With the anime adaptation of Gakkou Gurashi we have the second of the Kirara offerings of the Summer 2015 season (the first being Joukamachi no Dandelion). However Gakkou Gurashi is published in Kirara Forward, meaning it is structured like a normal monthly-release manga rather than a 4koma (meaning actual plot and drama at times) and also meaning that the content is among the most “extreme” Kirara publishes (it is technically labelled a seinen publication) – examples being Yumekui Merry, Hanayamata and even Aldenoah Zero and Madoka side stories. I am coming to this series having read the chapters of the manga source in English, and so knew what to expect – in other words, the “reveal experience” near the end of the first episode already took place in the manga format. Even so, overall I thought it was handled pretty well, and liked it so much that I think I will be taking up this series to blog this season.

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The series opens with a curious scene of a young girl sleeping in a room (and awoken by a small Shiba Inu puppy), which soon is shown to be a room in a school – apparently what is used as a storage room, but is now marked as a sleeping room for some reason. The young girl, who we are introduced to as Yuki, quickly runs out of the room and heads off down the hall heading for what appeared to once be the student council room, but also is now marked as the “School Life Club”. Inside are the other main characters – the perpetually shovel wielding Kurumi, the bookish and collected Mii – or Miki (shown reading Stephen King’s book “The Stand” throughout the episode), and the older sister figure Rii – or Yuri, who seems to do a lot of cooking and, as we later see, gardening on the rooftop of the school. When Yuki arrives they all eat breakfast together (the dog – named Taroumaru – as well). Yuki is definitely very quickly shown to be the cheerful one of the bunch, and perhaps a little childish as well, and Rii to be the strict one.

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After wolfing down her food Yuki zooms out of the club room and heads to her classroom … and the other members of the School Life Club notice that the puppy seemingly escaped when Yuki left. On her way to the classroom we are introduced to another character, a teacher, whom Yuki calls “Megu-ne”, who introduces herself as “Sakura-sensei”. In the classroom (she is on duty that day) Yuki greets her classmates, leads the early morning greeting of the teacher routine, and promptly falls immediately asleep. All of the sudden Miki bursts in the door looking for Yuki and the latter looks nervous and says “Miki! We are in class!” To which Miki stops for a second and looks around the room, then apologizes and closes the door. One begins to get the sense of something being a little more off other than the paper signs taped to the room signs earlier. Yuki rushes outside after asking the teacher to leave and head to the nurses’ office, and in a split second we see something on the blackboard that raises a question mark and which turns out to be a “video game easter egg”. On the one side of the blackboard are the Engrish letters “I enjoyed studying together. Let’s study together again. But it done not come true at all.” But when Yuki runs out we see in dark red chalk the words “All is in darkness in the past. Please don’t throw me away. Help me.”

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It turns out that Miki has come to Yuki’s classroom because Taroumaru went missing – something that really seems to concern Miki. So the two of them go on a search for and in the process of tracking him down and then chasing him through the school we come across more signs that things are not quite normal. At one point after Yuki and Miki first hear Taroumaru in the distance they race off in pursuit and in the background we see that many of the windows are broken pretty badly. At another point we come across a place where desks and chairs are piled high to form something that looks like a barricade. At yet another point, after having chased Taroumaru to the rooftop (where Yuri and Kurumi both are working on the rooftop gardens, saying they are helping the gardening club) we get a split second scene of a cross gravemarker in one of the vegetable beds. And finally, when Kurumi looks down into the school courtyard below, we see the figures of human beings, but figures drawn in very odd shapes of walking or moving.

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After a brief scene of reciting what the motto of the School Life Club is, i.e. “The School Life spends their days and nights at school in order to become acquainted with a wide variety of activities as well as fostering independence and providing an example to all.” Taroumaru is finally caught, and is placed on a leash. After snacking together with the other members of the Club in the Clubroom Yuki suddenly remembers that she forgot her backpack in the classroom. As she heads off Miki feels it would be good to be with her, and when she catches up to Yuki we are finally shown a glimpse into what is “really” going on … and it is something totally unexpected. For whatever reason the school is actually in a state of terrible disrepair and decay, and the courtyard outside is inhabited by former students who are now mindless, flesh-eating zombies. In other words, some kind of “zombie-apocalypse” has taken place. We even see that the zombies shuffle about inside certain parts of the school and that the barricade of desks and chairs is to keep them out. The concern for Taroumaru was probably lest he should fall prey to them.

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There is more to it, though. Apparently something terrible happened to Yuki, because we are also shown that all the scenes of her “happy school life” were in her imagination – the product of her delusions. Something she apparently has done in order to cope to some degree with the reality she has suddenly found herself in. She is one of the survivors in the school, yes, as are the other members of the School Life Club, but the other members are caring for her and being gentle with her, perhaps having seen what happened to cause her to disassociate from reality as intensely as she has. The two sets of words on the blackboard shown earlier in the episode really do hint at what is “really” going on inside her. In many ways it is exceedingly tragic for her, but also sad for the other members. Stepping back for a moment, though, it is in fact this dichotomy personified in Yuki that makes the series as effective as it is. Normally I cannot stand anything relating to flash eating zombie apocalypses, but this is one of the few series where it works … and I think it works because it focuses on the interactions of those surviving through the prism of … well, perhaps no spoilers for now. ^^

I am looking forward to following this series – the first episode was extremely effective, I thought, and the choices it made in adapting the source material were well done. See you all for episode two!

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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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