NoneQuite 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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  • So, I’ve now read the manga, up through chapter thirty, which is where they leave the school, and… um… I was really underwhelmed by it. Had I read it first, I doubt I would have watched the anime at all. That is a personal opinion, though. It just didn’t work for me.

    That said, I really loved the anime, as it did something different from the typical zombie fiction, and that above all else really was exciting to me. I liked the character development a lot, and how they chose to put the series together, with only two real exceptions. Episode nine, “Holiday”, could have been a lot better than it was, and episode three, I think it was, with the camping event, jumps back and forth in time a little too roughly, making it a bit hard to keep up with.

    Other than that, I actually enjoyed the anime a lot more than the manga, but that was just me.

    • GreyLurker

      With a series like this I think a lot of ones perspective on it comes from “where did you first encounter it”. The emotions and surprises of the series are a big reason why it has such an impact on people, and those aren’t nearly as strong encountering the same material a second time around in a different format

      The Shock and hook got you with the Anime, so the Manga doesn’t have as strong an impact. For others the Manga was their first encounter and the impression of shock is tied to that, thus they say the Anime didn’t quite do as good a job of it as the manga did. For most people I find which ever one you encountered first, you will compair the other to the experiences and reactions you had viewing it, and so the first one will always seem better.

      • That is something I tried to bear in mind when I sat down to read the manga, and I will even freely admit that there were purely technical things about the anime that made it work better for me. The music score and the direction, the use of camera angles and framing, and most of all, the way they kept the zombies out of sight for the most part made them a great deal creepier than they had any right being.

        Those are things that can only be done with a filmed adaptation, however, and as with any work of fiction that moves from written, (or drawn in this case) to film, those are elements that can either enhance or detract, depending on how they are used. In this instance, it was an enhancement, from my perspective.

        Funny how perspective plays such a big role in all this, isn’t it?

        Ultimately, my opinion of the manga is colored by the writing. There are too many plot inconsistencies, and the characterization changes according to the needs of the plot. Those are things I would have noticed even without the anime, and likely could have overlooked, to a degree, were it not for one central element to the manga that really ended up putting me off.

        It’s basically The Walking Dead: Cute Girls. I loathe The Walking Dead, due to the rampant inability to maintain consistent characters, or plots. Once I noticed the similarities, reading it became tedious. It’s hard to get invested in characters when they change constantly, or a plot that has things happen purely for the sake of forced drama.

        But, that is just me, and by no means is how anyone else need see it. If people enjoy it, then that’s great. I’m always happy when any zombie fiction is well received, even if I personally didn’t like it, such as the arbitrary nonsense that is TWD. So, for keeping zombie fiction in the forefront, I’ll give the manga points. It just isn’t something I enjoyed reading.

  • Flower

    For me the main issue is not so much a question of “which medium did you first encounter it in”. The summer 2015 season in particular has had lots of adaptations that were quite good in my opinion, and the discussion of which medium is more effective or better suited or whatever rarely comes up with good answers, in my opinion. No – for me the issue is another one entirely.

    To my tastes and preferences I am all for different mediums, but I like mediums that are different takes on the same franchise. One could almost regard it as two different pair of glasses looking at the same subject, but the presupposition is that the subject is the same. Within this structure there is allowance for “variation on a theme”, but the theme should be consistently discernable. For me, while the anime did do a service in bringing new audiences to the source manga, it also did a DISService by presenting a theme that had some differences from the source manga’s theme. What it did was very different than, say Wakaba*Girl, Shoukugeki no Soma, Akagami no Shirayuki, Wakako-zake, Baby Steps, Himouto! Umaru-chan, Ore Monogatari or Rokka no Yuusha – all the adaptations of which are very discernably focused on the source, while emphasizing different aspects of the story/franchise itself based on the medium. Even when liberties are taken, the same source is still being looked at, regardless of medium. There are not two dissimilar subject matters.

    To give some examples. This is why I emphasized that the expansion of new material focusing on Megu-nee “worked” while that of Taroumaru did not. The inclusion of Miki in the story early on was a variation on the theme necessitating a flashback. Using this story-telling device had successful and unsuccessful aspects to it, I thought, but there was still an agreed upon narrative.