|None||Quite a different take from the manga source.|
This is definitely a difficult review to write up for me, and for the simple reason that I am a big fan of the source manga from which this adaptation was based. The source manga is darker, grittier and heavier in tone, and lends itself to the strength the manga medium can transmit quite well. That is not to say that the anime was a bad one at all. It was a good one on the whole, I thought. But the medium itself lent itself to something different, and therefore packed a different sort of punch. A punch that was generally the same, but differed in several areas as well. So there is the issue of the medium, yes, but another issue is the simple fact that the studio switched and changed some things around from the original story. Changes that work alright in the context of the anime itself as a means by which to draw people into the franchise as a whole, perhaps, but which were, after all, changes. And changes that I could understand and thought “worked”, but in relation to which I preferred the manga source.
The anime itself is hard to talk about without giving away the “big reveal” at the end of the first episode – a reveal that was built up to and worked quite well in the anime medium. Essentially the story is about a small group of young high school girls that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse setting and survived, and have holed themselves up at their high school. Understandably all of the girls were pretty affected by what happened, but there is one in particular named Yuki who was terribly traumatized, and is living in a sort of waking state of semi-delusion. The series itself traces through the events leading up to where they have currently found themselves and arcs beyond it, leading up to an initial discovery of what happened for all this to take place to begin with and a final confrontation with the zombies where they have finally have to leave the school grounds.
Some of the biggest changes made involve the focus on and developing of two characters: Megu-nee, the young teacher who helps the girls to survive when things suddenly get hairy, and a puppy named Taroumaru. In the manga Megu-nee was mentioned as an important aspect, of course, but her back story and the degree of “interaction” she had was nowhere near the level it was developed in the anime itself, though I thought it worked quite well in the latter. Taroumaru is another story, though. In the manga he only appeared briefly in a chapter (or two at most?) and had absolutely nothing to the level of development he received in the anime. The comedic and “played for tragic elements” focus on the puppy in particular is a huge difference from the source manga, but it does work consistently in the anime itself as a stand alone element (as I saw through the reactions and engagement of a fair number of “anime only” viewers’ reactions). However, both for myself and a number of other manga source readers the emphasis on Taroumaru detracted a bit from the anime as a whole.
In general the production qualities of the anime were solid and consistent in all respects: animation, soundtrack, voice acting, the whole nine yards … everything was well done (I thought thew art style was especially effective, especially in how they chose to draw the eyes of the characters). One especially clever device used were the changing elements slowly added to the OP and the ED reflecting where the narrative of the story was headed – by the second episode’s airing people were already paying attention and keeping track of the changes. (I like little details like this that serve to comment on the main storyline.) The story narrative worked okay in general – the only decision I thought did not work out as well was the inclusion of Miki in the group at the very outset and having to use a flashback to show how she was brought in. In the source manga she was brought in part way, and I thought it was more effective as a whole, but that could just be my own tastes speaking. In terms of character development I thought Miki and Yuki got decent attention and Megu-nee was excellently done, but I felt that Yuri and Kurumi sort of fell by the wayside in the wake of Taroumaru’s focus, which I thought was a pity – in the manga they receive a fuller development.
The series works pretty well in my opinion for what it was intended to do – to bridge a new audience to interest in the source manga itself – and to that degree I feel it was definitely a success. And I must admit that it was really, really engaging much of the time for me personally and the story was well told overall. But in achieving this it also seems that it alienated a fair number of the source readers themselves from the anime proper … something I feel to have been a pity. In the end, Gakkou Gurashi feels to me like it has joined the ranks of a series that could have been much better, even though it is obvious a fair amount of care and thoughtfulness went into its production. I would recommend it with a fair number of reservations for source manga readers, but for those who have not read it I would be much more willing to push its envelope to them. The series as a whole gets a B+ ranking from me. However one thing I can unreservedly suggest to any and all who enjoyed the anime – do take the time to pick up the manga. It is worth it!