In Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito, I was introduced to Yuumi and Chizumi. This brother and sister pair are probably the most dysfunctional siblings I have ever come across.
This book is split into five stories that follow these two in different stages of their life. Not only that but we also see the devastating effects that they have on those they meet.
Yuumi is a boy who has the strange habit of being always in a state of apology to those around. “So sorry! So very, very sorry!”. These are words he is heard shouting at people through most of his time in these stories. These apologies have devastating effects on those around him, however. His apologies could be the last thing you hear.
Yuumi’s younger sister, Chizumi, is even stranger than he. She has an even more weird and messed-up habit of her own, which feeds off her brother’s strange gift / curse
At first meeting, Yuumi seems innocent enough. But his obsession for apologising to everyone attracts some ridicule early on. However, we soon learn the true nature of his ‘apologies’ and the shocking effect it has on people. It turns out that Yuumi’s apologies are in fact directed towards the Devil himself, who is always listening to him.
At an early age he managed to summon the Devil, which had some adverse effects on him. He has since spent his life apologising to Satan, who just can’t seem to leave Yuumi alone. Often times the Devil is drawn behind those talking to Yummi in the manga panels - his shadow always hiding right there with them. The fact that the innocent people inadvertently end up between the Devil and Yuumi, means a very strange and grotesque thing happens to them. They melt. Right there in front of him.
Yuumi’s sister surmises that it must be the “evil electromagnetic waves”, generated from the conversation with the Devil, that causes it. The melting is always drawn by Ito in his recognisably-detailed way. He leaves nothing to the imagination with how these innocent people dissolve from the inside out.
If you thought that melting people with the mind was strange, which it is, wait until you learn of Chizumi’s little habit. Once those unfortunate people are cruelly dissolved, Yuumi’s sister collects that melted flesh and blood for bottling and storing. It seems that she has developed a taste for the stuff and so is always happy when her brother is busy apologizing.
One of the most shocking points in this series, was actually something that Chizumi herself instigated. She ends up falling for a young boy of her age and so has her brother kidnap him for her. She then proceeds to have him tied up and hidden in their house, while she amuses herself by licking his face and singing to him. The fact that a child is taken by someone so evil is scary in itself. But the fact that it’s one child kidnapping another child, gives the situation a level of darkness much deeper.
Yuumi would have people believe that his sister is the result of his Mother and the Devil’s union. He even blames himself for bringing the Devil into their family. It’s not hard to see why. This girl is pure evil and has been for much - if not all - of her life.
I’d be interested to see what she would be like on a play date with Suichi.
Because of the terror that these two bring on those around them, they often find themselves having to move to new places. From the title of the book, I figured that this was all set in a school as a complete single story. But it is in fact told in five parts, each in different locations.
The first story is the same title as the book itself and does indeed deliver on its name of being a Dissolving Classroom.
Dissolving Beauty focuses on a single relationship of Yuumi’s and what horrors befall the lady who reciprocates his love.
Dissolving Apartment brings it to a single location - a current living place of the siblings. We get to see what happens to their unlucky neighbours who mistake their bangs and shouts for domestic abuse.
Chizumi in Love is the one I mentioned above about the kidnapping of the young boy. Chizumi’s displays of affection towards this boy are some of the most twisted in the whole collection for me.
Finally, Interview with the Devil ties the collection off with some characters from the previous stories having their own conclusions revealed. Along with an explosive ending in a way that this story could only end - in true Junji Ito style.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s definitely gone straight into my top five favourite horror manga stories. The uniqueness of Dissolving Classroom is truly astonishing - just the basic premise is something I had never heard of before, let alone the situations that arise because of it.
Junji Ito is known widely for his Tomie series, which follows the varying stories of a girl by that name. But much less is known about Yuumi and Chizumi - two other characters who are just as interesting as Tomie. However, these two need more recognition than they currently get, in my opinion.
Whatever manga you were thinking of reading next, move Dissolving Classroom up to the top of your list. This is one of the most enjoyable, and twisted, books I have read in a long time.