The story was adapted into a Japanese live action movie in 1987, and given a modern setting at an international school in Kobe. The movie starred Hayashi Yasufumi and Aiko Asano. It is unusual among Japanese movies in that most of the dialogue is in English.
Sho Takamatsu finds that his mother has thrown away his toys. He leaves her in a rage, yelling that he never wants to come home. In class, the school is shaken by an earthquake. Sho learns they have been cast into a wasteland. He tells his classmates, who go to the roof. Yamamoto falls, becoming the first casualty.
The students try to leave, but are stopped by the teachers. The teachers determine they have no contact with anyone outside the school and the surrounding area is sand and rock. Sakiko's brother attempts to leave, but collapses in the distance. The Principal comes in wounded, saying he was robbed. The teachers ignore him, and then claim to the students that they have some idea of what is happening.
Sho goes to get food for his class, but the delivery man Sekiya has taken the food hostage. He takes a teacher and a student hostage as well. The students attempt to rescue them, but when Hata attacks Sekiya with a gun Sekiya kills him, accidentally kills Obitu, and takes the gun. He attempts to take all the other food in the school. Sho leads a successful rebellion against Sekiya. Sho convinces the students not to kill him.
Yuichi shows the students a memorial for them, indicating they are in the future. Mr. Sakura kills himself, and Wakahara slaughters the staff. He takes some sixth graders to find food. They meet Nishi, a crippled fifth grader who tried to walk home. Wakahara runs them over with his car. The others are hit and killed, excluding Nagata, and Nishi is knocked unconscious. Sho takes her into a tunnel where he cries for his mother as Wakahara strangles him. Sho's mother somehow hears, and hides a knife in the same room where Wakahara is strangling him. Sho kills Wakahara.
Returning to school, Sho sees Tatsumi being burned at a cross. Otomo, the class representative, tells him that the kids are hunting for a scapegoat. Sho remembers the swimming pool, and convinces the students to release Tatsumi. They find a grocery storage room that was teleported with the school. Sho becomes leader. Later, Nagata returns with a leaf. He dies from the sand he ate.
Sekiya escapes, takes Yu hostage, and demands that the students take him to wherever Nagata got his leaf. Sho, Ikegaki and Otomo, and Akabane and Tashiro go. They enter a jungle with an insectoid monster that Sekiya provokes. He knocks out Sho. Ikegaki and Sekiya then knock each other out. The others leave them to help Yu escape. When Otomo wants to fight he is knocked out, Tashiro later goes to fight and is eaten. Akabane and Yu escapes.
At the school, the Princess takes over, beating up all who disagree. She says that someone was stealing food and starts a witch-hunt. Akabane returns, saying that Sho was a coward. Sakiko disbelieves this but is outnumbered. The other survivors return. Sekiya has been reduced to the mental capacity of an infant.
The students hold elections, which Sho wins. He is named Prime Minister of the Nation of Yamamoto Elementary. The Princess and her followers leave. Sho elects Ikegaki as the Defence Minister, Otomo as the Welfare/Health Minister, and Gamo as Education Minister. Otsuke, Ishiki, and Shibata are elected to other positions.
The students learn that Nagata stole the food, and he has hunger pains. He is tied up to stop him from eating. The students build defenses, but Nagata escapes and triggers them as he eats rice. The monster shows up, immune to their attacks. Gamo realizes they need to be asleep, unconscious or meditating to make the monster ignore them. Several students are killed, and half the food eaten.
Sho leads the fifth and sixth graders to kill the monster. The students learn the monster is being summoned by Nagata's imagination. Sho tricks Nagata into thinking he is being stabbed; the monster dissolves and the food is recovered. On the way back the students see two dead bodies with tiny cuts. In the school, which is now deserted, Uemaki is stripped of his flesh; the monster laid eggs. Otomo and many others attempt to kill Nagata to get rid of the monsters. Sho protests and is knocked aside. Nagata, seeing Nishi about to be eaten, kills himself. A census reveals that of the 863 people teleported, 811 survive.
Hashimoto contracts the plague, which spreads through the school. Sho and the government, along with Yoshida, Yanase (the doctor) and Sakiko, are forced from the school. Hashimoto is burned to death and Yoshida is speared in the stomach. The others go to the hospital ruins, where they find only a mummy and no medicine. Returning to the school, Sho sees that Scar Kid, who also has the plague, is rounding up anyone who knew him and planning to burn the building down. Yuichi is among the potential victims.
