When Kouichi transfers to Class 3 in his new school, he can tell something strange is going on. Everyone seems to know something really important, but no one will tell him anything. Misaki Mei, a strange girl with a eye patch, keeps making vague, creepy comments, telling Kouichi that he should probably stay away from her.
The school has a mysterious story centered around Class 3. Twenty-six years ago, a popular student in Class 3, Misaki, died in an accident. Everyone in the class was deeply upset by Misaki's death, until, one day, a student pointed to Misaki's desk and said "Misaki's not dead!" It was just pretend, but everyone, including the teachers, decided to go along with it. Misaki was even given a chair at graduation. No one thought any of this would be a problem, until the class photo was taken and Misaki's ghost showed up in it. From that point on, Class 3 found itself closer to death. Some years, it would mysteriously end up with one student too many. One of those extra students was a person connected to Class 3 who had died in a previous year, but, since records and even people's memories were mysteriously altered, no one realized that person was dead. Anyway, once the current Class 3 ended up with one student too many, unless the proper countermeasures were followed, at least one person in Class 3 or connected to Class 3 would die each month.
When Kouichi joined Class 3, it suddenly had one more student than it should have had. Could Misaki Mei be this Class 3's dead student? And, once the "calamity" has begun, how can Kouichi and the other students stop each other and those around them from dying?
I bumped this up in my queue because I knew it was a horror show, and October seemed like the perfect month for that. I rarely watch simulcasts, preferring to watch series after all the episodes have already been released, so I can marathon the whole thing if the pacing and/or my level of enjoyment merits it. In this case, I'm glad I didn't watch the original simulcasts, because the wait between episodes would have killed me. I watched the entire series over the course of three days.
The initial episodes' near constant efforts to keep viewers tense annoyed me a little, even as those efforts worked on me. Every aspect of the show screamed “spooky and strange.” The background music was spooky, the sound effects were spooky, and every few minutes there were random cuts to shots of spooky dolls. Every shot was framed to be as unsettling as possible. Misaki seemed to be making an effort to be enormously creepy, dropping cryptic comments about what was going on and hinting that she might, in fact, be dead. Kouichi's questioning of her reached levels that would normally be considered rude, except what else was he supposed to do when everyone around him made it clear they knew something very important that he needed to know and that they refused to tell him?
I have to admit, I was surprised when the show didn't quite go the route those first few episodes made me think it would go. However, once some of the basics were laid out, quite a bit of the show became fairly easy to predict. For instance, although the identity of the dead person came as a surprise to me (there were enough clues given that I felt stupid for not figuring it out), I figured out how the students could stop the “calamity” well before the episode that laid it all out for them. I also correctly guessed how they'd react to that information. I kept watching out of morbid curiosity and a desire to see how everything would be wrapped up. I was also curious about the bits of information that the series deliberately (and annoyingly) obscured, like the identity of the person Misaki visited in the morgue, and the fourth rule Kouichi's aunt told him he needed to always obey.
Once the “calamity” started, the series got pretty bloody. The deaths were nasty and almost always painful. One girl was impaled by her own umbrella. Another person killed himself in front of the whole class, spraying his own blood onto those closest to him. At first, I kept track of the number of deaths, morbidly fascinated by the rate the series' body count was increasing. I completely gave up when I hit the final few episodes, though. I had thought the earlier episodes were bloody, but they had nothing on the deaths in the final episodes. There were crazy weapon-wielding people, a fire, and most of Class 3 couldn't seem to walk more than a few steps without ending up dead or near death.
I became horribly frustrated with Misaki near the end. She was the one person with the key to ending all of the bloodshed, and she'd had the key for quite some time. I suppose you could argue that she was just reluctant to kill anyone, even to prevent more death, but that would make her the most level-headed person in all of Class 3. Everyone else seemed perfectly happy to kill even childhood friends if it might potentially stop the calamity.
For me, one of the biggest problems with the series was the lack of believability of some of the scenes. Near the end of the series, as the fire raged, I found myself wondering if the animators, writer, or whoever else had ever taken a fire safety class. Smoke inhalation and suffocating heat would have killed Kouichi long before he found Misaki, but he ran around like the only dangers were the fire itself, explosions, and any bits of house that might fall on him.
You know what, though? I'm actually kind of glad that the show had some believability issues and that most of the characters were little more than cardboard. It meant that I, the horror wimp, was able to watch it all without too many problems. I didn't fret much over individual characters' fates, because, for the most part, I had only a surface-level interest in any of them. That's not saying this was a bad show. While it definitely had some problems, its fast pace, interesting mystery elements, and ridiculous body count made for some fun marathon viewing. I only wish that the ending had been a little more satisfying. Even now, I can't shake the feeling that the ending was a trick and that it all wrapped up too neatly.
Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
- Final Destination (live action movie) - I suppose you could say this is another story in which the characters end up "close to death." If you like ridiculous body counts and unlikely and gory ways to die, you might want to give this a try.
- When They Cry - Higurashi (manga) by Seventh Expansion and various artists; When They Cry - Higurashi (anime TV series) - Another bloody psychological horror anime. This one tries to mess with your head, making you think you're watching a sickeningly sweet harem series, up until you get to the point where the cute girls start killing people. I've written about the first volume of the manga.
- Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (anime TV series) - Another school series featuring an old legend about someone who died. I haven't seen this one yet, but it's in my queue.
- Baccano! (anime TV series) - Okay, this one is from a different genre, but it might still appeal to those looking for a bloody, fast-paced romp. Things start off a little confusing, but, I promise, all the pieces come together eventually. I've written several posts about this series.
- Shiki (anime TV series) - I haven't seen this one yet, but it looks like another good one for those looking for a series with mystery, horror, and a decent-sized body count.