Light Spoilers inbound
‘Gakkō Gurashi!’ focuses on the daily lives of 4 highschool girls as they live their entire life out of the school under the guise of the “School-Life” club. It reeks of classic Slice-of-Life anime but it took me a while to get around to it for two reasons. One, that synopsis is really generic, it lacks anything to really grab me. The second reason I didn’t watch it till this week was also the reason I didn’t watch it until now. If you follow me. This anime is a zombie show, in the style of The Walking Dead, focusing on a close nit group of survivors as they struggle to make it day to day. It wasn’t high on my list due to it seeming like a really weird tonal mix on paper and I felt it couldn’t really balance itself without a massive amount of difficulty.
But I found myself with a hole in my life this week and a need to binge watch an anime show from start to finish, and with my current university research into horror and the spooky season of Halloween coming up I felt it prudent to finally give it a go. This is a pretty good show. It is also pretty weird though. its mixing of the tropes of Slice-of-Life on this backdrop of violence and terror eminent in a zombie show (there is plenty of blood and gore all over the place) make it feel quite jarring in places when it goes from a swimsuit episode to a pan over a grave the girls keep on the roof.
I found myself enjoying it as an anime of two halves, the Slice-of-Life pieces where decent enough, being nothing new, whilst the zombie pieces of the anime actually felt griping and at times tense. However, I don’t think this anime could’ve worked without one or the other. The Slice-of-Life sections are a great way to introduce the small group of characters and build believable relationships that seem to have existed for a while. They also help to build the tension in the zombie sections as you actually now root for these girls because of spending half an episode in that vicarious bubble that Slice-of-Life provides.
All in all this is a really interesting anime from an experimental perspective. It definitely could’ve been done better, I have a lot of issues with the way they characterise Yuki and how the other girls interact with her. I found it very difficult to actually sink into the narrative when I was constantly questioning their treatment of her. It also has some pacing issues that once you read the manga (I binge read it after finishing watching) become a lot more apparent due to an obvious desire to have all of the cast present during the first episode (Miki Noake is not actually introduced in the manga till roughly chapter 5 whilst the anime places her in the first episode only to flashback later in the series)
I would definitely recommend at least watching the first episode just as a lot of effort went into visually coding the setting. The Slice-of-Life story telling is there to obviously act as a layer to block the more sinister undercurrent seen in the actual backgrounds. For example broken windows and Kurumi carrying a shovel and referring to it as a weapon. It’s almost uncomfortable as this palatable sense of uneasiness pollutes the narrative. It’s utterly fascinating to look at, even if the rest of the show ends up being just ‘pretty good’.