Kumiko Suekane – Viz – 2012 – 7+ volumes
You know, a series like this has to work hard to impress me. This may be entirely Clone High’s fault, but a premise about clones of historical figures from around the world is also just a little much for me. Especially since this volume has Adolf Hitler on the cover. I went into this prepared to hate it. I finished with a fair degree of admiration. That’s difficult to do.
This was a good volume to start with, too. There seems to have been some terrorist activity last time, and this entire volume is a flashback told by Kai, the leader of the terrorists. The terrorists were older clone versions of all the students at the school presently, and I have no idea what was going on there, but the flashback from Kai’s point of view is interesting.
Now, Kai isn’t anyone famous. He’s the only student not living in the shadow of the past. But during the course of the flashback, another clone Kai joins the classes with original Kai. There is no difference between the Kais. None. Nobody can tell the difference between the two, including Elizabeth, who appears to be a sort-of girlfriend. The parts where it’s unclear are quite chilling, because in the end, the conclusion that’s reached is that it really doesn’t matter. And in the context of the story… it doesn’t. Even original Kai stops caring that he’s not an individual anymore.
I loved that it took the usual manga themes of being yourself and being an individual and turned it on its head. Because it doesn’t matter if Kai is himself or not, there’s another Kai just like him, down to a personality that’s so close that not even his closest friends can tell the difference.
I assume the series has been working with these themes since the first volume, though. There are some hints about how much the clones are or are not trying to be like their originals, and how it may or may not affect their lives, but I suspect that the story may have already dealt with some of this in earlier volumes. I was worried initially, when one of the first scenes in the flashback is Freud oogling girls in the swimming pool and getting into a fight with Jung, who’s more sexually repressed, and the whole thing ends with Florence Nightingale being called on for first aid. But it gets more tasteful from there. Should Elizabeth try hard to be like the original Elizabeth, or does it ultimately not matter, especially since she isn’t allowed to leave the school? What happens to the clones when they leave, and what is the upcoming Festival about? This is particularly relevant to the Hitler clone, of course, who tries hard to separate himself from the original. But that’s not really relevant here. I suspect it will be more so in the next volume, though.
While I still find the premise inherently ridiculous, I do like that the plot explores the most interesting parts of it. I’m curious to see what the early volumes are like, so I’ll probably be picking those up in the future, but I’m more interested to see what this Kai business is. Why are the Kai clones so terrifying?
And, most interesting, is the one telling the story that Kai? I… I don’t think he is.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.