Title: After School Nightmare volume 1
Author: Setona Mizushiro
Publisher: Go! Comi
Imagine yourself as a freshman in high school, all the girls are falling for your mysterious looks. You can’t walk down the hallway without groups of cuties chatting about you in anxious whispers. You can have any one of these girls except one morning you’re taking a shower and have your first…period. Such is the life of Ichijo Mashiro, the first hermaphaditic manga character I’ve ever been introduced to.
Mashiro goes to a very special school. He/she realizes that someone mysteriously vanishes every so often and that no one notices until much after the fact. One day after school Mashiro is approached by the school nurse who explains that all students must complete a “special” course in order to graduate. Not having a choice, Mashiro follows the lady to the basement infirmary, unaware the school even had a basement. Here he encounters a room with draped beds on both sides and is instructed to sit. Here he encounters his first after school nightmare…
After his first class, he is informed he must come once a week after school to experience his worst nightmare. He and several of his classmates are to meet in this nightmare and look for the “key.” This key is the way out of the nightmare and graduation. Students are instructed to do whatever necessary to find this key, even killing. Each student wears a necklace with three beads. Every time the person receives emotional or physical damage, a bead breaks. Once all three beads break, the nightmare is over and you are to come back the following week to experience it all over again. In this nightmare, the person does not assume their true form but what their soul looks like. Mashiro, unaware whether he is a boy or girl appears in his normal school attire but with a skirt on the lower half of his body.
After his first nightmare, Mashiro meets Kureha, the girl from the dream who stabbed him to death with an umbrella. He soon finds out her traumatic past that has led her to mistrust all men and that memory which she is forced to endure every class. Kureha however figured out that Mashiro is indeed half-woman so she feels comfortable around him and soon they are the most gossiped couple in school. Mashiro also bumps into Sou, a man with a heart of steel who sleeps with fellow classmates for fun in the nursing room. Sou is rumored to be the black night in the after school nightmare and figures not all is right down there in Mashiro’s pants. After being paired for after school duties, Sou decides to make a move on Mashiro.
After School Nightmare presents an unsettling mix of yaoi and yuri. Mashiro, who is half man, half female on the bottom is in the middle of a future love triangle with Kureha and Sou. Kureha and Mashiro of course being part/all female and Sou and Mashiro being part/all male. Being the straight male that I am, yaoi pretty much freaks me out and when I see Sou leaning over for the kill I can’t help but cringe. I can’t even take comfort in “lesbian” relationship between Mashiro and Kureha because Mashiro is half male and that’s just not hot.
However, the strength of After School Nightmare is not in the yaoi or yuri? battle but in the artwork. I was previously introduced to Setona Mizushiro with the now out of print manga X-Day from Tokyopop. X-Day is a shojo style series regarding three children and a teacher who meet in an online forum and decide to blow up the school. After School Nightmare retains the same shojo style characters in a nightmarish world. One of the most intriguing characters in the “nightmare” world is the girl with a hole in her face. Mashiro soon learns her true identity and the face that the girl lost after realizing she spent her whole life living up to other’s expectations. She now has no idea who she is once free from entrance exam pressures.
After School Nightmare is definitely one of the more unique manga series I’ve bumped into. If I didn’t find out this was from the same author as X-Day or recommended it, I doubt that I would’ve ever picked up this series from the shelf. Not that I read any yaoi or doujinshi, but I highly doubt anyone has released a story starring a hermaphrodite in the states at least. The yaoi scenes do disturb me and this may impair me in new volumes in the future. I have already decided to check out volume 2 but if the yaoi scenes become stronger I will have to axe this series. Currently I am excited to see how Mashiro exits this nightmare world.