The Drifting Classroom is a legendary shonen manga from creator, Kazuo Umezz. Many manga creators, fans, and critics consider Umezz to be the most influential horror manga artist ever. Starting in October 2019, VIZ 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 in The Drifting Classroom series will be collected in three hardcover omnibus books with a trim size of 5 3/4 x 8 1/4.
The Drifting Classroom focuses on sixth-grader Sho Takamatsu. One morning, Sho's school, Yamato Elementary School, is apparently struck by the tremors of an earthquake. People near Yamato discover that the school has disappeared after the earthquake; at first, they think the school was destroyed in an explosion. However, Sho, the teachers, the students of Yamato Elementary, and a visiting pre-school child (Yuichi “Yu” Onodo) 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 has been transported to the future.
As The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 2 (Chapters 16 to 29) opens, the surviving students have accepted that they have been somehow transported into the distant future – at least some of them. Now, they are confronted by strange plants and strange bugs, suddenly appearing in a world they believed to be barren. But is any of it real? That is what Sho and the other students have to figure out when a giant bug-monster attacks the school.
Then, what seems like a moving black mass is eating the students alive. Plus, the students fight what may be an epidemic of the “Black Plague.” Sho's mother, Emiko Takamatsu, finds a way to bridge “separated time” in order to help Sho. Some of the students go on a rampage, and others create a crazy new religion. And finally, an old adversary returns.
THE LOWDOWN: I previously called The Drifting Classroom manga a mixture of horror and science fiction. The series is a seamless blend of horror and science fiction, and I really can't tell where one genre begins and the other ends. 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 on the students in constant brutal conflict that gradually, inevitably shrinks the population that was originally 862 humans.
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition Volume 2 focuses on the endless conflicts in which the children face – man versus man; man versus nature; and man versus himself. Several times while reading Vol. 2, I thought of Lord of the Flies, and other times the characters seemed like nothing more than hapless castaways lost on another world.
Sheldon Drzka (translation) and Molly Danzer (English adaptation) present dialogue that perfectly captures the breakneck pace of The Drifting Classroom and also the desperation and the mania of the students. Umezz brilliantly fashioned a series of terrifying situations in which to place his characters, and as much as they thrill me, I also find poignant moments in the English-language version .
I highly recommend this second volume of The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition to fans of horror manga and to fans of classic manga series. It is a must-read, and, for the “special edition” collectors, 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.