Manga-ka: Kumiko Suekane
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: June 2011
Synopsis: “Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) Leader of France during the first French Empire. Became known as a hero for his victories as a general and went on to seize absolute control of the state in a coup d’état. As emperor, Napoleon’s rule spanned almost all of Europe, but opposition to his rule grew widespread after his army suffered a bitter defeat by the cruel Russian winter, leading to his eventual seizure and exile. Even then, Napoleon managed to return to power for a time, only to be exiled once again. He died on Saint Helena Island. “
It’s an interesting feature that Viz Media uses biographies in place of a synopsis for this series. It means everything about that particular volume is a surprise going in. This third volume probably isn’t the best example though with confirmation of a plot twist painfully apparent since volume one. There’s a fine line between trying to keep a secret and actually keeping it, something all too clear when Afterschool Charisma’s over emphasis of Shiro’s existence initially leaves little to be shocked by in this book’s opening chapter.
Thankfully the reactions to Shiro’s newly theorized origins are much more engaging than the fact itself. Mozart in particular reacts enthusiastically to the discovery and clings to Shiro in a way that can only really be interpreted as him just being a jerk. His level of crazy makes him someone you wouldn’t want to imagine dealing with in real life but at the same time Mozart’s self-destructive personality says a lot about what the clones are going through psychologically. The appearance of a child-aged Marie-Curie brings a new level of innocence to the story as well that is quickly taken advantage of.
Mental anguish and existential discussion are quick to take a backseat to actual events however. The clones are all finishing up presentations for the upcoming event where they showcase themselves to sponsors and potential buyers. At the same time a group of clone assassins are still out there plotting their next move. The convenience of a huge gathering of clone students isn’t lost on the organizers and everyone’s on red alert. Yet, as always seems to be the case, there’s more danger inside than out. The unnerving headmaster takes his creepy factor to a whole new and disturbing level. Never was it more evident that clones really are disposable and it succeeded in leaving a pit in my stomach as I read through. Despite the horrific nature of the clones’ existence, I really found myself feeling for Shiro more than anyone. As the main character he’s doing a good job giving us someone to empathize with and I can only imagine how horrifying this would all be to live through.
The big drama of this volume is literally explosive and suffice to say the clone expo does not go well. Much as I loved a whole lot of stuff happening though, it also starts what could easily become a mess. Clones, clones and more clones. No surprise really, but I fear how needlessly complicated the artist could try and make the story to try and make things more ‘edgy’. As chaos erupts and clones flee for their lives, some come face to face with, well, very familiar faces. Not all meetings go as well as others. Actually, very few go well and it’s actually a bit disorienting having things suddenly get so violent. Interesting and suspenseful, but disorienting all the same.
This third volume of Afterschool Charisma may be my favourite of the series so far. I liked how the first one set up the story, and how the second one started foreshadowing its darker elements. In turn, volume three takes all that and punches you in the gut with it. I’m a little concerned about where it’s going to go from here though – will it get ridiculous with clones coming out of every nook and cranny? Will everyone sit around angsting all the time? Will Shiro just become another Shinji? None the less, it’s too exciting having things happen at such a brisk pace all of a sudden that I’m too eager to read what happens next to spend too much time worrying about it. Send in the clones!
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Book bought from Gamezilla