The next anime getting a review involves an unusual union of two completely different genres. The question is whether this union delivered a show worth watching or not. Let’s find out as we take a look at Gakkou Gurashi.
Alternate Title: School-Live!
Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy, Horror, Drama, Psychological
Themes: School, Moepocalpyse, Apocalypse, tragedy
Number of episodes: 12
Plot Summary: Four girls decide to stay over at school: the energetic Yuki Takeya, the shovel-loving Kurumi, the center of the group Yūri who brings everyone together, and the spacey school adviser Megu. However, through mysterious circumstances, the girls find themselves the final survivors of an epidemic and live their lives in the school trying their best to stay alive and emotionally sane.
The first thing that must be mentioned is also the most important fact readers must understand while watching the show: GG is BOTH a Girls Club AND Moepocalypse anime. It is both moe and sinister. There are admittedly times when the moe does take priority over the somber but that is commonplace in anime starring cute girl nowadays so it is to be expected. However, when the show focuses on the direness of what is going on in the main story…do not expect any hand carrying. Long story short this a Girls Club anime in an apocalyptic where it is both a life filled with cuteness and a battle to prevent one from losing their sanity due to the the horrors behind the barely stable walls.
Let me put it this way. Viewers who have seen Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru and were okay with how it combined the Girls club and Moepocalpyse subgenres will be fine watching this show.
Let’s go over how the show handles both genres.
First the GC aspect. It is not that hard to present an anime about “cute girls doing cute things” and GG has no problem getting a passing grade here. The lighthearted scenes, the occasional sexiness are all handled as well as one would expect. That being said these segments do serve a greater purpose beyond “pandering to the masses”…though there is definitely some pandering, swimsuits and the like but nothing new for GC featuring some physically appealing girls.
And now for the other, more appealing half of the show, the moepocalypse. Firstly it is worth mentioning how well the show used the setting the story takes place in. After the viewer has an idea of what is going on the show continues throwing more clues and revealing even more of the world the girls are in and how it is done is praiseworthy. See, in a show like this it would be easy to throw typical violent scenes to torture the girls and call it a day. Not so here. The more serious and sinister scenes are less scary and more creepy like Another. Like said show GG uses the environment and its dangers to great effect giving the viewer more a sense of dread and fear for the girls’ lives rather than pants soaking jump scares. Another way to compliment the daily terrors our heroines must do their best to overcome when forced to face them is that the four leads are not trained warriors. Yes, Kurumi is skilled with a weapon but she is not overpowered in the slightest. She is just as vulnerable as her friends, which makes the more tense scenes legitimately mortifying and, thus the threats are not taken lightly compared to say High School of the Dead. The serious moments are part survival, part sanity rather than mortal combat.
The second praiseworthy part is the how the show conveys the girls’ emotional turmoil throughout their lives. As mentioned above the girls’ lives are at times fun but mostly a battle to maintain their sanity. Being thrust into a world they were not prepared to face at all and every day the hope of regaining a peaceful existence becoming dimmer the possibility of “losing one’s mind” is very understandable. One of the main themes covered on the emotional side of the show is the mental health condition Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). See, this show gives an example on what it is like for someone to “suffer” from such a condition and how one lives with it. The question is also brought up on whether it is a good idea in to “snap the girl out of it” in the world they are in. PTSD has been used in other shows before but those shows have an environment where a “cure” would be beneficial, but here…does one really need to be found as soon as possible? The other girls have their own personal struggles but the one with PTSD plays a more pivotal role in the story and the world. Also like any good Moepocalypse show it is not without its “DEM FEELZ” moments. They are there…oh are they ever. Again, when this show wants to torture our heroines and the viewers…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Basically this is more a character driven story than a plot driven one.
The animation quality and soundtrack, as readers have figured out are for the most part top notch. They have to be in order to properly convey the environment, story and emotions the show wants to convey. I especially liked the shadow effects covering the more alarming threats our heroines faced. Just enough to give the viewer the “heeby jeebies”. It is a “What cannot be clearly seen is more dangerous than what can.” approach that is well executed. That is not to say all threats are covered in shadow. There is blood but not an exaggerated amount. Just enough to get the point across. As mentioned the soundtrack is superb, especially during the tense and somber moments. The EDs in particular for certain episodes…WHEW! Also make sure to always pay attention during the OP.
Now for the yuri. It is certainly there no doubt about it. However, the way the show presented it it feels like a “ship sport”, meaning any ship is viable because all four girls are paired up with one another in some manner…though viewers can agree “Mii-kun” is the gayest throughout.
UPDATE: Apparently there ARE established couples on the show. Alrighty then. Viewers will have to see for themselves which ones they are.
Overall I would say School-Live! implements the combination of Girls Club and Moepocalypse very well. Yes there are times the moe takes center stage more than the somber but again it is to be expected nowadays. The important thing is that both subgenres are used to the fullest and neither one feels half-assed. Moepocalypse experienced animeniacs will easily pick this up. As for everyone else it all depends on how tolerant they are of Girls Club shows and accept that this show does not always focus on the “Hell on Earth” setting it takes place in.