Manga-ka: Setona Mizushiro
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2007
Synopsis: “This dream draws blood… Things are heating up in both worlds! Determined to prove himself as 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?”
In this volume, Mashiro continues his internal struggle over his physical body, one both male and female. Tormented by his own indecisiveness, fuelled in part by the mysterious after school dream classes he attends, Mashiro decides it’s time for his relationship with Kureha to reach the next level, seeking self-acceptance for his decision to live as a man. Sou continues his advances on Mashiro, while he himself is tormented by an even more sinister shadow in the form of his sister, and Kureha begins realizing that she wants more from Mashiro than he’s aware he’s giving her. Characters take some big steps in volume five of this psychological series. Some minor spoilers in remaining review.
There’s a lot of continuing character development in this volume, aspects of characters layered on top of what readers already knew and some creepy surprises along the way. Some turning events include the consummation of Mashiro and Kureha’s relationship and the ever-lurking sister of Sou, who takes a front row seat in the plot with eerie motives, ones that probably won’t sit well with readers (nor are they aren’t meant to). While Mashiro’s wishy-washy attitude towards his dilemma has lasted this long, it hasn’t become a tedium of the plot, boosted and ever-changing by the supporting cast.
Other characters, such as Kureha, are really beginning to blossom as characters, even if some of the ‘changes’ seem oddly unprovoked at times. It’s a nice change to see characters from different angles, even if it’s not always their best. One rather disappointing event is the revelation of the Knight’s identity. If this is indeed the true identity, it’ll come as no surprise to readers, which is a bit of a let down for something that could’ve offered a real twist to the story.
Setona Mizushiro’s artwork remains wispy and light, suiting the material in a way that layers on the drama and mood with pacing and expressive characters. One inconsistency is in the drawing of Mashiro, which at times makes the manga-ka seem as indecisive about the character’s gender as the character themselves. While sometimes Mashiro has a more feminine appearance, most often portrayed by the anatomy of the neck and profile, other times they’re drawn with such strong masculine features that for a moment readers may mistake them for a different character. In some instances, such as the dream world, this change is intentional, but when it doesn’t seem to be, it can be a tad out of place.
After some books that seemed a little slow, volume five really picks up the pace. It’s one thing after another, progressing the plot, but in the way readers of the series have come to expect. It’s not huge climatic events that move things along but instead events that change a character’s perspective, sending the story in whole new possible directions. Old mysteries still linger in the air, luring readers along this sinister and addictive path. After School Nightmare continues to showcase Setona Mizushiro’s skill at weaving stories with compelling character drama and this volume is certainly no exception.