Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Drifting Classroom Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezu


Sixth grader Sho Takamatsu fights with his mother over being more responsible and growing up a but only to go to a school that suddenly transports to a barren wasteland. He finds himself in a role of authority after stepping up to protect the younger students and making hard decisions to further their survival. These students are faced with harsh realities and incredible dangers from humans and creatures alike while trying to figure out what happened and if it's even possible to return home.


The Drifting Classroom first came out in the 70's and was recently re-released in a beautiful hardcover last year. The story is a balance of bleak reality and wild science fiction centered around children. The children are forced to change quickly, especially the middle school aged kids, to lead where the adults fail and work toward the survival of as many as possible. He's almost unrecognizable even halfway through the story compared to the lazy kid at the start. Although he has everyone's best interests at heart, the others start to suspect him when inexplicable things happen and of course give over to mob rule when bullies lead and dissenters are punished. Overall, the kids shockingly work together well until fear and suspicious tear them apart.


The children are threatened by more than just the wasteland around them. The adults are doing nothing helpful at all. After the initial attempt to keep order, they kill themselves, kill kids they've taught and protected previously, or hoard all the resources for themselves. Simply put, they can't handle the extreme change and hopelessness while the children are resilient enough to hold on to hope and keep moving forward. The creatures who live in the wasteland are the other major danger, giant insect-like monstrosities that consume people like popcorn. Their existence was in doubt for a while when only a few witnessed it's first few meals until the school is faced with a fullfledged attack. 


The Drifting Classroom is a foundational work that influenced current horror writers such as Junji Ito (explicitly stated in his latest release, Venus in the Blindspot). It delves into deep, dark territory with an art style more indicative of lighter tone. The revelations discovered are devastating and went places I could never have predicted. The edition is beautiful, high quality, and well worth the price. I can't wait to see what else this series has in store.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins