Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: VIZ Media (VIZ Signature)
Author: Kumiko Suekane
Genre: Graphic Novel (Ikki Comix)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Stop me if you heard this one: Sigmund Freud, Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Elizabeth walk into a classroom …
Thanks to its VIZ Signature and Ikki Comix line, VIZ Media has brought us a number of outstanding and utterly intriguing manga titles that have not failed to impress so far. Joining the lineup of already impressive titles is Volume 1 of Afterschool Charisma, a series about a High school with the most unusual student body you can imagine and the young student struggling to fit in with this class.
Afterschool Charisma is the story of Shiro Kamiya, a regular boy who is enrolled in St. Kleio Academy where his father teaches. At first glance, the academy looks like a prestigious school for the elite but at a closer inspection the student body has a very familiar appearance. You see, with the exception of Shiro, all the students in the school are clones of historical figures from different eras. Imagine sharing a classroom with clones of those who have made history and you get an idea of Shiro’s situation.
In fact, as we get to know the young man, we can see that he is close friends with the clone of French conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte, Ikkyu, who is the clone of the eccentric Japanese poet and Zen monk and is rivals with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. On top of that, Shiro also seems to have a crush on the clone of Marie Curie who is having an identity problem. You see, instead of throwing herself to science like her original, Marie likes music and has even asked to clone of Mozart to teach her how to play the piano. So talking to his father, Shiro got Marie Curie transferred to a school where she would learn music.
However, nobody has heard from Marie since but Shiro is sure that all is well with the clone. He even shares the news of her transfer with the Mozart clone who turns out to be a cruel and irritable person who makes it clear that he doesn’t care about Marie Curie or her ambitions to be a musician. After all, he says, what’s the purpose of cloning such a famous physicist and chemist if the clone wants to do something else entirely different? Worst yet, Shiro puts his hands on the composer’s clone and he reacts violently to being touched by an “ordinary human.”
Mozart isn’t the only one who gives Shiro grief over not being a clone and it is none other than Sigmund Freud who even suggests that Shiro might have daddy issues. Shiro’s rivalry with Freud isn’t as nasty as his rivalry with Mozart and that is thanks to Napoleon and Ikkyu who gets the two to bond by tossing them into the girl’s dressing room where they happen to catch the clones of Queen Elizabeth, Florence Nightingale and the Empress Dowager getting dressed
Unfortunately, there’s no patching up Shiro’s relationship with Mozart and even more so after Shiro challenges him to a fencing duel. Luckily, he has a good friend to comfort him and that person happens to be the clone of Adolph Hitler himself. As one of the most hated historical figures, Hitler’s clone is – surprisingly enough – a gentle pacifist who is immediately accepting of Shiro’s presence at the school from Day One. In fact, the Hitler clone sees himself as an outside just like Shiro and even comforts his new friend by giving him a charm he made of the Almighty Dolly (which was the first mammal successfully cloned).
The interesting parts comes when the students watch history in the making when the clone of John F. Kennedy not announces that he will be running for President of the United States just like his original but is also assassinated just like the original. Smelling something not quite right about all this, Freud opens up his own investigation that leads him to believe that clones are being targeted for murder. While Freud digs deeper, Shiro makes a discovery of his own thanks to an invitation by Albert Einstein. There’s a secret society of worshippers of the Almighty Dolly on campus that includes Joan of Arc, Adolph Hitler as well as the clones of Rasputin and Queen Himiko.
On top of that, there seems to be a conspiracy involving Shiro’s father as well as a shady group that issued a warning that the lives of other clones will be in danger. The trouble with Afterschool Charisma is the pacing that is a tad too slow and the art, while serviceable, isn’t too original. Still, this being a school filled with clones of historical figures from around the globe, the possibilities of interesting new characters popping up throughout the course of this series is exciting. The characters already introduced, like Florence Nightingale and even – I hate to say this – Adolph Hitler, are likeable as they are intriguing.
What we have in Afterschool Charisma is more than just a promising series with an interesting cast but a realm of possibilities that, hopefully, will take center stage in other volumes. As is, Volume 1 does impress but thanks to a slow pace it doesn’t immediately grab its reader. We’re hoping the next volumes will really get to the heart of the matter because we are definitely keeping an eye on this one.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Shiro Kamiya is just an ordinary student at St. Kleio Academy where all the student body is made up of the clones of geniuses, madmen and history’s most notable people that include the likes of Joan of Arc and Florence Nightingale. When the clone of John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Shiro and many of the clones at his school think that a group is killing off clones.
Suekane-sensei’s art is actually decent enough, although it’s not too original. Still, the characters do stand out nicely and – for those who care for it – there’s some fan service that comes off refreshingly odd considering the historical figures involved.
Volume 1 of Afterschool Charisma proves to be an intriguing, albeit flawed, start to a manga series with a lot of possibilities. This isn’t just an odd-man-out story but also a mystery with a unique cast of characters that add something new to this genre. Here’s hoping the next volume will really get the ball rolling.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media