Recommendation : 100% YES!
I must have read “Zombie Survival” somewhere and added it to my list. I sat down to watch the first episode and thought “what? Why am I watching this?”
Then everything changed….
I will go to my death bed telling people they should watch Gakkou Gurashi (or School Live!) as it is one of the most climatic, dramatic and character driven shows of any kind of all time.
The story is set in a school with four students who have survived a outbreak of some kind that has turned most of the population into zombies. The four characters are Yuki, a lovely student who was so traumatised by the death of the only surviving teacher that she has blocked out the fact it ever happened from her mind, Yuri, a girl the same age as Yuki who acts like the big sister to the group, Kurumi, another girl of the same age who hides her fear well and uses a shovel to defend the group, and Miki, a girl younger then the others that they find on a trip to the mall.
You start the show being able to completely forget that it has anything to do with Zombies or the end of the world. You watch it and see Yuki living her life at school. The twist at the end of the first episode dumb founded me. I sat there staring at the screen for a good 10 minutes unable to speak. It was the most dramatically sad thing in the world as you realise that Yuki is sat in a empty destroyed classroom speaking to students who are in fact dead and probably out on the grounds trying to break into the school to kill her. The school which up until moments before looked clean and tidy, full of life and studying is actually a broken shell of a building devoid of any humans other then the four girls and their dog Taromaru.
From there you think the anime couldn’t shock you any more but every other episode was full of something or the other that would leave you staring blankly at the TV screen in tears. From finding out that Megumi was actually dead all along, to finding out that it was Megumi’s zombie that bit not only Kurumi but Taromaru. From finding out that the school was built specifically for the purpose of this biological weapon wiping out great parts of human life to just the human drama that spilled from every episode. Speeches given by characters were heartfelt and talked of hope and futures that usually in these situations we never hear of. The girls kept themselves alive and looked out for each other, there were even moments where we were allowed to take a breath and enjoy their company from running about after Taromaru to cleaning the water tank on the roof and using it as a swimming pool.
Unfortunately life at the school was always slightly limited and the last few episodes not only moved on the story a great deal, put one of the quartet in peril and killed the pet dog but also destroyed the school to the point that it was useless for them to stay.
Still the hope and belief that something better will happen one day left with the girls and we were left with its uplifting ending tune whilst watching them drive towards hopefully somewhere safer.
I said it nearly every single review but being on similar terms to a show like the Walking Dead it obviously drew my mind to comparing the two and in its way Gakkou Gurashi did a lot of things that The Walking Dead always failed to do for me personally. You might know that I’ve dipped in and out of The Walking Dead since it first started to air and got obsessed during its last run but there are obvious parts of the show that just annoy me greatly.
Gakkou Gurashi whilst being on a smaller scale, the girls are nearly always just in the school building and even then its only one a few floors and we only ever see a few classrooms, always felt more like a survival show then The Walking Dead. The only area that Gakkou Gurashi hasn’t touched upon is the question of what happens when you meet not so nice survivors. They touched upon it at the end in conversation but they haven’t been somewhere and seen the horrible things other humans, uninfected humans at that can do, but in every other aspect it just was better. The Walking Dead has never been able to shock or scare me, even their jump scares don’t work on me. Gakkou Gurashi made me feel unsafe in my own skin and its just a anime. It made me fear for the characters (arguably maybe because they were girls and not adults) and cry more then once. It felt more human to me then The Walking Dead which, I know is based on a comic book, has always felt more comic book then being a drama of any kind.
I loved every character, I felt my heart drop when Megumi was announced as being dead, seeing her last words scribbled in her journal (Yuki, Rii, Kurumi Live!) was too much for me, seeing Zombie Megumi sit there and cry tears of blood onto it…
Honestly just thinking about it has made me cry! I can’t even write anything more about it without wanting to cry.
The changing of animation styles when going into flashbacks or zombie attacks is interesting. It’ll go from being bright and cheerful, even in the broken down school, to 80s horror styled animation. Its a beautiful contrast used well to increase drama and intensity in scenes.
One of the best uses, or as it were at times knowledge of when NOT to use music as well. Some of the songs were so eerie in the situation they were in and most of the time it just, again, amped everything up by another 10%
I have never cried more whilst watching a anime.
If there is one anime you watch in your life time make it Gakkou Gurashi.