I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
In 1998, Koichi Sakakibara transfers into third-year class 3 at Yomiyama North Middle School. Due to a collapsed lung, he's unable to start at the same time as the other students, making him even more of an outsider than usual. His classmates are mostly friendly, but sometimes behave strangely, and they appear to be keeping secrets from him. The person he's most curious about is Mei Misaki, a mysterious girl with an eye patch. Even though Mei's attendance is erratic, no one ever comments on it, not even the teachers. As Koichi tries to figure out what's going on, he finds himself wondering if Mei really exists, and if the supposed curse surrounding third-year class 3 is real.
Although this was my first time reading this manga, this was my fourth time experiencing this particular story. I've seen the anime twice and read the original novel, neither of which were very different from this manga, so the story held few surprises for me.
I read this mostly to see how it compared to the anime and novel. Each version differed in small ways, and each had its own pros and cons. All three versions went to annoying lengths to hide who the “casualty,” the extra person in third-year class 3, was, but the anime and manga were less annoying about it than the novel. The anime did a better job of establishing the atmosphere than the manga, but the manga would probably be better for those who'd prefer a little less blood and gore.
The manga was neither an adaptation of the anime, nor an exact adaptation of the novel. The manga and anime characters designs differed, sometimes a great deal, and the anime's beach scene did not exist in the manga. The biggest difference I noticed was in the way the ending played out. Each version of the story ended in basically the same way (the same person is the “casualty” in each version), but the way surrounding events played out was completely different. If I remember correctly, the anime had a ludicrous number of on-screen deaths compared to the novel. Also, Akazawa played a much bigger part in the anime than in the novel. She played a big part in the manga as well, but in a different way – she still went after Mei, but Koichi wasn't involved at all.
There were a few things I didn't like about this version. Although the artwork was okay, there were a few times when characters' eyes looked a bit odd, like their size or angle weren't quite right. Also, there were several instances of somewhat goofy humor that didn't fit the mood of the story. The one that struck me as being the most out of place was when Teshigawara joked about searching the school for a clue after dark because “it's more atmospheric this way, obvs.” Never mind that searching an old school building after dark was also more dangerous than getting help from a supportive adult during the day would have been. I was also disappointed that the dolls that both the anime and the novel paid so much attention to were barely present in the manga. Koichi visited the doll gallery/shop, but the dolls themselves were mostly relegated to the background.
One thing I did like about this version was that it paid more attention to the aftermath than either the anime or the novel. Koichi and Mei talked a little about their plans for the future, and readers got to see how a few of the surviving students were doing. I'm not sure how believable that happy little scene was, considering that one of those surviving students had almost been killed by another one of those surviving students, but it was still nice to see Yomiyama life continuing on.
My favorite version of this story is still the anime, although I'm not sure if that's because it was actually better than the others or just because it was my first exposure to the story. This wasn't a bad manga, it just had very little that I hadn't already seen in the novel or anime.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)