Gakkou Gurashi centers around five students who took shelter in their school when people started turning into blood thirsty monsters a.k.a Zombies! With the school surrounded by zombies and possibly also the whole town, what will happen to them?
This anime differentiates itself by being adorable as well as terrifying in its own right. To be correct, Gakkou Gurashi is a successful mutation of the moe Slice of Life and the Zombies genre. The characters are likable, cute and have their fair share of psychological issues brought about by the zombie apocalypse, which are well emphasized and most often come off a very emotional for some. It didn’t feel like a gimmick or clichéd at all and the show is plenty serious about what’s going on when it comes to it. The cute exterior and the dark interior will surely surprise a lot of people though it can seem like they are just incompatible but this is as close as you can get to being great.
So, let me ask you a question. How do you keep watch over two individuals who hate each other? Put them in separate rooms of course, Ha! Well, if they merged the two opposite themes, it would be a death sentence right? First of all, the show can actually be split into two parts, the one concerning the present and the one concerning the past (with a few exceptions). Each episode has about an equal slice of the two and that’s what makes this so enjoyable. All the loss and suffering are in the past while the Sol themes are in the present (more or less). But don’t think the zombies will sit idly by and just watch…nothing lasts forever you see, especially a barrier made out of desks tied together by metal wires. I’m amazed that they can be so calm about that.
There are clues that you can notice buried in the background and slight changes in detail for those of you who pay close attention. If you put the pieces together, you can actually figure what they’re keeping under wraps. Like the opening theme changing to represent what happened, and don’t be surprised if a character gets grayed out…oops wait, it that considered a spoiler? The characters are OK I guess but I have to admit that there wasn’t enough depth to them and when they switched around the past and the present, the mood can become damn confusing and the characters can seem alienated at times. Sometimes the horror and their goofing around don’t mix very well.
Gakkou Gurashi is a bit jumpy at times and the pacing is doubtable, you can end up not caring at all. It changes from a being flashback to going in reverse chronological order then back to normal again all without so much as a hint. And like every other cute show out there, the word ‘character development’ doesn’t quite fit into the picture, they’re just too cute to relate to when things go down hill and I think they are used more as plot devices than anything else. And mirroring any other show out there it just had to have an episode that focuses around cleaning a pool for god’s sake, you know like they usually do. Plus, an epic water gun fight!
With that being said, you should not expect too much blood or gore from the series. The bloody environment is apparent and the class rooms are covered in it but for better or worse they are not actively visible because A CERTAIN character has some problems with it, aside from that, they do have the initial shock factor when we realize that it was another façade.
The zombies are pretty cool to look at and the close ups are pretty detailed and terrifying I must say. The one thing that stood out was how the actual zombies sounded, you don’t want your Zombies to sound like the ones in Plants vs Zombies do you? Murmuring for our forgiveness because they weren’t that cool to begin with, and no I won’t forgive you Zombies! When a Zombie roars in Gakkou Gurashi, the sound is deep and tantalizing and worthy of tearing someone to shreds. There’s increasingly more tension built up as the story progresses and it just catches you off guard when they suddenly turn up the horror by a magnitude. The way they kept the zombies out of sight for the most part made them a great deal creepier then if they had been there. Okay, okay I’m a bit over-analyzing here.
I think a lot of zombie fans are familiar with the little explanation that the whole thing was because of some truck carrying a deadly virus or because a research exploded and caused the outbreak or another country attacked japan with a chemical agent so I’ll leave it at that, this pulls that stunt as well but it doesn’t fully explain it. Well you can’t pull off a zombie killing spree that’s for sure.
The jokes and funny skits, while being a great distraction from all the tense moments from the previous episodes, they felt off to me because they really don’t pay attention to what is going on and the later episodes actually have almost no funny lines whatsoever, which was definitely a good call. Nothing was memorable about the jokes anyways, you take it and laugh or you throw it out and roll your head in a circle, it works both ways.
Overall, Gakkou Gurashi is still an experience worth having because it is the only thing that comes close to featuring kawaii characters and zombies without looking stupid. The story was refreshing with a good dosage of emotions that almost everyone can understand unless they’re seriously aiming for realism here, you won’t find it. The Sol elements were a good distraction from the heavier stuff, alas they can be boring and completely random of course. The eerie atmosphere and in-your-face horror will keep zombie fans entertained if they can ignore all the other lighter parts. There are only a few locations in this show, around the schools and one more and it can get a bit repetitive because they reuse the same scene over and over again but you can certainly deal with it, it’s not that bad. To conclude, watch it if you like cute stuff and zombies and kinda want a middle ground between the two with compromises but avoid it like hot garbage if you are expecting it to excel at both, you WILL be disappointed I’ll tell you that much.