At the end, everything burns.
But in a way that is fairly different for the anime, and I think it may disappoint people who hope for something similarly over-the-top as the climax of the ending was. As such, it only seems fair to put this right up-front: the tone of the Another novels is, ultimately, fundamentally different from that of the anime. Whereas the anime gleefully destroys bodies by the fistful in ways that are as macabre as they are absurd, the novel opts for a quieter resolution that feels profoundly sad, and that relative quiet is the key distinguishing factor between anime versus novel (and even manga versus novel). But allow me to go back somewhat, although not before noting that this “series” was originally released after its magazine serialization in one bound volume, not as two separate volumes as Yen has done here.
In the previous volume, we left off as our lead, Kouichi Sakakibara (called Sakaki by many of his classmates), found himself in a similar situation to classmate Mei Misaki – having unknowingly violated the rules of his classroom in interacting with Mei, Kouichi has been marked apart as a second person who is “not there” in a desperate last attempt to stave off additional deaths. Of course, this fails, which forms the underpinning of the narrative here, as Kouichi and others attempt to discover a way to stop the curse afflicting the class. In the meantime, some more people die.
The differences between the anime/manga and the novel during the bulk of the narrative are fairly minute – a couple deaths occur at a different time than in the anime/manga, and there are fewer deaths overall, and Akazawa’s role is greatly reduced (she is not the tragic heroine she was clearly meant to be in the anime). We also simply get a better look inside Kouichi’s head as it is Kouichi who dictates the story to us; there is also greater depth and explanation given to sundry other things such as Mei’s relationship with her largely-absent father. The only other item that stands out to me is that Mei does not assist in the search for the cassette tape as she did in the anime.
However, the climax differs both in tone and in details, while the aftermath is somber in a way that the anime wasn’t able to achieve even as it seemed they wished for it to. The climax in the anime is a gruesome orgy of bloodthirsty middle schoolers gone mad, something so far gone that I laughed my way through it instead of being unsettled by the explicit violence as entertainment. Here, many fewer people die, the entire thing happens much more quickly, and those who do die do not, largely, die “on screen”, and those who do, do so in a manner that isn’t detailed (one character, for example, is shoved off a veranda and is later noted to have had their back broken by the fall). And that the climax itself isn’t excessive as it is in the anime makes it possible for Kouichi’s observations and reflections in the aftermath to be quite sad. The end of this tale is sad – taking a step back, one realizes that the entire story is really about a family grievously wounded by a thoughtless curse that is only connected to them by the most tenuous means.
The books are better than the TV series or the manga, although the central conceit remains complete nonsense in both. I’ll simply excerpt from my review of the first volume here:
A cursed class where for more than half of the past twenty-six years massive amounts of students and their immediate family have died? Really? And its all been kept ultra-secret because only the members of the class and their teachers are allowed to know the truth? The narrative tries to come up with a magical plot device to keep the validity afloat – people forget the details after the year has passed! – but it feels desperate and cheap, only drawing more attention to the fact that the whole thing completely beggars belief. I would be far more willing to accept it if the original incident had happened six years ago, but twenty-six is just too much. I can’t accept that a bunch of fifteen year olds wouldn’t be telling their closest friends (“well, if I only tell so-and-so… they’re my closest friend, it doesn’t count!”), or that people wouldn’t start to stop sending their children to the school. Even if these parents were somehow wholly unaware of the why of the problem, or the exact outlines of the problem, if at least every other year lots of people associated with a particular class die, well, folks, you can bet enrollment would fall.
Basically, the whole idea of a cursed class in which about twelve classes over the past twenty-six years have experienced multiple dead students requires that people do not behave in a way that is recognizably human. Consider, for example, that many modern airlines do not have rows marked as “13” in their planes, or that many modern buildings in China do not have floors marked “4”. Even as progress marches on, human beings remain deeply superstitious – a cursed class could not possibly continue to exist across that many years. Enrollment would fall; it really is that simple.
I will also note that we are introduced to a police officer in this installment who expresses concern that his young daughter will end up assigned to the class someday, which just serves to point to another reason the central conceit doesn’t work – a pattern like that would most certainly attract the attention of law enforcement. And while law enforcement may not be able to suss out the underlying issue, it would nevertheless draw more attention to what is supposedly a shady, little-known problem.
Yen’s release is perfectly fine here. This is a digital-only release; I read it on a Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (that’s a damn mouthful, sigh) and didn’t have any problems with layout or anything like that. I believe there was a lone typo, but it was otherwise fine. In the previous volume there were some passages that had clunky, odd phrasing, but that wasn’t present in this one. Apparently Yen will be releasing a consolidated edition of the first and second volumes come October in both hard-copy and digital formats, at $29.99 MSRP and $15.99 MSRP respectively; the individual e-volumes are $6.99 each.
So I can say that the Another novels are decent, but that it requires an ability to utterly ignore how maddeningly stupid the driving matter is. If you had watched the Another anime, or read the manga, and thought that you would’ve enjoyed it had it been more subtle, yes, pick up the novels. The main characters are solid (Kouichi feels so much more believable than many, many other teenaged male protagonists in the anime/manga/LN sphere, and is likable in part because of that, while Mei is of the quiet school without being sans depth), and the underlying story about a benighted family is movingly sad. But while it is decent, it is not great, and, if anything, I would urge picking up Yen’s release of it more because I have this feeble little hope it could result in Shiki’s novels being licensed (Ayatsuji is married to Shiki’s author Fuyumi Ono) if these novels sell well… and, yes, I know how unlikely that is and how nonexistent a reason for license that is, but, hell, hope springs eternal.
As one last bit now that I’ve reviewed this volume, I wish to mention that there is an author’s note at the end, and in this note, Ayatsuji mentions that two other works which influenced/affected Another were Rozen Maiden and Final Destination. Both are completely understandable, and both can be easily seen in the text, although the Another anime runs with the Final Destination flavor much more than these novels do. What is perhaps of more amusement, though, is that Ayatsuji became an ALI PROJECT fan as a result of his exposure to Rozen Maiden. So that horrid OP music for the anime? That was wholly blessed by Ayatsuji’s interests.