Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Junji Ito's Dissolving Classroom

* spoilers *

High school student Yuuma Azawa and his little sister Chizuma move to a new city. He is remarkable by all because of his habit of apologizing profusely for seemingly nothing, even going so far as bowing down on the floor. His classmates take it as a joke and waste no time making him the target of harassment and bullying. Chizuma also becomes infamous in the neighborhood for following people around and scaring them with her intense stare. Both have conflicting stories of each other. Yuuma claims Chizuma is disturbed and Chizuma claims Yuuma worships the devil and melts people by apologizing so much.

Much like Tomie, this manga follows Yuuma and Chizuma Azawa as they move around Tokyo, affecting people and oftentimes murdering them as they go. Yuuma appears to be a nice young man that helps his community and has an odd habit. In reality, he worships the devi through his extensive apologies and the effect of the power has some debilitating effects on people that causes them or their brains to melt. Chizuma is his annoying little sister taken to the extreme. She is completely honest with anyone she comes across, much to Yuuma's chagrin, and relishes eating the melted brains. The duality between the two is interesting. He lies constantly but appears normal, attractive, and nice while Chizuma tells the truth and appears as monstrous, but doesn't have any supernatural powers at all.

As with most of Ito's stories, body horror is at the forefront with the power melting and disfiguring people. Each story is a little different and Yuuma's power has greater effects as time goes on. He can melt entire buildings of people eventually and the press catches on to the mysterious "disease" going around Japan wherever they go. His powers venture into other territories like constantly resurrecting his parents to abuse him. Chizuma has some stories only about her, like when she falls in love with another boy. It goes about as well as you might expect from a monstrous girl who eats liquified people and parts. The story where Yuuma compliments young women so much that their faces melt and become disfigured is one of my favorites. It's symbolic for how people can be trapped by abusive relationships when the abuser seems so nice and charming. 

Dissolving Classroom is unlike a lot of other of Ito's stories. He has tropes he likes to follow and some of his stories can be a bit predictable as I read more and more of his work. I felt completely surprised by the stories and delighted to uncover whatever depravity he has in store. The ending is spectacular, unexpected, and a little tragic. Some argue that Yuuma is unaware of his power, but I thought there was enough implication that he relishes in the effect of his power. The only tiny problem I had was defining electromagnetism as the cause for melting people. If it was left undefined and magical, I think it would have been better. It was an odd detail since Ito rarely tries to explain the supernatural elements. Other than that, Dissolving Classroom is a fantastically twisted horror manga that's a quick read.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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