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Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

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Afterschool Charisma Volume 1 by Kumiko Suekane, from VIZ Signature / VIZ Media

Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

HOUKAGO NO CARISMA © 2009 Kumiko SUEKANE / Shogakukan

The Bottom Line

In most high school dramas, there's the jock, the brain, the priss, and the hussy. Afterschool Charisma has these archetypes, but with a twist: they're all clones of historical figures. The brain shares Albert Einstein's DNA. The girl most likely to succeed is the clone of Queen Elizabeth I. But when the JFK clone is assassinated, the clones wonder if they're destined to repeat their predecessor's lives... and their deaths.

By mixing smart sci-fi with suspense, sexiness and a few laughs, Kumiko Suekane has injected new life into the high school drama formula. A fascinating first volume that's filled with promise.

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Pros

  • Inventive premise re-imagines famous and infamous historical figures as teenage clones
  • Suekane sucks readers in by slowly revealing tantalizing hints of twists to come
  • Crisp, nicely-drawn art that captures a mix of suspense, drama, comedy and sex appeal
  • Raises questions about the ethics of cloning and pressure to succeed and achieve
  • The clones' ancestry provide rich and interesting contrasts to 'just-add-water' characterizations

Cons

  • Translation notes are needed to provide context for lesser-known historical figures
  • This first volume is fairly expository to build context, but the plot drags a bit as a result
  • Before you lend this to a young reader, four words of warning: nude locker room scene

Description

  • Original Title: Houkago no Carisma (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Kumiko Suekane
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1421533971
  • Cover Price: $12.99 US / $16.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for mild violence, partial nudity
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: June 2010
    Japan Publication Date: May 2009
  • Book Description: 208 pages, black and white illustrations, 4 color pages
  • More Manga by Kumiko Suekane:
    • Once Upon a Glasma

Guide Review - Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

The students of St. Kleio Academy are blessed, and cursed with unique talents: they are all clones of famous (and infamous) historical figures, and as such, they are expected to surpass the accomplishments of their "originals." As the clones of Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud, and Napoleon Bonaparte discover, being expected to be great before you've completed puberty is a pretty heavy burden for a teenager to bear.

However, one student stands out in this pack of exceptional teens simply because he's so... normal. Shiro Kamiya is the only student at St. Kleio who isn't a clone -- and he's reminded of this fact constantly. Compared to his classmates, Shiro (whose name means "white") has a 'blank slate' of a life ahead of him. Because of this, some of Shiro's classmates resent him, especially the clone of Amadeus Mozart, who makes no secret of his disdain for Shiro's "mediocrity."

Things get pretty tense at St. Kleio when one of their most famous graduates, the John F. Kennedy clone announces his plans to run for office, then is assassinated on live TV. The clones start asking themselves: are they destined to repeat their predecessor's lives... and deaths?

There are lots of high school dramas in manga, but probably few that are as inventively conceptual as Afterschool Charisma. Suekane takes the formula of an exclusive school with elite students, and turns it counter-clockwise by filling it with historical characters re-imagined as teenagers.

It's fun to imagine how a young Joan of Arc or Albert Einstein would act if they were classmates, and see this diverse cast bounce off each other. Suekane takes an interesting array of famous figures, and bestows them with quirks based on their infamy. Then she tweaks their personalities; sometimes for pathos, sometimes for laughs.

For example, the Queen Elizabeth clone wonders about her destiny, because "it's not like I have a country or subjects to rule." Then with full awareness of her predecessor's life, the regal teen wails that she doesn't want to "die as an old maid!" And just wait until you meet the teen Adolf Hitler...!

As the clones begin to fear for their lives, and begin to cave under the pressure to live up to their "destinies," the drama gets pretty intense. To prevent things from getting too heavy, Suekane tosses in some cheeky humor and cheesecake scenes. After all, it ain't a high school comedy without a peek into the girls' locker room!

Speaking of eye-candy, Suekane's artwork is lovely. Her linework is both delicate and dramatic. Her visual storytelling moves the story along at a decent clip (albeit dragged down by some obligatory first-volume exposition). Her art style allows Afterschool Charisma to segue between suspense and comedy, seriousness and sexiness effortlessly.

Overall, I enjoyed Afterschool Charisma a lot: it's as smart as Einstein, as thought-provoking as Freud, and it makes Hitler kind of loveable! And really, when was the last time you could say that about a graphic novel?

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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