The Drifting Classroom (aka Hyouryuu Kyoushitsu) is a horror manga series released all the way back in 1972 by Weekly Shonen Sunday. This piece of art is written and illustrated by Kazuo Umezu who is also known for his other works such as Orochi: Blood and Kami no Hidarite, Akuma no Migite aka God’s Left Hand, Devil’s Right Hand

The Drifting Classroom centers around a sixth-grade boy named Sho, who, after a heated argument with his mother, heads to school like any other day. After what seems like an earthquake hits the facility, the school and all staff and students are transported to a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland. As panic sets in, the staff lose their sanity and start hoarding food and killing anyone that gets in their way. It is up to the students to protect themselves and take back control of their supplies and their school. As the dust settles, the students have regained control but at the price of being the only ones left alive. It is now that the real struggle of survival begins with anything from outside attacks from megafauna and mysterious illnesses to internal struggles of descension and mutiny, all whilst trying to make sense of how, or even if, they are able to make it back home safely. 

Not for the faint of heart, this manga shows very graphic scenes of young children fighting for their lives – not always being on the victorious side. Battling against the elements of their new surroundings along with food shortages, terrifying monsters, as well as internal power struggles; all displayed in Kazuo Umezu’s unique gritty style.

As our protagonists struggle against the horrors of an unknown world, the story also explores the philosophical elements of society. The creation of a quasi-government made up of children being able to tackle overwhelming problems with limited supplies and knowledge is an aspect of an unexpected ‘isekai’ that is rarely explored. This exploration is very reminiscent of Mustafa Sherif’s highly unethical Robbers Cave Experiment of the 1950s. In the experiment, 22 white, 11-year-old boys were sent to a special remote summer camp in Oklahoma, within Robbers Cave State Park to explore the group conflict social theory. 

Being released as a weekly serial worked well for the pacing of the story. The suspense is very intense and the action is non-stop, so it really feels like the children do not have a moment to rest and are always on guard for any new threat that could come their way. Yet the manga is still able to tell its story without slowing the flow of action and horror.   

This manga is available fully translated in the West, being published under VIZ Media since 2009.

A personal favourite of mine, The Drifting Classroom is a non-stop rollercoaster of horror and suspense that will rarely allow the reader a chance to breathe. Along with its congenial characters, beautiful art style, and morbidly dark story, there is very little reason to not pick up a copy and delve into this frightening series.

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