“Another” Amazes with Archetypal Writing in a Field of Average Prose

Another, my first foray into the works of Ayatsuji Yukito, is a superb thriller; a tense page-turner; a horrifying mystery. I had a hard time setting it down. While it is more of a psychological thriller, there is certainly no paucity of gore.

Originally released in individual chapters, each including refreshers of the plot, the book feels similar to a monthly manga. Like many manga series, the chapters of Another were collected and released by Yen Press in the US as a single volume called a tankouban. This is the version I read. The whole story is translated as-is, and while it is occasionally frustrating to wade through these recapitulations, it is helpful for reviewing the facts and details that we have already learned. And yes—you will need to think very carefully about whom “the casualty” is.

In true J-Horror fashion, there is a major twist at the end. Once this highly-coveted information is revealed, the main character reviews everything that has happened and the situational evidence lines up beautifully. I just love it when a story comes together so perfectly, and Ayatsuji definitely delivers.

The layout of the book made reading easy on the eyes, and the content, I found, is the best Japanese-to-English novel translation I have come across. The language is crisp, and when coupled with stellar grammar and punctuation, it yields a smooth and distraction-free reading experience.

My only gripe is a lack of translation for Japanese cultural references—For instance, near the finale the students speak about performing a ritual before Obon. This was not my first reading of Japanese literature, and I understood most of the references without difficulty. However, people unfamiliar with such texts, or the culture in general, will not know that Obon is a festival honoring the deceased. This is not necessarily integral to the plot, but if you know what Obon is, then connecting the clues in the novel becomes easier.

Lastly, I would like to explore some unanswered questions I encountered. Please read on if you have already finished the book, or come back to discuss these with me when you have.

The first of these questions concerns the new doll that Kirika is making. The model is never revealed, and its coffin is somewhat short for Mei. The only idea I had is that the doll could represent Mei’s sister—Because they are fraternal twins, Mei could be taller, explaining the discrepancy in height. I do not remember anyone else in Mei’s family dying before or during the events of the novel.

My other question concerns Ojiisan. He has memory problems, and he is the only one who remembers that Reiko has died. When he moans about Reiko and her sister or talks about funerals, it makes me wonder if his memory was left intact. Did the phenomenon not affect him because portions of his memory have already been lost? Because his mind is already corrupted, was there not a way for the phenomenon to infiltrate further? I found this curious.

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