Reviewing a horror title so close to Christmas time feels a little odd, but it was a big release for Yen Press (in more ways than one), so naturally it merited some attention.
Also, while I do as much as possible to avoid specific spoilers, to discuss the latter half of this manga, some vague spoilers are needed. If you're determined to read this series, I would skip ahead to the Art section and rating, because this is the sort of story that works best when going in completely blind. That being said, on with the review!
ANOTHER (Anaza), adapted from the novel by Yukito Ayatsuji and art by Hiro Kiyohara. First published in 2010, and first published in North America in 2013.
It's the summer of 1998, and Koichi Sakakibara is transferring to the town of Yomiyama, his late mother's hometown. He's meant to be starting school, but a chronic collapsing lung keeps him in the hospital for a while. While there, he meets a mysterious young girl speaking cryptically, walking towards the morgue. Once he gets to school, he discovers that same mysterious girl is there, and his classmates seem weirdly defensive and disconnected from the rest of the school. Koichi discovers rumors of a curse on his class, one with a long history, deadly results, and the mystery girl, and the truth is far stranger than any rumor.
Horror manga tends to live and die on the quality of the writing. Another has some advantages in that it was adapted from a light novel series - the plot and structure were already in place. So, was that story good enough to justify that length? Well...yes and no.
So let's discuss what does work with the writing. The story does take its time to build the tension and the mystery. The setting, the cast, the conflict, all are well-established. I'll admit that the Big Twist (because stories like this always have a Big Twist) worked really well. Without getting into massive spoilers, I'm glad the twist wasn't supernatural in nature (where she was a ghost all alooooong, spoooooky!), because quite frankly that would have been lame. The actual twist is much more down to earth, and even to some degree believable as it's built more around mass hysteria than ghosts and goblins. The reaction of Koichi and Mei (the mystery girl) is even kind of funny, and it's a welcome bit of levity after all the build-up.
Of course, for all that it does well, it also fails on some front. The biggest failing is when it comes to characterization. Barely anyone, Koichi included, gets any sort of character arc or any sort of personality beyond a quirk or two. Mei is somehow the best developed of the entire cast, which would be fine if she were the lead. The problem is that she isn't. Koichi, like so many horror leads, really isn't a character onto himself so much as he is a plot devise. He's there to ask questions when needed, to stand there quietly while others make mysterious proclamations, and to collapse conveniently whenever he needs to get out of a scene or to move things forward a few days or weeks.
Also, while the twist works fine, the plot developments after that become positively melodramatic, particularly once the cast goes on their class trip. Their paranoia builds into stabbity madness, and it seems after so much slow, quiet build-up that such hysterics become a little silly. Also, the Big Twist kind of loses its impact when near the end, you realize that the class's coping mechanic is basically the equivalent of "I'M NOT LISTENING! LALALALA NOT LISTENING!" Also, after going so long without using any sort of supernatural BS, they go and give Mei a supernatural power, only to take it away. Also, there's a nurse who supposed to serve as clumsy comic relief, and almost every scene she's in is PAINFUL, and in ways this manga did not intend.
So while the story isn't all that bad at building atmosphere at the beginning, it's not so good at building up its characters or maintain its atmosphere in the second half. It's not a bad story, but not a brilliant one either.
Another's story may have its faults, but those faults do not apply to the art. Kiyohara's art is dark, sharp, and good-looking. The character models are distinct and expressive. Panels tend to be large, closely focused and sparsely composed, and there are a lot of high and low angles to liven things up. Backgrounds are mundane, when present, and most of the time the characters drift through grey and white limbos. Despite the horror elements, there isn't a lot of gore, and what blood is there is artfully rendered in black splotches.
This series is presented as a single omnibus, and it's a veritable brick of a book. It's almost awkwardly big, and I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have been better to split it in half. There's color splash pages at the beginning and halfway point, colored in moody shades of red, purple, black and white.
Another is an entertaining read with some lovely artwork. Just don't think too hard about the details, because it sort of falls apart if you do.
This series is published by Yen Press. This series is complete in 4 volumes, and this omnibus is currently in print.
You can purchase this volume and many more like it through RightStuf.com!
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