Manga-ka: Setona Mizushiro
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2008
Synopsis: “A shocking confession clears the way for a mountain of new problems! Mashiro is finally willing to give Sou a chance, but can either of them forget Sou’s relationship with Ai? And when Kureha returns from vacation, her form in the dream world reflects an astonishing change…”
A dramatic love confession from Mashiro leaves Sou conflicted but eager to pursue, as more emotional problems work their way to the surface. While their battles of gender and forgiveness rage on, fellow student and often Mashiro-confidant, Kurosaki, deals with problems of his own as he wages a losing battle against his family’s wishes and his own sense of identity.
So many times in this volume made me stop with a perplexed, but intrigued, “Whoa… what?”. I’ve been given reason to question a few things I once thought and characters are really breaking out of their shells. Just when you think you know a person! Or people in this case.
Mashiro continues to find new ways to irritate me, and while it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the story itself, it does change my view on it; going from his/her journey of self-discovery, to being more like everyone else’s ability to deal with them. On the flipside, Kureha continues to redeem her past transgressions and has really grown as a character (and gotten on my good side because of it). Going back to school after a short visit home, she returns with some startling surprises and when she finally held the graduation key in her hand, I found myself lamenting the thought of her not being in the story any longer, when volumes back I wouldn’t have minded her absence.
On the male-side of things, Sou is also coming together as something much more than the purely laid-back, steely-eyed male lead he once was. His traumas run deep and the resulting insecurities are coming about in some brutal honesty here in volume eight. After that, a great deal of the book focuses on Kurosaki and his stress-induced breakdowns from the pressures stacked on him by his parents. May I take this moment to say I like his bodyguard, because though he works with the best interests of Kurosaki’s family company in mind, some of his simple words are the kindest that rang through this otherwise rather emotionally-wrenching instalment.
Where things may go in the next volume, I have no idea. What continues to keep me so entertained by After School Nightmare is Setona Mizushiro’s ability to keep me on my toes, always a surprise around the corner to jump out at readers just when they’re getting too comfortable. That, and will she find a way to give such an ultimately depressing, though very reflective, story a happy ending, or even a really resolved one? Eight volumes in and it’s still more than worth sticking around to find out.