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Another by Yukito Ayatsuji
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Another

by Yukito Ayatsuji

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Pros: tense, makes you second guess what’s going on, fascinating characters

Cons: repetition, some gore

Fifteen year old Koichi Sakakibara moves in with his grandparents at the beginning of his third year of middle school. A collapsed lung keeps him from attending the first week of class and he finds things… odd when he does start school. Everyone seems tense and there’s a girl who sits at the back that no one seems to acknowledge is there. He slowly learns of the third-year Class 3 curse, a phenomenon that leaves members of Class 3 and their immediate family dead.

I loved the two main protagonists, Koichi Sakakibara and Mei Misaki (note, following Japanese custom most characters are called by their last names, so I’ll be doing that in my review). It was interesting seeing Sakakibara’s illness, his hesitation when joining the class, trying to figure out what was happening, his consideration of and compassion towards Misaki, his gratitude towards his grandparents. He’s a highly sympathetic character going through difficult times. Misaki is equally interesting, and quite different, being standoffish and mysterious. Seeing their friendship bloom was great.

The book has a very tense atmosphere. You’re just as in the dark about what’s going on as Sakakibara and it makes for an eerie first half of the book, wondering what’s up with Misaki, wondering what the curse is. When things start going wrong it’s quite terrifying. There are a number of twists to the story, making you question and re-question what’s happening.

The translation doesn’t clarify any social or cultural Japanese aspects of the book (aside from explicitly pointing out the meanings of the written characters (kanji) used for various people and place names. This doesn’t affect understanding of the story, though knowing some of this myself did add to my enjoyment of the book.

I did notice there was a fair amount of repetition with regards to conversations and plot points. The afterward to the paperback edition (printed at the back of the English edition) mentions that the book was originally serialized, which probably accounts for that.

There is some gore as several deaths are described. It’s a little graphic at times.

One thing that annoyed me was that the ending turned on a fact that the narrator (ie Sakakibara) knows, but you - the reader - do not. So it’s possible for him to figure out the final twist but much harder for you to do so.

On the whole, if you’re looking for a creepy read, this is a good choice. ( )
  Strider66 | Oct 31, 2017 |
Another is a horror mystery novel written by Yukito Ayatsuji which was originally serialized in Japan between 2006 and 2009 before being collected into a single volume later that year. The novel was then released again in 2011 in two separate volumes. It is that edition upon which the English translation by Karen McGillicuddy is based. Another was initially released digitally in English by Yen Press in two volumes in 2103, but in 2014 it was published as a single-volume hardcover under the newly established Yen On light novel imprint. In addition to being Ayatsuji's first novel to be translated into English, Another is probably his most widely-known work, especially outside of Japan. This is in part due to the fact that Another was adapted as a manga series and as an anime series, both of which have been licensed in English, as well as a live-action film. Although I've known about Another for a while, it actually wasn't until I read Ayatsuji's debut novel The Decagon House Murders that I was inspired to pick it up.

Yomiyama North Middle School's third-year Class 3 is cursed. For some strange reason, the students of that class and their immediate families seem to be more susceptible to dying. Some years pass by without any casualties while other years see multiple deaths every month. The curse is said to be tied to an incident which occurred twenty-six years ago. A popular student named Misaki died, but the entire class was in such denial that Misaki's spirit manifested. Now more than two decades later, Misaki's story has been embellished and retold so many times that it's difficult to tell how much of it is rumor and urban legend and how much is really true. Koichi Sakakibara recently transferred into Class 3 and isn't sure what to believe and nobody is being particularly forthcoming about the situation. The curse could just simply be a ghost story, but his classmates and teachers are honestly frightened of something. And soon after Koichi's arrival, a new series of deaths begin.

