Thursday, March 22, 2007

Manga Review: The Drifting Classroom Vol. 1-4 by Kazuo Umezu

Modern-day manga readers will probably recognize the name Junji Ito when it comes to horror manga. Before him however came Kazuo Umezu and while he isn't an Osamu Tezuka, he does come quite close.

The Drifting Classroom is one of Umezu's epics and is loosely based on the concept of Lord of the Flies. An entire school is transported into a post-apocalyptic world where survival becomes a real dilemma.

Umezu's art is characteristic of the era he was in (and clearly marking Tezuka as one of his peers). Still, there's a variety of emotions and creatures present, and just as well considering the scope of the series.

The story might have been cutting edge for its time but compared to the current artists/writers, The Drifting Classroom may fall flat. Ito is clearly Umezu's successor but that doesn't mean this manga doesn't have value. The story seems contrived at times but it is nonetheless compelling. The horror of this title is both from the internal and external factors which Umezu manages to pull off.

Accompanying the first volume of the series is a brief biography and bibliography of Umezu and how he is easily one of Japan's manga pioneers, giving the title additional value for would-be manga scholars.

I doubt the series will latch on to modern-day readers as the writing and the art is clearly dated. If you're looking for cutting edge material, you're reading this three decades too late. Still, if you want a look back at what's been done before, The Drifting Classroom is easily a classic.

Rating: 3/5.

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