It’s October, and that means it’s time for a scare! Luckily, Viz Books is here to deliver a Perfect Edition of a horror manga classic, The Drifting Classroom. Originally published in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 1972, this book terrified an entire generation of adults and kids, inspiring artists like Junji Ito to make their own generation-defining work. While it may no longer scare, it will make your mouth drop.
Our main character, Sho, is having a terrible day. After having an argument with his mom where she says she never wants him to come home again, he races to school only to realize that he is late and forgot his lunch money. To top it all off, the entire student body, faculty, and school grounds are transported to a desert wasteland. Can things get worse? Yes, they get much worse.
The ensuing plot gets Lord of the Flies real quick. This is rated T+ and earns that rating. This manga is still shocking some 40-odd years later. Kids, with their big, innocent eyes, get stabbed, impaled, decapitated, and much worse. It doesn’t hold back, which helps bring out the absolute extremes from kids and adults alike, constantly leading to life-and-death conflicts.
This gets taxing as the story moves at a breakneck pace. Immediately when an arc ends, the next one begins. In one story arc, the arc ends in one panel, and in the very next panel, a kid barges through a door and states (paraphrasing here) “I have information that will now kickstart the next story arc!” There’s no room where the characters or reader are allowed to breathe. Because of this, there isn’t much character development, leaving anyone besides Sho nothing more than their initial stereotype.
Still, I couldn’t stop reading. Besides wanting to find out what’s next for the kids, there are so many questions that needed answers. How did they get here? Where was ‘here’? Was there a way to get home? At least one of these questions get answered, but that still leaves so much more to explore. The pulpy writing also makes it enjoyable for the out-there dialogue. It has that addictive quality that makes shows like Attack On Titan so successful.
The art can also get pretty trippy, which also kept me reading. This was published in the 1970s, so there are moments of surrealism and impressionism. The detailed wasteland’s curves form a dissonance with the artist’s great use of lines. This combines with the black and white coloring to create a foreboding atmosphere. I can see how Junji Ito got inspiration from the character designs and the impressionistic backgrounds.
This classic may have aged, but it’s a classic for a reason. The art and shocking moments make this a fast, engrossing read. There’s two more Perfect Editions to read, and I’m planning to read them so I can see what could possibly be next in this unpredictable book.
In the aftermath of a massive earthquake, a Japanese elementary school is transported into a hostile world where the students and teachers are besieged by terrifying creatures and beset by madness. Out of nowhere, an entire school vanishes, leaving nothing but a hole in the ground. While parents mourn and authorities investigate, the students and teachers find themselves not dead but stranded in a terrifying wasteland where they must fight to survive.Add to CartLearn More