In life, some things may surprise you by how well they pair together, while some may surprise you by how much they don’t. For example, garlic, butter, and bread makes a great snack, but in this article’s case, it’s a strange combination of two things: cute anime girls, and flesh-eating zombies.
Gakkou Gurashi, or School Live in English, is an anime about the adventures of a group of four students, their teacher, and a dog in a zombie apocalypse. Adapted from Norimitsu Kaihō’s script by Lerche, the anime ran from July 9, 2015 to September 24, 2015, with a total of 12 episodes. Currently, the series only has one season.
Lerche is the studio responsible behind the production of School-Live! They are known for their works on Assassination Classroom, Classroom of the Elite, and Danganronpa: The Animation; all of which share the Extraordinary Highschool trope, you could say that Lerche has multiple experiences with the genre. Along with Lerche, NitroPlus, a Japanese visual novel game developer, was also part of the production. They specialize in dark themes such as reanimation of the dead and are known for their works on Steins;Gate and Chaos;Child.
In order for the last four students to survive the demise of the human race, they decided to form the School Living Club, dedicated to help each other in their trying times. Of the members, Yuki Takeya seems to be the main focus of the plot. She is the group’s main source of positivity, but is also stereotypically the dumb character.
Gakkou Gurashi does a superb job of adding a unique flavor to its storytelling by letting the viewers see how a particular character sees the event by adding a ‘filter of truth’ to what is happening on-screen. For example, the scenery of the anime may change from being post-apocalyptic to normal in a few frames, giving the audience a look into how a character is psychologically. This allows some scenes to have deeper hidden meanings. A great example of this was when Takeya would often act as if nothing is wrong, even if the classrooms are clearly ruined by the apocalypse in the other student’s eyes.
There was not much room for character development due to the anime’s fairly short runtime. Most of the development, as per usual, went towards the protagonist. Don’t get us wrong though, because the anime can still touch your emotions. It can definitely make even the most stoic of otakus shed a tear. Gakkou Gurashi’s plot is very unique in such a way that it’s quite hard to not sympathize with the characters and hope that they make it. Its plot is filled with so many ups and downs that it’s as if it only makes you feel happy for the School Living Club members to make you feel even worse whenever the sad parts come in.
School-Live’s visual presentation certainly deserves praise, from the vibrant colors that match the tone of the scene’s mood, to the smooth and thoughtful transitions that takes you from a cheerful, school anime atmosphere towards a darker, more intense vibe. For an anime that has contradicting genres of Slice of Life and Horror, the animators did an excellent job in executing what seems to be a difficult task. A prime example of this can be seen from the first episode, the moment when the shocking truth was revealed to the viewers.
School-Live’s animation is a blend of both 2D and 3D CGI animation. Most of the time, these two animation styles don’t blend well in Japanese animation. However, School-Live does a notable job of balancing the two. The main characters are animated in 2D and the antagonists are a mix of both styles. The 3D animation helps in the continuous movement of these characters since it is in their nature to be seen in constant motion even if they are standing still. The CGI animation also helps make the antagonists more realistic since it makes their movements more natural and horrifying at the same time. The sound design of the anime also deserves praise from the thrilling footsteps of the zombies to the horrendous groans they produce. It certainly adds to the believability of these reanimated characters.
Moving forward to the show’s voice acting, the voice actors did a splendid job in delivering their lines, especially during the first episode, as it supported the illusion that this is your run-of-the-mill High School Moe anime. However, the show doesn’t lose its cheerfulness since it maintained the vibe of cuteness and fun, even after the reveal, leaving the delivery unaltered. The show does have its share of notable voice talents such as Inori Minase voice of Yuki Takeya who also voiced Rem from Re: Zero; Rie Takahashi voice of Miki Naoki who voiced Megumin from KonoSuba; and Ai Kayano voice of Megumi Sakura who also voiced Inori from Guilty Crown.
As for the show’s opening, the fun and upbeat song “Friend Shitai/I Want to Be Friends” sung by the leading Japanese vocal cast, is an absolute joy to listen to. It easily provides the idea that the show is your ordinary cute and comedic slice of life anime, which adds to the total effectiveness of the shocking twist at the end of the first episode. Although the song doesn’t change for the entire season, the opening video is altered as the story progresses, giving you the more reason not to skip it and look for the little hints and changes it made. Moreover, the show has a total of four ending themes, with two of them being only used once. The song “We took each other’s hand” by Kaori Sawada was the most iconic among the four. Not only due to the song’s nostalgic and calming nature, but the song also played a vital role in the final arc of the season. It served both as a distraction for the zombies and as a means to emphasize the emotional struggle of the girls.
In conclusion, Gakkou Gurashi or School-Live! presents complex and heavy themes in a seemingly light-hearted way. It may look like the usual cute-girls-doing-cute-things kind of anime but it teaches us life lessons like cooperation, friendship, survival skill, and others more. Because even at the end of the world, we are all just humans; and if there is something that humans have proved in the past, it is that we always survive whatever befalls on us because we always act together and cooperate. Be like Kurumi who protects the others. Be like Miki who looks out for the sake of the others. Be like Yuuri who takes care of her friends. And be like Yuki who never lets their team fall apart.