let me lay down the sticks I've gathered. This means that every year, there will be an extra student, or a "dead student" in the class. Let's say that the class roster is planned to have 20 students? During the summer, the roster will change to include one extra, resurrected student, resulting in one less desk for the class. 21 students total, and nobody knows why. No one will be able to pick out which one of these students is not like the other, because the curse alters memories and written documents to seem like the dead student had been there all along. As a counter-measure (I've never heard this word before Another, to be honest), the class decides to treat one student as if they don't exist. It's just that, ignoring their existence completely. Even so much as acknowledging that the classmate is on the planet can set the curse into effect.
When the curse IS in effect, it'll kill off each student (limited to 3-3), and relative within 3 "links" to the student, in an attempt to reset the balance in the world disturbed by the dead student. But it can't. Why? The dead student still exists. It's gruesome. However, there is a way to escape the curse: escape the city. But unless the entire class decides to suddenly up and move, the curse won't stop until (.......)
Sakakibara is curious about the history and doings of the curse, and sets out to find out more at the cost of his own class's life.
(This is going to be a sort of unorganized section, since I'm not sophisticated enough to go deep and analysis every single part and corner of a show. I will, however, give my honest opinion about this series and try to keep it entertaining. Again: I'm going to try and do this without spoilers, or at least very important ones...oh, God...please be prepared, anyway)
Two words: Holy. Hell. Never in my life have I ever been so shocked and starved from an ending before. I want there to be a season 2. I want there to be so, so much more than this. However, I'm not going to say that the "reveal" was a complete surprise, I did kind of see it coming. Not in the "First Episode Oh! That's The Dead Student Moving On" way, but about 3/4 of the way, I started to finally glue the corners of this puzzle in place. I was kind of expecting this to be all but a tranquil boat ride, after hearing about the curse and realizing "Oh no, Youichi wasn't even here for the first day...how will he know? How are they going to explain the situation to him without acknowledging her existence at least a little? Did the meeting in the hospital already count?". And I was right.
Boy, was I right.
I hate the horror genre and I adore it at the same time, which is difficult when I'm craving a rated R midnight thriller, but I know that I won't be able to sleep for the next year or so. This anime is not for the easily nauseated. After the first couple of episodes (I think the deaths started in episode 2? This isn't spoiler; you didn't actually expect the counter-measure to work, did you?), it starts getting pretty gore-y. I think they actually played it up at least 30% from the manga, which is pretty rare in my opinion (Due to television censoring, it isn't common for a manga with loads of blood and gore to have the same amount in the animated adaption. Take Danganronpa for example. Not only were the execution scenes snipped and sewn to make them TV-friendly, but the blood was pink. Pink. Maybe my memory is failing me? Maybe this was just a gigantic middle finger to the law). While I don't mean buckets and storage bins and Shamu whale tanks full of it, there was a pretty nice(?) amount, and the death scenes kept much hidden, but still showed enough to make it enjoyable(??).
The plot was lost on me for a good portion of the show, meaning I was watching and not understanding a single thing. It took a few wikia read-throughs and some explanations from fellow anime lovers(??? I am not saying Ot*ku) before I really started to get it. I love shows, anime or not, that make you think and come back to see if you're right. This was definitely one of those shows.
The opening was, too say the least, out there. The lyrics, along with the scenes and dolls (God, were those things not freaky) offered a lot of foreshadowing, something you'll only get once you finish the series. The ending theme was beautiful, yet haunting. So amazing that I listened to it all day, every day, for 2 weeks straight. 24/14. Though the sequence was sort of misleading, and this is all I will say. It does, however, offer a nice, more peaceful turn on the anime. No eerie lighting, no dolls, no blood, no violence, no dolls, no "scare chords", no dolls. No dolls.
One thing that kind of bugged me was that ALMOST EVERY OTHER SENTENCE OUT OF SAKAKIBARA'S MOUTH WAS A GODDAMN QUESTION. We get it Kouichi. You're the main character. You take the mysteries surrounding your town and you solve them effortlessly, as do most good protagonists. You interact the most with the lesser characters and you move the plot along. All of this I caught on to pretty quickly. However, I don't feel like he developed from anything more than the sick kid in the hospital to the annoying kid who just says whats required to end the anime with as little unnecessary loose ends as possible. He's kind of like those younger siblings some people have that question everything you say and do, you know? Though I am grateful that he constantly inquired about something he should have just kept quiet about; if he had gone along with the class, he probably would've died, and that wouldn't make good television.
While I could tolerate Mei a little more, I still feel like she was more of a static character as well. (SPOILER) I mean, her "gift" towards the end did seem a little too convenient and random for my liking, but eh. (/SPOILER) At least it wasn't a sudden new change with no backstory; I actually like how they made it fit., and how they recalled it later in the last episode. (SPOILER) I used to question why she didn't just use her eye to pick out the dead student and murder them day one, but then I realized 1) How was she supposed to know that eliminating the extra student was the solution to the curse when nobody knew until much later in the series? and 2) It'd look pretty weird just getting up and murdering your teacher, no matter the circumstance. (/SPOILER)
I did feel sorry for her, though. After finding out that her being chosen as the "non-existent student" was all due to the fact that the head of counter-measures, or the tall girl with the long pigtails (will search later, I'm writing this at 4am) didn't like her at all. She proceeded to blame the counter-measure failing and all of the deaths on Mei, even though she had no way of stopping it, or warning Kouichi beforehand without starting it. Now that I think about it, pigtail girl was kinda a jerk.
I'm sure that I'm missing a few key components to this review, but for right now I will stop. I will update on anything I remember after I publish, don't worry.
Until next time!