This is one heck of an epic manga! Seriously, once you start, you can’t stop reading till you see it to the end.
In the beginning, you might find the story a bit confusing what with the whole dreamland thing but by the end of the story I finally understood what the story is all about.
From Go! Comi:
Like most teenagers, Mashiro Ichijo has a secret. But Mashiro’s secret is that he’s neither fully male nor female! So far, Mashiro’s been able to live his life as a boy, but all this changes when he’s informed of a new class he must take in order to graduate from his elite prep school. To pass, he must find the “Key”…and the only way to find it is to enter into a nightmare world where his body and soul are put at the mercy of the worst kind of enemies: his classmates!
This is no high school, my dear boy (or girl). You’ll know why when you read the ending.
Spoiler ahead. Read at your own risk!
As said in the series synopsis, Mashiro is neither male nor a female. More like he can go both ways but ultimately he has to choose one. In my point of view as a reader I feel that Mashiro somehow tries very hard to be manly and even dated a girl (Kureha) which I think is just his effort to be manly.
Mashiro isn’t the only one with a dark secret. Kureha herself has a dark past which she’s trying to escape from. She was raped as a child and the worst part of all is her parents doesn’t seem to show concern at all. This certainly explains why she hated men but for some reason, she fell for Mashiro (probably due to Mashiro not a 100% male).
For some reason, Sou sees Mashiro as a female and tried to get Mashiro to love him and he is not one without any dark past either. As a child, he witnessed his parents’ separation and as a result of it, he was to stay with his mother and his sister Ai, with their father. This siblings has some serious issue to overcome. To think that Sou had his “first time” with his sister…way twisted.
These three formed some sort of love triangle. Mashiro started to go out with Kureha and Sou is relentless in getting Mashiro to love him. Kureha on the other hand became insecure and disdainful towards Sou who kept coming on to Mashiro even though Mashiro is officially dating Kureha. One thing led to another and somehow Sou grew tired of this love game and gave up and after quite some time, Kureha broke it off with Mashiro. For the obvious reasons, Kureha and Sou started to get along just fine leading Mashiro to believe that they are actually dating. While having that sort of thought he felt a stabbing jealousy (which proves that he is indeed in love with Sou).
By the end of the story, it is revealed that the high school where the dream took place is actually the backdrop of a maternity ward of a hospital. As the students graduated, they are reborn again to this world. While in that high school, it is implied that they are neither living nor dead. In the final chapter of the series, we see that the high school infirmary room has started to collapse simultaneously with a maternity ward in the real world and as such, it is implied that the remaining students can now no longer “graduate” or “reborn” to the real world. However, with the strength of the remaining students (Sou, Kureha and several others), Mashiro made it…he is now reborn as a girl* to a couple. And oh, I almost fail to mention that Sou and Mashiro were going out (yay!). All that aside, in the final scene of this manga, we see that Mashiro and Sou meet again in the real world in the train.
*There are two souls residing in Mashiro’s body – a female and a male. The strongest will eliminate the weak and reborn into the real world. In the real world, a couple is expecting twins – a girl and a boy. When it was time for the mother-to-be to deliver, they could only feel one heartbeat instead of two – the baby boy was born dead (presumably the male part of Mashiro) while the baby girl survived.
When I was reading the first few chapters a couple of years back, the fangirl in me kept screaming “go for Sou!!!”. Lol. Those were the days. I couldn’t care less that both of them are guys but of course, that’s not the case since After School Nightmare is a purely shoujo manga and indeed, Mashiro is really a girl in the end.
After School Nightmare is one of the few mangas that I would reread over and over again. It’s gripping and the suspense keeps you going and you will find yourself wanting to see what happens next and how it will end. The plot is not quite the usual one that you might find in most shoujo series, as such, I for one can’t predict how the author will end the story. Coupled with a twisted plotline, you’ll never know what’s going to happen next and this keeps you hooked till the end. A must read!
As of current, I’m following Kuro Bara Alice, Mizushiro Setona’s newest work. Should be as good as this one 😀
1. Some information is taken from Wikipedia.
2. After School Nightmare is licensed in English by Go! Comi.