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Manga / Drifting Classroom

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A very dark manga (original title: Hyoryu Kyoshitsu) by Kazuo Umezu. It was first serialized in Shonen Sunday from 1972 to 1974 and later made into two different live-action movies: A Japanese one in 1987, and an American one in 1995.

Sho Takamatsu's day started out bad. He overslept, found his mother had thrown out all his toys, didn't eat breakfast, and left home after getting in a screaming argument with his mom. After arriving at school, class began, only to be interrupted by an earthquake. Things appear to be settling down, until he discovers the school has been mysteriously teleported into a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland.

Things quickly go even worse, as the psychotic delivery man Sekiya takes the food hostage and begins killing people, and the students and staff are forced to fight for their lives. It doesn't help when they find evidence that they've been teleported into the future and that the rest of the world has been completely turned to desert. Or that there does not seem to be any food other than what was teleported with them, and that everything in the world seems calculated to kill them.

Meanwhile, back in the present, Mrs. Takamatsu pines for her son. When she starts receiving psychic messages from him, can she give him enough help to survive in his barren environment?

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adults Are Useless: The principal is a complete idiot, Sekiya is pure evil, and Watahara kills all the others and then begins running over students with his car.
  • After the End: The school ends up in an empty, barren wasteland, with a monument to their disappearance which indicates they've been sent far into the future. If the film the mutants have is real, the End came about due to pollution and Gaia's Vengeance.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The mutants talk a lot about how they are better than humanity for only letting the strong survive. They are eventually eaten by a giant monster, along with their own prey, a kind of mutant starfish.
  • Annoying Arrows: The bug monster is able to withstand a crossbow bolt that appears to be made from half a tree. Turns out there's a reason for that. The monster is a psychic projection by Nakata. That's also why its "nest" turned into sand when the kids tried to eat the plants.
  • Anyone Can Die: Ikegaki is the first major death, and then Otsuki, Ishida, and Shibata all die in quick succession.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Sho is elected President, and is probably the strongest of all the students. He wins all his fights and outruns everyone near the end.
  • Big Eater: Nakata. Done seriously, unlike the usual comedic usage of this trope. Not only do they have very limited food, but his eating powers the monster he summons.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The surviving kids don't find a way to go home, but they decide to stay in the ruined future in order to build a new civilization. Sho's mother is also able to arrange for a satellite filled with food and supplies to reach the kids, meaning they won't starve to death. Additionally, the kids are at least able to send Yu back to the past, and he vows to one day become someone important enough to help improve society and prevent the environmental apocalypse from occurring in the first place.
  • Body Horror: What happens to those who eat the evil mushrooms...
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Sho's mother accuses Sho of keeping dangerous weapons for toys, while Sho accuses his mother of snooping in his desk without permission.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The offscreen thief in the first volume turns up a lot later in a gruesome manner. He was partially inside the blast and so was half teleported... and survived on both ends. Surprisingly, he's one of the SURVIVORS of the story, as his arm and face kill Sekiya, and return to the past where his body heals itself.
  • Children Are Innocent: The negative aspects of innocence, like naiveté, helplessness and panic, are played up a lot more. It's only by shedding their innocence that the kids learn to survive.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Scar Kid, who decides to kill everybody because he's been infected with the Plague.
    • Princess, after she returns from her journey, and all the children near the end once they begin eating each other.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Starts sometime in volume 2, when the kids discover they got the world's most evil delivery man. Continues through pretty much the whole series.
  • Disability Superpower: It turns out that Nishi, who is on crutches, is the source of the psychic link between Sho and his Mom. It should be noted that she has a lot of instances of fighting harder than most other kids. For example, staring Mr. Wakahara down and trying to hit him while he's driving by throwing her crutch through his window.
  • Driven to Suicide: A teacher slits his own throat after he says he can't take it anymore, and several small children jump to their death as they want to go back to their parents.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Princess is never given another name. Some kids, like Scar Kid, are never named at all.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Umezu comes up with many original ways to kill the children. Falling off buildings, dying of sickness, eaten by giant invincible bug thing, eaten by swarm of little invincible bug things, drowning in quicksand, decapitation by water, mutating into beasts, eaten by giant starfish, dying of starvation, dying of black plague, burned to death by classmates, killed by decaying robots... and there are more. Plenty more.
  • Faux Action Girl: Averted, in that Sakiko actually does stuff, although not as much as the others. One boy accusing Princess of being one gets him pretty horribly mauled by her.
  • Foreshadowing: Sho’s teacher tells him to lie and say he called his mom, and Sho lied and said she said she was at home. Later on he would be able to “call” her and she was at home. But the call is a psychic link and the reason she could be at home is because Sho and everyone is the future.
  • From Bad to Worse: To an almost ridiculous degree, one disaster is followed by another one, and usually negates the positives achieved from the last one.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: If the film record is to be believed, the end of the world was caused by nature striking back at humanity and its pollution and destruction. The mutants are apparently an offshoot of humanity that arose Just Before the End.
  • Hammerspace: How did Mr. Takamatsu put enough streptomycin to cure 400+ students in a single package in a single mummy?
  • Hope Spot:
    • The returning Princess says that Mount Fuji is a paradise. It's actually the remains of a theme park named Mount Fuji Paradise, which is mostly intact but now home to a homicidal robot host.
    • The moment a kid seriously contemplates turning into a mutant as a means of survival, the mutants are eaten by a giant monster.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: When the kids run out of food, they get desperate. Very desperate.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Subverted and played straight. Plenty of children of various ages die, but Yu, the pre-schooler, doesn't. However, unlike most of the other children, an active effort is made to keep Yu alive throughout the story.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Otomo's constantly escalating conflict with Sho presents him as a jerk, but some of his ideas, such as feeding the strange mushrooms to Seikya instead of a fellow student to see if the children can eat them safely, or trying to kill Nakata after everyone discovers that his mind is making the insect monsters terrorizing the school, are about as effective as one could muster given the circumstances.
  • Karmic Death: Sekiya, killed by the arm and face of the thief. Also Scar Kid, killed by black plague, and Princess, who chokes to death on the water the other kids give her once she returns from her journey.
  • Kids Are Cruel: They are when they're driven to insanity by hunger and fear anyway.
  • Kill It with Fire: Scar Kid's plan for dealing with the black plague. Also Sho's, but on himself rather than the school.
  • Knife Fight: Otomo gets into several knife fights as the series continues.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Two: A 1987 Japanese film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi that sets the film in an international school in Japan, and a 1995 American adaptation titled The Drifting School that changes the location to California.
  • The Load: Nakata. He eats too much, he whines, he summons a giant monster that kills and destroys, he summons even more monsters that kill and destroy. Considering that so many kids die routinely anyway, it is quite annoying that Sho defends him and criticizes the kids that are relieved when he ends up committing suicide.
  • May Contain Evil: The mushrooms. When some of the kids eat them, they begin transforming into one of the mutants found in the area.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: The storylines involving Sho's mother generally work this way to some degree, as Mrs. Takamatsu seems to hear Sho's cry for help only at certain times. In the black plague arc, she could just wait in the hospital until she was ready. Gamo likens this to the kids taking a bullet train through time for a while before getting on the regular train while their parents stayed on the regular train the whole time, meaning that the two timelines should be synchronized after the time travel.
  • The Medic: Yanase. Despite being in sixth grade, he performs an appendectomy successfully.
  • Never Trust a Title: The manga titled Drifting Classroom is about a whole school, and it doesn't drift — it makes one big jump and then stays put.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The rules on the psychic link between Sho and his mom are pretty consistent, but other magic, like Nakata's powers, seem pretty random.
  • Ontological Mystery: The school building and the students inside find themselves transported to a barren desert world, which turns out to be the future, though it's never explained explicitly why and how the Earth wound up like this in the first place, or why they specifically got transferred there.
  • Precision F-Strike: When he finds out that his mother threw out his toys, in the Japanese version of the manga, Sho yells "BITCH!" at her. In the English version, he just screams "YOU WITCH! I HATE YOU!" instead.
  • Quicksand Sucks: When it begins to rain in the wasteland, the sand becomes soft, which effectively causes a few casualities when a few of the children sink into the wet sand.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Flip-flopped. Nearly every last trace of human civilization has withered away, except a partially sunken ship in the bed of former Tokyo Bay, and plastic garbage left behind where a river once was. However, several underground structures still remain, including a subway and a functioning subway train and film projector. There's also the medication hidden in the mummy in the hospital morgue, which apparently survived however long it's been there.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: After Sho lies about reaching his mom, one of the teachers says they got a radio signal saying the school and the people in it are missing. That the world outside hasn’t changed but they have been transported somewhere else. Lying about the signal aside, he is right that they were transported somewhere else but he doesn’t live long enough to find out it’s the future rather than some random location like he implied.
  • San Dimas Time: Averted; see Meanwhile, in the Future….
  • Sanity Slippage: Sho's mother is portrayed as undergoing this throughout the series, acting increasingly disturbed as the series progresses. Depending on how you view it, the entire series can be seen as Sho's mother's paranoid fantasy, as the entire series is written as if it were a nightmare, she believes that that she is the only one who can save the kids, and she is eventually deified by the them late in the series, showing her to have immense delusions of grandeur. If you subscribe to this theory, then the bomb at the beginning of the series could have been a conventional weapon because you can't trust Sho's mother's recollection of the events.
    • The teachers also suffer sanity slippage, but the one hit by this the hardest is Mr. Wakahara. Arguably the most competent teacher in terms of handling the situation, when he loses it he turns deadly.
  • Space Whale Aesop: The story's moral is a Green Aesop, but due to some of the more bizarre plot twists, it becomes "Take care of the planet or humanity will turn into horrible H.R Giger monsters"
  • The Starscream: Otomo mutinies repeatedly.
  • Surreal Horror: Big time. Pretty much nothing in this series makes sense in terms of being a coherent or logical story (see Voodoo Shark for more details) except when taken as pure dream-logic, but it's highly violent and disturbing regardless.
  • Tagalong Kid: Yu, the preschooler, doesn't really do much in the story, outside of giving Sho hints about where they are, and being sent back to the present in order to fix the future. Despite this, he is always seen with many of the kids in the group.
  • Teenage Wasteland: Though most of the kids are a little bit younger. The lyrics of the Who song are unbelievably apt, though.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Several times!
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Apparently, the end of the world would happen less than 30 years after the comic was published, as the lead mutant estimates that the human race went extinct "before the end of the 20th century".
  • Voodoo Shark:
    • The explanation for the time travel is that Otomo planted a stick of dynamite in the teacher's lounge. The dynamite transported the school into the future when it exploded. Apparently, it was magical dynamite. It makes as much sense as anything else.
    • Apparently you can be mummified and left indefinitely in the hospital morgue. All you have to do is ask.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: They may just be kids, but they act responsible and adult pretty fast.