Readers get the declaration that they have been waiting for the entire series, but it comes at a price.
Writer/Artist: Setona Mizushiro
Translated by: Christine Schilling
Adapted by: Mallory Reaves
What They Say
Alliances form as friendships fade, and soon the nightmarish dream-world becomes preferable to the turmoil in Mashiro's every day life. With Kureha spurning him and Sou ignoring him, Mashiro has no choice but to seek the answers he needs from a most unlikely source...
Ichijo is spending some time trying to figure out what life as a girl would be like, while rumors that Kureha and Mizuhashi are dating start to spread around the school. They aren't, of course, but they are starting to spend an awful lot of time together consoling each other from being scorned by Ichijo. They briefly consider going out so that they can have their revenge on Ichijo; even though they decide against it, when the opportunity to hurt him presents itself, the two take advantage of the situation and kiss in front of him. This rocks Ichijo's constantly fluctuating emotional balance so that he doesn't know what to feel. The emotional wake makes things more complicated, yet again, causing Ichijo to not only smack Kureha, but to ensnare his senpai, Kurosaki, into Ichijo's web of relationships.
To be honest, as I started reading this volume, I thought to myself that something meaty had to happen for a change, otherwise I was really going to start losing my patience with this title. While I still think that it is one of the very best things you can be buying today, and that it has a beautiful subtlety and sophistication that is unique and should be appreciated by all, after six volumes, moving into the seventh - knowing that there are three more to go - there is no escaping the feeling that this story does not need this many volumes to be told. Admittedly, brevity, subtlety, and nuance don't always go well together, but there are enough repeated themes and moments of familiar emotional insecurity that you could take out quite a few and make this a bit more tense, more taut, and without any of the emotional fatigue that comes from walking these same embattled landscapes over and over.
This volume starts out as per the status quo. Everything is quite good and it gets you involved, but you just feel like you are being set up for the same ol' psychological character study. Up until now, After School Nightmare has been a seemingly placid river, though deep, with a strong and turbulent current beneath the surface. Tensions have been slowly escalating from the very beginning, with little cathartic release. What climaxes we have had only seem monumental in comparison to the otherwise methodical nature of the story. And for about the first third of this volume, it feels as if this will just be the same thing. Right up until Ichijo slaps Kureha. But it's not just that Ichijo slaps Kureha, it's that she provoked it, it's that she deserved it, and it's that she did it with a smile on her face and a heart to punctuate her sentence. It's at that moment that things start to feel a little different, and it doesn't stop there. Kureha then leaves school, Ichijo flirts with his senpai, who then goes and makes a move on him – it's almost as if a whole new world starts to open up and things actually, truly, start happening. Concrete events that you can use to gauge where you are in the story; it's momentum and it's quite nice. It's all capped off with the big reveal to Ichijo, the huge truth that we have all known all along but they finally took the time to say it: Mizuhashi and his sister are in an incestuous relationship, and when Ai tells Ichijo that, he is destroyed, disgusted, and then he goes to tell Mizuhashi that despite it all, he loves him and he can't stand to think of Mizuhashi with anyone else anymore.
With the close of this volume it finally feels like something big has happened and things are really going to get moving. I don't want to go too far out on a limb here, especially with three more volumes still to go, but it feels like after this, the kind of climaxes we have been getting just won't cut it anymore. It's time for Mizushiro to start tackling the big issues and delivering the big punches, because with the final events of this volume behind us, things just aren't the same.