Posted By Art Baxter


Kazuo Umezu  (楳図 かずお) - September 3, 1936

I never thought I would ever see the manga of japanese master of horror, Kazuo Umezu. I first learned of his work in a pair of articles in the COMICS JOUNAL a few years ago. At that time only the most popular or classic manga was being published in translated editions in the US. Some weird stuff had also been published but only a very small amount. The insane, over-the-top, post-apocalyptic children's manga of Umezu-sensei being published in the US seemed unimaginable.

Imagine my surprise when Viz started publishing his masterpiece, the DRIFTING CLASSROOM (1972-1974) in eleven volumes in 2006. When I read the first volume I was not disappointed.  It's LORD OF THE FLIES on crack. The simple premise is that an elementary school, students and staff, are mysteriously transported to an apocalyptic wasteland in the future. It is a story of survival, who will and who won't. The adults all loose their minds and begin to kill each other and the children, almost from the beginning. Food and water become issues early. The older children, for the most part, keep their heads and look after the younger students. Soon rival factions vie for power over the meager supplies and things start to break down. It is a thrilling "end of the world" survivalist story that ranks with the best of the George Romero zombie movies. It pulls no punches. People die and it isn't pretty but it isn't gratuitous either. What's amazing is that this is manga for children. Frankly, I don't think it would be bad for a kid to read. It would have completely enthralled me as a kid. I would never give a kid a copy though. It would be better to let them find it for themselves. It could really alter their world-view. Most likely for the better.

Child crucifixion on a pyre, anyone?

I have also recently read volume one of his earlier series, THE CAT EYED BOY (1967-1968).  The boy is a demon child who wanders into other stories and either takes part or comments on the action. There are some crazy and horrific monsters aplenty. The main characters are children as in his later DRIFTING CLASSROOM series and as in that series, adults are not to be trusted. The stories aren't as good as CLASSROOM, it was his first horror series, but it is a lot of fun. I find it excellent porch reading on a hot summer night.

A trademark image: the crazy-eyed scream of horror in close-up.

I'm hoping these books do well for VIZ and they continue to publish Umezu-sensei's work. I'm especially interested in reading, MY NAME IS SHINGO (1982-1986), LEFT HAND OF GOD (1986-1989), and FOURTEEN (1990-1995).

Why not check out some of Kazuo Umezu's manga for his 72nd birthday!

* THE COMICS JOURNAL #233 - May 2001
  "Umezu Kazuo: Japanese Overtures to Madness and Death" by Ng Suat Tong
* THE COMICS JOURNAL #248 - November 2002
  "Kazuo Umezu's FOURTEEN" by JamesThompson

1 Comment(s):
how to draw manga said...
nice post. you looking very funny "Kazuo Umezu". Thanks Art Baxter for sharing this funny picture of Kazuo Umezu birthdday.
Thursday, July 26, 2012 12:06:56 AM
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