Manga-ka: Kumiko Suekane
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2011
Synopsis: “St. Kleio Academy is a very exclusive school. To enroll, a student must be the clone of a historical figure. Wolfgang Mozart, Queen Elizabeth, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Adolf Hitler – with such a combustible student body, it’s only a matter of time before the campus explodes! – Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) – British nurse who made tremendous contributions to the modern nursing system.”
The violence and dark drama of volume three really surprised me, and to my surprise yet again, volume four has taken things a step even further. More characters lose their lives in the attack against St. Kleio Academy and more come face to face with other clones. As the previous generation of clones goes up against their newest incarnations, their individual motivations are a mystery. Some feel they’re doing them a favour, others seek their salvation. The big questions remain – who brought all these clones together and what is their true goal? And what does that mean for the survivors?
No element of this story proves more unnerving to me than the school’s Principal. This guy is a real piece of work. He talks pretty words in front of investors but makes it no secret in front of his students that he sees clones as disposable means to his own ends. His words are harsh and that he says them with a smile on his face makes him as terrifying as he is despicable. One particular line in the book really stood out, both as a sign of this man’s disturbing personality and a translation choice that I didn’t expect: “…I take great pleasure in watching clones write in agony. Just the sight of it makes me want to come.” Yikes.
It’s still tricky distinguishing some characters apart, only partially forgivable in a story about clones. A series of similar faces make distinguishing characters difficult when a panel isn’t clearly showing their hair or outfit and this for people who aren’t ‘the same’. Fortunately both these physical elements are used to make the clones themselves distinct from one another, with exception perhaps of Shiro’s but that seems intentional.
While we learned Shiro was a clone last time, in this volume he struggles to accept it as reality. When once he spoke of seeing clones as equals, he being the only ‘normal’ one in a school of clones he considers friends, now his outcries of denial paint a much more bleak, yet honest, side of him. We learn, what we can only assume, is most of what there is to know about his ‘originator’ but I’m fascinated by why such a cloning decision was made and how many times it’s been done.
The fates and reactions of the other characters is hit or miss with me. Joan of Arc – who I didn’t feel especially attached to, earned my sympathies in spades here as the story holds back no punches setting wheels in motion at her expense. Mozart caught me off-guard the most. He’s a character I was leaning towards really disliking but here he bears his soul in light of the tragedy that befalls the school. While I’m still not sure what he’s really thinking, I find myself finally wanting to know.
A disappointment of mine is Hitler. While I harbour no sympathy for his predecessor, he of all the characters seemed the most poised to set an example that your life isn’t dictated by your genetics. Unfortunately in this volume it becomes apparent that he’s spiraling downwards and it doesn’t look good.
Freud remains the rock of the story, despite the fact it feels more grounded to Shiro. Freud has been actively researching the existence of his fellow clones, questioning motives and always seems the most supportive to everyone. Short comics at the end of the book also make him the most amusing character, playing off the attributes of the original Freud. He’s easily my favourite character but, in a story like Afterschool Charisma, any character could just as easily be the next causality of a point being made, a vendetta being carried out or the victim of a dangerous change of heart.
This fourth volume of Afterschool Charisma is the messy in between period as the attack on the school comes to a close and the students slowly start coping with the event. With so much now on the line and many, many questions being asked by all, I’m really eager to read the next volume and find about more about who is really do what around this place and why.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures