Afterschool Nightmare Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Megan Meinhard
Review Date: Monday, November 13, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, September 30, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Setona Mizushiro
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:

What They Say
All the girls say Mashiro Ichijo is everything a guy should be--gentle, polite, kind, soft-spoken and handsome--but the problem is, he%u2019s not quite a guy! Neither is he a girl, and most of his life has been spent hiding this fact from his peers. When a mysterious school nurse brings him to a new class he needs to graduate, he finds it%u2019s not quite as easy to keep secrets when you find other people in your dreams! The Dream World is merciless, and so are its occupants ? Mashiro%u2019s fellow students! Mashiro must struggle to keep his secret ? and his sanity ? in the first volume of After School Nightmare.

The Review
A absolute must buy for those that like their shoujo manga dark and beautiful.

Packaging:
This is the most impressive packaging I've seen from Go Comi yet. The cover is a beautiful picture of Sou, Mashiro and Kureha in a three-way embrace. The logo is simple, yet it catches the eye; the words "After School" are on top of a deep red "Nightmare". The spine uses the same font and has a picture of Mashiro's face above the title. On the back is the blurb, rating, and price. Inside are six color pages. The first one is of Kureha and Mashiro, the next is of Mashiro and Sou. The remaining once are from the beginning of the story. Other than a note from the author, these are the only extras to be found. Hopefully this series will do well enough to continue having extras like this, because Mizushiro's coloring is jsut lovely, and it really adds to the book overall.

Art:
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It manages to be both detailed and clean. All of the characters are clearly differentiated, there are no two that look alike and you can always tell who is speaking. But what perhaps is most impressive is Mizushiro's dramatic, unsettling imagery and the nuances of facial expression. On page 191, for example, no dialogue is used, but the emotions are perfectly conveyed regardless.

Text/Translation:
The translation reads well. The characters all sound appropriate for their ages and personality types. The sound effects are translated into English, but have not been edited. In the back, there is a glossary explaining the various honorifics used.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Students have been vanishing and no one seems to notice. One day Mashiro is taken aside by a school nurse and told that he will have to attend a special class in order to "graduate", like those students that have vanished. The woman also tells him that she knows the secret he's been desperately trying to keep about his body. From the waist up Mashiro is a male, but from the waist down, he is actually a she. This mysterious woman leads him down to the basement where there an infirmary and four other people sleeping in beds. After drinking some tea, Mashiro awakens to find alone in the office. When he goes outside to see where the nurse could have gone, he sees a young woman in a bloody raincoat. Upon seeing him, she attacks.

Disoriented and confused, he tries to escape but the girl keeps on attacking and talking about how much she loathes men. Every time she stabs him, a crystal bead on a string around Mashiro's neck shatters. When Mashiro finally makes it back into the infirmary, the girl suddenly stops and asks him if he's a girl. Not understanding, Mashiro turns around to look at his attacker. The girl has vanished, but a glance in the mirror reveals that he's now wearing a girl's school uniform. As he screams, the last remaining crystal ball shatters and Mashiro wakes up. The nurse is standing by to explain the situation. This is the class Mashiro has to pass.

Kureha, the girl that attacked him in the dream, is nothing at all like her dream counterpart in real life, as Mashiro learns when he meets up with her outside of the infirmary. She sheds some more light on what's going on. Basically, there are five people to a "class" and each one of them has another self that's reflective of their true personality. All of them are trying to graduate by finding a "key" that's hidden inside one of the people. Around each of the five's neck is a cord with three crystal beads that shatter whenever someone's heart is injured. Once all three shatter, you've failed that day's class and you wake up.

While Mashiro manages to make friends with Kureha, it might not be so easy to do so with the rest of his special classmates. Included among the other five is Sou, a guy Mashiro has a highly antagonistic relationship with. Sou seems to be able to sense that there is something not entirely masculine about Mashiro, which both alarms and angers Mashiro. Though Sou seems outwardly dismissive and causally cruel to Mashiro, what lurks beneath that cold exterior is a dark obsession with the other "boy".

Now Mashiro must continue on with these special classes and somehow manage to not only confront his own issues, but those of the others in his class if he wants a chance of succeeding and graduating from these nightmares.

Comments
I haven't been this blown away by a first volume of a series in a long time. There's almost a slight Utena-ish feel to the series, in the presentation and in that there are a lot of shades of gray in this first volume alone. Mashiro seems outwardly kind and gentle, but through his insistence upon being nothing but a boy, you begin to realize that he's subconsciously using Kureha to assert his masculinity. This is not to say that he doesn't care about her, but she's also a way to hide from truths he doesn't want to face. Kureha as well seems to be falling for Mashiro not just because he's nice and sweet, but because with his body the way it is, she doesn't feel threatened by him like she would another boy. Sou is also a real piece of work. Judging by his dream-self, he feels the need to overcompensate defensively. He's also not only content with attacking Mashiro, but must humiliate him as well.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their flaws, the cast remains engaging and interesting. I might not like all the things these three do--especially Sou--but I can't help but be fascinated by them. And with the production values on this book being as high as they are, this is definitely not a "sit and read" title. It's a "must buy" title.



Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Go! Comi
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-933617-16-0
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Afterschool Nightmare