The Manga Moveable Feast, in a fairly last-minute vote this month, has taken on Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare as its subject for September. The series, published in ten volumes by the now-defunct Go!Comi, was nominated for an Eisner award in 2007.
I reviewed volume one back in July of last year, and though I enjoyed the first volume very much, I was fairly stunned by how the series developed over the course of its full run. The story focuses heavily on gender identity and self-esteem, using horror devices in ways I’ve rarely found so interesting.
Here are some quotes from my review of the first volume:
Everybody has some kind of secret, though Ichijo Mashiro’s is bigger than most: he was born with a male upper body and a female lower body, something he has successfully kept from his peers for his entire life. Unfortunately, this secrecy can’t last once his school enrolls him in a special after-hours “class” in which he is placed into a shared nightmare with other students. In the nightmare, the students are reduced to their “true forms,” revealing their worst fears and deepest wounds to each other …
The issues of gender identification and sexuality addressed in the series are really compelling overall, though it’s hard to tell at this point just what the author is trying to say about them. It is clear that Ichijo associates being male with strength and being female with weakness which is a significant part of why he is so determined to live as male, but his ideas are being challenged from all sides which is terrifying for him but quite thrilling for the reader.
… The emotional intimacy forced upon them during the dreams really is every teen’s nightmare and though the full implications of that have yet to be explored, it’s something I’m anticipating eagerly as a reader. There is so much rich material here to work with, I can only hope the series follows through.
My response after having read the entire series? In short: It does.
I hope to have something new to offer for the Feast before the month is out, but whether I do or not, readers should head over to host Sean Gaffney’s blog, A Case Suitable For Treatment for both an introduction to the series and links to participants’ contributions!