Friday, December 15, 2017


There was a small but strong line up of horror manga to come out this year, kicked off with a collection by one of the genre's masters.

DISSOLVING CLASSROOM (Yokai Kyoushitsu), by Junji Ito.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2017.


Across Japan, a strange phenomenon is happening.  People are having their brains melted out of their very heads.  Sometimes their entire bodies disappear into a puddle of goo, leaving nothing but a stain.  Others have their faces warped into hideous visages, all while telling themselves that they are unparalleled beauties.  All of these strange occurences seemed to be tied to two people: Chizumi Azawa, a creepy girl with a fondness for brains, and her big brother Yuuma who can't stop apologizing for everything.

If you're familiar with Junji Ito, you have at least some idea of what you're in for with Dissolving Classroom.  There will be dread aplenty, some form of body horror, and the reason for it all will be creepy, ridiculous, or most likely something in between.  Still, while Dissolving Classroom doesn't break new ground for Ito fans, it does deliver some good twists along with all the goop.

Yuuma and Chizumi are the glue that holds this short story collection together, and for a supernatural pair of siblings the two show some more mundane (and occasionally hilarious) moments of humanity.  When you have moments like Chizumi dressing up for the boy she's got a crush on (and has tied up in a spare room) or the two of them bickering as they have to flee town once more, they start to feel like actual family and not a couple of weirdos who made a really bad deal with the devil.  That's good because on their own, their respective gimmicks are kind of limited, although it pays off in the end in the most outrageous way possible.

In comparison, the people they come across can't compare.  They're simply ordinary folk with too much curiosity or concern for their own good.  The closest thing we get to a proper, continuous protagonist is Kaede (who herself looks so much like a blonder version of Kirie from Uzumaki).  Even after her brain is partially melted, she's still able to strike back in her own fashion until the end.  That's to be expected, though.  Some things are just inescapable, like fate, the spiral, or Yuuma's endless cries of "I'm so sorry!"


Dissolving Classroom does live up to the high standard of an Ito work.  There's still a diverse cast of ordinary, if slightly morose-looking people making up the cast, with only Chizumi standing out with her rictus grin and bulging, unblinking eyes.  The backgrounds are as mundane yet beautifully rendered as ever, even when they're falling into decay.  The composition is unpretentious, but the visual pacing is perfect. Much like the story, it doesn't do anything different but visually it's a perfect match.


Dissolving Classroom is yet another sterling addition to the Junji Ito cannon.  Provided that your stomach is strong, this can stand proudly alongside his best works.

This book is published by Vertical.  It is currently in print.

Want to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate to purchase manga like this one?  Then make sure to enter the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Review Giveaway here!

No comments:

Post a Comment