June 22, 2009

, , ,   |  

The Drifting Classroom Volume 2

Written by Kazuo Umezu
Illustrated by kazuo Umezo
Viz

I liked this one enough to do another ILL request, and I hope that the folks who buy books at my local library will start to see a pattern. This is a strong series that needs a wider audience, at least where I live.

While the first volume was more of "horror of the mind" as I called it, this set of issues has a nice set of gory manga violence. People are beaten, burned, stabbed, shot, and strangled--and that's just a sample of what you're in for this time.

Unlike some gore-fests, however, this does not affect the quality of the writing in any way. Umezu still has a tight rein on the plot, the atmospheric moods, and the mysterious nature of why the school is set out of time.

There's a lot going on in this volume, starting with a battle for the school's food, the creeping insanity of the teachers (contrasted by the eerie calm of the children), and a growing realization of the truth. I think it especially interesting that it's the children who are working their way through things. Umezu also shows us a bit of what the rest of the world sees, as he teases hints out to the reader.

Almost every scene is charged with negative energy. As with the first volume, shadows are cast over everyone, keepings things creepy and gloomy. People's eyes look soulness, windows are dark, even desks--probably shiny in normal times, are dull and formless. It's an effect I don't remember seeing in manga yet (though my reading is limited), and I like it a lot.

Sho, our focal character, tries very hard to keep his sanity intact as the adults around him start losing their heads--almost literally. He's thinking about food and water even as some of the teachers battle for control of what little they have left. He somehow finds his way into every situation, as a good main character does, without it seeming too forced.

Sho may also be the key to solving the mystery--if he can live long enough to share it.

Like any good horror writer, Umezu understands the need to keep upping the ante while allowing the reader space to breathe. He lets things settle a bit--like the battle for food--only to bring up the fact that eventually the food will be gone. We also see that the craziest people may be those who act the most sane. What does that say for Sho, the one best able to hold it together?

I really like this series, and any fan of the horror genre will quickly see the best parts of the genre on display here--children in danger, limited resourcces, an unstoppable force (in this case a time warp), and of course, human cruelty. They're all familiar themes, but crafted together so well by Umezu that you'll find new ways to be terrified. I'm looking forward to more.