Upcoming 1/21/2009

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.

After School Nightmare Vol. 10

"After School Nightmare" Vol. 10

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:

  • Black Jack vol. 3 (Vertical): Classic Tezuka craziness. You can’t go wrong.
  • Gantz vol. 3 (Dark Horse): I think I must not have made myself clear the last time I wrote about this series. What I meant to say was that I find the series entertaining in a sick, voyeuristic way, though I refuse to acknowledge that it’s in anyway mature in its sensibility. It’s shônen with viscera and nipples, but it’s certainly a kick.
  • Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine (Viz): A culinary sampler from the long-running food manga. The next Flipped column looks at in more depth.
  • Real Vol. 3 (Viz): Takehiko Inoue’s genius series about wheelchair basketball. Easily one of the best debuts of 2008.
  • 6 Responses to Upcoming 1/21/2009

    1. […] Welsh looks at this week’s new releases, but he’s fixated on one book: The final volume of After School […]

    2. Danielle Leigh says:

      When are we going to have a group discussion aka therapy session about the series and/or series finale? Something must be done! For the sake of the children!

    3. davidpwelsh says:

      One of my sisters shares a lot of my tastes in prose, which coincidentally run to, shall we say, seasoned authors. So she makes a practice of not reading their most recent books, so if the author passes away, she’ll still have one more to read. It’s kind of ghoulish and not entirely relevant, but I think there’s a certain wisdom to it.

    4. Danielle Leigh says:

      Is this your gentle way of saying no autopsy on the series? Which I certainly understand but I think emotionally I feel this. book. must. be. discussed.! (Obviously, we don’t have to do that here ;-))

    5. davidpwelsh says:

      Oh, not at all! Discussed it must be, clearly.

      And at least we still have Your and My Secret for gender-bending shojo crack. I was kind of hoping Otomen would back it up, but… not so much.

    6. Danielle Leigh says:

      Here, I tried to say something about the last volume of ASN here:

      Don’t know if it makes sense…on the other hand, the series itself never really had any internal consistency so I’m not sure why my review would either!

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