As the plot progresses, the series is rejuvenated with a new vitality.
Writer/Artist: Setona Mizushiro
Translation: Christine Schilling
Adaptation: Mallory Reaves
What They Say:
A shocking confession clears the way for a mountain of new problems! Mashiro is finally willing to give Sou a chance, but can either of them forget Sou's relationship with Ai? And when Kureha returns from vacation, her form in the dream world reflects an astonishing new change...
What We say:
Mashiro continues his confession to Sou, laying his heart on the line and admitting that he loves Sou. Ai tries one more time to keep Sou under her control, but Sou finally does what he wants to do: he rejects Ai and goes to embrace Mashiro. Mashiro starts to think of life as a girl and Sou tries to come to terms with what it would be like to be with someone who will love him for who he is and not control him. But they aren't the only ones who are finally coming to grips with past struggles: Kureha goes back to the kindergarten where she was assaulted as a child and sees how different it is now. Everything seems smaller to her more adult eyes and nothing is quite the same. She realizes that everything changes and life goes on, and the only way for her to conquer the demons that have been looming over her is for her to do the same. The next time we see her in the dream she is no longer a scared girl, she is her present self, clad in a knight's armor.
Also, though Sou and Mashiro are now being more honest with each other and are cautiously advancing toward a relationship, there are still growing pains that they must endure, insecurities that they must express and overcome. Of course, Sou is much better at containing this than Mashiro, though he is still affected by it. Mashiro, despite having the assurances that she (let's go with "she" now that she is trying to live more like a female) needs, she is still having difficulty in acclimating to the new emotional situation that she has put herself in. How does she compare to Kureha? To Ai? Can she really be what Sou wants? While her fears are largely immature, she does get Sou to admit that even he isn't fully aware of his truest emotions. Maybe his love for Mashiro is really just a way to get back at his sister?
At volume eight After School Nightmare feels like a series that has jumped a number of hurdles and is now ready to sprint. While it is still certainly subtle, methodical, and nuanced, it no longer feels like an endless back-and-forth of perceived slights and misconstrued intentions. As interesting as all that was, it is a breath of fresh air for there to be so many concrete steps of progress for these characters. And while there are still misconceptions in this book, as I'm sure there will be for the rest of the series, they feel like they add something more colorful now that they can influence new developments.
After School Nightmare has always been good. Very good. But it did have a tendency to get weighed down with nuance. For so long the actions moved forward but the story remained largely the same. Everything stayed within a particular confine. In this regard, volume eight is dramatically different. Every major character makes a change in their life. They finally stop their second guessing and naval gazing and take action toward controlling their destiny. The subtle psychological interactions haven't changed, and they shouldn't, but now there is a possibility that they can truly change what will happen to/with the characters, and that is a very exciting prospect.