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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
MT Interview: Greg Beettam and Stephen Geigen-Miller 
4th-Oct-2006 01:03 pm
Atagoul
Today on Talk About Comics, I talk to Greg Beettam and Stephen Geigen-Miller, co-creators of Xeno's Arrow, now on Modern Tales Longplay. Rock!

Also, look! It's another Overlooked Manga Festival!



Today's manga isn't totally overlooked. At least, it got a nice writeup in Publisher's Weekly a while back. On the other hand, it only has a stub on Wikipedia, and that's totally wrong for a series of this stature. Besides, Halloween's around the corner. Time to enjoy screaming, mutilated children!



Kazuo Umezu is one of the most renowned and influential manga artists, best known for a) bizarre, graphically gruesome horror stories, and b) the hilarious gross-out humor of Makoto-chan, Japan's scatalogical answer to Dennis the Menace. It's easy to write this off as the kind of one-two punch that could only work in wacky old Japan, but think of all the EC horror artists who went on to draw for Mad magazine. Whose national comics culture is crazy NOW, huh? Nonetheless, Umezu is by all accounts a pretty nutty man-child, and a lot of his horror work suggests a slightly unhinged mind. His most recent series, Fourteen, for example, takes place in an ecologically devastated dystopian future where humanity is threatened with destruction at the hands of a mutant half-man, half-chicken named Chicken George.

But I'm not here to talk about Chicken George.

Umezu's work is slowly seeping into the English-language world. Viz published one lonely volume of his series Orochi, and Dark Horse has begun publishing a bunch of his short stories under the title Scary Book. You should definitely read these creepy-ass manga, but I'm devoting special attention to The Drifting Classroom, published by Viz, because it's generally regarded as the quintessential Umezu horror manga. First published from 1972-1974, it was immensely popular, solidified Umezu's reputation as a manga master, and influenced a ton of other manga. As you look at the following pages, keep in mind that they first appeared in Shonen Sunday, a magazine aimed at grade-schoolers. (The lighthearted comedies of Rumiko Takahashi would debut in the pages of Shonen Sunday just two years after the end of Drifting Classroom).

So. As our story begins, an elementary-school building is suddenly and inexplicably teleported to a bleak, lifeless wasteland, leaving behind only a crater and a lot of distraught parents.





The series then follows resourceful sixth-grader Sho and his classmates as they struggle to survive in their strange new surroundings. The action begins at a fever pitch and doesn't. Let. Up. I am helpless to explain any of it; I can only invite you to observe some representative moments from the two volumes currently available in English, while maintaining the appropriate level of shock and awe:

SHO REALIZES THAT THE SCHOOL IS SURROUNDED BY A BLASTED WASTELAND!!!



THE STUDENTS PANIC AND RIOT!!!



TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MINDS!!!



(Get used to that crazy laugh. You'll be hearing it a lot in Umezu comics.)

A TEACHER (who looks uncomfortably like my dad) RESTORES ORDER BY STABBING A KID IN THE ARM!!!





THE KIDS FIND A GUN!!!



(The kid with the gun looks like Shovelhead from my comic Li'l Mell. And, yes, I do plan to model Li'l Mell upon Drifting Classroom from here on out.)

(Where was I? Oh, yes...)

A CAFETERIA WORKER HOARDS FOOD AND KILLS ANYONE WHO GETS IN HIS WAY!!!



THE KIDS ORGANIZE A COUP!!!



THE TEACHERS START TO KILL THEMSELVES!!!



AND EACH OTHER!!!



KIDS GET RUN OVER BY A MADMAN IN A SENSIBLE FOUR-DOOR SEDAN!!!



There's also some plot, as the kids begin to figure out where they are and try to find some way to contact the world they came from, but whatever. Read the manga.

Everyone who's read the entire eleven-volume run of Drifting Classroom says the same thing: it's stunning in its ability to sustain the same level of intense, claustrophobic horror from beginning to end. Umezu sucks the reader into his weird world and doesn't let go, and it's only made more disturbing by the fact that everything is filtered through the viewpoint of a child. It's a deeply unsettling reading experience. Personally, I've only read the first two volumes, so I can't confirm all of this. Maybe things start settling down in Volume 3. Wait, here's the Coming Next Volume page:



Yeah, maybe not.

So that's The Drifting Classroom. A total horror classic and world-class freakout.



Comments 
4th-Oct-2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
WTF

Thanks. I've been sleeping way too much lately anyway ...
4th-Oct-2006 10:52 pm (UTC)

People of Earth, meet your new LiveJournal icon.
4th-Oct-2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
I love how Japanese comics look at worlds without order. The moment a social structure disappears, everything goes batshit insane. Dogs laying with cats! Children murdering other children! People pooing on the floor! OH MAN NO SOCIAL STRUCTURE EQUALS EVERYONE DIES.
5th-Oct-2006 12:20 am (UTC)
I read a chunk of this years ago; I think it was a fanscan/fantrans. FREAKY. I remember Matt and I being all pissed off when the fan team ran out of steam and left us hanging after a few chapters, because we were sure this thing would never be legitimately imported.

Glad to see I was wrong! Gotta update my Amazon wishlist...
5th-Oct-2006 01:16 am (UTC)
How close does this parallel Lord of the Flies? (Apart from the presence of the adults, which has to twist things pretty severely..)

I've been reading your reviews, and while I'm not averse to manga, I have never been a huge fan, have never owned much, have never even seen much. This, however, looks nice and intense, disturbing, and all round enjoyable.

Art wise, it seems a pretty big shift from some of the other work you've showcased. Story-wise, this looks amazing. Once you accept the initial premise, this looks very intense.

You're eventually going to make me start buying this stuff, aren't you?
5th-Oct-2006 09:28 pm (UTC)

"How close does this parallel Lord of the Flies? (Apart from the presence of the adults, which has to twist things pretty severely..)"

Drifting Classroom has often been compared to Lord of the Flies, although I think the overall plots are significantly different. One major thematic difference, at least as far into the series as I've read, is that the kids are more capable of sticking together and surviving than the adults. The various authority figures freak out almost immediately, with several becoming outright dangerous and destructive, leaving Sho and his group as a lone knot of semi-sanity. There seems to be no faith in the power of civilization to set things right.
6th-Oct-2006 02:00 am (UTC)
I really look forward to Overlooked Manga Festival! And should have thanked you for them long before this. :D
24th-Apr-2007 09:24 pm (UTC) - The Drifting Classroom Wikipedia Article
Anonymous
From driverstart,

You are correct about the Wikipedia article and how it was a stub. Not anymore thanks to me! I been working and fixing up that article every time I get a brand new book from the series! By now, it should provide everyone with a great detail about the book series up to volume four. I'm getting 5 soon enough.

Though it feels like I'm the only one working on improving the article itself! Oh sure, I get some help by some people providing corrections or websites, but I can't do this alone!
17th-Nov-2007 02:50 am (UTC)
Wow, I had no idea this had been translated. It was made into a drama a few years back, but it was only loosely based on the manga. Still, it was pretty awesome. I don't know if there's a subbed version or not, but you should check it out. It's called Long Love Letter.
9th-Feb-2008 12:01 am (UTC) - güzel oyunlar
Anonymous
En Güzel oyunlar (http://www.hizlioyun.com)


thanks
23rd-Apr-2010 03:05 am (UTC)
interesting manga

Regards
Smystery



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