Thursday, February 19, 2009

After School Nightmare (manga, vol. 6) by Setona Mizushiro

Although Mashiro has finally slept with Kureha, it hasn't completely fixed the problems in their relationship. While Mashiro is still trying to figure things out, he goes to another special class session and meets a new student, a girl who appears as a mermaid and is confined to a wheelchair in the waking world. Mashiro does his best to rescue her, and the girl repays his attempt to play hero by killing him for the key within him so that she can graduate. After the special class session, things become even more strained between Mashiro and Kureha, and Mashiro starts skipping school in order to avoid her and everyone else. In the next special class session, Kureha gives Mashiro one last chance. Although he tries to keep her and prove that he really cares for her, but his dream body won't let him lie, and Mashiro and Kureha are finally over as a couple.

Mashiro begins skipping the special classes and hangs out with a wallflower of a girl named Ohara, not realizing that Ohara is also a student in the special class who is skipping in order to spend time with him. Ohara is the one who appears in the special class as the grabbing hands, and she knows something that Mashiro doesn't, that special class students will disappear if they miss more than three class sessions. Unable to deal with the jealous and lonely part of herself that wants to hang onto those around her, Ohara decides to let herself disappear, but before she goes she leaves Mashiro a gift, one of her school uniforms. Meanwhile, Mashiro is upset because he thinks Sou and Kureha may have become a couple, and he's sure he can't compete with Kureha in girly perfection.

I keep wondering how long it's going to take Mashiro to stop trying to save people in the special classes, since the classes are practically designed to encourage everyone to just look after themselves. This time, trying to save a classmate really backfired for Mashiro, and it seems he's finally starting to realize that he has to look at the world and the people around him as a real person, and not as an ideal he hopes to become. Unfortunately, I suspect that Mashiro still has a long way to go. After all, he's moved from obsessing over Kureha and wanting her acceptance to doing the exact same thing with Sou (I suppose that's not actually anything new, since he's been obsessing over Sou since pretty much the beginning of this series).

While Mashiro seems to still be stuck in his usual pattern, Kureha appears to actually be growing. She still cares for Mashiro, but she wants a healthy and loving relationship. Mashiro can't provide that, and Kureha can no longer make herself put up with that. Although I feel kind of sorry for Mashiro, and I still feel like Kureha's sudden change in behavior towards Mashiro feels a little out of character, I was cheering for Kureha. I'm glad that someone in this manga seems to be becoming more emotionally healthy.

Ohara's story really touched me, maybe because she's one of the few special class students who has a problem that feels more... normal. Although there are people out there who'd share Sou's incest problem, there are likely far more people out there who can relate to Ohara's problem. Ohara seems like a nice girl, but she's unfortunately too shy to make new friends when he old friends start to change and leave her behind. It's sad, and I wish she could have developed beyond her problems and graduated, rather than allowing herself to disappear.

I've wondered before what happens after graduation and where students go when they disappear, and now I find myself wondering what happens to students like Ohara, who just disappear. Maybe all these students are dreaming, and the special classes are dreams within that dream - when they disappear, they wake up.

As far as extras go, there's just a page of translator's notes.

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.
  • Xxxholic (manga) by CLAMP - Watanuki is a high school student who is plagued by the ability to see spirits. One day, he meets a woman named Yuuko who can help rid him of this ability. Anybody who receives her help must pay a fair price in return, so Watanuki becomes her cook, housekeeper, and errand boy for an undetermined amount of time. Until he has worked enough to earn her help, Watanuki will continue to have to deal with his abilities, which often come in handy when Yuuko gives him special errands to run. This series includes lots of mini-stories, as Yuuko deals with clients who need her special skills and knowledge. Sometimes things turn out well for the clients, and sometimes things end badly, and, due to these experiences, Watanuki gradually grows and changes. Those who'd like another sometimes spooky, often weird manga series with high school students as main characters might like this series. As with After School Nightmare, some parts of the series can get a bit dark and involve a lot of emotional anguish.
  • The Sandman (graphic novel series) by Neil Gaiman - The first book is the series is called Preludes and Nocturnes. This series focuses mainly on Morpheus, the Sandman, a dark figure who watches over dreams and makes sure they stay separate from reality. Despite this, several of the stories in this series involve the blending of reality and dreams. Morpheus' various siblings make the occasional appearance, and they're fascinating as well. Those who'd like another character-oriented series that deals with dreams might enjoy this title. The series often takes a look at aspects of human characters' lives and personalities and how these intersect and blend with their lives in the dreaming world.
  • Alice 19th (manga) by Yuu Watase - Sixteen-year-old Alice has always felt overshadowed by her older sister Mayura, but never more so when she develops a crush on her sister's boyfriend. Not long after Alice finds a rabbit who tells her that she's been chosen to be a "Lotis Master," Alice has a big fight with her sister. As a Lotis Master, Alice's words have power, and Mayura disappears after the fight. Alice works with Kyo (Mayura's boyfriend) and others to try to find Mayura and free her from the evil that has taken her over. Those who enjoyed Ohara's part in this volume of After School Nightmare may like Alice in Alice 19th, who has a similar inability to tell the guy she likes (and just about everyone else) how she feels.

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