Things are heating up in both worlds! Determined to prove himself a guy, Mashiro goes the distance to win Kureha. But will the new power of their bond survive the most shocking revelation so far – the true identity of the malevolent knight?


By Setona Mizushiro
Publisher: Go Comi
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama/Gender-Bender
Price: $10.99 (OOP)
Rating: ★★★★½
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I’ve had this volume of After School Nightmare for a while, and this MMF has finally given me incentive to read it. Despite all the good things I’d heard about the series, I didn’t think it would interest me. I dont’ care much for gender-bending titles, so the whole premise of a guy with girl parts and his problems with dealing with it didn’t sound intriguing at all. But, after reading this volume, which is at the half-way point of the story, I actually am intrigued with both the characters and the story.

After School Nightmare is about Ichiro Mashiro. His body is half male and half female. His school has a special class, where you can strive to reach a personal goal, and when you do, your most heart-felt dream will come true. Ichiro decides he wants to become all male. By this volume, Ichiro has struggled with his identity, with Kureha, another class participant that he wants to help, and Sou, a boy, who wants Ichiro to be girl and to make him his. The volume starts wtih Ichiro rejecting Sou, after which we learn that Sou has a tragic past and some sort of problem that he believes Ichiro can some how save him from. But Ichiro’s rejection and harsh words (that are mostly true) from his sister Ai, sends Sou spiraling down and back into an incestuous relationship with Ai. On the other hand, Ichiro is convinced that becoming male is the right choice, as is not graduating from the class yet so he can protect Kureha, despite the teacher, Ai and even Kureha herself questioning his motives.

I was surprised that I enjoyed this volume. I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. What first drew me in was the characters. Ichiro made a surprisingly good lead. He seems to know just what he wants, but even that isn’t so simple. Throughout this volume he declares, mostly to himself that he wants to be a man. But it feels like every time he says it, he’s really just trying to convince himself that what he wants. It appears he’s he more in denial, and is trying to prove to himself, and everyone around him that he wants to be and is a man. But, his subconsious seems to betray him. He finds the key and could graduate and get his wish, but instead he runs away, telling himself he doesn’t want it handed to him. And then later, when Sou outright rejects him, he starts crying uncontrollably. These small scenes seem to contract Ichiro’s stated conviction that he wants to be a man. Even his going to Kureha and sleeping with her feels more forced than a revelation of his true feelings.

Sou also intrigued me in this volume. I’m guess throughout the first 4 volumes, he’s a real jerk, and this volume starts with him trying to force himself on Ichiro. For someone who claims to want Ichiro, he doesn’t go about it in the best way to win them. But that is also a realistic portrayal of the way some people are. Not everyone can or knows how to express their feelings, and it feels like that’s how Sou is. I’m also curious about how he’s broken and why he’s in the class as well. Since he is the Knight, encased in armor, I get the feeling that he’s been hurt and is trying to keep people from getting close. It must have been something serious, for him to try and get away from an incensuous relationship with his sister, only to run back to it when Ichiro rejects him. There is real complexity to these characters, and it was a real joy to read.

After School Nightmare looks to be a good series with rich characters and a well paced story. The art is well done and fits the story, with now silly faces or chibis popping in. Actually, there wasn’t a lot of humor at all. It was mostly all drama, but for this story, that is a good thing. I think I would like to revist this series and read the earlier volumes as well as to the end. I liked it’s serious tone, with no comedy relief characters and realistic look at relationships and self-discovery. Most gender-bender titles use the bending as a way to laugh at the genders or point out how silly some gender traits are, but not this title. And just for that, it’s already a better title.

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