Tuesday, February 17, 2009

After School Nightmare (manga, vol. 5) by Setona Mizushiro

Mashiro tells Sou that he's chosen Kureha. Sou, who's more hurt by Mashiro's decision than he lets on, leaves and runs into his sister. Sou's sister has always been against Sou's interest in Mashiro, and now we find out why (or at least, I found out why - those who got to read the earlier volumes may already have known) - apparently, Sou and his sister have an incestuous relationship (one which seems to deeply upset Sou). Mashiro does his best to be a perfect boyfriend for Kureha, but he's brought to tears not long after Sou tells him that he's no longer interested in him. Sou even tells his sister that he's over Mashiro. That's all well and good, but Sou's sister is not dumb. She knows that Mashiro's presence hurts Sou, so she tries to helps Mashiro find a key during one of the special classes. Although the key would allow Mashiro to graduate and finally become the man he always dreamed of being, he chooses not to use it so that he can stay with Kureha. In the meantime, Mashiro experiences more difficulties with Kureha when she lets him know that his chaste and princely behavior is no longer enough for her. Mashiro proves his manliness by sneaking over to Kureha's room and sleeping with her.

As with volume 4, I need to begin by saying that I have yet to read volumes 2 and 3 - keep this in mind if it looks like something I'm writing seems to be wrong or incomplete.

After this volume, I've got a little better understanding of why Sou acts the way he does. His family life is less than ideal, what with having his older sister for a lover (he seems both pliable and unwilling - it's very messed up) and a mother who doesn't know anything about what's going on. I wonder how Mashiro would've reacted if Sou had managed to tell him about the situation with his sister. The way Mashiro acts, he might have decided to choose Sou out of pity. There are times when it seems as though the only reason Mashiro stays with Kureha is because being with her looks manly, and Kureha is the only girl who wouldn't mind Mashiro's gender issues. Mashiro never seems to make decisions for the right reasons.

I was surprised that Mashiro was so shocked at the revelation that the knight in the special class is Sou - I had assumed that the knight was Sou since the first volume, and I had thought that Mashiro knew his identity, too. I know that my guesses and assumptions for this series haven't always been correct, so I suppose I shouldn't have assumed that the knight and Sou were the same person, especially since I guessed wrong for the identity of Sou's sister. Oh, well.

The revelation about the relationship between Sou and his sister came as much more of a shock to me. I knew that Sou was probably damaged in some way, because his attitude towards sex and the girls he dated was so empty and indifferent, but I hadn't expected this. I think that if I had gotten to read volumes 2 and 3, I might feel differently, since certain parts indicate that Sou has actually talked about his sister with Mashiro before. However, with the limited knowledge that I've got, this is especially shocking. I always thought she was just overprotective in a sisterly sort of way. Eww.

I was not quite as shocked, but still surprised, when Mizushiro and Kureha slept together. Actually, I wasn't sure that Kureha would ever want to have sex, since she still has nightmares about the rape she endured as a child. The parts where Kureha pressured Mashiro to be more passionate in his physical affection felt a little out of character to me. Then again, as I've already mentioned, I missed a couple volumes - who knows what kind of growing Kureha's been doing during that time. I continued to be a bit upset that Mashiro seems to be going along with this relationship with Kureha because he feels it's something he has to do. I'm sure that he likes Kureha, but when it comes to passion, all he's doing is immitating the things that Sou did with him.

Overall, this wasn't my favorite volume (my "ick" reaction to incest storylines tends to be too great for that), but I didn't think it was a bad volume. I loved that Mizushiro revealed so many interesting things about different characters, and Kureha's behavior with Mashiro, although stronger than I expected, had the benefit of moving the plot forward.

As far as extras go, there's author sidebar notes and sketches (early Sou and early Mashiro!) and a page of translator's notes.

I've been having some difficulty coming up with read-alikes/watch-alikes for this series. The only read-alike/watch-alike below that I'm truly confident about is Loveless.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Loveless (anime TV series); Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga - Twelve-year-old Ritsuka's life isn't very normal - his older brother died not too long ago, his mother is physically abusive, and a strange 19-year-old man named Soubi has shown up, claiming to have known his brother. Soubi says he is Ritsuka's Fighter, while Ritsuka is a Sacrifice. Ritsuka slowly comes to understand what this means, as he learns to battle other Fighter-Sacrifice pairs who may be able to lead him to knowledge about his brother's death. Those who'd like another story with mystery, twisted relationships, and emotionally damaged characters might enjoy this title.
  • When They Cry - Higurashi (anime TV series); Higurashi no Naku Koroni (manga) by Seventh Expansion and many different artists - Keiichi is a transfer student who has moved to a small and seemingly peaceful village, where he befriends several pretty girls. Life seems good, until he uncovers the village's dark secret - every year, during the Watanagashi festival, one person dies and another goes missing. As Keiichi investigates this mystery, it becomes evident that his new friends may have a part in the deaths and disappearances. Those who'd like another story that starts off relatively normal on the surface and gradually becomes stranger and darker may enjoy this title. This is horror of the blood-curdling (and bloody) "I'm afraid to turn off the lights" sort, rather than the more psychological horror of After School Nightmare, so it may not appeal to all fans of After School Nightmare.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - This is the first book in Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, set in an alternate history where vampires, werewolves and more are now a (sometimes uncomfortable) part of society. Anita Blake is a vampire executioner, an animator (she can raise the dead), and a consultant to the police on all things supernatural. In this first book, someone's killing innocent vampires, and, although Anita's killed her share of vampires, she does her best to find the killer. Those who'd like a story that at times deals with the problems that result when someone tries to be someone they're not might enjoy this series. The various somewhat dysfunctional relationships in this series crop up after the first few books and become more important as the series progresses. A warning, however - there is some very explicit sex in this series, especially in later volumes.

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