KASUGA Yasunori (story), Umiharu (art)
Webcomic – Adventure, mystery, sci-fi
2 Volumes (ongoing)
Like most students, Airi can’t wait for school to be over. For half an hour once classes are finished, she’s allowed to explore and play outdoors. Or perhaps it’d me more accurate to say, updoors. Long ago, nuclear war broke out and rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. Those 30 minutes are the only time Airi and her friends can enjoy being aboveground — and perhaps find out if nature is returning to this radiation-filled planet.
After School! is definitely similar to School-Live!. As for what it’s crossed with? Hmm… maybe Coppelion?
This manga stars 12-year-old Airi, the leader of a group of girls*, lead by the nurse Ms. Futaba, that goes out and explores the Earth’s surface for 30 minutes a day on school days. That’s all their gas masks can handle, as the world is full of nuclear fallout. No, the manga hasn’t explained why four middle school-aged girls are exploring, but that seems to be part of the mystery.
In fact, that seems to be a huge part of the plot. The manga seems like it would be about those 30-minute investigations, but I knew that flew out the window at the beginning of the second chapter. The first ends with hyper Airi, polite Mary, studious Aoi, and jokester Kana heading off on the day’s activities, and the next chapter? A pedobear-approved, nearly half-page image of Airi taking a shower. Yeah, the steam covers her private areas, but seriously, I’m so glad I wasn’t eating or drinking anything when I turned the page. I would have done a spittake since it was so out of left field when we just saw the girls in gas masks and coats aboveground. There’s nothing else quite at that level; at the same time, the girls’ uniforms have some odd slits on the side. Not sure how it works, but it does give the illusion of some extra skin…
… I’m just going to get off this track before I completely weird myself out.
*Note that the others don’t know that Aoi is a girl until she takes off her mask in the fourth chapter. Even then, Airi and Mary thought she was a boy because of her looks and speech.
The second volume is more about searching for signs of life outside, but that’s only because Airi is searching for a way to cheer up Aoi. There’s some inner-group drama that shows why 12- to 14-year-olds shouldn’t be on such missions. It gets darker than I thought even though the girls bounce back. Readers know that they are being watched, and they eventually pick up on that too. Which again, is probably what the manga is really about rather than trying to find signs of life. Because unlike School-Live!, there are plenty of people around, including other people in class and a full hospital unit.
But with only two volumes, including a major event having happened, I don’t know what’s in store for After School!‘s future. Will the person behind the spying be revealed next volume? Or will they be able to go back searching? Are there other groups searching? And will there be other pedobear-approved pictures? Ick!
Otherwise, the art is cutesy, as typical of manga of this type. The designs are similar to other group manga, with a boyish one, polite longhaired one, etc. We’ve only seen a bit of the aboveground. Aoi says the war was “long ago”, but who knows how many years that is to a 12-year-old. There are still visible buildings, but yet the underground seems to be a pretty sophisticated bunker 1000 meters below the surface. I’m talking huge pipes, locker rooms, school(s), etc. But maybe that was started before/during the war. Each girl has their own model of gas mask, but they go out in their school uniforms with coats. Again, the manga is playing up the cutesy part rather than going for realism.
No honorifics are used. The manga talks about Aoi using male pronouns, but in English, this makes no since she uses “I” like everyone else.
Right now, I think there’s little reason to read this over School-Live!, which shows the struggles of the girls surviving alone while also having a large mystery to solve. Maybe After School! will find its own identity in the future, but who knows when more volumes will come out.
Kasuga’s The Golden Age of Decadence, The Silk Weaver’s Apprentice and the Kiryu Spirit, and Rayz of Light are also available from Manga Planet.
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