Another, an anime that came out in 2012, is best when watched again. This is not because it is a masterpiece in horror anime (though, for me personally, it is one of the best I have seen), but rather, because it is a master class in foreshadowing.
Before jumping into that though, here’s a brief introduction of what Another is about. The story follows Kouichi Sakakibara who returns to his mother’s home town and transfers into class 3-3 of Yomiyama North Middle School. After his enrollment, horrible events are set in motion and people with connections to his class experience violent deaths one after another. Sakakibara struggles to make sense of what is going on while also pursuing the mystery around one of his classmates, Mei Misaki.
From the moment you press play the series starts pumping you full of foreshadowing – like, literally, all the time. The beauty of it though is that you don’t notice it when you are watching it for the first time. It is all purely visual imagery and environmental sounds that the series kicks off usually an episode or two before it becomes relevant in an incident – the more important a character’s death is deemed, the earlier begins the foreshadowing. You don’t pay attention to it because you don’t know what is coming. You might, however, subconsciously start feeling uncomfortable because in some level you understand that you’ve been shown a little bit too much of something.
SOME SPOILERS FOR ANOTHER FOLLOWS
One of the first things that might become obvious to you, is the dominant presence of the rain. Rain, rain, rain. It’s is not raining all the time, but it is raining once… twice… per episode. You see Sakakibara picking up his umbrella when heading home from school. Rain. Umbrellas. Nothing unusual in itself, we’ve seen this play out in numerous anime before, but this imagery and the rainy day soundscape keep coming.
It is never really focused on, just something going on in the background, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps this is just a really rainy town during your first time watching the series. But once the series kicks off its cruel chain of death and you witness an upset Sakuragi grabbing her umbrella and running off down the stairs you can’t help but have an uneasy feeling… and then it happens. A few episodes worth of build up comes tumbling down (literally and figuratively).
While the previous example was of a more imminent death, there is also one important character, who’s death gets the foreshadowing treatment from very early on in the series even though she is actually one of the very last to die. The build up in question is at the same time very obvious yet subtle. This time, the subject of foreshadowing is glass.
Instead of being treated to a constant presence of glass, not long after things get weird we get a very blunt indication that glass is, in fact, dangerous. We see Sakakibara conversing with one of his classmates right by a truck full of loose panes of glass. The setup is so ridiculous that it screams for trouble to be around the corner, and indeed, it doesn’t take long for a gust of wind to knock the thing down. Sakakibara reacts fast, however, and no damage is done to anything apart from the glass itself.
The subtleness comes from the fact that after this incident, you do not see glass again very often – it is as the series intentionally tries to have you almost (but not completely) forget it ever happened. In a couple later points, the series gently nudges you about glass making you anticipate that something will happen, but nothing does. It is all just a tease until the very last moments of the whole series. It is in the finale that we are finally treated to an extravagant and beautiful cascade of shattering glass that can only end one way.
Another‘s foreshadowing is not only limited to its characters’ deaths, however, but also the greater mystery that Sakakibara and friends are trying to solve in order to put a stop to it all. The hints are woven throughout the episodes in the mundane moments between the characters’ important discoveries and the occurring deaths at that particular time – it is like the series is begging you not to pay them much attention.
This is where the beauty of foreshadowing done well really lies – making the signs and clues readily available (yet not crossing the border to just being stupid and obvious) while cleverly diverting your gaze elsewhere. It is the genuine possibility that you could figure things out during the course of the story before the answer is given to you. It is this kind of build up that makes for good plot twists – you probably didn’t see it coming, BUT you could have. And Another gives you this kind of setup by the bucket fulls to observe and learn from.
If you have yet to see Another, I suggest you do so now and see if you can spot all of the subtle build up. Remember, everything in that series is there for a reason.