Drifting Classroom 11Posted: April 13, 2008
So here is the end. How was it? Well, a satellite lands from outer space and an arm and half a face strangle the crazy delivery man, but I must say I kind of disagreed with how things turned out. One one hand, I thought it was kind of anticlimactic. On the other hand, there’s something that’s even more terrifying about what happened. Let me tell you, that would have never have happened had I been in their shoes. Of course, I probably would not be alive anyway if I was in their shoes, I would have succumbed to… the decapitation flood or something like that long ago. There is some closure though, and I liked that Sho’s mom got a momento… and there was even a little hope from the future.
There’s an essay in the very back of the book about Drifting Classroom. While I liked it because it was completely ludicrous, the essay suggests that the story unfolds as a series of very realistic children’s nightmares, things that adults forget to fear as they age. It explains that Umezu is still tormented by these things, and he depicts it in an extremely serious way. The beauty of Drifting Classroom is that it goes over-the-top without being self-aware. It never jokes around about what happens, and nobody ever points out how insane this stuff is, which is I think why it succeeds. I laughed at some parts, but if I had read it when I was younger, I probably would have never slept again. Those Alvin Schwartz “Scary Stories” books cost me a lot of sleep as an 8-year-old (which I loved, apparently, because I read them all over and over again), and they’re extremely tame compared to this.
There’s another short story included in the back called “The Wish,” which, in case you were wondering, is coupled with “Snake Girl” on disc 2 of the Kazuo Umezu Horror Theater DVD series as it was released in the US. I was surprised to see it, because I thought that story was in the book “Negai.” Actually, this story probably IS in that book given the fact that they share a name and Mokume is on the front, but I digress. It’s… kind of Umezu’s version of Pinocchio, where a little boy builds a friend out of trash and wishes as hard as he can for him to come to life. His dad suggests wishing on a star, but his friends say that the best way is to harness cosmic energy, which works for me. The dummy (which is really terrifying-looking, among other things it’s got nails for teeth), never comes to life despite the boy’s earnest wishes, and he makes other friends at school. He throws his friend, named Woody (or Mokume) away so that it doesn’t scare his real friends. The wish comes true and Woody comes to life. It’s terrifying. I promise. It’s way better than anything that we got to see in the English version of Scary Books, and it’s drawn in the same tiny panel style as the stories in those collections.
Drifting Classroom has permanently moved Kazuo Umezu into my good graces. I’m really looking forward to Cat-Eyed Boy now, even though I know I won’t like it as much (I suspect it’ll be about the same quality as “Reptilia,” which people should buy so that IDW releases more manga). I would have a hard time recommending it, because it’s really not for everyone. It’s admittedly a little light on… well, plot. Kids get blown into the future and bad stuff happens, and no explanation is really provided until the end. But the bad stuff is just not to be believed, and it’s just so extreme and amazing that anyone who’s looking to be shocked and disturbed in ways they didn’t think possible would do well to read it.