Shannon, here – Halloween is my favourite holiday and to honour it I’m counting down 13 manga throughout the month that I think best capture the Halloween spirit. They aren’t all horror manga, as to me Halloween is about more than scares: it’s about a sense of fun and wonder. It’s about discovering that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. So with that in mind, there’s everything on this list from action-packed shounen to romantic-comedy to children’s manga to some lock-the-doors-and-leave-the-lights-on horror.(See all 13 Days of Halloween so far…)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
12. After School Nightmare
After School Nightmare may not seem like an obvious Halloween-time manga. There are no ghosts or goblins, no monsters lurking in the shadows. In After School Nightmare the boogeyman isn’t in your closet, but in your mind, right under your skin: The boogeyman is you. In this gender-bending shoujo horror (which is quite possibly the best sub-genre of anything ever) the characters have to deal with their worst nightmares, literally.
Mashiro Ichijo is a normal high-school boy…almost. While Mashiro has the build and upper body of a young man, down below he’s actually female. One day Mashiro is enrolled in a strange class by the school nurse. In this class Mashiro and other students dream and meet up in a shared nightmare. In the dreams the students take on forms that reflect their inner struggles. Mashiro wears a girl’s uniform in the dreams which is pretty mild compared to some forms the other kids take, like a girl who has huge holes through her head and torso. In the dreams the students must compete and even fight each other in order to ‘graduate.’
A big appeal of Halloween is that it gives you a chance to dress however you want and be something completely different from usual. October 31st is the one day of the year when you can dress like a Mexican wrestler, or a bearded lady from the circus, or a two-headed monster, and not be the weird one at a party. The shared dreams in After School Nightmare have a similar atmosphere. It’s the one place where the students get to show an aspect of themselves that they otherwise keep hidden. The forms they take on in the dreams (a little girl, a shining knight, a paper giraffe, a gaggle of grabbing, clinging hands) are who they really are. It’s their school uniforms that are the costumes.
Of course, the main difference between a Halloween party and a session in the dream world is that a Halloween party is generally a good time for all while the dream classes are traumatic, full of blood, and end in tears (if that’s the way your parties usually go, then perhaps hosting parties is not for you). But there’s still enough of a link in my mind to make After School Nightmare good Halloween reading.
You can read Lissa’s reviews of After School Nightmare volumes five, seven, eight and nine here. Also worth checking out is September’s Manga Moveable Feast, which collects various blog posts concerning After School Nightmare.