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Manga: Aphorism
From here on out, you will bet your life and fight.

Aphorism is a survival-horror manga by Kujou Karuna.

Welcome to Naraka High School, where every graduate is guaranteed a bright future. Seriously. Just by graduating, your status will be greatly raised, and can even become a bureaucrat without ever needing to go to college. Entry requirements? If you can see the floating island, you’re accepted.

Rokudou Momiji is accepted.

Rokudou Momiji is a kid who does not matter, an absolute nobody. He has never been smart enough, or fast enough, or even tall enough, and he wants to change that, since he’s going to high school, and especially since he’s met a girl he wants to impress. So on the first day of high school, when the students are tasked with writing down “a character (kanji) that they will need for the future”, he writes down the kanji for “change”.

And then everything goes to hell.

Monsters start oozing out from the ground, and all the students are forced to start fighting for their lives. The “character” they have chosen will be their weapons: Momiji’s character, “change”, allows him to transform his appearance at will, and in times of danger, he becomes a tall, ridiculously powerful Bishōnen, capable of superhuman feats. Other students with characters like “katana” or “spear” can literally turn their character into weapons.

When it’s over, more than half of the student population has been killed, and there's more: every time the floating island aligns with the sun, something like this will happen, and every time it happens, students will be expected to fight for their survival. There is no way of knowing when it will happen (well, there is, but it’s subject to weather conditions), or what will turn up (every “occurrence” (known officially as “God’s Blight”)will be based on yet another character. It was monsters the first time, but the next time could just as likely be falling knives, balls of fire, or dancing pink elephants.) In the meantime nobody can leave the school grounds, although the other option is always available. Those who survive a year in this hellhole graduate, and will be able to leave.

Rokudou is terrified, but he has to be strong, if only for the sake of Hirasawa Aira, his new best friend and the girl he wants to impress. Other characters include his smart-alecky roommate Hinata Sanjuro, knuckle-headed delinquent Takamada, tall, graceful Noa, and a pair of twins who are…just plain weird.

The Blight isn’t the only thing these students have to worry about. There are people who’ll do anything to survive, not to mention there are those who are just Ax-Crazy. To top it off, that tall, ridiculously powerful bishonen Rokudou can turn into? He’s connected to the history of the school, though no one is really sure just how.

Aphorism is a little like a more shonen-friendly version of Battle Royale (note: just because it’s more kid-friendly doesn’t mean it’s actually kid-friendly; there are still plenty of bloody scenes) meets Slice-Of-Life and Words Can Break My Bones. Its premise is pretty cliche, but the element of using words as weapons does give it a refreshing twist. It’s pretty entertaining, not too hard on the brain (no overly-convoluted plots here) and has the right amount of bloodshed. The characters are well-drawn, and though their personalities are not really fleshed out, they are all quite likable.
This series provides examples of:

  • 108: The number of "true" students, the survivors of the first day.
  • The Ace: Subversion. Inner!Rokudou is faster and stronger than the real Momiji, not to mention the hottest guy in the story. He also likes to kill his opponents very messily (he spends most of his screen time covered in blood. It usually isn't his), is coming off a little obsessive in his devotion to Momiji, and then there's the little issue of nobody knowing who the hell he is. Generally, he's been just a bit creepy.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Touko to Hinata
  • Alternate Character Reading: The kanji can be interpreted differently to give different effects.
  • Anyone Can Die: Seems to be going this way.
  • Archer Archetype: Noa
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The third Omake really needs to be seen to be believed.
  • Ax-Crazy: Tomonaga to the nth degree.
  • Axes at School: Most of the cast has some kind of physical weapon.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tomonaga doesn't seem nearly as evil as he really is at first. Also, Uruma Haruomi.
  • Bishōnen: Inner!Rokudou and Tomonaga are obvious examples.
    • Hirosue actually looks like this.
    • So does Fake!Yama.
  • Cool Big Sis: Noa is this to the other girls.
  • Costume Porn: Kujou is very fond of drawing the characters in elaborate clothing of the old Chinese style. Not that anyone's complaining.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Eco. Oh so much.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Inner!Rokudou hardly ever drops his peaceful smile, even when covered in blood. Also, Kuga and Hinata.
  • Dual Wielding: Chisato with Whip Swords, Tatsumi with halberds, and Rokudō with longsword-like objects.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Rokudou when the mangaka draws him in the old Chinese costumes. Also when he's sleeping on a bed presumably somewhere in his inner world, waited upon by Krishna.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Poor, poor Hinata. To be fair, Mino does make a ridiculously pretty girl.
  • Extranormal Institute
  • Fan Nickname: Inner!Rokudou. Still stands even after his real name's been revealed.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: The school's uniform, especially girl's. What's with wearing stocking on one leg but not the other?
    • The other leg has white stocking/overknee-to-thigh-socks. It's still fashionably asymmetric.
  • Four Is Death: Class 4 is rather deadly, no?
  • Freudian Excuse: Tomonaga's older brother was killed in Naraka High, after which he spent eight years digging through thousands of bodies at the dump site in order to find his brother's remains.
  • From a Single Cell: For Hakamada and possibly Inner!Rokudou when transformed. After it's revealed that Hakamada has this, it becomes a Crowning Moment of Funny every time he uses it or someone mentions it. Examples include Hinata using him in his strategies to find out the ability of other students - by sending Hakamada out to anger people, baiting them into killing him - or nonchalantly throwing him off the building and making sure he's dead so Hakamada can recover from his grievous injuries.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The way in which the "character" manifests itself depends on the interpretation of the word by the user. Momiji's "change" doesn't just change his appearance, it can transform other objects too.In addition, a single kanji can mean a few things in Japanese, which can also be exploited by the user. Similarities between two different kanji also provides new possibilities.This is how Miko-chan finds a use for her character, "righteous": in Japanese, the kanji for "righteous" and "subjugate" look similar.
  • Heir to the Dojo: Aira, which makes her character (katana) very useful.
  • Jerk Ass: Hirosue/Uruma. Yes, they are the same person. Yes, he really is that Jerkassy.
  • Knight Templar: Inner!Rokudou/Krishna will do anything to protect Momiji. or Director Yama, whom he served a long time ago. But it turns out the one at the school is a fake.
  • Meaningful Name: Naraka, the name of the school, is the Sanskrit name for the Underworld, a.k.a. Hell.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hinata's specialty - his character, "Wisdom", allows him to know about all the different Blights that have occurred in the school's history, as well as how to get out of them alive.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Mino runs afoul of this trope.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Most students didn't have a clue about the true purpose of the school until they get there.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Believe it or not, the series is set almost thirty years into the future. This is not at all obvious, since there's almost no technology seen, and those that do turn up seem no different from present day. The first hint is that Tomonaga's birthdate is stated to be in Heisei 33 (or 2022), thus implying that the main storyline takes place sixteen years later, in Heisei 49, or 2038. This is more or less confirmed by Chapter 12.5, which explicitly states that Tomonaga was six years old in Heisei 39 (2028).
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In an omake:
    Author's Friend: What kind of story are you working on now.
    Author: Ah, right now? I'm on the school part... How should I put this... All the students have a "Ji".note 
    Author's Friend: Eh, all the students have "Ji"?
    Author: Oh yes, they have all sorts of "Ji". They use it to fight.
    Author's Friend [sweating]: Ha... That must be a very interesting story... [thinking] Internal Hemorrhoids and External Hemorrhoids? Then does everyone go to hospital and stuff?
    Author: No. They can't go to hospital.note 
    Author's Friend: Exactly what kind of genre does this fall into?
    Author: Survival, the life-betting kind.
    Author's Friend: Ah, ah. I see. I guess so?
  • One Person, One Power
  • Power Perversion Potential: Suggested by Hinata in an omake, who wanted Rokudou to transform to the actress in Titanic, so that he could... He also questioned whether Tomonaga can steal his jewels.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Hakamada. Got thrown off the roof to die by his friends such that he could recover from his not quite fatal injuries.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Aira going up against Tomonaga after he stole Rokudou's heart, effectively killing him.
  • The Rival: Hinata and Uruma, to each other. Not that either of them will admit it.
  • Smug Snake: Hirosue at first. Then it gets a little more complicated. Still way too smug, though.
  • The Speechless: Tatsumi becomes this after Tomonaga steals his vocal cords.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Krishna, for Rokudou. Subverted in that he's not really Rokudou and he's not evil but just uncaring of the fate of others. If you don't bother him and you don't mess with Rokudou, you'd probably be fine. Probably.
  • Superpower Lottery: You wouldn't think this applies as everyone's power is determined by themselves and whether they are smart enough to think of ways to use them, but Rokudou wins the lottery as even though he has the same word as Hirosue and the same ability as countless others before him, none of them can turn into another person who is Curb-Stomp Battle personified.
    • Not to mention he is more or less immortal. Tomonaga stole Rokudou's heart and he came back as Krishna perfectly alright, though Krishna was working under a time limit to find a replacement heart before Rokudou's spirit becomes unable to return.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Aya
  • Tranquil Fury: Hinata has hardly any expression on his face when he's shooting Yama full of arrows.
  • Wham Line: Chapter 25: Yama: "Oh I finally remember who he is now. He's Krishna, the guy who used to serve under me., which is swiftly followed by "I won't forgive anyone who hurts Yama." from the man in question.
    • Chapter 26: "Hinata-kun, sorry about that but could you forget what I said just now?" *Krishna raises his BFS to Yama's throat* "Who are you? You are not Yama."
    • "Uruma?"
    • Subverted in chapter 41; when Uruma is speaking with Krishna, he asks directly if Krishna is Yama's son, and Krishna easily says that he is. Nobody who hears this confession is shocked at all, having already assumed that to be the case.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 10. "They say death is the most beautiful thing."
    • Chapter 37. The elder twin dies in a heartbreaking scene, sacrificing himself to revive their dead little sister. The younger twin breaks down when their revived sister asks him where's their elder brother. All these happens due to the Director deciding he's bored and wants to see something interesting, leading to a thoroughly enraged Rokudou who storms into his office to confront him. His anger affects their environment and "Yama", who collapses onto his knees, his fake appearance unravelled.
    • Followed quickly by Chapter 38. Rokudou, or maybe Krishna, is a successor of Yama's and cannot be harmed by the acting Principal.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Eco's word is "Love". We haven't really seen it in action.
    • We did see it in action at the start, she was apparently drowning the monster in a sea of little hearts. Whether it was effective or not is debatable, but she did survive. Of course we have yet to see it in serious action.
    • Well, given the fact that she's able to survive until now, it could be Heart Is an Awesome Power.
    • Apparently it is Heart Is an Awesome Power according to newer chapters. She totally owns those monsters.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Hinata would like to disagree about the wholesome part.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: Part of the whole premise. See Heart Is an Awesome Power for more details.

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alternative title(s): Aphorism
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