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Chibi Review: Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 1

Freud plays a mean game of billiards and Queen Elizabeth I flashes readers. You won't see THAT on the History Channel.


You've had the debate at least once in your life: if Adolf Hitler were cloned would he develop into be the genocidal monster he historically was, or could he be more than just the sum of his genes? Nature versus nurture, as they say in the biz. MTV's Clone High "explored" the subject comedically by taking Ghandi, Lincoln, Cleopatra and others and dropping them into the American Teen Experience, but Kumiko Suekane's Afterschool Charisma takes a decidedly different tack and plunks the teen clones in a private, cloistered Japanese academy. It's here at St. Kleio Academy that the clones are force fed historical info on their genetic predecessors and intensively trained to be, well, themselves from decades or even hundreds of of years ago. It's a fascinating, potential-heavy idea, but does it live up to the promise?
 
 
 Look who's come to visit!
 Look who's come to visit!

The Good 

The whole concept of trying to mould a clone into the exact replica of its original is a wonderful spin on the revisionist history sub-genre of sci-fi and Suekane's all-business take on the matter tackles the topic boldly. The school itself, St. Kleio Academy, is a bizarre and interesting setting reminiscent of Utena's Ohtori Academy that's rife with intrigue around every corner: if the shadowy conspiracy that's secretly threatening the entire school doesn't pique your curiosity then perhaps the administration willfully raising not only the most accomplished leaders from history, but also some of the most dangerous will. Add to that a rising cult among the clone students and you've already got a rather eventful first volume.

To me, the aspect that gives Afterschool Charisma its clout is that of fate vs. self-determination and how the administration handles clones that deviate from their path. The clone students know full well who they are and what their predecessors' personalities were, but they seem either to wallow in uncertainty that they're on a parallel path or they embrace their past greatness and let it go to their heads. An example of the former is Queen Elizabeth I, who realizes she has no nation and thus no purpose, while the latter can be seen in Mozart, whose elitism can even manifest itself in violence against non-clones.

The Bad 

Afterschool Charisma is not what you'd call a quick-paced manga. In fact, it's plodding in all but one area: character introductions. I lost track of who was who quickly and found myself flipping back pages to where a clone was introduced. A lot of this is due to Suekane's art style that essentially takes one facial shape and uses it over and over with only different hair (or, in the case of women, that and breast size) to delineate characters.

If you're a stickler for historical details like me, you might also be peeved by the irregular naming conventions. Some characters are always referred to by their full name, which is unnecessary after the first introduction. I mean, "Florence" is not a terribly common name, there's no reason to say "Florence Nightingale" repeatedly. Then there's the habit of the author to name the characters using their adult names and titles: Marie Sklodowska only took the name "Curie" after she got married; Xiao-Qin Xian became Empress Dowager Cixi after slowly progressing higher and higher through the Qing royal court. These don't ruin the story, but give manga readers a bit of intellectual credit for being able to figure out who these people are.

The Verdict: 3/5 

Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 1
 has me convinced that this could end up a great manga series, but that status will only come with later installments as the storylines introduced in this one get fleshed out. The art is clean, but may be a tad bit confusing in respect to character recognition as one scrambles to look at hair and tits to tell who's who. Ultimately, the main attraction this manga has is how the clones will develop over time: prisoners of the school's strict pseudo-indoctrination that favors fate or masters of their own lives, whatever pitfalls that may entail. Stay tuned and see.    
FoxxFireArt moderator on June 4, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.
Wow, I was kind of lost at the first mention of Adolf Hitler. I actually did like Clone High.
 
It's one thing to have a famous ancestor or progenitor. That would suck to be trained to be them. Also feels silly and pointless.
 
I really enjoy history. The concept sounds interesting enough, but not really enough to grab my attention for long. There are just far more other books I'd rather get. Though, now that I know it's a VIZ Media title. I'd avoid it like the plague. Strike that. I'll avoid it like the any of the Twiligth movies.
Catolfon June 4, 2010 at 1:09 p.m.
interesting concept, may be worth looking into.
ethan staff on June 4, 2010 at 2:11 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt said:
" Wow, I was kind of lost at the first mention of Adolf Hitler. I actually did like Clone High.
 
It's one thing to have a famous ancestor or progenitor. That would suck to be trained to be them. Also feels silly and pointless.
 
I really enjoy history. The concept sounds interesting enough, but not really enough to grab my attention for long. There are just far more other books I'd rather get. Though, now that I know it's a VIZ Media title. I'd avoid it like the plague. Strike that. I'll avoid it like the any of the Twiligth movies. "
FoxxFireArt would you be interested in being our Viz Media correspondent?  Hahaha.
FoxxFireArt moderator on June 4, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.
@ethan said:
" FoxxFireArt would you be interested in being our Viz Media correspondent?  Hahaha. "
Oh my, am I that obvious? **playing innocent**lol I think I would feel like an Israeli correspondent to the Palestinian government.
 
They deserve someone putting a flame under their butt about all the stuff they do.
You know the irony of it all. I used to buy VIZ titles before I discovered how horrible they were altering my favorite series.

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