Another (manga review)
Posted May 18, 2014on:
first English printing October 2013
where I got it: purchased new
To help him recover from a lung disorder, Sakakibara moves in with his maternal grandparents in a quiet idyllic town. His Aunt Reiko lives with them too. Raised by his travelling salesman father, Sakakibara is thankful for the quiet stability, but wishes his father would call him more often. This is the town Sakakibara’s mother grew up in, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to learn more about her, as she passed away shortly after he was born. His Mom and Aunt even attended the same school he has transferred into, and Aunt Reiko tells him, among other things, that the most important thing at this school is to go along with whatever his class decides. If one ever wanted to go it alone, or be a square peg in a round hole, this is not the time.
Due to his breathing disorder, Sakakibara has to spend a few days in the hospital. He’s visited by some new classmates, who ask him some very strange questions, and he sees another girl from his school, Misaki Mei, wandering around the basement. The conversation he has with Misaki is so odd that he wonders if he’s met a ghost. School begins, and Misaki is in his class. She’s got to be some kind of ghost, as no one else but him can see her.
Sakakibara makes new friends quickly, and they all seem to want to tell him something, but no one can seem to find the right moment, or get the words out when they do.
And then people start dying, in horrible, gruesome ways. One student trips down a flight of stairs while carrying an umbrella, and lands face down on the tip of the umbrella. the sister of another student is killed when the elevator she’s in plummets to the ground. Car accidents, heart attacks, drownings. You’d think they were just natural accidents, except they are happening constantly. And only to the families of students in Class 3.
It’s as if the students and families of Class 3 are being annihilated.
It’s time someone came clean with Sakakibara. The curse on the class is this (and this isn’t a spoiler): someone is the class is already dead. That person isn’t there, but at the same time is there. And no one knows who it is. They will show up in the class photo that’s taken at the end of the year, but years afterwards no one will remember that person, they won’t be on any records, people’s memories will have reverted to how things should have been, how things had naturally been because that person was dead.
Over the years, information has been passed down, about how to abate the curse. there’s no way to identify the extra person in the class, but the number of students on the roster and the number of desks in the room must match the number of living people in the room. At the beginning of the school year, one student is chosen to be invisible, to be treated as if they are dead. Their name isn’t called out for attendance, they don’t get handed a pop quiz, no one says hello or sits with them at lunchtime. The person becomes a sacrifice towards the safety of the group, a pariah. So long as no one speaks to that person for the entire school year, no one will die. But should someone acknowledge the existence of the chosen “dead person”? The curse awakes and the deaths begin.
Misaki Mei is that person. And Sakakibara has already spoken to her. Many times, in fact. Are all of these deaths his fault? If he’d never spoken to her that day in the hospital, never followed her home that day after school, would no one have died? But they are friends now. He can’t just dump her. They’ve bonded over being raised in a single parent home, she’s even trusted him by showing him what’s under her eye patch. Whatever this is, they’ll see it through together.
This is a small town, many families have been here for generations, and the curse on the class started twenty some years ago. Take yourself outside of this particular classroom for a minute, and think about what that means. It means that all the parents of the schoolchildren are aware of what’s happening, and they are not pulling their children out of the class, or demanding that the school do something. Everyone in the city is perfectly aware of the curse, and by their silence they are condoning it, while at the same time thanking students like Misaki for willing to be ignored for an entire school year. Once that sinks in, you find yourself in an entirely new layer or horror of what happening.
It boils down to if you don’t want to die, you’ve got to figure out how to stop the curse midway through. Some classes did it, but how? And Sakakibara has his doubts about Misaki. How can she be completely sure that she’s not the dead person?
I first learned about Another when I saw the anime a few years ago. Confession: I tend to lose interest in anime series very quickly, which is a conversation for another time. But with Another, I never lost interest. I itched to see the next episode, I wanted to see Misaki in a conversation with someone other than Sakakibara as proof she was alive, I wanted to know exactly what she was seeing with her glass eye. Every episode ended on a well written cliffhanger, Sakakibara’s fellow students refused to tell him what was going on, and eventually were willing to sacrifice even him to their cause. In a sick way, I wanted to see the next Final Destination-esque way the next person would die, and waiting a week in between those final few episodes of the anime was an exquisite, delicious torture of a particular flavor that I’ve not yet found again.
And fear not, this isn’t one of those manga series that goes on forever and ever. It’s only four volumes, and was recently published in an omnibus. It’s nice to get a story this intense in such a short time. The artwork is very good, it’s easy to tell what’s happening and to tell the characters apart.
While the manga of Another is quite good, I enjoyed the anime more. The anime is based on the original novels by Yukito Ayatsuji, one of Japan’s preeminent horror and mystery writers. If you’ve already seen and enjoyed the anime, I’m not sure what more you’ll get out of the manga. The order of events is presented in a different order, and I felt the anime allowed for more character development, especially of Misaki Mei. The manga is very good, and quite satisfying. But in my opinion, the anime is a masterpiece of horror direction.