|wDec 16, 2008|
After School Nightmare, volume 6
So, there are spoilers behind the cut but I thought I'd toss out that the post is still interesting in terms of gender identity and ableism.
I loved Suo's subversion of expectations in this volume. Of course, Mashiro has been trying to play the hero in every dream sequence, and because she is disabled, he assumes she needs his help most of all. In the nightmare, she takes the form of a masked mermaid (in real life, she is a former model, now disfigured and disabled by an accident). Mashiro finds her in the nightmare, picks up her, and rushes her to the roof. Her verbal tirade was great.
Why did you carry me all the way up here? I said nothing, and still you decided I needed saving. I was waiting for the water to fill the basement. I was too weak to move until then.
Did you notice the tail, darling? I'm made for water. You never thought that I might have been okay. You were too filled with the idea of being a hero.
That's who you really are. You saw me struggling and thought, 'Oh, the poor girl.' Are you that in love with the idea of being a prince? I....hate you." She stabs him, and he wakes up.
AND THEN KUREHA CALLS HIM ON HIS SHIT, TOO.
K:Mashiro-kun. The other day you said I was "special." But what does that even mean?
K: "Especially pathetic"? Isn't that what you meant?
K: You're sweet to me because....because of what happened to me. [She was raped.] And because you think I need it.
M: Kureha! It's not like I can just ignore the trauma you went through!
K: Mashiro-kun. I understand what the mermaid was saying. It makes you feel strong and important to protect a girl like me. You want to hold on to that feeling, right?
M: Kureha. Stop it.
K: You need a girl like me to compare yourself to....so you can continue to feel like a man.
Some of my friends are turned off by this manga because of its negative treatment of gender identity, but I'm hoping against hope that in the end, it won't be like that. I think Mashiro starts off with clear expectations of what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a woman. In the nightmare world, everyone else's bodily form is a vastly corrupted form of their real-life body. For Mashiro, his nightmare form is his own body. His complex identity is horrifying to him. The goal of the nightmare world is for each character to confront their nightmares and defeat them, and "graduate." We still don't know what happens to characters when they graduate. But I think that the entire series is meant to be an exploration of what gender identity means to Mashiro, and how he might finally be able to accept himself in the end. I like that he has a relationship with Sou, a boy, as well as Kureha, a girl. Of course the seeming man/man relationship is secret and forbidden, but will Mashiro remain a menstruating male? Does he even have to choose one half of the gender binary, or will he simply accept himself in the end? I don't know, but I'm loving this stuff and have confidence in the manga-ka that it'll turn out okay (and by "okay," I mean complex and interesting, not happy.).
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