After School Nightmare (Houkago Hokenshitsu, literally translated as After School Infirmary) is a Shoujo Psychological Horror manga written and drawn by Setona Mizushiro, which was serialized in the magazine Princess from 2004 to 2007 and compiled into 10 volumes. The manga was licensed in English by Go! Comi, but the English editions went out of print after the imprint was shut down and the license has expired.
It is about a biologically intersex teenager, Mashiro Ichijo, whose body is male from the waist up but female from the waist down. Mashiro was raised as a boy but is terribly afraid that his various weaknesses and failings mean that he is actually a girl.
The manga begins with young Mashiro getting his first menstrual period. He comes across a strange woman, the clinician at a school clinic that he never noticed before, who tells him he must attend a special class once a week if he wishes to 'graduate'. In this class he and other troubled teens enter a Dream Land, where they take on the form of their "true selves" and must fight for the right to "graduate". Mashiro also finds himself in a Love Triangle with Kureha, a pretty girl who fears men and likes him because he is not quite male, and Sou, a handsome boy who believes that Mashiro is a girl.
Angst, drama and Freudian imagery ensue...
After School Nightmare provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Kureha's father treats her and her mother rather poorly at home. Plus, he deemed her Defiled Forever after she was raped as a five-year-old girl while coming home from school. He serves as part of the reason why Kureha is a misandrist.
- Artistic License – Biology: Mashiro is intersex, brought on by a genetic condition where he is male from the waist up and female from the waist down. In real life, no such condition exists. The closest one that resembles what Mashiro has would be Swyer syndrome, and even then he wouldn't be able to menstruate without treatment.
- Bifauxnen: Mashiro's gender identity makes up a key part of the plot, as while he identifies as a boy, he tends to be perceived more as a girl, and he even worries this might actually be the case. Not helping matters is when he experiences gender dysphoria after getting his first period at the beginning of the manga.
- Bisexual Love Triangle: The protagonist Mashiro was born intersex but identifies as male and is torn between the girly and androphobic Kureha and the cold and dominant Sou. This love triangle represents Mashiro's conflicting feelings about his gender - he is happy to date Kureha as it puts him in a masculine position, but is uncomfortable with his attraction to Sou because he worries that it's proof that he's 'really' a girl. (Somehow, it doesn't occur to Mashiro that he might not actually be straight.)
- Black Knight: A student takes on this form in the dream world, relentlessly antagonizing Mashiro and trying to challenge him to a fight while also fixating on his gender. Mashiro initially thinks it must be Sou who's the black knight, as the latter has also been fascinated with him in that regard in real life. It turns out to actually be his Kendo club sempai Kurosaki.
- Body Horror: In the Dream Land, Midori does not have a face. There's a giant hole where her facial features should be.
- Broken Bird: Kureha, who was raped as a child, now has a deep fear of men and has a mild Freak Out whenever a guy gets physically too close to her.
- Brother–Sister Incest: Between Sou and Ai. Except that the version of Ai that Sou had his "first time" with was the Imaginary Friend version of her, and he actually hasn't had any relations of any kind with his real sister in a while.
- Damsel in Distress: Kureha, which especially shows in the dreamworld due to the form she takes. She heavily relies on Mashiro to protect her there. Until she gets her Character Development.
- Distant Finale: The final few scenes in Chapter 39 take place over a decade after the real Mashiro is born, with her heading off to school and encountering the real Sou along the way.
- Does Not Like Men: Kureha, but it's understandable since she was raped as a child and her father was an abusive bastard.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Kurosaki reaches into Mashiro's wound (the final time) and roots around in there to find the key. Mashiro's moaning pretty much sealed the deal.
- Dream Land: This is one of the main settings of the story. It can be entered by falling asleep in the infirmary.
- Dream Within a Dream: Chapter 37 sees Mashiro seemingly wake up from the dream (and by extension, the events of the manga) in the previous chapter. All well and good, except that he can't remember anyone's names. As time goes on, faces become pixelated and blurry. Eventually, he encounters the other version of himself and it's revealed that he's still dreaming.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: Ai as a child, and in the dream world.
- The Ending Changes Everything: As it turns out, the entire story symbolises the birth of a pair of twins. The female twin is the now female-identifying Mashiro, while her twin brother died during childbirth.
- Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite: Mashiro finds himself in a Bisexual Love Triangle between Broken Bird Kureha who, due to being raped as a five-year-old, has a very strong aversion to men until she finds herself falling for him; and Kou, who is intent on trying to protect him after discovering his gender and is big on stalking and a small hint of rapist undertones.
