Adolf Hitler in Afterschool Charisma.

Adolf Hitler in Kumiko Suekane's Afterschool Charisma.

I read the first three volumes of Afterschool Charisma yesterday. Here, in one sentence, is its premise: in the future, scientists clone notable historical figures for as-yet-unknown purposes. When the clones are old enough, they’re sent to a prep school (the setting of this manga). There, they’re pressured to go above and beyond what their originators accomplished. Except there’s one student who isn’t a clone, our protagonist, whose father works for the school’s research branch. Our protagonist’s presence catalyzes much of the action, since he isn’t given the same privileges, or bound by the same obligations, as his peers.

When the story starts, all of the characters are between fourteen and sixteen. In the first few chapters, we meet clones of Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Florence Nightingale, Sigmund Freud, Einstein, JFK, Mozart, Ikkyu, Marie Curie and more. Bizarrely, the characters are named after the adult versions of themselves: Marie Curie, for example, was born Maria Skłodowska but changed her name when she married.

Since this post is titled “cloning Hitler,” you’ve figured out that Afterschool Charisma cloned Adolf Hitler too. The Hitler clone is impossibly moe, with a face and smile like a kitten and the demeanor of a dove. The awful crimes of his originator seem to have given him an insight denied his peers. Cast out by them, Hitler accepts this treatment, and the treatment to come, as punishments for his sins. When you think about it, though, they’re not really his; if anyone should be punished, it’s the scientists.

After all, what’s the point in cloning Hitler? Even if the clone isn’t a psychopath, he’s bound to live a miserable life. The whole world would hate him for something he had no control over. People would probably accuse him of having Hitler’s soul reincarnated, or of “coming back to finish the job.” Neo-nazis would worship him as the second coming, literally. Imagine what they’d do to him if he turned out to be a liberal, or a meat-eater? The poor kid would have to live under police protection his entire life, which, God willing, would not be long.

Afterschool Charisma deals with themes of choice vs. fate and nature vs. nurture. This may explain Hitler’s presence in the group: the scientists, in their infinite wisdom, decided to find out if someone with a criminal lunatic’s genes was destined to become a criminal lunatic. That makes sense, except it does not.

What if nature wins out, and Hitler II has just as big a Messiah complex as Hitler I? This time, instead of being a charismatic art school flunky living on society’s fringes, he could, just by making one post on the internet, lead thousands, if not tens of thousands of very dangerous admirers wherever he wished. Even if Hitler II didn’t know his origin, he would still be very dangerous, as someone with an incredible, intuitive sense for swaying masses of people through propaganda and design.

What if nurture wins out? Then you have a person with a normal psyche who looks just like Adolf Hitler. Except genes are more than looks, so he would probably have certain mannerisms, skills and preferences characteristic of Hitler I. And if he knew who he was, Hitler II’s whole life would be a search for what was his and what wasn’t, and what that means anyway. He would have to second guess everything he loved, hated, or felt anything about.

For example, if Hitler II found that he loved Wagner, he would ask himself, “Do I really love this? Or are my genes––his genes––making me love this? Where does my free will begin? What insight does my love of Wagner have on the mind of that person?” Imagine doing that every moment of every day of your life, from the time you find out that you’re Hitler’s clone until the instant you die.

A very moe Hitler. From Afterschool Charisma.

A very moe Hitler.

As for sex––talk about a nightmare. The romantic prospects of a mass murderer’s clone are not exactly sterling. Suppose Hitler II finds that he’s not attracted to Jewish women, or that he’s really attracted to them. Either way, he has a whole mess of questions without answers, on whether Hitler I shared that predilection, how did it (if shared) affect I’s later behavior and, perhaps most important of all, if it’s really appropriate (or even legal!) for Hitler II to chat up a Jewish girl. Plus, if his identity’s made public, he’ll probably have a long line of neo-Nazi groupies who want to salute the Führer in their own special ways.

We haven’t even touched on the most disturbing part, which is that Hitler II would have to learn about Hitler I at some point. It might be in school, it might be in college, it might be on the History Channel late one night, it might be a book in the library that he picks up just on a whim. And there, staring out of every photograph or film, would be his own face, now screaming, now staring over marching stormtroopers, now smiling kindly at a little girl. His own smile, a smile he uses, a smile he understands better than anyone else alive. Seeing these expressions, he could sense the emotions going through Hitler I’s brain in a way no one else could––because those emotions, in some sense, are his. To add terror to terror, Hitler I did not exactly age well, so a young Hitler II would live his youth knowing just how ugly he was going to become, and as he aged, he’d look more and more like the tyrant whose picture glowers from every textbook.

And it’s not just his face. Suppose Hitler II, aware or unaware of his heritage, read a book on WWII, a biography of Hitler, a history of the holocaust or anything that described Hitler I’s personality in any depth. He would recognize so many little details and quirks of his own personality. Imagine reading a memo about a meeting with Hitler to discuss the death camps, and recognizing some habit of the Führer’s as your own. You know the sandwich scene in Happiness, where you find yourself empathizing with a pedophile? Take that moment and multiply it times ten to the power of ten thousand and you’re still not close.

I look forward to futher volumes of the manga, especially to see why these clones exist. What could possibly come out of cloning someone like that? Nature-Hitler could use his power for unspeakable evil, if he wasn’t assasinated first; Nurture-Hitler would probably have a nervous breakdown and commit suicide. Either way, his presence seems a net loss for humanity, however moe he may be.

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