Friday, July 22, 2011
Artist/Manga-ka: Kumiko Suekana
Rating: T+ for older teen according to Viz
Shiro Kamiya is always the odd man out at St Kleio Academy, a futuristic private boarding school which is exclusive to say the least. All of the other students are clones of history's most famous-- and infamous-- men and women. Shiro, whose father is a professor at the Academy, manages to befriend the teenage Napoleon and develops a crush on outspoken Marie Curie. Still he struggles to understand the tight-knit and clandestine society that has emerged around the St Kleio clones. His classmates live secluded lives where their natural abilities for leadership and greatness are carefully honed and encouraged. Failure to pursue the footsteps of their 'originals' is not an option.
When Marie Curie dares to question the school's authority and chooses to pursue a musical talent-- which, according to history, she should not possess-- she is suddenly spirited away to a mysterious 'musical school' which Shiro and the others begin to suspect is in fact something far more sinister. Meanwhile, the first clone ever to graduate St Kleio-- the clone of President Kennedy-- announces he is running for president on live television... only to be shot in the head in the exact same manner of his progenitor, the first Kennedy. As the campus erupts in panic, the same question is running through every clone's mind: Are they doomed to repeat history? Can they possibly outlive their predecessors, or are they nothing more than regurgitated DNA, destined to achieve nothing more and nothing less than their originals? And what of the shadowy group of assassins who have contacted the St Kleio institute, promising to annihilate every last one of the clones they have created?
This manga has a fantastic premise. The story seized my imagination and my attention and didn't release either of them until I turned the final page, only to read a volume finale which is shocking to say the least! As for the characters, in manga the protagonist is often one of the weaker characters (go figure, right?), but Shiro is much more than a bobble-head going through the motions-- his gripping concern for Marie Curie and the others is immediately evident. The vast variety of the historical people whose clones cavort through the halls of St Kleio is endlessly fascinating and amusing. You really haven't met irritatingly all-knowing and uncanny until you've conversed with the teenage Sigmund Freud or fenced against Wolfgang Mozart. Hitler is without a doubt my favorite of the clones. Like Marie Curie, he seems to defy the expectations of who and what the scientists who created him expect him to be. Instead of a monster capable of committing genocide, we are introduced to a big-eyed younger boy who is ostracized by the other clones for the crimes of his original, yet claims he would never hurt a fly. Hitler seems friendly to Shiro, and yet there's something vaguely eerie about the kid as well... I can't wait to see how he is developed in future volumes. Mozart is another great character: so arrogant and talented, yet it becomes clear that he is in fact tortured by some terrible secret.
If I were to name one complaint, it would have to be that most of the female characters seem rather shallow compared to their male counterparts. An example is Queen Elizabeth's clone wailing about how she doesn't want to die an old maid like her original when there were clearly, come on, much more pressing matters at hand. Marie Curie is the exception to the rule, and Joan of Arc has promise. Overall, the translation is pretty much flawless and the art superb. I liked the larger panels and appreciated also how close the manga-ka's artistic rendering of the clones was to how they might have actually appeared as teens. I am now officially obsessed with this series and physically need to get my hands on the next volume!
The rating system for manga will be slightly different: