Sigmund Freud. Florence Nightingale. Napoleon Bonaparte. These are not merely the names of eminent historical figures. They are also the names of students at a certain high school. These children are the fruit of leading-edge genetic engineering technology. In other words… they are clones.
Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 1Kumiko SuekaneVIZ, 208 pp.Rating: Older Teen
It’s the year 2XXX A.D. and St. Kleio Academy is home to many students, all clones of famous historical figures. All, that is, except for Shiro Kamiya, son of a professor at the school and the only regular kid in attendance.
The students are expected to not only live up to the “monumental legacies of [their] originals,” but to strive to surpass their achievements. While some students are seemingly content with this arrangement, others strive to be their own person. Marie Curie, for example, lacks passion for scientific study and instead wants to be a pianist. When the school’s first graduate, a clone of John F. Kennedy, is assassinated while dutifully following in his original’s footsteps and campaigning for president, the astute Sigmund Freud does some digging and confirms the existence of a group whose agenda is to kill all of the clones.
Like me, you might find this concept very intriguing. Like me, then, you’ll likely be disappointed to discover that the tone of this volume is quite erratic. After some ominous hinting that Marie Curie—who the students believe has been allowed to transfer to music school—has been scrapped (“Another do-over,” according to Shiro’s dad), the story abruptly veers into fanservice territory, with Shiro and Freud shoved into the girls’ changing room by their friends. So, now we’ve gone from “Ooh, creepy!” to “Ooh, boobies!”
As the story progresses, it wanders seemingly without direction. There are still some hints about the anti-clone organization sprinkled throughout, but the focus becomes more on a sort of cult operating within the school whose members carry around plush toys in the likeness of Dolly, the famous cloned sheep. Also, because Mozart disdained Marie Curie’s musical ambitions, Shiro decides he needs to get fit so he can challenge him to a fencing match after which Mozart seemingly hangs himself to teach Shiro what it’s like to be a clone. Or something. It’s very odd.
In the end, I’m still interested enough in the story to read the next volume. I have suspicions about Shiro’s origins, for one thing, and the fact that the anti-clone folks have their faces hidden can only be significant. There’s a lot of potential here—I just hope the various elements coalesce into something more purposeful.
Volume one of Afterschool Charisma is available now. You can read the first chapter (and what looks to be the entirety of volume two) free and legally on VIZ's SigIKKI website.