In the quiet, rural small-town of Yomiyama there exists an urban legend about a dead girl who continued to haunt her class after she died. 26 years ago from 1998 this legend was supposedly born and now middle schooler Sakakibara Kôichi is drawn into a vortex of mistrust, deception and revenge beyond his comprehension.
When he moved to Yomiyama he expected to get some peace in order to heal his pneumothorax after having been diagnosed with it a second time. His grandparents greet him warmly and his aunt gives him friendly advice how to behave in school. But something seems off when he meets his class. They seem intent to keep certain things from him and to his own surprise he seems to be the only one who can see a classmate who he first met in the hospital. Though it was only a chance meeting in an elevator he felt oddly drawn to her, but the only thing he knows is her name … …
Misaki … …
Misaki Mei …
Oh my God. Even though I finished this novel a week ago, I had to give this review some time for it not to turn out completely negative. I actually suffered while reading and I’m saying this as a huge fan of Ayatsuji Yukito’s novels. Both his detective mysteries and his horror mysteries were so much fun to read (even though some might have dragged a little at certain points), but Another gave me a truly hard time liking it. This is about 670 pages of nichijôteki horâ (horror that occurs in the everyday setting) that I was probably unable to properly feel myself into because I never had a typical Japanese adolescence, including middle school, peer pressure, urban legends and so on. This and the fact that most of the tension was relying on characters not talking to each other for the sole reason of “the time has not yet come”.
I have to admit (and I agree with mousoukyoku here) the finale was clever and the trick that he revealed in the end was kind of cool. But for a novel that spans almost as much as a typical Stephen King novel it featured neither a terribly tight plot nor a huge amount of additional information. The basic story could have been told as a short story of maybe 50-70 pages and character development is almost non-existent with the exception of the lead characters. It kind of reminded me of the problem I had with some of King’s late 80′s early 90′s novels, especially Misery, where he also centered his whole book around one creepy premise. Once the novelty of it wears of you actually only wait for it to end.
Maybe this is one of those stories which work better in a tighter frame, which is why I’m actually kind of excited for the anime and live action adaption. The manga did a pretty good job of summarizing certain long paragraphs in just one or two speech balloons while actually concentrating more on how to show events instead of telling us about them.
Do I want to say the book is horrible? Probably not.
Do I recommend this book then? Probably not either, unless you are a die-hard mystery and/or Ayatsuji fan.
This is gothic horror to its extreme, where it is only about transforming the everyday decay and dilapidation into a grand epos of horror and tragedy. An extreme that I can’t really say I like all that much because it just doesn’t reward you with as much as you have to invest into this work. That’s kind of sad and that’s why I’m so hard on the novel, I think; because Ayatsuji can do better and he showed many instances where he was apparently planning on doing something greater but either he or his editor decided otherwise.