Afterschool Charisma

My opinion on all of the volumes released so far

Afterschool Charisma is a series about cloning.

Cloning can an interesting topic when it comes up in sci-fi; partly because it makes us question what exactly an individual is, and partly because one day we may have to deal with it in the real world.

Cloning comes up quite often in Anime and Manga, though mostly because it’s an easy way to copy a superhero for one story and not because of its interesting ethical issues. But here is an entire series dedicated to it, ethical issues and all.

So what is Afterschool Charisma?

Well, the description on the insert claims that it’s a standard school drama set in a boarding school full of clones. And that’s true. You’ve got the usual topics coming up here: friendship, students struggling with their studies, bullying, and the boys trying to spy on the girls’ locker room. (There is frequent fan service here, by the way. You’ve been warned.)

However there’s so much more going on here. While on the surface this all looks quite cheery, some of the topics covered - such as the rights of a cloned individual, self-harm and suicide - can actually be quite shocking.

The series is quite good at showing humanity at both its best and its worst; the author is very good at getting us to care about the characters in the story, but then twisting things around and revealing what a terrible situation they’re actually in. While this is never actually stated, we eventually realise that the clones don’t seem to have any rights; they can be incarcerated, sold as property or even killed without penalty.

The book is full of happy and goofy characters, who do what - to me - seem like very bad things, just because they themselves don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing. I’m not exactly sure who we’re supposed to be routing for here. There aren’t really heros and villains in this story; it’s more like a complex mixture villains and victims.

In short, this is a really interesting and thought-provoking series. I’d definitely recommend getting into it.

At the time of publication Afterschool Charisma is still being published in Japan, but VIS have got the translation rights and are doing quite a good job of bringing it over, so do go check it out.