Another 01 – A Taste of Psychological Horror

Anazaa is anything but perfect. It’s less painful to watch than Symphogear but it still bears a number of  flaws that absolutely put me off.

Mizushima is clearly trying to create an atmospheric series, but as a horror fan– I can’t help but think he’s got this wrong. Ambiance is of great importance to any horror piece, however setting up the atmosphere is an art in itself. It just doesn’t come with static shots, hollow hallways, random cuts of scary dolls and creepy music alone. There are some who willingly allow themselves to submit to the idea of being scared but it’s important to realize that most people who watch horror would usually have their defenses up higher than usual.

It’s been a long time since I’ve used the word, but ‘effortless’ best describes what I’m looking for. An unsettling vibe should be accomplished effortlessly. Anazaa just does too much and accomplishes too little. An example of what I’m looking for can be found in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s work. I’m not demanding that Mizushima’s Anazaa reach Kairo’s standard, but I’d love to see him applying more finesse to his work since it’s quite visible that P.A Works is a studio that works with solid production values.

Look at this doll, even she’s tired of Anazaa!

The droll tone, the vast empty spaces and the dark lighting– we all know what Anazaa is supposed to achieve and yet it doesn’t actually assist the narrative and hampers it down with all this excess. Why should I be repeatedly be reminded that I’m watching a horror anime? Part of the thrill comes with the element of surprise, and when you’ve seen a good number of horror films the whole affair turns tedious.

There’s also the issue of how this episode handled the dialogue. Are we seriously doing these awkward pauses? Are we really going to keep waiting for Character XX’s turn to talk? Is Mei going to keep on being cryptic because otherwise we wouldn’t have a mystery? It’s just unintentionally funny– made me laugh a couple times.

Anazaa does have it’s strengths though, and here’s the part where I tell you why my post title is relevant. The nature of Kouichi’s dilemma comes from Class-3 hiding something from him. This is where we talk about how important that’s important for a middle schooler. We’re aware that a girl named Misaki has died before, Kouichi isn’t. He does however, feel that his classmates are being a bunch of weirdos.

It’s like they don’t want him there.

As if being from another town weren’t bad enough, Kouichi also has to deal with being an outsider from his own class. They may have treated him well and all during lunch break, but that doesn’t stop Kouichi from seeking out what dark secret this class might be hiding.

The class is tormented by this as well, everyone needs to cooperate if they want to keep a secret from Kouichi, something Reiko has already hinted at.

In an effort to maintain social stability, the class needs to go on acting as if nothing were wrong. Out of all the students, it appears that the class officers are maneuvering everything. Establishing ‘false order’ seems to be apparent here, and a number of students don’t look very pleased about it.

Genderbend Barnaby looks pissed.

Also, call it scenery porn if you like but this has one of the best background artworks I’ve seen, the only other series that could match Anazaa’s standard is Rinne no Lagrange (which looked amazing in 720p). There’s a great variety in character design that doesn’t end up looking too over the top or out of place with the series.

It’s unfortunate that Mei, the character that embodies the very mystery of Anazaa is downright forgettable. Despite the eyepatch motif, there’s nothing particularly striking or unsettling about her. She looks like a bland goth chick with an eyepatch– that’s it.

Anazaa does have potential though, and had Natsume not been airing this would probably be the best anime airing this winter. But all things considered, I’m glad Natsume is airing. Anazaa has a lot to prove for 12 episodes, and what scares me is that if they keep up with all this dramatic and cryptic nonsense we’ll end up looking just as stoned as Class-3.


Good to see Ringo is moving on.

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  1. I definitely thought the shots of dolls was a bit out of place too >.> I don’t really watch much horror, but I’m curious about where this show goes.

  2. Hahaha, I saved that doll screenshot too. That was pretty much my face during the entire episode.

  3. I wanted to love this, but for now it’s only feeling promising at best, mainly b/c of the mood issues you’ve pointed out so well. I get the sense that *if* you buy into the mood this first episode would be pretty killer, but the sense of trying-too-hard kills the mood.

    It’s a shame too b/c this does seem to be the kind of show where the staff is paying attention to detail:

    We have the severely gender-regimented classroom, with two “missing seats” (one for each gender). Details don’t a good show make, but at least it seems like they’re putting some effort in.

    • As I said in reply to a comment above me, this anime had way too many doll cut scenes than it should. The ham-fisted approach reminds me of how many recent horror films of this decade have failed to grasp the importance of atmosphere. I’m a huge horror fan and it just kills me to see how saturated with crap the genre has become.

      Nice catch! It does remind me of my own highschool days where boys and girls were segregated. The funny thing is that there are two boys mixed with the ‘girl’ rows and Mei’s table is discolored. I appreciate the neat details, but yes, details don’t make a good show but at least its trying. These are probably going to be relevant from now on but I really wish this series try so hard. I’ve gotten pretty bitter over these ‘big reveals’.

      • I think there’s only one guy in a girls’ row (heart-disease-kun in the vest); the person in front of him is the one you’ve named “Genderbend Barnaby”.

        In terms of doll-cuts and details: the value of details for me isn’t so much “wow, so deep” as that they’re things that don’t tend to happen unless the director’s on top of things; seeing them attended to is a somewhat-useful proxy for “how likely is it that the director’s competent?”. For Another I’m more skeptical, b/c even if the director’s got a strong hand here there’s still the doll cuts and other questionable decisions to account for. Finesse poorly aimed isn’t finesse, really.

        FWIW as far as I understand it the horror film quality thing is due to predictable buying behavior from the hard-core fanbase and the relatively low cost of making a horror film they’ll buy, so it’s something of a low-risk, low-reward niche genre (if it wasn’t always thus).

        • I was actually referring to the fourth person on the middle row. Pretty sure he’s a guy, could be terribly wrong though. Urgh anime.

          Finesse poorly aimed isn’t finesse, really.
          IA. And this is a problem I’ve seen from his earlier work, Blood-C. He had a great eye for small details but I’m kind of worried how everything gets lost in the bigger picture. Oh well!

          I can imagine. And what’s interesting is that it doesn’t just happen with hollywood horror films alone, which makes it even more frustrating. Having to sit through 5 Ringu 2.0’s is not my idea of a grand time.

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