by Whitney Grace
If you are seeking an original ghost story free of the gratuitous violence that has become commonplace in Hollywood horror movies, the best place to turn is Japan. The Japanese culture is one that strives for subtly over brashness, which is duly reflected in their horror manga. Set in 1998, Another tells the story of Koichi Sakakibara who (in a stereotypical manga plot line) relocates from Tokyo to the country, where he is transferred to Yomiyama North Middle School. He is placed in class three and despite the warm, yet odd welcome he gets from his new classmates he can’t help but sense a secret lurking in the background.
The secret appears to surround the quiet Mei Misaki, a student that no one can apparently see or hear. Koichi is the only one who notices her and he begins to wonder if he is keeping company with a ghost. The answer is not quite so simple. The more Koichi acknowledges Mei’s existence, the more the other students are hostile and warn him to follow the rules. Matters get even scarier as students and their relatives begin to die. All the deaths are connected to class three and Mei. There is talk of a curse on the class, but no one knows how to break it. Koichi is neck deep in mystery and until he can discover what the deal is with Mei and the curse, he is as vulnerable as everyone else.
Another was originally horror novel written by Yukio Ayatsuji. Hiro Kiyohara adapted the novel into four manga volumes that a Yen Press imported and turned into one thick omnibus. The great thing about these omnibus editions is that the story is not interrupted, but the downside is that it is easier to spot the holes and missing details in the plot. I am a firm believer that the prose book is always better than any adaptation, be it manga or movie. While the interesting idea of a ghost classmate and mysterious rules intrigued me to keep the pages turning, significant character development was lost in the conversion from word to drawing. Minor details that consumer small portions of a page in text are left out, because they would take up too much space to illustrate. Mei’s history with her mother, eerie relationship with dolls, and the explanation for her eye patch are tagged on like accessories to sell her as “different” without much detail. Koichi’s own back-story is left to only a few panels and the reader must fill in the blanks. The length of the manga gives time for the characters to grow on you, but at certain times they are as empty as a ghost.
That being said, Another has many strong points. The art conveys the right dark tone for the story and characters do not fall into the trap of carbon design copies. Mei is drawn with a ghostly aura about her that fades away when her secret is revealed. The story itself is original with new twists lacking in most ghost stories. Little detailed bread crumbs are left between the pages , offering snippets of truth. Readers will not see these crumbs as clues until the conclusion. Suspense is Another’s strongest trait.
Another is worth reading, especially if you are in the marker for something new.