Review: After School Nightmare

After School Nightmare
by Setona Mizushiro
Rated OT for Older Teens (16+)
Go!Comi, $10.99

After School Nightmare is a coming-of-age manga that plays with your head, but in a good way.

Ichijo Mashiro is male from the waist up but female from the waist down. He has lived all his life as a boy, but as the book opens, his first period has just arrived. As he starts to deal with this new development, the school nurse appears and tells him he will have to take a special class in order to graduate. It’s a course in nightmares: He and his fellow students participate in shared dreams in which they appear in grotesque forms that reflect their hidden selves.

In the dreams, Ichijo’s classmates are figures straight out of a Surrealist painting: a girl with big holes where her face and heart should be, an empty suit of armor, a long, snaking arm with a grasping hand on the end. Unfortunately, these are stock characters with predictable backstories, and in the first volume, nobody makes much progress in the dreams. Watching Ichijo try to reconcile his dream experiences with waking reality is what makes this book interesting: Several of his classmates now know his deepest, most horrifying secret, and he knows theirs, but they still have to show up in class as if nothing happened. This being manga, an uneven love triangle is the result. And there are hints dropped along the way that someone is manipulating things behind the scenes.

After School Nightmare deals with gender issues in a more sophisticated way than most manga. Ichijo isn’t just dressing as a boy to get onto the tennis team; he really believes that men are stronger and more independent than women, and that’s how he wants to be. Yet he can’t escape from his body: In his dreams, he’s wearing a skirt. He begins to develop a romantic relationship with a classmate, Kureha Fujishima, who has a deep trauma of her own that causes her to hate men. On the surface their relationship looks like typical shoujo-manga stuff, but obviously it’s not. Ichijo wants to fall in love with Kureha, and he protects her in the dreams, because it makes him feel like a man. The other main character is the cold, standoffish Sou, who will sleep with any girl but commit to none. The love-hate relationship between Sou and Ichijo is one of the more intriguing narrative threads in this book.

Mizushiro’s style is clean and fairly realistic, which makes the dream sequences that much more plausible. In fact, one of the really enjoyable aspects of this manga is Mitzuhiro’s ability to evoke the sensation of being in a dream. The strange logic of the story builds out from reality, so things are just a little bit off. In one of the opening sequences, Ichijo is talking to the nurse when a necklace appears on his neck, signifying that he has slipped into a dream. It’s so subtle, even he doesn’t notice. The dreamers follow specific rules that have a hallucinatory sort of logic to them, and everything about the setup is just a few ticks off from everyday life.

Good production is a given with Go!Comi titles, and the cover and inner color pages of this book are beautiful, with soft focus illustrations in pastel tones. The paper and print quality are disappointing, though: The paper is coarse and grayish, some of the fine lines get lost, and the darker tones are muddy. Fortunately, Mizushiro’s art is clean enough that it still looks good. The book opens with six pages of color plates that show off the characters and lead into the story. Extras include a page of translator’s notes, information about the manga-ka, and the obligatory page on honorifics.

After School Nightmare has a convincingly dreamlike quality that sets it apart from other manga. With elements of horror, romance, and psychological drama, it doesn’t quite fit in any genre but is an intriguing choice for the reader who likes to go beyond the surface.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher.

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Comments

  1. danielle leigh says:

    I think After School Nightmare is one of my favorite new titles of the past year….and it came at a perfect time too, since the plots of go! comi’s original three series seem to be stagnating in their recent releases (at least for me).

  2. I thought it was really creepy and intriguing. Mizushiro really seems to be living up to the potential of X-Day.

  3. I tought it was a yuri manga…
    Anyway, I´m going to read it!

  4. Mad Hatter says:

    A fantastic author. This title reaches deep inside, no pussy footing around, no cheap thrills to the core of it’s issues in a very real and sophisticated manner that commands respect and apathy. Her story consoles my soul.

  5. Mad Hatter says:

    to above: empathy

  6. Lucy De La Cruz Delgado says:

    I think that After School Nightmare is a super manga! All that I want to know is what is going to happen next! n_n O.o

  7. faceless background character #531 says:

    Very enthralling, it keeps you guessing. I’ve only gotten through the first three, I can’t wait to get the next one!!!

