Kazuo Umezu was born September 3, 1936 in Wakayama, Japan. Umezu, who started drawing professionally in the 1950s, is considered the most influential horror manga artist ever. His many horror and sci-fi/horror works include Nekome Kozo ("The Cat-Eyed Kid," 1967-1968), Orochi, The Drifting Classroom (1972-1974), Ultraman (a manga adaptation of the TV series), Senrei ("Baptism"), My Name is Shingo, The Left Hand of God/Right Hand of the Devil, and Fourteen. His popular gag series Makoto-Chan (1976) and Again prove that Umezu is also an accomplished humor cartoonist. (He is also a musician.) Umezu's weird style, incredible ideas and sometimes terrifying imagery have made him a fixture of Japanese pop culture, and his work has been adapted into movies, anime and collectibles.
Horror-manga legend Umezu (Orochi: Blood, Baptism of Blood) can create a sense of dread with just the sheer volume of black ink he puts on the page-white space is at a premium, shading is aggressive, and the result is an ominous atmosphere that affects the reader before the story even begins. Classroom, originally published in 1972, tells the story of sixth-grader Sho, who has a bitter fight with his mother before leaving for school one morning; later that day, his entire school vanishes in a violent earthquake, transported to a mysterious desert. When a girl falls to her death, teachers and students begin to panic. Nerves continue to unravel when the school's inadequate food supply is discovered. Umezu makes powerful use of two-page spreads, devoting many of them to single, large shots-the school building against the desert backdrop, the massive sound effect that accompanies the earthquake, an extreme close-up of a teacher with a head wound-the result is extremely disturbing. This first volume solves few of the plot's puzzles, ending just as the kids are veering into Lord of the Flies territory. This is a great rediscovery of a classic title, echoes of which can be seen in modern horror manga like Dragon Head. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.