Looking back at high school days makes me want to give my past self a piece of advice: Enjoy high school to the fullest. Because, let’s face it, college can be a living hell at times. In Gakkou Gurashi!, an anime series by Lerche, Yuki Takeya’s love for school is highly contagious. In fact, it is so strong that she decides to join the School Living Club with her beloved friends. Yet school life is not as it seems… I recommend going into this anime blind for a better experience. Furthermore, this review contains spoilers – you have been warned.
Moe meets horror
Gakkou Gurashi! starts off like any other cutesy slice of life anime. The adorkable heroine spends her time doing whimsical stuff with her friends at school. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” probably describes this anime best. The upbeat opening theme, bright colors and portrayed mundane activities trick the viewer into believing they’re watching yet another moe anime. Even though some small clues about the school’s actual circumstance are given, I was still fooled and found myself shocked by the jaw-dropping reveal at the end of the first episode. So far, not many animes have attempted throwing cute girls into a horror survival setting – the only examples coming near to this are Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Gakkou Gurashi! does a wonderful job keeping the viewer on edge by hitting them with disturbing moments when they are least expected. Because of the large amount of slice of life moments, a sense of security is given, making one worry all the more about the girls’ well-being.
Keep calm and stay moe
Besides the unique setting and a narrative free of plot holes, the cast proves to be another strong point. The girls’ different personalities balance each other out nicely, ranging from extremely cheerful to calm and composed. Their shared bonds are strengthened by making the best out of their desperate situation, portrayed in slice of life moments. The moe scenes are charming at first and serve to establish an emotional connection between the viewer and the characters. Yet the cheerfulness is kept until the very end, putting a damper on more serious events. While the other girls try their best to pretend everything is alright for Yuki’s sake, who is suffering from a psychological trauma, the bottled-up despair can be felt growing progressively. It becomes apparent that at least one of the characters is going to crack by the end of the series. However, even after multiple terrifying events, the main issues are wrapped up quickly and the girls remain mostly unchanged.
It’s not just a phase
One of the main plot points is Yuki’s psychological trauma. The severity of her condition is obvious, and the fact that her friends are playing along with her delusion – very thoughtful of them, but not helpful – makes the whole scenario even more dramatic. Using her cheerfulness to keep up their own sanity is another heart-wrenching dilemma these girls have to face. Sadly, the way Gakkou Gurashi! dealt with this topic is disappointing. The quickness with which Yuki recovers from her trauma seems unrealistically rushed, brushing it off as something that isn’t as serious as it seems. She returns to her eccentric and cheerful behavior as if nothing had ever happened. Unfortunately, instead of delving deeper into Yuki’s psyche, her mental condition has been used purely for shock value.
Too kawaii to live, too sugoi to die
Gakkou Gurashi! had the potential to be an amazing mix of slice of life and psychological horror. It never featured a boring moment and constantly kept the viewer on their toes. Sadly, the amount of horror and moe elements were outbalanced, resulting in reducing the gravity of the situation. However, if you aren’t on the lookout for deep storytelling and just want to see cute girls surviving a zombie apocalypse in a cute way, then Gakkou Gurashi! is the perfect series for you.
What we liked:
- Likeable and balanced cast
- Constant suspense
- Shocking plot twists
What we didn’t like:
- Imbalance of slice of life and horror elements
- Handling of the main character’s psychological trauma
This article has been written after watching all episodes of Gakkou Gurashi!. How did you like the School Living Club? Are you ready to grab a shovel and fight through this zombie-infested school? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!