溶解教室 (Youkai Kyoushitsu)
Josei – Horror, mature, mystery, supernatural
1 Volume (complete)
Siblings Yuuma and Chizumi keep moving. Wherever they go, Chizumi is constantly freaking people out, and Yuuma is always apologizing. But the reason why these two have to find new places to live may be darker than anyone expects…
This was my first time reading one of Ito’s works. He mainly writes horror stories, and I am not a horror fan. But I don’t mind a dark story every now and then, especially since a lot of people love Ito’s works. That being said, Dissolving Classroom didn’t impress me.
Before I get into the story, let me tell you what did impress me: the presentation. Dissolving Classroom is slightly oversized. Although it’s wider than the average manga volume, it looks quite huge when you compare it to releases like My Neighbor Seki. One minimally colored insert is included, but the real highlight is the cover. The chalkboard and the walls are the normal matte on both the front and the back. The dissolving students are all glossy. Yuuma and Chizumi are raised off the cover, in other words, puffy. This fits the manga perfectly: the siblings are at the forefront of the story, people dissolve into a shiny liquid, and the location is almost irrelevant. Plus I just love the feel of the book. I love how Vertical didn’t just release Dissolving Classroom with a standard manga cover.
Well, onto the story. Dissolving Classroom is a series of connected one-shots starring the Azawa siblings. The chapters tend to be similar: someone encounters one of the siblings, Yuuma goes on a “sorry!” spree, Chizumi tells a weird tale about the devil, and people’s lives are never the same. (You can surmise what happens based on the cover and the title.)
Part of my disappointment lies in that I was expecting a journey and instead got some snapshots. I thought the book would be about a classroom dissolving, but the actual “Dissolving Classroom” is just the first chapter. The other chapters still center around the infamous brother and sister, but each is really told from someone else’s perspective. I really don’t feel like Ito added much to the original Dissolving Classroom one-shot. In doses, the horror aspect can certainly prop up Dissolving Classroom. Wherever the Azawa siblings go, tragedy follows, and chills are delivered in spades thanks to the grotesque imagery. But when all of these tales are strung together, the manga feels hollow. Even the snippets of new information are mostly worthless because Chizumi and Yuuma are unreliable narrators. We learn what happens to the victims (showing that Dissolving Classroom is not completely without a sense of hope), but the whole Dissolving Classroom feels like it could have been finished in no more than three chapters, not five. (However, one chapter is very short, so it’s really four and a half chapters.)
Which leads us to the ending. While Ito includes an interesting twist at the very end, it’s left to readers’ imaginations as to whether Yuuma and Chizumi’s adventures will continue or have finished. Again, this makes Dissolving Classroom feel like a sneak peek in the Azawa siblings’ lives rather than a full story. But if the manga is only a piece of their adventures, then the ending just feels like it loses any impact it had. This is not the kind of open ending that hooks readers; it just basically feels like the author is saying, “Things happened. Maybe more things happened; I don’t know.” This is not “and it was all a dream”-level pointless, but the ending also does not leave you with a sense of fear or drama to make Dissolving Classroom have a long-lasting impression. Well, at least this type of ending is not an overdose of depression.
As I mentioned before, the horror is well done. The chapters are a bit repetitive, but most scary stories follow a similar format. The victims don’t realize their bodies are degrading, and the final results are indeed terrifying. I mean, geez, as if snot needed to be even more disgusting. The realistic style of the normal people clash so brilliantly with the rotting corpses. The looks of the creepy Chizumi and the sorrowful Yuuma provide another interesting contrast, especially when readers tried to decide who is the most truthful. The layout of the panels provide plenty of space for readers to absorb the grossness. I was far more engrossed (pun intended) in the art than the story.
The manga also ends with a couple of unrelated one-shots. Personally, I would have rather had the space toward an epilogue rather than a twist on a reincarnation story and missing children. They’re really short and even more of a “just go with it” story than the Dissolving Classroom series.
No honorifics are used. Some of the lines I felt were awkward. How many of you have used the word “mollify”? Especially when you were in high school thinking to yourself? (Well, okay, technically she’s narrating, but still.) I also didn’t care for the font. It felt a bit too cutesy and normal for a manga like this. It’s a Comic Sans-like font, and nothing represents real fear like shouting in Comic Sans…
I think Dissolving Classroom would be best as a series of anime shorts or an OVA. The story is pretty short, and the imagery is awesome. I say Dissolving Classroom is definitely worth borrowing, but the manga doesn’t really have any long-term impact to make you want to reread it again and again.
Viz Media has released Fragments of Horror, Gyo, Tomie, and Uzumaki. Kodansha Comics published Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu.