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, a sixth grader, proceeds to school following a bitter argument with his mother about her throwing out his things. But as Sho attends his class, a tremor suddenly shakes the facility, and the students and faculty find that the school has somehow been transported into a wasteland. In time, they find others wandering through the strange landscape, lost. One of them, a three-year-old boy named Yu, shows Sho a memorial buried in the dust which commemorates the disappearance of their school - indicating that they somehow have landed in the future. As it later turns out, the world succumbed to a variety of environmental disasters some time after the school was time-warped, leaving the Earth nearly depopulated at the end of the 20th century.
In the face of this unexpected and frightening development, many of the adults and students at school lose their wits. One of the teachers, Wakahara, goes completely insane and murders his colleagues and some of the students before he is killed by Sho in self-defense, while the previously mild-mannered food delivery man for the school, Sekiya, puts his own survival before the children's lives, which leaves the children with no adult guidance. In this desperate situation, Sho attempts to take charge in order to ensure the survival of all. He meets Nishi, a fifth-grader from Nagao, who has the mysterious psychic power to reach into the past. When Sho's mother, who is remorseful over her son's disappearance, is contacted by Sho through Nishi's power in times of great need, she goes great lengths to assist her son by preparing things in her own time so that they might help Sho in this bleak future.
The stranded children meet many challenges in their desperate fight for survival. They encounter hostile monsters which claim the lives of several children. They are also affected by a deadly plague, the growing shortage of food and water, hostile delinquents who sow dissension amongst the students and threaten inner stability, and most of all, creeping madness. Sho and his closest companions, who form the school's "government", fight a fierce struggle but are unable to save many of their comrades, who keep falling prey to the myriad of dangers around them and their own despair. In the end, Nishi falls into a coma but the students are nevertheless able to use her powers as a medium between the children and Sho's mother. Sho's mother sends a rocket ship full of supplies to the children. Due to a series of mishaps, only little Yu is able to return, delivering Sho's journal to Sho's mother. However, in the future the children happen upon several beneficial factors which promise the return of life to the devastated Earth and their own survival, and they resolve to stay and try to rebuild the world from the ashes of the past.
The main character of the story. Sho is noble and brave, and rather selfless. He 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 thanks to Nishi's power is even able to contact her. He is good friends with Ikegaki and Otomo, and later becomes good friends with Sakiko, Gamo, and the other officials.
A fair-haired girl with a crippled leg, a fifth-grader from Nagao and Sho's love interest. She is a latent psychic who is capable of telepathically linking the past and the present, a gift which becomes crucial for the stranded children – especially Sho and his desperate mother – at times and which may also be one of the causes which got the school time-stranded. However, she is very insecure, believing she brings bad fortune to everyone around her. In the end she falls comatose when Sho is operated on his appendix and his pain links his mind to his mother through her power, but the children are still able to tap into her power, sending at least one of them back. It is uncertain (though not unlikely) if she survived her ordeal.
A friend of Sho, on whom she has a secret crush. She is a sixth grader from class 3 and she has a brother, Takeshi, in the third grade who dies from an illness shortly after their arrival in the future. When everyone else doubts Sho, she sticks 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 attention to Nishi.
A sixth grader who is in class 3. He is also very brave and athletic, being the first to successfully jump the chasm, and is extremely pragmatic. However, he has a dark side: he was the one who tried blowing up the school when the stress of being given too much burden as a student and class representative got him - a deed which combined with other incidental factors into getting the school marooned in the future. Worried about being found out, he opposes Sho at every turn 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. At the very end, he admits to his sins and helps reunite the school.
Sho's mother, who is left behind in the present (past). Remorseful over the argument she had with Sho on the morning of his disappearance, she desperately renders any help she can give him when Nishi's power enables them to contact each other across the time rift. She is eventually deified by the older children in order to keep morale up amongst the younger students.
A three-year-old boy who was caught along with the school when he was playing nearby, waiting for Sho. He delivers a journal recording the events and misadventures the children had in the future to Sho's mother, and promises to try to reverse their bleak future.
Extremely brave and 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 a defense force against the monster when it attacks the school, buying Sho time to save the other children. Though stripped of one hand, he still fights on until he dies.
A jokester who has a hard time taking any tell-tale news seriously. Sekiya stabbed and killed him when he tried rescuing Aikawa, Sekiya's hostage.
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 is a son of a doctor and also wants to be one when he grows up. He's 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 although full of hesitation at the first time, he is able to perform surgery later.
A girl who wants to be a singer. She eats the mushrooms and proceeds to mutate and create the One-Eyed 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. It is unknown if she survives in the end of the series.
A girl who suffers from achluophobia. She becomes infected with the black plague, but is cured. It is unknown if she survives in the end of the series.
A girl who is held hostage by Sekiya when he tries to seize the school's food supply for himself, but is rescued. She survives the plague and later joins Sho's side when Otomo leads his rebellion against his friend. It is unknown if she survives in the end of the series.
A sixth grade girl who, right after the school is time-stranded, attempts to climb the safety fence of the school roof, falls off and thus becomes the first casualty in the school.
A classmate and friend of Sho, and the only student of the school who remains in the present because he had returned home to fetch his forgotten lunch money on the morning the school disappeared. Although he does not appear to grasp the situation as well as Sho's mother does, he assists her in remorse over Sho's disappearance.
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 and eventually finds a jungle. He makes his way back to the school, but collapses dead right after reaching it when the jungle plants he ate turn into sand in his body.
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.
A very good friend of Nishi. Frail and weak, but a loyal friend and, just like Nishi, a latent psychic. When he is hungry, he summons insect monsters with his mind. At first unbelieving, he eventually commits suicide to stop the monsters from eating Nishi.
He is the smartest student in the whole school with an IQ of 230. He has a natural aptitude for science and 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.
Sho's sixth grade teacher. At first Wakahara appears as a stout-minded and dependable father figure, but after seeing Sakura commit suicide, he has a mental breakdown that causes him to go insane and murder all the teachers and several students. His murder spree is interrupted by Sho, who stabs him with a knife left behind in the ruins of the Keiyo Hotel by his mother; Wakahara then falls to his death.
Teacher who is prone to hysterics. When he realizes that he is stranded in a desolate future, he commits suicide by cutting open his jugular vein.
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.
A teacher for the school who suffered from seizures. She was killed by Mr. Wakahara.
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.
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.
A 38-year-old school lunch delivery man. Originally an unassuming and mild-mannered man, he becomes a selfish and vicious tyrant when he finds himself stranded in the future. He refers to children as beasts and resources to be exploited, and routinely kills or threatens them in order to fulfill his own desires. In the end, he attempts to kill Yu to be teleported home in his stead, 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. Totally emaciated and more dead than alive, she comes back to the school much later to tell the students that there's a 'paradise' in Mount Fuji.
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. After this event, her fate is remain unknown.
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 after that her fate is remain unknown.
A rather selfish kid who leads the pogrom that burns Hashimoto to death. He kills Yoshida and almost burns up half of the remaining students in order to remove the plague and to increase the food supply available for himself. Once he learns that he is himself infected, he decides to kill everyone, but eventually succumbs to the deadly sickness.
A band of monstrous subterranean creatures which hinted as a human mutation when the modern world began to turn into a wasteland. They are intelligent and capable of human speech; their bodies, however, are spiderlike with four spindly legs and a single large eye on their back, and are capable of spitting sticky strands to immobilize their opponents. Their society is like a hivemind entity; individualism is punishable by death. Initially they are hostile to humans, but after Sho manages to appeal them through their common ancestry, they stop the attack. Later they appear again when some starfish monsters attack the school, but shortly after that moment, a giant worm start swallowing them all.
One of two thieves that robbed the school and beat up the principal before the explosion of Otomo's dynamite. His partner is killed in the blast, and Basai's arm and half of his face are subsequently teleported into the future along with the school. He remain off - screen for the vast majority of the adventure, until the very end. When Sekiya attempts to kill Yuichi, Basai's hand jumps out and strangles him. The body parts then return with Yu and are reunited with the body.
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. 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.
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.
Amusement Park: It is uncertain 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.