Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Apr 26th 2014
While his father is in India for work, Koichi Sakakibara goes to the mountain town of Yomiyama to stay with his grandparents and to recover from a recurring collapsed lung. To complete his final year of middle school, he enrolls in Yomi North, where he is placed in class 3-3. But there is something off about the class – no one seems to see one-eyed girl Mei Misaki but Koichi and an air of fear hangs over the students. Koichi is told that twenty-six years ago, class 3-3 became “closer to death” and that each year there are grave consequences of that fateful action. Can the curse on the class be lifted? And what will the cost be for a group already drenched in the blood of violent death?
Falling in between the original novels by Yukito Ayatsuji and the P.A. Works anime adaptation, Hiro Kiyohara's four volume manga (released by Yen Press as a single omnibus) take on Another is an interesting take on both Ayatsuji's novel and comparison point for those who have only seen the anime. In some places faithfully following its source material and in others deviating from it, Kiyohara takes the creeping horror tale of a middle school group come too close to death and makes it worth consuming, even for those who have already partaken of the tale in its other forms.
The story begins with faceless students having a conversation about the rumored curse of class 3-3 at North Yomi, a middle school in the mountain town of Yomiyama. It seems that twenty-six years ago, a popular student named Misaki died suddenly. Unable to deal with the loss of their friend, the other students in the class continued to act as if Misaki was still alive and well, maintaining the fiction through graduation...and ultimately calling Misaki to rejoin the class in spirit form. Ever since then, class 3-3 has become “closer to death,” with the result that one extra person shows up in the class each year. Most years, that results in “disasters” - students and their families die horribly and senselessly. No one ever knows who the Other is until the school year has finished, at which point the dead returns to the realm of death.
But Koichi Sakakibara doesn't know any of this. He's recently come to Yomiyama to spend the year his father is doing research in India with his maternal grandparents. Due to a persistent lung condition, he misses the first week of school. Some of his new classmates in 3-3 come to meet him at the hospital, and there's just something off about them that he can't put his finger on. This is compounded when he meets a mysterious girl on the elevator at the hospital. Mei Misaki is headed to the memorial chapel (translated as “the morgue” in both the novels and the anime) with a ball-jointed doll, which sets off warning bells for Koichi. Then when he finally makes it to school and sees her there, no one else appears to know that she exists. Bewildered, Koichi attempts to learn the reason behind it, only to be rebuffed by all of his classmates until matters finally come to a bloody head.
Mangaka Hidekaz Himaruya recently commented that many Westerners find Japanese horror stories incredibly frustrating, and Another certainly proves his point. There is a definite feeling of “Oh my god, just say something!” pervading the narrative, and Akazawa is the character who provokes this the most. Largely this comes from her increased role in the story when compared to the novels, and Kiyohara does a very good job of helping us to understand why she is the way she is. While this does little to alleviate the frustration caused by her actions, it also makes her one of the more interesting characters, as well as adding in a player with more backstory to a plot where really only Koichi and Mei have any. Other characters are left mostly unchanged from the novels, though those who have only seen the anime are in for some definite surprises in both plot and people.
One of the most noticeable features of the manga is Kiyohara's art. The anime took its designs from the novel edition with Noizi Ito's art, but Kiyohara's artwork is much less traditionally “anime” in style. Drenched in darkness, his linework is delicate and gives all of the characters a more mature look, particularly Mei, who goes from “cute” to “beautiful.” There is very little explicit gore, using the power of implication to tell the gory details, which for the most part works, although it does take away from some of the more visceral moments. Four sections of color pages are included in the book, and this is a real treat, as Kiyohara produces some striking imagery.
Even if you have experienced Another before in any of its other formats, it is still worth picking up this variation. Kiyohara's art lends a different sort of gravity to the story as well as making it a bit easier to solve the mystery – this time the clues really are there if you look for them. While it can be intensely frustrating at times, Another is still a solid horror/mystery hybrid that may make us all think twice about just how we ought to mourn someone's loss.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Beautiful, dark art enhances the story's feel, Akazawa's increased role makes her a character we can understand. Easier to actually spot the clues.
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