You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, September 23, 2011


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 7 (The Drifting Classroom)The Drifting Classroom Vol. 7 by Kazuo Umezu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So far these kids have endured the following: The transportation of their elementary school to some future wasteland. A maniacal cafeteria worker. Homicidal teachers. Mass suicide among first graders. A giant bug that laid eggs that created little bugs. Pre-adolescent power struggles -- and those can get nasty. Bubonic plague.

Did I leave anything out? I must have.

In this installment, the rain that allowed their garden to grow brought with it a proliferation of mushrooms. Are they edible? Those who eat them experience strange feelings of power followed by dementia. The kids decide they should pray for help, and in one of the most non-American moments so far, one child asks, "Who should we pray to?"  They settle on a bust our hero, Sho, made of his mother in art class. Meanwhile the mushroom eaters make a one-eyed idol of mud who proves to be the more receptive deity and manifests itself as a tentacled monster.

Umezu's drawings are the most storyboard-like of any of the manga artists I've read. His action sequences, consisting almost entirely of dark pages with kids grappling, shattering wood, raised weapons, and close-ups of kids shouting "aaaargh" and "gyaaah" are genuinely exciting in their own ridiculous way. When Yoshikawa, formerly one of the good kids, eats mushrooms and goes down on all fours to scurry out of the schoolyard to her new god, it is genuinely creepy. Takamatsu, the cafeteria man, who has gone from a threat to a retarded man child, and now back to an incredible danger, looks like a deranged, overweight Desi Arnaz -- the very essence of horror.

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