Class 3 had a problem.
People had the nasty habit of dying.
Of course, exchange student Koichi Sakakibara had little idea of this little problem when he joined the middle school class. It seemed strange how a girl with an eye patch was ignored by everyone. It was as if she did not exist. Once people started dying, the mystery of the nonexistent girl, Mei Misaki, became a very real problem.
Another is an interesting horror-suspense story that kept me guessing. Although it was yet-another school story, the interesting ideas and suspense elements pulled me in. The story has some pacing issues and some silliness, but over all I found it interesting.
Okay, so there is my review. Another has more going for it than being a decent horror-suspense story. Namely, the treatment of Mei Misaki and the way the students turn on each other at the end.
The class decides to act like Mei does not exist in order to push aside the curse that kills members of Class 3 and their families. It worked sometimes in the past where little else did. This, essentially, is an extreme form of bullying. Even the teachers were involved. Mei could come and go as she pleased (sounds cool right?) but was otherwise almost completely isolated until Koichi came along. Now, consider this a moment. Mei was isolated from social contact outside of a few art club students that knew nothing of the curse. She claimed not to be bothered by this, but she quickly draws close to Koichi due to her isolation. This is another form of bullying. In fact, according to a study by the University of British Columbia (2014), being ignored creates more harm in a workplace than traditional harassment, and traditional bullying can end in the young victim committing suicide (Woodard, 2014). Mei was not suicidal, but she was mentally unbalanced from her experiences with her mother and the class curse.
Near the end of the story, the stress of the curse and watching fellow students die around them finally cracks the minds of the students. A previous class left a tape recording of how they ended the curse during their year – killing the source of the curse. The curse is generated by someone in the classroom who did not belong and was already dead (although the person didn’t know it). During a class retreat to a shrine, the tape is played for everyone to hear, and Mei is wrongly accused of being the source of the curse. The students all snap to varying degrees and attempt to kill her. Throughout the story, the stress of their situation points to a nervous breakdown of the students. They show signals of nearing the edge. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, violent thoughts, lack of energy, and even delusions (Casserly, 2011; Khan, 2014). They all reach the breaking point when the tape is played. Admittedly, this is rather contrived. Not everyone will became desperate enough to murder Mei and other fellow students, but some will.
Beyond being an interesting story, Another plays around with what happens when people are bullied and pushed beyond their mental endurance. The lesson to us is not to be in Class 3. Just kidding. The story uses very real issues, bullying and nervous breakdowns, to create a horrific situation were all rational thinking disappears. Bullying can lead to suicide. Ostracizing can create nervous breakdowns. And nervous breakdowns can make people snap.
Another plays with themes that are very real problems. It exaggerates them to create a vicious story of revenge and fear. But, really, Another does not exaggerate that much at times. People may not physically kill others, but we can emotionally kill others by ignoring them or adding the final weight of stress. While not physically dead, people who are stomped by others can be dead inside: they lose their zest for life and other people. Despite the abuse, Koichi and Mei were both more concerned about each other than their own welfare. Koichi was also concerned about the lives of his classmates – despite them trying to kill him and Mei. This concern and lack of self-centeredness contrasted with the selfish behavior of the other students. This difference is part of the reason why Koichi and Mei survived the ordeal when so many others died. Another has many lessons for us. First, don’t bully or isolate others. Next, those who are not self-centered are the most likely to survive a curse.
So the moral of the story is to be other-centered instead of self-centered.
Casserly, M. (2011). Ten signs you’re heading for a mental break. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/11/are-you-headed-for-a-mental-breakdown-forbes-woman-well-being-health_slide.html
Khan, A. (2014). Inside a nervous breakdown. USNews. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/11/14/inside-a-nervous-breakdown.
Robinson, S. (2014). Ostracism more damaging than bullying in the workplace. University of British Columbia. http://news.ubc.ca/2014/05/29/better-to-be-bullied-than-ignored-in-the-workplace-study/
Woodard, B. (2014). Mom Sues CPS after daughter’s suicide. says school ignored bullying. DNAINFO http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20141009/andersonville/mckenzie-phlipots-mother-files-lawsuit-against-cps-after-her-suicide