Ah, Juji Ito, I feel that name is just about everywhere now a days. I say that in the best way possible. Ito should receive as much recognition as humanly possible. Hell, for last years Comictober I covered GYO. Now as a fan of Ito I’ve read his three more famous Manga in America: Gyo, Tomie, and Uzumaki. But there has been one Manga that always piqued my interest, Dissolving Classroom. Honestly, I had no idea going into it what it was about – kept myself spoiler free-, I just wanted to read it for it’s cover. I mean look at that (below). Pretty dissolving huh?
For this year’s Comictober, I thought I’d finally pick this up and talk about it! Yes, I am using this write-up as an excuse to spend money on something I’ve wanted.
Before opening the first page, Dissolving Classroom is already different from the others. Aside from Junji Ito’s Cat Diary it’s the only softcover in the English Ito collection. Plus like Junji Ito’s Cat Diary it’s the only one not published by VIZ. Instead Dissolving Classroom is published by Vertical Comics. But even the internet can’t explain why this is, but that doesn’t matter. Clocking in at 160 pages Dissolving Classroom is smaller than Ito’s other larger stories, so if you want a quickie that’s not as quick as his super short chapters, then it’s for you.
The story revolves around siblings—Yuuma and Chizumi. Although their history is changed throughout a main point stands for each. Yuuma seems to be a Devil worshiper, who communicates to the Devil by apologizing to people. This releases ‘evil energy’ and melts whomever he apologizes too. No, that’s not something I made up myself; that’s exactly how Chizumi explains it. On the subject of Chizumi, her evil ways are never explained aside from she was born evil. Not everything needs an explanation, which is one theme that drives Ito’s other stories.
It seems the theme for Dissolving Classroom is the constant apologizing seen in Japanese culture. But, if we’re being honest here, I have absolutely no expertise in this department. Meaning I wont delve into those themes that hard.
The power Ito gives Yuuma is a weird one, but you can’t fault it for being imaginative or how creepy he writes his character. Just seeing, or hearing him would have you turning back as fast as you can. Which brings up the next subject—Ito’s art. Per usual Ito’s uncanny feeling is here, in full swing.
Dissolving Classroom may not have the body breaking seen in Uzumaki, or the crazy fish in Gyo, but the dissolving looks gruesomely horrifying. There’s a reason why Ito’s artwork is so well known and spoken about in the horror department. Even if it’s a character making a weird face, Ito morphs it into one you’d never want to see in real life.
Something weird transpires in Dissolving Classroom that I haven’t seen elsewhere. No, I don’t mean the story or art, but the spaces of dialogue. As it’s translated from Japanese to English there are already placed boxes and dialogue, with Japanese the kanji takes up less space. But with English the words take up more space, making sentences broken at some points. A run on sentence may take up two, or three bubbles/boxes, making the sentence break in weird areas and hard to read.
Dissolving Classroom seems like Ito was under contract to publish a single volume Manga, so he just threw something together. His other stories had grand ideas, or ideas that explored unknown and weird settings. Better yet, they had no ‘explanations’. But Dissolving Classroom tells too much, while losing steam a few times. It could be considered one of his lesser manga efforts, which for someone who has made a multitude of hits, that’s saying something. Dissolving Classroom is still worth reading, especially if your a fan of his, and because it is October. But I wouldn’t recommend for a first time reader.
Like the other collections, Dissolving Classroom has two back up stories, The Return, and Children of The Earth. They’re both six pages in length which Ito works with perfectly. It’s hard writing a horror story, but even harder writing a short horror story. Plus, Children of The Earth may have one of my favorite quotes.
“Human beings were born from the earth. The children simply returned there.” A scholar who posted those words on the internet came under heavy fire.