March 16, 2013
Keiko Suenobu – Vertical – 2012 – 6 volumes
I like supporting Vertical, and this series sounded like it might be right down my alley, with a description online that made it sound a little Lord of the Flies-ish. A classroom with a strict social hierarchy goes on a field trip and something bad happens that kills many of them.
Then the back of the book makes it sound like it deals with issues of bullying. The truth is somewhere in the middle. It is mostly about bullying, but the girls that feel like their being bullied take over when the bus wrecks during the class trip and all but 5-6 girls are killed. The girl who is at the bottom of the social pecking order winds up bullying the girls she feels wronged her the most. And she does it with a scythe, while withholding food.
My main problem was that the parts that showed the “popular girls”… weren’t really about bullying. The girl that is clearly supposed to be the outcast is more than clear, but that’s mostly because of the way she looks. The girls take a manga she’s drawing out of her bag one day, and she clearly doesn’t like it, but the girls honestly don’t seem like they’re bullying her. They read it and complement her, and ask her questions about it that she doesn’t answer. She protests later about how being chosen to draw the dreaded lot for the class field trip was bullying, and that they only wanted to blame her when she drew the worst one. Except they didn’t, really, they kinda moved on after that, and yeah, she was chosen to draw it because nobody else wanted to and she didn’t want to stand up for herself and nominate someone else. She takes all of this to heart, and really tortures the girls later. But the fact it’s supposedly about this girl being bullied doesn’t really hold water for me. It doesn’t matter, because it’s obvious the girl thinks she was being bullied, and she’s crazy, so it doesn’t matter if it’s true. But the message… it’s a little unclear now.
I also have a hard time believing the bus accident strands them as remotely as the story claims. Supposedly, the bus fell into a canyon that’s blocked off on all sides, and is so remote that they won’t be missed until the bus doesn’t return for its next trip. Except the bus won’t be missed for quite some time, days maybe, because the driver looks overworked.
It’s hard for me to believe there’s a road that goes to a camp populated by students that’s so remote that no cars would drive by and see evidence of a bus accident. It’s hard for me to believe that there aren’t staff members at the camp that would miss the students, although that’s dodged by having the school staff come with them on the bus, I guess? It’s hard for me to believe that a driver showing signs of being overworked is supposedly going to be driving on his merry way for another 2-3 days. None of these girls would be missed by anyone when they didn’t make calls to their parents or whoever on their ubiquitous cellphones?
I’m hoping my logic issues with the first volume don’t come up again with the second. If it’s about life in the new survival situation, and the crazy outcast girl, that I can get behind. I’m rooting for the “popular” girl, though.