Sakiko helps distract the mob while the fire is extinguished. Scar Kid and the rest collapse from the plague, and soon Sho and his group do too. Sho cries out to his mother, who hears him, and plants medicine in the corpse of Oki the baseball star, who becomes the mummy.
Days later, the students look for water. Because they burned the plague-infected building down, the smoke makes it rain. It turns into a flash flood that drowns most of Sho's party. The next morning the garden is infested with mushrooms. There are 440 students remaining, and the mushrooms have reduced them to starvation rations. To learn if the mushrooms are edible, Otomo overrules Sho and has the government officials force-feed Sekiya. Sekiya regains his memory, only pretends to eat, and forces Otsuke to eat. Otsuke likes them and keeps Sekiya's secret. He tells the others to eat the mushrooms, but they ignore him and listen to Sho. He runs away.
The students begin praying to a bust of Sho's mom and digging a well. Otomo grows unstable. A cult springs up, praying to a one-eyed blob. Yoshikawa admits that she ate mushrooms, but says they tasted fine. Sakiko tracks down the cult, which includes Yoshikawa and the other mushroom eaters. When the government goes to arrest them, they beat up the officials and flee—except for Yoshikawa, who is convinced to stay.
The students hook up bicycles to generate electriciy, but a monster comes. Yoshikawa, who sleeps with her eyes open, runs away to join it. Sekiya comes out with a crossbow. He shoots the goddess bust, then accuses Sho of planting dynamite that teleported the school. Other students back this up. Sekiya wins over most of the students.
Sho gets no food the next day, and Sekiya forces him, Sakiko, and the remaining government people besides Gamo to dig the well. They find a crack and enter an old subway, coming to a room with the mushroom eaters—now horribly deformed—and a few monsters. The monsters play a film strip depicting the world turning arid due to environmental disasters, and say that this happens within twenty years of the school's original timeline. The monsters see the students, but the mushroom eaters hold them off while the students run.
The students find an erupting volcano and run away. Sho tries to contact his mother but gets no response. Sho is then trapped when rocks shift on top of him. Otomo takes his flashlight and leaves him with Ishida and Shibata, Sakiko stays with him. A billboard has fallen across the opening that they see. The eruption knocks down the billboard, but bursts Ishiki's eardrums and knocks him out. Sho runs to him. Angry, Otomo pushes over the billboard. He misses Sho but kills Ishiki. Sho and he get into a knife fight. Then the monsters come. Shibata dies fighting them.
The kids return to school, where Sekiya destroyed the trees and the garden. When the monsters came he forced the students to fight and die while he fled with the food. Sho begs them to leave and they do. Otomo rejects Sho and takes half the students to the other school building. Sho advocates dividing the rations and freeing the birds. Otomo says they should cook the birds, he and Sho fight again and Sho wins. Soon Otomo's camp raids Sho's, and Sho kills a raider. He is horrified, and collapses due to appendicitis. Mutant starfish infest the school grounds, eating one of Otomo's people.
Yanase is forced to operate on Sho. Sakiko and other girls run to get lily and mugwort to help clot blood. This is on Otomo's side, and the girls with Sakiko are killed. Sakiko returns with the flowers, only to find Sho still alive. Nishi suddenly speaks in the voice of Sho's mother, comforting him before falling into a coma. A ragged figure jumps Yanase. It's the Princess, who says there is paradise on Mount Fiji before dying.
Toxic clouds encroach on the school. Some of Sho's students kill first graders on Otomo's side and eat their food. They run away, dying in the toxic cloud. Everyone evacuates, heading to Mount Fiji. On the way they encounter a chasm. Many die trying to leap over it.
On Mount Fiji they find an amusement park with plenty of food, but it is locked up and they cannot get to it. A student starves to death and Otomo's group eats it. Sho and Raido see this, Otomo throws a spear and kills Raido.
The two camps fight, desperate for food. Otomo tries killing Sho but is defeated. Sho tells everyone that he planted the dynamite, then takes Nishi's unconscious body and flees for the school.
At school, Sho denies planting the dynamite and says they have to focus their will on returning home. The students are ready to kill him when Otomo confesses to planting the bomb. Sho forgives him, and the students agree to try going home. They set off the dynamite, but only send Yu's tricycle. Sakiko runs away, leaving a note saying that she does not want to return because she knows that Sho likes Nishi more than her, and will not be with her if they return.
Sakiko runs towards the ravine, but Otomo stops her, confessing his love for her. They find a stream of water, and plants growing on corpses of students. At school, some of the plants are growing again. A satellite lands with supplies and a message from Sho's mother.
The students decide to rebuild the world, except for Yu. They decide to try sending him home. Sekiya arrives and stalks towards Yu. An arm and half of the face of the robber that beat up the principal sneak out of Yu's backpack and strangle Sekiya. The kids draw on Nishi's power and send Yu and the arm and half face home. The rest remain to rebuild. Less than one hundred students survive.
- Sho Takamatsu
- The main character of the story. Sho is always noble and brave, and rather selfless. He attempts to keep everyone alive and consistently refuses to sacrifice anyone for the good of the rest. Even though he started the story by fighting with his mother, he loves her a lot and frequently cries out to her. He is good friends with Ikegaki and Otomo, and later becomes good friends with Sakiko, Gamo, and the other officials.
- A friend of Sho. She is a sixth grader from class 3 and she has a brother, Takeshi, in the third grade. When everyone seems to doubts about Sho, she always seems to stick up for him. After the Nation of Yamato Elementary is formed, she seems to be a cook or a server when it is meal time. She is brave, as shown by her rushing to block the flood waters. She, however, is jealous of Sho's love of Nishi.
- A sixth grader who is in class 3. He is also very brave and athletic, being the first to successfully jump the chasm. However, he has a much darker side. He was the one who tried blowing up the school. Worried about being found out, he blames Sho and eventually leads an armed revolt against him. Despite this, he still has honor through most of the novel; he helps Yuichi make the chasm jump, and also tells Sho to chase Sekiya (who is fleeing with the food) rather than help him and Sakiko face the monsters. By the end, though, shortly before he regains his mind, he is attempting to kill Sho and Sakiko frequently.
- In the very end he admits to his sins and helps reunite the school.
Classmates: Sho’s Class
- Extremely brave. Hot headed, he was one of the ones that wanted to kill Sekiya after his first attack. He stops Sekiya from leaving Sho to be eaten by the monster, and he leads the defense forces against the monster when it attacks. Though stripped of one hand, he still fights on until he dies.
- A jokester. Sekiya stabbed him when he tried rescuing Ayumi. He died.
- Hata accidentally shoots him when stabbed by Sekiya.
- A nice guy, but very clueless. He intrudes on Hashimoto's sick bed to inform the government officials that peaches are growing. Otomo gets mad at him when this turns out to just be peach flowers. He freaks out when told that he must leave the school due to being a plague risk, and needs to be restrained. He escapes Sho and runs towards Scar Kid's mob, and is killed.
- He wants to be a doctor when he grows up. He's apparently a good friend of Sho and is one of the first people to return to Sho's side after Sho returns. He helps in examining what is wrong with Hashimoto and discovers that Hashimoto has the black plague. He is very knowledgeable about medicine, and is even able to perform surgery later. It is unknown if he survived to the end of the series.
- A girl who wants to be a singer. She eats the mushrooms and proceeds to mutate and create the One-Eyed God cult. She is stopped from fleeing with the rest of the cult by her friend Koyami. However, when the monsters come to the school, she leaves with them. She later helps Sho and his friends escape from the monsters when in the subway tunnels, and is presumably killed for her treachery.
- She becomes infected with the black plague, but is cured. Cracks up under pressure easily. It is unknown if she survives.
- She is held hostage by Sekiya but is rescued. Nothing else is known about her.
- A sixth grader who falls off the roof and becomes the first death.
- "Glasses Kid"
- He is never named through the story, but he makes several appearances and cameos in the story. While he, Sho, and three others search the desert for water, he becomes sucked into the quicksand created by the down pour of rain.
Classmates: Other 6th Graders
- A practical jokester with suspenders and an annoying sense of humor. One of the government officials, and he seems to be in charge of the census. He is appointed to his position by Sho. He is instrumental in using the mummy to frighten away Scar Kid's mob. He joins Otomo's side in forcing Sekiya to eat the mushrooms, but Sekiya tricks them all and eventually forces Otsuki to eat the mushrooms. Otsuki proceeds to run off into the desert and mutate into one of the future humans. He helps protect Sho and his friends when the mutants catch them, and is presumably killed later.
