After School Nightmare is a unique and interesting manga that spans 10 volumes with about four chapters each and well worth checking out.
Story and art are by Setona Mizushiro and the first volume was available on December 22nd of 2004 and the series finished in 2008.
The story centers around Ichijo Mashiro (or Mashiro Ichijou for the purists). Ichijo is intersexed and in the series he defines it as having a male “top” and female “bottom” as he has female genitals but more masculine features in general which means, like in most anime/manga, Ichijo is a very pretty man.
Ever since he can remember Ichijo has chosen to live as a male for the main reason that it’s easier but one day the issue of gender identity rears its head again when he is in the shower and starts his first period.
For those of you who are thinking “Why would I want to read that?” please let me continue before you completely judge it. This is pretty much the most graphic part of the series and you get it over with soon. There are sexual scenes but nothing too detailed, just suggestive. This is also not the entire plot but the dilemma the main character is in and some of the other characters are just as engaging.
The plot comes from a club that is held after school in a disappearing basement (there after school, gone during). In this club the participants rest in a curtained bed and enter a dream world where they are presented as their “real” selves. In this world Ichijo is dressed in a girl’s uniform and, choosing to live his life as a man, is understandably upset about being portrayed as such when other students can see him this way. The “real” selves show the person what they are struggling with in life and what is keeping them from graduating.
The whole purpose of the dream world is to “kill” the others to find the key. When one has the key they go to the door and “graduate”. When one graduates their existence is basically wiped out and people forget they were ever in that school.
When people are killed in the dream world it is when the large beads around their neck crack and fall apart. Each person starts with three a piece and when they defeat another they get some of their beads unless they find the key withing their victim. These beads can be broken in several ways. There is, of course, destroying the body but there is also the option of breaking their spirit by saying or doing things that hurt them emotionally.
To put this series into a genre is fairly difficult considering all of the elements. In it’s purest form, though, ASN is complete drama. Sure, there are some lighthearted moments to break it up but for the most part it’s all “Who am I?”, “You don’t know anything!”, “I love you…” and plenty of “I hate you!”
To define it a bit more there are also bits of horror, gender confusion and, with the main character being who he is, a bit of shounen-ai (boy love) and shoujo-ai (girl love). There’s a lot of psychological play in and out of the dream world and fantasy.
It is adult material concerning the characters, the setting and the main plot. After School Nightmare is rated OT for older teen meaning 16+ years of age though maturity doesn’t always correlate with age. It really depends on what you (or the person you may suggest this to) think you’re comfortable with.
The bottom line is that this story is amazing and if you feel that you are mature enough to handle the themes laid out then I do highly suggest it as a read. The ending is amazing and really something to think about.