The Drifting Classroom is a shonen manga from acclaimed manga creator, Kazuo Umezz, who is considered the most influential horror manga artist ever. VIZ recently began publishing a new English language edition of The Drifting Classroom in its “perfect edition” format. According to VIZ, The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition features an all-new translation and new content and revised story elements gathered in a deluxe hardcover format. If I understand correctly, the original eleven graphic novels will be collected in three hardcover omnibus books with a trim size of 5 3/4 x 8 1/8.
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 15) introduces sixth-grader Sho Takamatsu. The story opens with a prologue, of sorts, in which Sho speaks to his mother, Emiko Takamatsu, as if he were writing her a letter or telling her a story about his life since he last saw her. The day and evening that led up to the fateful morning when everything changed finds mother and child squabbling over petty disagreements, seeming to deliberately vex one another.
Then, one morning, Sho's school, Yamato Elementary School, is apparently struck by the tremors of an earthquake. People near the school discover that the school has disappeared after the earthquake; at first, they think the school was destroyed in an explosion. However, Sho, the teachers, and students of Yamato Elementary emerge from the school to discover that Yamato Elementary is now surrounded by what seems like an endless wasteland of sand. They come to believe that in the aftermath of the massive earthquake, the school was transported to a hostile world.
But the truth is more terrifying than that. Wherever they are, the students and teachers find themselves besieged by terrifying creatures and short on food and water. Worst of all, madness takes over both the adults and the children, turning them towards tyranny and even murder.
THE LOWDOWN: The Drifting Classroom manga is a mixture of horror and science fiction. The science fiction side of the narrative follows the adventures of a group of elementary school students trapped in what resembles a post-apocalyptic world. The horror element focuses, at least early in the narrative, on the breakdown of order in the school as well as on the murderous turn that some of the teachers and students take.
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition Volume 1 is both a terrifying and a terrifically breezy read. I once described the pace of the story being as if Umezz put his readers on a horse that just races at breakneck speeds through a barren landscape of non-stop action and adventure... and, of course, terror. In addition to the depiction of terror, I think that what impresses me in these first 740+ pages of the story is the imaginative and inventive ways in which Umezz depicts the breakdown of Yamato Elementary's society in the shifting factions of hoarders, tyrants, and murderers.
Sheldon Drzka on the translation and Molly Danzer on the English adaptation capture The Drifting Classroom manic ebb and flow of the children investigating, planning, escaping, and fighting for their lives. Drzka and Danzer's work is so good that there were times that I felt that I simply could not stop reading. Believe me when I say that reading this does not feel like an experience of trudging through 740+ pages. Honestly, by the end of it, I wanted more.
I highly recommend the first volume of The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition to fans of horror manga. It is a must-read, and, for the collector, a must-have.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: The serious manga reader – interested in the past as well as in the present and future of the medium – will want to read the VIZ Signature release of The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition.