Sunday, September 19, 2010

Clone High: The Manga

Ages ago, Suri and I were in our local B&;N and we found a manga called "Afterschool Charisma". The cover featured a fairly standard teenage boy alongside teenage... historical figures. On the front was Marie Curie, on the back was Sigmund Freud, Napolean Bonaparte, and Florence Nightingale. Flipping through, it seemed to be about this boy going to a high school full of cloned historical figures.

I turned to Suri and said, "I just found Clone High: The Manga".

Last Friday I went out with my friends Hillary and Philip (or Letao. I'm not sure what he prefers to be called at this point) to finally see Scott Pilgrim. I guess that should have it's own write-up, but it probably won't since you've likely all seen it already. That's what I get for being late to the party.

But after lunch and before the movie we stopped at the big-ass B&N in Union Square. Now, I've made jokes about this manga to everyone I've been in a B&N with since I first found it. But this time I actually worked up the nerve to buy it.

As anticipated, it's so bad that it's spectacular. It's pretty ridiculous, but if you're willing to not take it seriously and ignore the fact that it is basically kicking history in the balls it is a pretty entertaining read. Basically, if you have an opinion on "Axis Powers Hetalia", you pretty much already have an opinion on "Afterschool Charisma", because you are going to think the same things. You're going to enjoy it because it's ridiculous (though AC is not a straight comedy like Hetalia), or you're going to hate it for being dumb about history.

Like I've said, the basic stripped down plot is basically the same as Clone High. Various historical figures have been cloned and are in high school. There is also Shiro, the son of the man who cloned all of the historical figures, attending high school with them. Many of the clones have a bias against him since he is not a clone like them, but he's still managed to amass a group of friends, so really it's just like normal high school except he calls his friends "Queen Elizabeth" and "Joan of Arc" or by their full or last names, which is really kind of weird if you think about it.

He was apparently pretty close with Marie Curie, but she's out of the picture before the first volume even starts, her departure setting up some of the conflict within the story. Mostly with Mozart, who is mostly a complete tool for all of the time we spend with him. He has his reasons for this, but still he comes across as a total jerk.

There's also the fact that the first clone, of JFK, is assassinated when he announces he's going to run for president, leading into a plot involving a mysterious group planning to kill all of the clones. On top of that, a few of the clones have formed some kind of cult worshiping Dolly, the first successfully cloned mammal. This hasn't amounted to much yet, but I'm hoping something interesting will come of it.

My favorite characters so far are Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Napolean Boneparte, and (as tasteless as it may sound) Adolf Hitler.

I know, I know. It's Hitler. Hitler is bad and everything he did is bad and heaven knows I will never try and argue that. But that is exactly what makes Clone-Hitler so interesting in this manga. No one likes him. Well, Shiro does, but only because they had a conversation about everyone hating both of them based on their circumstances. (Hitler being Hitler and Shiro being not a clone.) Hitler is willing to accept not having any of the clones as his friends and being alone most of the time, and claims it is "punishment for his sins".

As Hitler puts it, they are the "clone and non-clone odd-men-out". I find this to be incredibly interesting. If he's handled well as a character he could make for some very very interesting storytelling. I like the potential that he has, and that they just outright acknowledge that "Hitler = As bad as it gets". It makes Clone!Hitler sympathetic without making Real!Hitler sympathetic. (Because he's not.)

When Suri and I first found the manga and flipped through it, we founds a scene with Hitler and Joan Of Arc arguing (after reading it, I learned they were arguing over whether or not Shiro can understand their feelings as clones since he is not one) and declared that I shipped Joan/Hitler. After reading it, I still kind of do. Joan unfortunately gets minimal face-time in the first volume, but is shown to have some really interesting insecurities involving being a clone.

But Joan of Arc makes the cover of volume 2, so I'm hoping that means that in vol 2, we get to see a lot more of her and that the whole "Dolly Cult" (which is run by Rasputin and some girl who was unnamed) will be further explored.

Unfortunately it seems that Volume 2 isn't hitting stores until mid-January, and I can't find it online anywhere. So I'm left hanging for the next four months until it finally comes out.

As a warning, there are some nude boobs in "Afterschool Charisma". It s a manga, so really you shouldn't be surprised. I was more shocked that I missed it when I was flipping through with Suri than the fact that it was actually there. It only happens in two brief scenes, and both end in hilarity.

So if you're a mature reader who can handle that sort of thing without getting OMGOFFENDEDATBOOBS and are willing to laugh at historical inaccuracy, definitely pick up the first volume, enjoy it, and wait with me until January when we can read more!

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