Title: Afterschool Charisma
Author: Kumiko Suekane (Blood+ Adagio)
Publisher: Viz Media, on their Viz Signature Sig IKKI imprint (which means you can preview the comic on their SigIKKI website)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan in Japan, June 15 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Hm…high school drama, some comedy, a dash of science fiction. It’s rated for older teens for some nudity and suggestiveness. And maybe for when Einstein feels up Shiro.
Ah, Afterschool Charisma, a truly intriguing title. St. Kleio Academy is no ordinary school. This private academy is home to clones of famous historical figures. That’s right, teenaged Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Sigmund Freud, Mozart, Florence Nightingale…these famous clones and many more all attend school together. There’s only one exception – Shiro Kamiya, son of a school professor, is the only non-clone attending the school. As such, he’s a bit of an outcast, and many of the clones view him with resentment. As a normal human, Shiro gets to choose his own destiny, but the clones are only taught to emulate their originals. Mozart must compose music, Marie Curie must be a scientist. The first clone, a clone of John F. Kennedy, runs for President…with unfortunate effects. Clone Kennedy’s fate makes the others wonder if history is doomed to repeat itself, no matter what.
In volume one of Afterschool Charisma, Shiro Kamiya has made friends with some of the clones. He frequently hangs out with Napoleon, Freud, and Ikkyu. He also appears to be friends with Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Curie. He frequently butts heads with Mozart, as the composer views him with intense disdain. The gears of what is to come start turning early. Marie Curie begins questioning her existence, wondering why she is Marie Curie, and being forced to hide her love of music. Shiro, who has a bit of a crush on Marie, tells his father that Marie wants to study music, and Marie is sent away to a music school. At least, that’s what everyone is told; her true fate is more sinister. Things get more worrisome when clone Kennedy is assassinated at his election rally. Things get tense for the clones after that – suspicious looking soldiers move into the academy to increase security, and the school expo, where the clones will be inspected and must show off the progress of their talents, is just around the corner.
I have to say, this is a really fun book. It’s not perfect. For all the interesting story elements, there is also plenty of fan service. The girl students wear short skirts, there’s a girl’s locker room changing scene, things like that. It’s a little over done for a story like this, I think. The best part of the book is watching all the characters interact together as high school students, and seeing how Suekane has represented each of them. Florence Nightingale is compassionate and maternal, Freud is stoic and analytical, Elizabeth is outspoken. But Napoleon is a mediator, and Hitler is benevolent. That’s right – Adolf Hitler is kind, caring, and friendly…but there’s something in his eyes that’s a little soulless and creepy.
The clones are being groomed to be like their originals. If they don’t meet those expectations, they may be disposed of (like Marie Curie) and remade. But none of them really understand why they’re being raised this way. Elizabeth wonders what kingdom she’s supposed to rule, and Napoleon notes there is no army for him to lead and that there is no place for an army like Napoleon’s in this era. Yet Mozart is literally going insane trying to compose his music. It’s a little unclear if he’s simply trying to recreate or simply expand upon what his original created, or if he’s unable to create anything new, though it’s mentioned in the book that they are expected to excel beyond their originals. And with Kennedy’s repeat of history, many of the clones are worried about falling to similar fates as their originals – Napoleon jokingly muses about being poisoned, but Joan of Arc is seriously terrified of being burned as a witch. Elizabeth, in a lighter manner, is simply worried about dying an old maid.
Viz has printed another good looking book. The cover is very nice, and the translation appears fairly solid with just a couple exceptions where the dialog was a bit confusing. Deb at About.com mentioned this, and I completely agree – there needs to be some liner notes at the back telling the reader who all the historical figures are. There’s at least three or four I don’t recognize at all, though the rest are fairly prominent and obvious. The ones I don’t recognize may be more recognizable in Japan, which is, after all, the original audience, but I had no idea that Ikkyu was a Japanese Zen Buddhist. It doesn’t have to be much, just simply saying…well, what I just said about Ikkyu. Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen of England and ruled from 1558-1603. Hitler was the Supreme Commander (well, technically Chancellor) of Nazi Germany in WWII. Just little one-liners like that would be enough, and very useful. Shiro gets a little bio blurb on the inside cover, so maybe all the main characters will in future volumes…but that doesn’t do me any good in volume 1. Viz is usually pretty good about that sort of thing, but they dropped the ball here.
This has the potential to be a really fun and interesting title, so I recommend at least stopping by SigIKKI.com to check it out. Personally…it’s going on my pull list.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.