Author: Junji Ito
Publisher: Vertical Comics
First Published: January 31, 2017
Genres: Horror, Seinen
A pair of twisted siblings-Yuuma, a young man obsessed with the devil, and Chizumi, the worst little sister in recorded history-cause all sorts of tragic and terrifying things to happen wherever they go. These scary short stories will shock you with a literal interpretation of the ills that plague modern society.
Dissolving Classroom is the story of a pair of siblings that bring misfortune to every person that they meet. Chizumi is a disturbed child that enjoys harassing people and her older brother Yuuma follows behind, abasing himself apologizing for his sister’s behavior. Yuuma apologizes so often it becomes irritating to the people around them, but little do they know that the harassment and apologies are the least of their concerns.
“He prays to the Devil for forgiveness.”
This manga was an interesting piece of occult horror that in the first chapter plays out in unexpected ways. Yuuma has a complex duality between a kind upright young man and a devil worshipper. He does not come off as stereotypically evil in stark contrast to Chizumi. His constant apologies and humbling himself before others is a direct perversion of the type of piety usually displayed by religiously devout Christians. One of the major themes of Christianity is the idea of seeking forgiveness for sin, and Yuuma carries the same fervor for forgiveness to a maddening degree. I appreciated this aspect of the story and Yuuma’s character. Ito is skilled at making something horrific out of the mundane.
What was unfortunate about this story was that after the first chapter, many of the ones that follow are repetitive. The reader already knows the sibling’s secrets and while the story expands slightly on their family background nothing new is really brought to each story. The protagonist meets Yuuma and starts to like him, and when things start to go wrong Chizumi appears to scare the new protagonist and rehashes the same story revealing Yuuma’s true self before the climax, rinse and repeat. The final chapter provides a proper ghoulish ending, but as a whole, it feels like this could have easily been a one chapter manga, and may have been better if it was.
Despite my criticisms, the art in this book is fantastic as always, particularly in the first chapter. The way that Chizumi is drawn is unsettling, and the appearance of Baphomet later in the comic was downright creepy. All in all not a bad manga, but definitely not one of Ito’s strongest.
Warnings: body horror, offensive religious themes