Another is a marvelous combination of mystery and horror. The first half of the novel explores the "what" and "why" of the increasingly odd situation while the second reveals the "how" and "who." As a transfer student, Koichi is an outsider. He isn't as knowledgeable as the other people involved, and they are reluctant to share information with him, so Koichi is largely left to investigate on his own. Eventually he gains some dubious allies, the most important being a young woman named Mei Misaki who may or may not actually exist. Ayatsuji excels at creating a constant air of uncertainty in Another—he introduces just enough creepiness and doubt that readers, like Koichi, are left questioning everything. While logical analysis is a valid option, the weirdness of the situation and the possibility of supernatural interference makes the more mundane, straightforward answers feel suspect. Additionally, Koichi himself is shown to be a somewhat unreliable narrator, and it's his perspective of the unfolding events that drives Another.

Ayatsuji is particularly well-known for his inventive stories with dramatic twists. Another definitely falls into that category, the plot taking multiple clever and surprising turns over the course of the novel. However, without spoiling things, there was one major reveal towards the end that left me feeling cheated, especially when most of the other developments were so engaging. Retrospectively, the reveal does fit into the overall narrative, and there were some clues hinting at it scattered throughout the novel, but it isn't foreshadowed as well as it could have been. As a result, I found it to be very unsatisfying. The revelation is shocking and certainly leaves an impact, but I think that had the information been shared earlier in the novel it could have been used even more effectively. Despite this one notable complaint, I actually quite enjoyed Another. The mystery was intriguing, the horror was disconcerting, and blended together they formed a chilling novel that was highly readable and kept me eagerly turning the pages.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Oct 21, 2015 |
Please note that this review is based on the collected edition. The breakdown of my rating is therefore as follows:
Volume 1 - 2 out of 5
Volume 2 - 4 out of 5

First, a few general words of warning. Although many deaths in this novel occur off page, there are a couple of pretty gruesome scenes. Also, this book seems to be a pretty direct translation and so references some aspects of Japanese culture that a Western reader may not be familiar with. As this book has no glossary, be prepared for the fact that you may have to Google a few term.

The collected volume varied quite sharply in quality. While the first volume is well translated and keeps up an air of mystery, it felt way too long and started to drag in places. The lengths that fate went to in order to prevent Sakakibara from learning about the curse is quite incredible. Much of the first 200 pages of the novel are him almost learning the secrets of Yomiyama before getting interrupted or distracted in some way. It also ends rather abruptly as soon as Sakakibara learns what is going on. For this reason, I would probably recommend buying the paperback of this novel rather than the eBooks (which are split into two volumes) as the first novel is not great when read in isolation.

Yet the story did find its feet in volume too and became very exciting.The Curse itself is fantastically presented. I love how everything that they really know about it comes from Mr. Chibiki’s diligent observations over the years. There is so much open for interpretation and so many aspects that are left unexplained. While some of the happenings are clearly supernatural (especially the ones that occur over the novel’s climax), many more could merely just be very nasty accidents.

The final twist of the novel is certainly unique, though I can’t decide whether I like it or not. There are small hints throughout the story but I’m not sure if it’s enough. Sakakibara is an incredibly unreliable narrator and it’s really for the flimsiest reasons. He’s always perfectly honest with the reader except for about one thing and that thing is purely to conceal the twist. It’s either genius or terrible – perhaps I would have liked it more if I hadn't seen the anime first.

The book had a very large cast and it wasn’t always easy to remember who was who. Several of the characters had similar names – Mikami, Mizuno, Misaki (first name), Misaki (surname) – and so I sometimes found myself confusing some of the incidental characters. The real focus of the story is on Sakakibara and Misaki and I felt that Ayatsuji did a really good job at fleshing out both of these characters. As the narrator, Sakakibara’s feelings always came across very strongly. We feel is scepticism, confusion and doubt throughout the story. His reactions to the horrible things that he encounters always seem believable, as does his depression as he comes to believe that he could have done more to prevent the accidents.

Similarly, as the character that Sakakibara interacts with the most, Misaki is very well fleshed out. Although she started off seeming like a very weak character – always speaking in a Gothic and flowery way which left you wondering if she was a ghost – her presence grew a lot stronger as the story progressed. As her past is slowly revealed, her behaviour at the beginning of the novel begins to make a lot more sense and she becomes a very loyal and capable friend for Sakakibara. I also praise Misaki for her strength of will – she plays a highly active role in the climax and is fully prepared to make terrible sacrifices for the greater good.

So, to conclude, while Another was slow burning and occasionally frustrating to read, it did maintain an air of mystery throughout and contained some decent twists and memorable characters. While I personally think it worked better as an anime, I did enjoy reading this novel as a whole and would recommend it to horror fans who are looking for something a little different. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Aug 4, 2015 |
This book was adapted into an anime, which I've already seen and reviewed. It's been a while since I last saw the anime, but I think it was a fairly faithful adaptation, with the only differences I can recall being a trip to the beach that was entirely invented for the anime and slight differences in the way some students died at the end.

This book is set in 1998 and begins with Koichi in the hospital, recovering after one of his lungs spontaneously collapsed for the second time. He had previously been a student in Tokyo, but, with his father gone to India for his job, he temporarily moved to the small town of Yomiyama to live with his grandparents and Reiko, his aunt. He was supposed to start as a transfer student in third-year Class 3 at North Yomi middle school, but his health issues delayed things.

When he's finally able to start school, Koichi soon notices that his classmates and teachers are behaving strangely, but he isn't able to pinpoint what's going on. Are they all acting oddly because he's new, or is it something else? Koichi finds himself drawn to Mei, a mysterious girl with an eye patch who keeps issuing vague warnings and who no one besides Koichi ever seems to talk to. It isn't until far too late that he learns the details about the curse that has affected North Yomi's third-year Class 3 for 26 years.

Since I had already seen the anime, I already knew everything that was going on: the details of the curse, Mei's part in the whole thing, who would die and how (although, like I said, there were slight changes), and how things turned out in the end. Even so, I was still able to enjoy myself by noting the clues and red herrings that Ayatsuji sprinkled around in the text. Aside from one detail that could be considered cheating (more on this later), the clues were all hidden very smoothly and yet were available for observant readers to find and piece together.

The mystery and suspenseful atmosphere kept me glued to the story, even knowing what would happen, and despite my issues with the writing. The book was written in the first person, from Koichi's perspective, and was sometimes so stilted that it just wasn't believable as a 15-year-old's POV. It also may have colored how I felt about him. Although I recall Koichi being fairly bland in the anime, in the book he struck me as being arrogant, overly reserved, and occasionally somewhat selfish. It wasn't until after several people had already died that he really seemed to realize “Oh, yes, these horrible things that are happening to people around me affect me too.”

Koichi's POV included a lot of hyper-focus on the mundane: his health, the fact that he was only supposed to be in Yomiyama for a year, his family, etc. It was a great strategy, on Ayatsuji's part, for hiding clues, but it also became a little repetitive at times.

I could forgive that to a certain extent, but what I can't quite bring myself to forgive, neither here nor in the anime, was the one important detail that Ayatsuji artificially hid from readers. He tried, via Koichi, to explain the “why” and “how” of it, but I still consider what he did to be cheating, and it annoyed me. Also, by choosing first person POV over third person, he actually emphasized that cheating.

If someone thought they were going to both read the book and watch the anime, I'd tell them they should probably start with the book. If someone planned to only try either the anime or the novel, I'd tell them to go with the anime. While I enjoyed getting to revisit the mystery surrounding North Yomi's third-year Class 3, I was a little disappointed at how stilted the writing (or translation?) was. I'm also still wondering what was up with all those randomly bolded words and phrases.

Extras:

The book ends with the author's afterword to the paperback edition and a 5-page analysis written by Sei Hatsuno.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Mar 22, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yukito Ayatsujiprimary authorall editionscalculated
McGillicuddy, KarenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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