Story & Art by Kazuo Umezz
Translated by Sheldon Drzka
English Adaptation by Molly Tanzer
Lettering by Evan Waldinger
Design by Adam Grano
Edited by Joel Enos
Crafting a piece of fiction that is truly terrifying is not an easy task. Horror is a heavily subjective genre, and as society changes, so does the content that evokes fear. That said, there are still works of horror that are timeless and among these is The Drifting Classroom. Viz Media’s new re-release The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition returns Kazuo Umezz’s classic story to the spotlight in a beautiful hardcover edition. Even decades since its initial publication, the series continues to be a chilling survival story like no other.
One fateful day, sixth grader Sho Takamatsu’s school is suddenly transported to a strange wasteland. Now estranged from their former lives, Sho and his friends must learn to survive in their deadly new environment. The Drifting Classroom’s opening chapters perfectly capture the chaotic nature of a crisis. People are scared, resources are limited, and the future is unknown. It immediately establishes a chilling tone to the narrative, making it clear that our cast is on the brink of danger. Initially, Sho’s role in the crisis is as an intermediary between the adult and child factions of the school. Despite learning the reality of their situation from the adults, Sho needs to prevent the other children from panicking and endangering their lives. The overbearing burden given to Sho serves as his primary source of anxiety, and it falls upon him to keep his classmates alive in this unknown world.
While The Drifting Classroom appears to establish a status-quo early on, it soon becomes clear that instability is the series’ natural state. The series feeds upon the many characteristics of crisis behavior, and those traits are amplified to their extreme throughout the cast. As the mental states of the students and teachers begin to worsen, they start to take drastic measures to prioritize their own survival. This is especially true for the adults in the story, as they begin killing and stealing from the school residents to gather resources. Broken away from traditional society, the people of Sho’s school have lost the moral judgment they once had, creating a lawless environment that only cares about the individual rather than the collective. The Drifting Classroom understands that human nature is inherently unpredictable, and as such, it’s the perfect source of terror for a story.
The most stunning part about The Drifting Classroom is by far its artwork. Umezz’s iconic visuals are sight to behold on every page, crafting a brooding and unsettling tone for the series as a whole. Umezz also often showcases the impact that horror has on the characters themselves. Many chapters will include full page drawings of characters screaming in fear or pain, which serves to further increase the building tension. Beyond that, the wasteland environment Umezz has crafted also evokes its own share of fright. The world feels unnatural in design, with the architecture being drastically warped and the surfaces having a lava-like texture. These abnormalities convey the gravity of the school’s situation, being in a world that doesn’t follow the sensibilities of their previous lives. Through the toughest of scenes, Umezz’s artwork is both gorgeous and horrifying, a meticulous balance that only someone of his caliber is capable of.
While this isn’t the first time that The Drifting Classroom has been released in English, it has never had a release as beautiful as the Perfect Edition. This hardcover design and strong paper quality give the release an unmatched premium feel. This is further supported by the sheer volume of content within the book, containing the first three volumes of the original release at a grand total of 744 pages. This is without question the definitive way to experience the series.
The Drifting Classroom is a chilling classic, perfectly capturing the horror of crisis and human nature within its pages. Umezz’s terrifying world will immediately draw readers in, and the continual tension of the narrative leaves you anxious for what’s to come. If you have yet to check out this amazing series, The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition is easily the best place to start.