  8. I am in love with this series. At first I thought it was gonna be a bit weird but turned out it wasn’t(at least to me). I just want to get my hands on the next volume. The plot is a total killer, it’s just so real. I love it!!!^_^

  9. I’ve read the first volume only so far but I can say this: I’m already addicted!

  10. Giving Shoujo a Try says:

    I picked up a copy at a bookstore. I love it! I’m a straight guy, and this is my first Yuri book AND my first Yaoi book EVER. Does anyone happen to know what it is called in Japanese? I heard the English title wasn’t a direct translation.

  11. How many books are there?

  12. I read the first 7 volumes, but i left the 6th!
    I’m a little confused, because in the 5th volume [SPOILER!!!!]…………Ichijo loved Kureha and in the 7th, Kureha is with Sou!??????? WTF!??? And Ichijo is changing into a woman!????? help!………….[SPOILER ENDS HERE].

    But I LOVE IT! I so much want to read the next volumes!!!!!

  13. I am a big fan of After School Nightmare and I have go! comi to thank for bringing such an excellent title to the U.S.
    Sou is my favorite character and I really would love to see him going all the way with Mashiro. What I like is that Mashiro is confused about his/her sexuality but I truly believe that it is Sou who he really wants and not Kureha.
    To tell the truth, I never liked Kureha. I cannot help but think that she has a hidden agenda.
    I read five volumes so far and I am so looking forward to the next one in January. I cannot wait. :(

  14. Yaoilover11 says:

    What is After School Nightmare? Is it yaoi yuri or normal or Yaural

  15. [After School Nightmare could be considered yaoi, yuri, or het…it depends on your perspective. However, that shouldn’t deter anyone from reading it. Definitely deeper than the average cheesy romance manga.]

    Although the main character tends to angst way more than necessary, I agree completely that his/her situation is handled with brilliant sophistication that seems to be lacking so much in too many shojo titles. I’ve only got my hands on the first four volumes[will search for the last four on Google, which is, by the way, legal, because it’s good enough to put forth effort into reading it]. The relationships are very complex and realistic, none of this instant-love crap. At first the characters seem to be cookie-cutter from most romantic dramas and yaoi, but the dream world allows the reader to delve deeper into who they really are. When Kureha is introduced, she comes off as stupid and innocent, but is so much darker than that — and became the first “happy-happy-joy-joy” type that I could connect and sympathize with. Suo comes off as another Bad Ass Type that tends to get old fast, yet shows bursts of actual human-qualities that make him more…real than most Semes. Annnnnd, of course Ichigo is an Uke, but one that kicks ass. Haha.

    Argh. Rambling, sorry. Highly recommended title, if you can stomach the gore.

  16. I really enjoy ASN. It’s amazing really. It’s realistic, funny, romantic, angsty, and above all, addictive. I’m on volume 8, and I can’t wait for the last two volumes to come out! I really love the covers of volumes 3, 6, and 8. And what’s best, no insta-love. YUCK.

    I’m not to fond of Ai though. She seems a bit…out there. XD

    My favorite parts of the story usually involve either Kureha’s fear/hate of men or finding out everyone’s dream self. It’s so…amazing!!

    I recommend this series, but I should warn you. I’ve gotten quite a few of my friends into ASN, but…by the third volume, the blood and guts scared ‘em away. XD

  17. I started reading a couple of chapters. Pretty good. There’s a dark, mysterious theme and style in here. I’m not crazy about the art though.

  18. I just finished the last volume about a couple days ago.
    Wow.
    This manga blew my mind it has most definably became one of the best one I have read to date<3
    IchijoxMizushiro Forever!


Trackbacks

  1. […] After School Nightmare, Vol. 1 (Go! Comi) Audition, Vol. 1 (DramaQueen) Battle Royale: Ultimate Edition, Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) Chikyu Misaki, Vols. 1-3 (CMX) Gerard & Jacques, Vol. 1 (BLU Manga) Hate to Love You; Yakuza in Love, Vol. 1 (Aurora/Deux) Jyu-Oh-Sei, Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) Kiichi and the Magic Books, Vols. 1-2 (CMX) Kurogane, Vol. 1 (Del Rey) Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vols. 1-2 (Dark Horse) Murder Princess, Vol. 1 (Broccoli Books) MW (Vertical, Inc.) Ohikkoshi (Dark Horse) Song of the Hanging Sky, Vol. 1 (Go! Comi) Suppli, Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) Tokyo Is My Garden (Fanfare/Ponent Mon) Travel (PictureBox) […]