Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi! (SCHOOL-LIVE!) Review

All good things must come to an end...

What They Say:
Slice-of-life meets horror in the latest manga adaptation from studio Lerche. After surviving an earth-shattering zombie outbreak, the new and aptly-named "School Living Club" must find a way to survive amidst the unending chaos of being hunted by those they used to attend class with. This only gets harder when one of the girls comes down with PTSD after the event occurs. Now, on top of surviving an onslaught of zombie attacks, the School Living Club must find a way to keep Yuki Takeya from mentally decomposing in front of them as they try to uncover the reason everything they know has become a nightmare.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Summer was certainly a busy season for Lerche, seeing as this is just one of their three shows to air during it's course (The other two being Monster Musume and Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace which I also reviewed right here). Out of them all though, School-Live! quickly became the most critically acclaimed, boosting sales of the manga by a massive 1000% following its animated premiere. This becomes even more impressive when you consider that director, Masaomi Ando, only has a couple other directorial credits to his name (Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse/White Album 2). But does School-Live! live up to the hype? (No pun intended, I swear.) That's of course up to you decide -- but I'll weigh in on it in just a few minutes.

The anime, and a hefty portion of the manga, is mainly centered on the pink-haired, bubbly Yuki Takeya, who is so torn up by the event of a zombie outbreak that she has created a world in her head where literally nothing has changed. The first episode sets the stage for this anime absolutely perfectly, disguising the entire episode just how it would look from the perspective of Yuki. It isn't until the very last scene where we find out that everything we just watched was a gigantic hallucination and that the majority of the characters we saw were dead and...well, not gone. But you know what I mean. Everything from that point onward takes on a complete tonal shift. This is no longer the bright, joyous show we expected (Considering you went into blind, without any knowledge of what it really was). Instead, it's a psychological mess of how teenage girls handle being the last few people on what could be the entire planet. We don't really know yet.

Each member of the School Living Club plays an important part in keeping the group a well-oiled machine. Take one of them away, and everything starts to fall apart. Yuki keeps the group motivated and hopeful. Yuuri is the wise, motherly figure that everyone looks up to. Miki brings reason and logic into the mixture. And Kurumi kills zombies with a shovel. (Needless to say, she is best-girl). The girls are dependent on each other for this entire series. I mean, how can you not when your friends are trying to kill you and eat you? That dependence, however, is great under these circumstances because the result winds up being packed with wonderful chemistry and sort of developmental paradox where each girl helps the next find something out about themselves. Not to mention, each one's style and attitude is so well-contrasted with the others that all viewers will be able to easily choose their favorite. There's none of that whole "Otaku-Inner-Struggle (OIS for short, which is a disorder I just made up)" where we have to fight between girls to decide on who the superior one is.

The story starts off as just a tale of survival, but slowly builds up until more and more backstory in uncovered. The pacing, as far as this is concerned, is spot on. We get a ton of exposition and learn a little bit about each character before things start to get really weird. And I mean really weird. Not to mention, each doubt that viewers have -- each "Well why is there still electricity?" type question will not go unanswered. The story is well-written with those concerns in mind. I don't know if I've ever watched something before where literally every single loophole is filled in. It's actually quite spectacular when you really think about it. There are so many skeptical notions you think up while watching this series, and all of them come to a satisfactory close just episodes later. In addition, the usage of suspense and subtle details hidden in the background will keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire twenty-something minutes of each episode.

This paragraph might get spoiler-heavy, so skip it if you haven't watched the series and still intend to do so. Up until the halfway-point of this series, when we find out that Megu-Nee has been dead this whole time (Which I totally called, by the way), the show is just pretty good at best. But when we find out that some of society knew this was coming, that's when this show gets great. It's not just school girls trying to survive and fend off zombies anymore. It's a thought provoking tale of how we might handle a situation like a zombie outbreak -- what we would do if we had reasonable suspicion that one might occur. And that raises thoughts like, "Well, if we knew this might happen, why didn't we prevent it? What happened to everyone else? Why these four girls?" Life or death situations in anime are great no matter what. But when those situations involve adolescents in a world where adults aren't even there for guidance, those are the times when that life or death stuff really shines. Seeing adolescents forced into growing up quicker just to conserve and fight for their own lives is significantly more impactful than having some huge, burly mech-fighter dude fighting another giant mech-warrior with his life on the line.

In Summary:
This is a damn good show. It's much better going into it like I did (Without any idea of what it's about) than going in with the knowledge that it will turn into a psychological thriller, but I guess that is now impossible considering you just read this review. Regardless, this easily snuck its way into my "Top 10 Anime Series 2015" just as I'm sure it will for a lot of others. So to answer the question of "Whether or not it lives up to the hype," the answer is yes. Yes it does. Pick this or the manga up, and allow yourself to go on a journey filled with cute-girls on the brink of death and lots of bloodshed. Lots and lots of bloodshed.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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