- A quiet kid who runs the garden. One of the governmental officials. He says little, but takes Otomo's side in disagreements with Sho. When escaping the tunnels, the volcano eruption bursts his eardrums, and then Otomo pushes a billboard on top of him. This kills him.
- A kid with a black shirt. Easily excited. More loyal to Sho than Otsuki and Ishida. He is the construction minister. He is decapitated fighting the monsters after escaping the tunnels.
- Cowardly. He and Tashiro are among the students taken by Sekiya to see the insect, they beat up Otomo rather than fight the monster to buy Yu time. He then lies and says that Sho was the coward. He sides with Princess in the election. Once Sho wins, he apologizes. It is unknown if he survives.
- He goes with Sho and everyone to find the forest in the desert. After being attacked by the insect monster, he, Otomo, and Akabane escape. Akabane and he beat up Otomo after he suggests that stay and fight the monster instead of escaping. At the last moment, he has a change of heart and attacks the beast head on. He is eaten by the monster.
- While Sho, he, and a few other classmates are out searching for supplies, they are all attacked by Mr. Wakahara. He manages to escape Mr. Wakahara's car. During the night, he makes his way back to the school, but is in critical condition when he arrives due to hunger. He left Nishi behind, but did a good deed by informing the school of the jungle. He dies after eating sand.
- The school bully. When a rumor is spread about a person whose name begins with 'Ta' is said to be the cause of why they are stuck in the wasteland, he is captured by the lower grades and is nearly burned alive. Sho manages to save him. It is unknown if he survives future events.
- One of the five people who went with Mr. Wakahara to search for food. Sho managed to pull off a plastic bag wrapped around his head and he points out Mr. Wakahara as the attacker. He is the second to be struck down by Mr. Wakahara when he attacks the group with his car and is killed.
- One of the five people who went with Mr. Wakahara to search for food. He was the first to be killed by Mr. Wakahara using his car.
- He is devoured alive by the insect swarm when he investigates his classroom after people heard the strange sound coming from his class. Relatively brave.
- Goofy and weird, he almost breaks his teeth biting a can of pineapples. It is never stated that he dies, but he is not shown in the 'wishing circle' and so presumably perished somewhere along the way.
- A non-athletic student who drowned in quicksand during the flood.
Classmates: 5th Graders
- A very good friend of Nishi. Frail and weak, but a loyal friend. When he eats, he summons an insect monster with his mind. He commits suicide to stop the monsters from eating Nishi. It is unclear how Nakata is able to produce the insects.
- He is the smartest student in the whole school with an IQ of 230. He often helps Sho understand the situation better and is very loyal to him. He often helps with explanation, such as telling the student body about their time travelling. He is incredibly loyal to Sho, casting the deciding vote for him during the elections and risking the plague to stay with him in the desert. He survives the series.
- Mr. Wakahara
- Sho's sixth grade teacher. After seeing Mr. Sakura commit suicide, Mr. Wakahara has a mental breakdown that causes him to go on a rampage causing him to murder all the teachers. His murder spree is interrupted by Sho, who stabs him. Wakahara then falls to his death.
- Mr. Sakura
- Teacher who commits suicide.
- The school's principal. Right before everyone was transported to the future, he was attacked by a burglar who stole the teachers' pay. Clueless and rather dumb. He was killed by Mr. Wakahara.
- Ms. Tanimura
- A teacher for the school who suffered from seizures. She was killed by Mr. Wakahara.
- Mr. Arakawa
- A teacher for the school. When all the older students try to rush out into the wasteland after discovery what happened to them, he breaks his glasses and stabs his son in the arm to calm everyone down. He was killed by Mr. Wakahara.
- Mr. Asai
- A teacher for the school. Before the school vanished, he was listening to his handheld radio in the teacher's lounge. He was killed by Mr. Wakahara.
- Kyusaku Sekiya
- A 38 year old school lunch delivery man. He refuses to believe that the school has time-shifted and believes that a nuclear war happened, and also that Americans will come to save him. He refers to children as beasts and routinely kills or threatens them in order to fulfill his own desires. Children, in his opinion, are less than full adults and are therefore resources to be exploited by them. In the very end he seems to realize the truth. He attempts to kill Yu to be teleported home, but Basai's arm strangles him.
