cover image Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 1

Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 1

Kumiko Suekane, Viz, $13 paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4215-3397-1

With a title right out of a romance manga and a premise that sounds like Clone High, at first glance Afterschool Charisma doesn't seem promising. But that first impression is most emphatically wrong. Suekane's story of a school full of cloned historical geniuses and a very ordinary boy who observes them is another success for Viz's experimental manga line. Cloned for undisclosed and morally dubious reasons, the students include not only the great and the good (Mozart, Marie Curie, Elizabeth I) but also the world-shatteringly brilliant and driven of every stripe (Napoleon, the infamous Dowager Empress Cixi, Hitler). But locking would-be world leaders up in a boarding school and disappearing the more rebellious students to "another school" works about as well as you might expect. Unlikely alliances and conspiracies form—Napoleon will hardly go tamely to his fate, for example, and Sigmund Freud revels in using his cynical psychological insight to be the perfect power behind the throne. Suekane's art is all clean lines and expressive faces, even if the characters look disconcertingly little like their historical counterparts. Tensely plotted and sparkling with sharp dialogue, the story succeeds by not underestimating the intelligence of teenagers, in both its characters and its readers. (June)