This post of The Drifting Classroom by author Kazuo Umezz has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
I was really surprised by Drifting Classroom. On the surface it’s a pretty standard horror manga. A classroom of kids needs to fight for their survival. But the gift of Drifting Classroom lies in its characters, that’s where it really deviates from the norm.
The classroom in question is spontaneously drifted to a strange new land that no one recognizes. The children and teachers have no idea what has happened and must learn how to survive if they have any hope of returning.
Turns out the very young children, think elementary school aged, are much better at this than the adults. The teachers erupt immediately into a violent panic, there are many casualties. A lot of the shock of The Drifting Classroom comes from the author’s willingness to kill off young children.
The protagonist is Sho, a 6th grader and natural born leader. He takes the role of helping everyone work together to find solutions. I really enjoyed watching him find his place in this new society. He handles all sorts of conflicts with a grace most adults could never hope for.
But my favorite character is Yu. He’s a tiny 3 year old who happened to be riding his tricycle just too close to the school when it drifted. He’s the cutest thing! The way he’s drawn, the way he speaks, the way he acts. It’s all just so danged adorable! Every time he showed up on the page I was overwhelmed with a motherly urge to protect him and fight for his survival.
I can’t do justice to how cute Yu is with words alone. But I did find myself nearly crying from joy at one point in the book, soley because of his absolute purehearted nature. We don’t deserve Yu, he’s too good for this world.
I cared for several of the characters in this book. This is the key to great horror. The consequences have to be high! I actually did care if they lived or died, a surprisingly rare feature for horror of any medium.
In addition to the characters the art is great. Several full page layouts could easily be framed and hung in any room of your house.
It also has a levity that balances well with the horror aspects. Enjoy many many scenes of kids falling flat on their faces.
Seriously, it happens A LOT in this book.
I fully understand now why The Drifting Classroom is considered a classic. It’s absolutely ridiculous and has a lot of stretches of reason but you’ll have to see how it ends. You’ll have to see if the kids get a happy ending, and you won’t put it down until you know.
The manga was adapted into a live action 1987 film. Looking at the low rating and sparse information about it on IMDB you’d be hard pressed to find a copy to watch and maybe you wouldn’t want to anyway.
The Drifting Classroom Summary
The Drifting Classroom is a classic horror manga series about a class of young children spontaneously transported to another time. They are put into a situation in which they must figure out how to survive and hopefully how to get back home.
It’s an ensemble cast of characters, all young elementary school aged kids. But the stars are Sho, the leader, and Yu the unbelievably adorable 3 year old who was in the wrong place when the classroom drifted.
Seriously, I can’t even explain how fucking cute Yu is. He’s literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He has a cute little face and little overalls and he’s obsessed with his tricycle and he’s just the most purehearted little s.o.b I’ve ever seen on paper or in life. I love him. So much it hurts.
Ahem, but the book starts with Sho, he’s had a big fight with his mom before leaving for school that morning. Then the classroom drifts and he feels so guilty about his last interaction with her. She will also be an absolute wreck when she finds out he’s missing.
Quickly after the classroom drifts trust between the teachers and students evaporates. The adults are maniacal selfish monsters and the students do their best to survive the first round of challenges, murderous panicking teachers.
They quickly manage to kill each other and themselves off. It’s chaos how fast that happens. Except for an evil Lunchroom Man. He takes all the food for himself and even straight murders some children over it.
The children work together to take him out and share the food. But this Lunchroom Man will keep on coming back no matter what anyone does. It’s the one constant in this new world of theirs.
The children find out that they didn’t transport in space, but in time. They determine this by finding a monument dedicated to their graves. Creepy.
Meanwhile, back in the original time, Sho’s mother hears his voice but no one else does. She leaves a weapon for him to find in the future. He’s able to find it and use it to defend himself against the crazies. Of which there is no shortage.
Through all of the craziness the children vote for Sho to be their new Prime Minister. He’s a natural leader and deserves the position. But now they’re being attacked by giant bug monsters!!
In a bizarre series of events they determine that the bug monster can’t attack if you’re asleep or have a blank mind. Since most people can’t sleep or keep their mind still under duress the bug monster kills quite a few children. The rest decide to go on the offensive.
They find out the monster came from one boy’s mind. They attacked the monster and it just turned into a million little bug monsters. Filled with guilt and despair the boy kills himself to stop the monsters. It works.
Next up in the line of horrors, the children break out in a plague. The bubonic plague. However, this plague also appears in the original timeline. Sho’s mom steals a bunch of medicine and hides it in a corpse that will become a mummy for Sho to find. It works. Yup.
With the plague over the kids need food. They start growing some but their garden becomes infested with odd mushrooms. The kids who eat the mushrooms become slaves to a one eyed god. And the Lunchroom Man comes back out of nowhere to try and steal more food.
So now we have these one eyed monsters. Turns out they’re the future evolved form of humans. And they want to kill all the humans cause they’ve only heard bad things.
The kids become divided and a war begins. Amongst the chaos Sho is treated to impromptu appendix surgery. This whole scene was a nail biter let me tell you. Legit anxiety from this whole section of the book. At this point I was really quite fond of Sho and really wanted him to pull through! And he does, phew!
There is also a very intense scene involving the kids needing to leap over a chasm. I was so worried for them! Especially little Yu who is the super brave first to jump to show the older kids they can. This little boy doesn’t have a ton to do plot wise but every time he showed up my heart just swelled!
As is necessary in these kinds of stories the side of the children that doesn’t have our heroes resorts to cannibalism before they’re able to truce with the good side.
They decide to work together on a hail mary plan to go back home. This involves explosives and prayer. The plan only works well enough to send home little Yu. The rest are stuck in the distant future. However, the explosion opened up an underground stream with clean water so maybe they can work together to make it habitable.
Yu gets home, with his tricycle, and gives Sho’s diary to Sho’s mother.
You’ll just have to take my word for it for how unbelievably happy I was to see Yu get a happy ending. I don’t know, I just love him like I love my own nephew. I very nearly cried with joy at how happy and cute he is hopping on his beloved tricycle and getting to go home. It filled me with emotions, real emotions!
So Sho’s mom feels sad she’ll never see him again but proud of his leadership and that’s just going to have to be good enough for her ending.
The Drifting Classroom is not a perfect manga. It’s ridiculous, over the top, vague about a lot of parts, and doesn’t adhere to logic. But I loved it. The characters really bring it to life. We’ve all seen many stories like this before but this is one of the few with children this young, and children this young that actually die.
It’s a truly special horror story and a classic manga for a reason.
4/5 dreams of ramen 🍜🍜🍜🍜
For more great horror manga check out No Longer Human
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Buy it here:
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 (1) (The Drifting Classroom: The Perfect Edit)
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 2 (2)
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 3 (3)
744 pages over 3 volumes
For most of the characters the answer is left open ended. All but one member of the classroom are left in the distant future. They do find a source of clean water and those who are still alive have been working well together so perhaps they can at least survive there.
Yu is a small boy who does get to return home. He is adorably reunited with his tricycle and that’s a happy enough ending for me.
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