- She is a leader of a girl gang and attempts to take over the school. A violent and cruel bully who advocates capital punishment for stealing food. She takes over because she believes all that Sho does just gets them into more trouble. Her friends who help her in tyranny over the school are Tomeko and Hatsuko. She leaves the school in a huff after losing the election. She comes back to the school much later to tell them Mount Fiji is paradise. It is unknown if she did this to be deliberately cruel, as the Fiji amusement park was itself torturous. She dies shortly after returning to the school.
- She is one of the Princess's friends/gang members. She doesn't talk much and obeys the Princess without question. Her hair is cut a bit short and she wears a short dress. After the Prime Minister election, The Princess lost and she with a few other followers left the school to go into the desert. Her fate is unknown, but she presumably starved to death or was killed by the Princess.
- She is one of the Princess's friends/gang members. She doesn't talk much and obeys "The Princess" without question. She is a bit of a masculine build and has ponytails. She left with the rest of the gang after the election, and presumably died afterwards.
- "Scar Kid"
- Very selfish. Leads the pogrom that burns Hashimoto to death, kills Yoshida, and almost burns up half the remaining students. He does this to remove the plague and to increase the food supply available for himself. Once he learns that he is infected, he decides to kill everyone. He dies from the plague.
- One of two thieves that robbed the school and beat up the principal before the explosion. His partner is killed in the blast, and Basai's arm and half of his face are teleported along with the school. They remain unseen somewhere for the vast majority of the adventure, until the very end. When Sekiya attempts to kill Yuichi, Basai's hand jumps out, gouges out Sekiya's eyes, and strangles him. The body parts then return with Yu and are reunited with their body.
- Yamato Elementary School
- The school that Sho and everybody have been transported to the future in. It consists of a few buildings, including a storage shed and factory that were also transported into the future.
- The school has:
- A pool (used for water supplies)
- A separate gym
- A science room/chemistry lab (containing hydrochloric acid and Chloroform)
- First-Aid Room (Despite the fire in Book 5, this room is still in good shape)
- Nation of Yamato Elementary
- It originally was the Yamato Elementary School. Many events happen to the nation throughout the story.
- Book 4: The school officially becomes a nation and becomes under attack by a giant insect and a swarm of them.
- Book 5: An official census is taken and there is a black plague outbreak.
- Book 6: The plague subsides, an entire building is burned to the ground, plants are grown, and then nation becomes target of a flash flood.
- Book 7: The flash flood ends with no damage done to the school, plants become infested with a strange fungus, the crack in the pool is fixed, and a well is built for water.
- Book 8: The school comes under the control of Sekiya.
- Book 9: The school is converted into a military like base with barbed wire and stuff. The underground monsters attack the school and Sekiya takes off in his vehicle with most of the school's food supply. After the monsters leave, strange starfish like creatures arrive and the school is divided into two sides with Sho on one and Otomo on the other.
- Book 10: The school is abandon due to a toxic clouds passing by.
- Book 11: The school is repopulated and the remaining students stay in order to return the world back to normal.
- The Desert
- Originally Tokyo, but somewhere in the future where Sho and his friends are, Tokyo is now just a vast wasteland.
- A few things have survived throughout the years:
- Memorial sign for Yamato Elementary School
- Hotel Keiyo (Barely, the rooms and floors have turned into a giant cave system and only one side of the hotel still exists)
- The General Hospital (Mostly gone except for the basement and morgue which held a lone dead body in it.)
- Tokyo Bay: The water has completely dried up in the bay and only a few old ships are still left behind in the end.
- Tokyo Subway: The Tokyo Subway is barely still there. One train cart still exists and is only used by the underground monsters in their ritual. Lots of dead bodies are around as they are the fallen survivors of the future world.
- Amusment Park: It is uncertian when this park was created since it appears to happen after the students are teleported to the future. The entire park still is able to function and the theme of it is time from where it starts in the dinosaur era, to where it ends in the future era, which is destroyed.
- The Future Forest
- Originally created through Nakata's mind, this forest consists of strange plants. It is also the home of the insect monster, who only appears when Nakata eats. After Sho makes Nakata faint, the forest collapses and turns into sand along with the monster.
- The Drifting Classroom official site from Viz Media
- Right Turn Only!!! review of volume 1 at Anime News Network
- Volume One Review with plot detail
- A small profile of the live action movie version of Drifting Classroom (Japanese)
Template:Nobuhiko Obayashi tl:The Drifting Classroom zh:漂流教室