Many fine books are coming out tomorrow, according to this week’s ComicList, but you must forgive me if I fixate on one to the neglect of the others.
Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi) concludes with its tenth volume, and it’s easily one of the best shôjo manga ever to be published in English and probably one of the best manga to be published in English, period. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, it’s about an intersex high-school student; Ichijo has been raised as a boy, but he has female genitalia. He’s enrolled in a “special class” where sleeping students, every one of them as conflicted as Ichijo, struggle against one another to find a “key” that will allow them to “graduate.”
That’s a lot of quote marks, but they’re intended to represent the story’s absorbing ambiguity instead of sarcasm. I thought Mizushiro’s X-Day (Tokyopop) was primarily noteworthy for its unfulfilled promise. Her talents were evident, but she kept the gloves on as she executed an intriguingly volatile premise. The gloves are off with After School Nightmare, and Mizushiro’s portrayals of adolescent uncertainty are scathing as often as they are sentimental.
The series centers on one of the most credibly constructed love triangles I’ve ever seen in fiction. Ichijo is torn between a deceptively fragile girl named Kureha and a deceptively aggressive boy named Sou. Romantic indecision often annoys me, especially when the fulcrum of the triangle is merely forestalling a difficult but inevitable choice. Mizhushiro develops each character so well and cuts Ichijo so little slack (seriously, the creator is brutal to her protagonist) that the triangle ends up mesmerizing instead of irritating.
Seriously, if you like shôjo manga and haven’t read it, now is your chance to wallow in it from beginning to end. If you don’t like shôjo manga but enjoy elegant, emotionally volatile storytelling about characters that resonate, do yourself a favor and make an exception.
And now for a few more highlights from the week: