Deka Kyoshi, vol. 1

Police detective Toyama has been given a tough new undercover assignment: teaching a fifth-grade class! Their teacher was killed under mysterious circumstances and the police believe that the students are in danger as well. Toyama soon discovers that one boy, Makoto, has the ability to see what others cannot and his horrific visions may be the key to the problems haunting Toyama’s students.

Baba’s manga is more than it first appears, though the T+/16+ rating could keep it out of middle school libraries. In the first volume nothing is too violent or too adult for a middle school audience, so I am assuming that the rating comes from more mature subject matter in volumes to come. The strength of Baba’s story comes from an acknowledgment that older elementary school students and middle schoolers are dealing with issues like bullying, puberty, cutting, divorce, shoplifting, and peer pressure. All of the students in Toyama’s class are struggling with a problem of one kind or another and none of those problems are treated as minor issues. Whether it is the student whose body is maturing faster than she is ready for or the student whose family problems have stressed her to the point of wrist cutting, all issues are dealt with sensitively and seriously. But, at the same time, Baba doesn’t make the mistake of being overly sentimental. This is a horror title, so there are lots of scenes of scary monsters–the visual evidence of a person’s mental turmoil or internal demons–and plenty of action as go-get-’em Toyama tries to help his students as best he knows how, occasionally bumbling, but helpfully guided by school nurse and voice of reason Reiko Narita.

The art is as much of a surprise as the story….

This review was originally posted at Good Comics for Kids. Please visit the original post to see the rest of the review.

Deka Kyoshi, vol. 1
Tamio Baba
ISBN 978-1-4012-1890-4
CMX/Flex Comics, November 2009

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