I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
I was a little wary of this book. I've read or watched every version of Another that's officially been made available in English, starting with the anime, then the original novel, and finally the manga. I noticed I was burning out on the story by the time I got to the manga. Could a sequel novel work for me? Would it be fresh and new enough?
First, I should mention that this book actually collects two different works: Another Episode S, a lengthy story that takes place during the events of Another but isn't directly related to the curse affecting North Yomi's third-year Class 3, and Another Episode 0, a short prequel manga starring Reiko, Koichi's aunt. I'll write about them separately, but my final verdict is that this had some interesting moments but was largely a disappointment.
Warning: Do NOT read this review if you haven't read or watched Another. My review will include major spoilers for that work.
Another Episode S:
It's been a while since I last read Another, but I think this takes place shortly after third-year Class 3's first death. It's presented as a story Mei tells Koichi after they've survived the events of Another. Mei heard that a man she knew, 25-year-old Teruya Sakaki, had once been in North Yomi's third-year Class 3 during an “on” year, so she wanted to talk to him to find out more about the curse. However, by that point he had apparently died and become a ghost.
The story is told from Teruya's POV, as he tries to figure out how and why he died and why his sister and her husband have lied to everyone and told them that he's gone on a trip. He's convinced that, if he can just find his body, everything will be made clear to him. Unfortunately, all he has to guide him are vague and disquieting snatches of memory. Although his memories are too wispy and jumbled to help Mei in her search for an end to the curse, she agrees to help him find his body.
I've read Ayatsuji's The Decagon House Murders. I know he's capable of writing mysteries that don't resort to cheating, but you wouldn't know it from his Another novels. Another cheated by having the POV character simply not think about certain important details. Another Episode S cheated by bending over backwards to choose an unreliable narrator. Considering that Mei was telling this story to Koichi, it really should have been told from Mei's POV, but that would have ruined all of the story's biggest surprises.
Like Another, Another Episode S was incredibly repetitive. Some of the repetition made sense: Teruya was very confused by and bothered about his death and had nothing else to do but obsess about the few things he could still remember. Still, it got a bit old. He'd tell readers something, and then spend the next three or so pages either telling readers the same thing in different ways or reassuring readers that he really meant what he was saying (for example, pages and pages on his death and his reappearance in the living world as a ghost). Also, as in Another, there were lots of seemingly random bolded words and phrases. I could understand why "appear" was bolded, but some of the other choices made no sense to me.
Despite all that bloat, this was a quick read. Unfortunately, the revelations weren't that great. The events surrounding Teruya's death weren't that hard to figure out. Neither was the reason his sister and her husband did what they did, although, I have to say, it was incredibly stupid on their part. You'd think one of them would have realized they were actually making things worse for themselves in the long run. The story's biggest surprise was Teruya himself, but, like I said, I considered that cheating on Ayatsuji's part. I think he might have recognized that, too, because he spent 20 pages, through Koichi, laying out and explaining all the various details that showed why things turned out the way they did. About the only thing that wasn't part of the final analysis was the odd way Teruya tended to refer himself. While I did think that was a clever clue, I was still annoyed at the decisions Ayatsuji made for this story. Was this really the best he could do?
Another Episode 0:
This very short manga shows Reiko at her older sister's shrine, telling her that Koichi is about to come stay with the family for a while – this part takes place just before the beginning of Another. Then a flashback shows Reiko during her own time in North Yomi third-year Class 3, when she first learned about the curse and watched people she knew die.
Oh, this manga. Not much happens, but there's so much emotion packed into such a small number of pages.
You absolutely need to have read or watched some version of Another for it to have the proper impact, because the writer (in this case, Hiro Kiyohara) doesn't bother to explain why these moments are important in the larger scheme of things.
Those who are familiar with the series know that Reiko was the casualty, the extra person, during Koichi's time in North Yomi third-year Class 3. Although she managed to survive her own “on” year, her beloved older sister was one of the ones who died, and Reiko herself died in a later “on” year (I believe she was a teacher then?).
Yomiyama is the worst place to live. Even the people who survive the curse end up scarred by it, like Teruya. And those who are killed by it might have to go through it again in the future, like Reiko. And dang it, Reiko loved Koichi so much, and yet the curse wouldn't even allow him to remember her after she died a second time.
If I were rating them separately, I'd probably give Another Episode S 2.5 stars and Another Episode 0 3.5 stars. I went with 2.5 stars for my final rating because the bulk of this book was devoted to Ayatsuji's sequel.
(Original review, including read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)