- First Law of Gender Bending: Mashiro was born male above the waist and female below. Mashiro starts out identifying as a male but struggles with his femininity. Towards the end of the series, he accepts his femininity and chooses to be female. The series ends with the revelation that Mashiro's male and female "halves" were actually a pair of Half-Identical Twins struggling for survival in the womb; the female twin lives.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: The mysterious clinician takes on the form of a participating student's mother depending on who she interacts with.
- Girlish Pigtails: Kureha, complete with hair ribbons, and Midori with her twin braids.
- If It's You, It's Okay: Upon Sou's and Mashiro's first meeting, Sou thinks of Mashiro as a cute girl despite Mashiro insisting he's anything but. Sou, however, isn't distressed by his attraction to Mashiro. Of course, Mashiro isn't necessarily a man or a woman to begin with.
- Imaginary Friend: The more commonly seen version of Ai.
- Intersex Tribulations: Mashiro has a genetic condition that makes him half-male and half-female. He was raised as a boy but is terribly afraid that his various weaknesses and failings mean that he is actually a girl. The manga begins with Mashiro experiencing gender dysphoria after getting his first period.
- Jeanne d'Archétype: Kureha's form in the dreamworld after her character development.
- Kendo Team Captain: Kurosaki serves as Mashiro's mentor and sempai in the Kendo club, and he's always willing to help his fellow students out. This proves to be shocking to Mashiro when Kurosaki is revealed in the dream world to be the black knight.
- The Matchmaker: Mashiro tries to help Shinbashi so he can befriend his crush Kureha, but it doesn't work. Later, Shinbashi helps both Mashiro and Kureha with their relationship.
- Maybe Ever After: The ending of the manga leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not the real Mashiro and Sou will resume their relationship from before they were born despite having no memory of each other.
- Meaningful Name: Setona Mizushiro often uses kanji for colours in many of the characters' family names as subtle hints to their personalities and identities.
- Mind Screw: The ending. The main setting of the story is a sort of symbolism towards what is happening in the real world - namely, everyone dies in a hospital fire, except for Mashiro, who is born as a female.
- Near-Rape Experience: This happens to Mashiro when Sou attacks and strips him, intending to rape him to "prove" he is a girl. When Sou taunts him, telling him he's "nothing like a real guy", Mashiro replies that if a real man is someone willing to hurt anyone to get what they want, then Mashiro really isn't one. Taken aback, Sou lets Mashiro go.
- No Periods, Period: Averted on the very first page of the manga, to Mashiro's horror. Mashiro plays it off as "an illness which makes me bleed once a month."
- One Twin Must Die: It ultimately turns out that Mashiro's gender issues are actually a pair of boy-girl twins where one of them has to die in order for the other to live.
- Outfit-Rip Sex Check: In the Dream Land, a character tries to figure out Mashiro's gender by ripping open his uniform with a sword.
- Prince Charming: A Deconstruction of this character trope. Mashiro idealizes what it means to be a man and uses that prince archetype to model himself after. Most of the girls he interacts with later on in the manga begin calling him out for assuming that every girl needs to or even wants to be helped or saved. In fact, many of Mashiro's princely acts frequently get him killed in the dream world because he assumes that the girls around him are fragile and need a man to rely on. It is that very thinking that keeps Mashiro from even considering becoming a girl because in his mind men are strong and women are weak.
- Rape as Drama: Kureha was raped as a small child. This, along with her abusive father, is what shapes her fear and dislike towards men.
- Rape and Switch: Damsel in Distress Kureha falls in love with Mashiro for this reason: she was raped when she was in kindergarten, and overheard her father saying some very brutal things to her mother, which led her to severely distrust and hate men. So when she finds out that Mashiro is pretty much a flat-chested girl that looks like a guy, she falls in love with him.
- "Ray of Hope" Ending: In "the real world," a fire breaks out in the hospital where the lead characters' mothers are staying. Mashiro escapes to be born, while all her classmates are erased from existence as their mothers die or their fetuses are miscarried. Also, Mashiro's memories are torn to shreds by the birth. However, Real World Mashiro meets a Real World Sou in the final few pages, which keeps the ending from getting any more bleak, though they have no memory of each other.
- Running Gag: Try to count how many times Sou gets slapped by various people. Occasionally justified.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Sou, who is generally stoic and aloof most of the time; however, he tends to be more affectionate with Mashiro after falling in love with him.
- Their First Time:
- Ai confesses Sou's was with her. Of course this can't be true because this version of Ai is actually Sou's Imaginary Friend.
- After Mashiro chooses to be a female, he has troubles to act and identify himself as a girl. After realizing he's in love with Sou, he asks him to "make him feel like a woman". Cue their first time in the gym's storehouse.
- Trans Equals Gay: Mashiro directly associates being attracted to the male Sou and potentially seeing himself as a girl.