August 31, 2009

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The Drifting Classroom Volume 3

Written by Kazuo Umezu
Illustrated by Kazuo Umezu
Viz

I continue to wind my way slowly through this horror manga by Umezu, not because I don't like it but because my local library illogically seems not to want to carry it, so, like Parasyte, I have to get it in doses.

As this volume picks up the narrative, Sho and his mother have found a way to connect to each other through the mysterious time shift, a plot point that I am sure will come in handy later, when ever Umezo opts to use it. This, quite naturally, drives her insane, because in typical horror fashion, she's the only one who can do so. In a nice change of pace that is no less horrific than what has come before, we watch Sho's mother become ever more desperate in her attempts to reconnect with him.

But perhaps all is not lost, for just as things look bad for Sho back in his timeline, a link to the past may just save him.

Of course, safe is a relative word in this new world, as even if Sho can manage to elude the crazed adults, he must still try to find a way to be an anchor for the young children left at the school. Who knows what they might do without a leader?

It looks like things might be okay for awhile, but in true horror fashio, Umezo twists the knife yet again on his ragtag bunch of school kids, as an escaped lunatic and deadly monsters combine to make even more trouble. (This part is done particularly well, as Umezo balances the two plot points just about right to both up the ante and keep the suspense going.) Just as all is lost for Sho and several of his friends...well, things just get worse, as another malcontent is heard from. And she's not there to make friends, either.

Soon, the whole school--or what remains of it--looks ready to turn into a chaotic mess. But will even the resilient Sho be able to stop what looks like total anarchy amongst the children? I guess I'll have to wait about a month or so to see...

It's hard to keep the momentum going on a horror story without seeming contrived, but Umezo has done a good job so far. Each of the threats has seemed natural--well, as natural as horror threats can get--and they've ranged nicely from psychological to physical, keeping the tone varied enough to make you want to read from volume to volume. Even his use of recurring characters as points of stress is well done and don't feel like cheap shots to pad page count.

Heck, I even think seeding the idea of a connection between the times is a smart one. After all, this has to end sometime, and what better way than sowing the seeds now, so the reader was along for the ride from the word go?

Artistically, I think this was the least interesting volume so far, which is really the only thing I have to complain about. The shadowy drawings are replaced by more white space, as characters move outside of the school. I understand the idea of keeping things fresh, but I think the darkness of the backgrounds really added to the mood.

Drifting Classroom continues to be an enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it--if you can find it!