chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)
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Mashiro Ichijo has a big problem for any teenaged boy, let alone one attending boarding school: his body is female below the waist and male above it. Things get even stranger for him when he's told he must attend a special class in the school's basement infirmary after normal school hours each day. For one thing, he didn't know the school had a basement. For another, the class consists of lying down and dreaming.

The vividly strange dream world plays out like a surrealistic video game. Each teen involved takes a special form that relates to his or her traumas and anxieties - and it quickly becomes clear that these are some messed up kids. Meanwhile, back in the waking world, Mashiro begins a romance-tinged friendship with a cute girl named Kureha Fujishima, and is himself stalked by the school Lothario, handsome Sou Mizuhashi, who is completely unconvinced by Mashiro's insistence that he's a boy, not a girl. Other schoolmates turn up as dreamers, and the dream world becomes more and more important - and threatening. What happens to the dreamers who find the key that allows them to "graduate"? Why are they almost instantly forgotten by their classmates?

It's to mangaka Mizushiro's credit that the sillier aspects of this series never bothered me for more than a few seconds while I was reading this. The emotional realism of the story is compelling, and I'm looking forward to finding out more about how Mashiro, Kureha, and Sou deal with their rather serious issues.

 

After School Nightmare, vols. 1-8 (review)

It's uncanny how quickly my initial reaction of "half boy and half girl - this is so stupid!" faded. Mashiro's issues can be read metaphorically - I've begun to think of him as a gay teenaged boy. (Although his lower half really does seem to be female: in vol. 8, he gets intimate with Sou, who clearly knows what he's doing and isn't finding anything he doesn't know how to handle.) But the issues of accepting and integrating the two aspects of himself are much more important than his body, and that's what's playing out in the dream world.

There are layers upon layers of symbolism here, and some questions remain to be answered. Sou's sinister older sister Ai, who shows up in the dream world as a creepy loli-Goth moppet, says that Mashiro is right, that the armored knight in the dream world is Sou - but that doesn't explain why the handsome captain of the kendo club - a kind boy with a father and mother who are pressuring him to take over the family business - sees an identical suit of armor outside his father's board room on a home visit. And I don't think we've yet found out which student manifests in the dream world as a collection of grabby hands at the end of ever-growing, infinitely flexible tentacles. And what's the deal with the black crescent moon that some of the students see outside at critical points in their lives? What actually happens to the students who "graduate"? And what will happen to Kureha, who seems to have found her inner strength at last, but refuses to graduate because Mashiro hasn't yet?

It's all very strange and involving.

 

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Date: 2008-11-17 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
I read all the manga before watching the anime. (Didn't realize there was one at the time.) I'd say that the manga would give you a good taste of whether or not you'd like the anime. I thought the first arc (13~ eps?) of the anime was brilliant, but didn't like the subsequent arcs as much, and the last was just too weird for me.

But I agree about the comments comparing it to Wolf's Rain and Samurai Champloo mangas, where neither were nearly as good as the anime. (Wolf's Rain is actually the anime that got me watching anime, and was my favorite until I saw Princess Tutu last year.) Though the difference here is the the Utena manga actually came first, making the anime probably the only anime ever to actually be better than the manga it's based on. (Anime based on manga tends to never be quite as good, but there's often an even larger gap with manga based on anime.)
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Date: 2008-11-17 04:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
Ah, my mistake. (And, IIRC, the manga and first anime arc are roughly the same story, though I think the manga also had the anime's ending. It's been a while since I read it.)

The problem with RoV is that I never seem to find subbed copies that aren't streaming. And actually, I can't even remember if I've found those.

Unrelated, but I keep forgetting where we are on the bracelets. Had we settled on stones/extra price yet?
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Date: 2008-11-17 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
Maybe CMX will eventually license it? They seem to like grabbing the most obscure and random titles. (Not that I object.)

Yeah, I liked the amethist biolettes. Jen will probably like something similar, but with red stones, or possibly red stones more like another I remember you showing me, where the dangles were each several smaller stones. For the chain, both would prefer something like silver. (Mom prefers it, but likes almost any metal...Jen's fine with anything but yellow-gold, which she hates. Myles teases her with it just to see her "eew" face. She'd probably also need a sturdy clasp, due to the kiddo and his grabby hands.)
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Date: 2008-11-17 06:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
I have the torrent going now, and it seems to have a fair number of seeders, so hopefully it'll go fast, though it'll probably be a bit before I watch it. I have catsitting, most of Saiyuki Reload: Gunlock left, as well as 6-7 episodes of season 2 of Farscape. (And my DVD player seems to have given up the ghost on top of that.) I've also been watching bits and pieces of a sageuk (period korean drama) that's pretty good, but the subs are bad, making it hard to watch more than 10 or so minutes at a time. It's actually fairly strange for me to be alternating shows, as I'm usually a binge-viewer.

Jen can be partial to dainty, but she's more partial to things that stand a chance of surviving her son. (He actually isn't bad compared to most kids his age in that regard, or even a little older, and is an amazing stickler for staying clean, but he's still a toddler.)

Glancing through, these ones caught my eye, though you'll know better than I how sturdy they are, and how they'll look with silver:

http://www.firemountaingems.com/details.asp?PN=H203570GL
http://www.firemountaingems.com/details.asp?PN=H205087GB
http://www.firemountaingems.com/details.asp?PN=H203731GL
http://www.firemountaingems.com/details.asp?PN=H203245GB

ETA: Regarding CMX: I suspect most titles with them are safe, once they start them. The are owned by DC, which is owned by CW/WB/whatever-it's-called. The average manga, I think, outsells the higher ranked comic, so the poorly selling manga likely matches their midlist. They have a lot more behind them to help carry the manga line, I think, than most other publishers, who only have anime/manga and associated items to offer.
Edited Date: 2008-11-17 06:18 am (UTC)
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Date: 2008-11-17 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
Yeah, that kind of romantic entanglement I usually don't mind as much.

The 7" chain should be fine for her, and I think I like the first and third links best, so whichever.

Date: 2008-11-14 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] avierra.livejournal.com
Oh, this sounds really interesting, sort of Alice in Wonderland-ish (except Alice wasn't a hermaphrodite, of course. ;) )

Do the awake students all have the dream world experience? Do they have mutual dreams? That is, is Sou appears in Mashiro's dream as a knight, is he a knight interacting with Mashiro in his own dream?

Date: 2008-11-16 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
I've been trying to work up the courage for this one. I've had it recced to me from sources diverse enough to make me really curious and it sounds interesting, but it also sounds more than a little on the weird side.

Date: 2008-11-17 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com
I don't have a problem with gay/bisexual guys in fiction, just with how most pairings in manga code as m/f, and how they often see to be there as fanservice. (As in, interested in guys to provide fanservice.) With the trauma...well, again, (not knowing the exact trauma and only guessing) it's not trauma or type of trauma itself, but how it usually gets used as a shortcut.

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