Going into this anime, I was completely unsure of what to expect after reading through it’s synopsis briefly on Myanimelist. The promotional cover bears a stark resemblance to any other typical Moe/Slice-of-Life anime in a school setting (minus the dilapidated building). But one of the genres Gakkougurashi! was tagged under happened to be ‘Horror’. Initially, I thought I was getting pranked as I watched the opening episode, the narrative appeared very upbeat and jovial considering that it takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. But boy, it does head into darker territory quite fast.
Yuki lives a happy and cheerful life within the premises of Megurigaoka Private High School, a fairly large and mysteriously well-equipped campus. She’s a member of a group known as the ‘School Living Club’. The other members include Yuuri, the attentive leader, Kurumi, the most athletic in the collective, Megu-nee, the dutiful and caring teacher, and Taroumaru, a cute and loyal dog. At first, life within the club is free of worries and hardships since they partake in activities you’d normally expect to see students do in a school year- but it is all a momentary diversion from the harsh reality that they all find themselves in. Within their current vicinity, they are the only survivors after a mass zombie outbreak wreaked havoc upon their city, and possibly the world.
One thing that I found interesting about Gakkougurashi!, is that the cast of characters are relatively small, even for a post-apocalyptic setting. In fact, aside from one episode, you pretty much get acquainted with all of the characters you’ll get to know throughout the show in the very first episode. The characters are pretty varied and distinguishable. At first glance, the characters that I mentioned earlier may come off as just cardboard cutouts of typical Slice-of-Life personality traits; Yuki exhibits a childlike innocence to mask her anxieties, Yuuri is authoritative (in a motherly way), Kurumi is full of vigor, Miki (who joins the group later on) is reserved in temperament and brooding, and Megu-nee is a lovable clutz despite getting constantly ‘ignored’ by almost everyone *subtle foreshadowing*. As the plot advances along, we get to learn more about all of the past vignettes that led them to where they are now, and the heartbreaking moments that continue to mentally torment them as their living situation grows increasingly dire with each passing day.
The overall art and animation in this anime is fairly solid for the most part. At first I had doubts on how Gakkougurashi! would visually showcase horror and slice-of-life in conjunction with each other since those are two genres I normally wouldn’t expect to gel well together thematically. But, I thought this show did an exceptional job of both showcasing the cutesy and strikingly vivid scenes, and the more dark and melancholic moments in a believable manner. If I had to nitpick one thing I didn’t like with regards to animation, it would be the appearance of the zombies. Some zombies would be hand drawn when only one or two of them were on the screen, but they appeared to be mainly CGI whenever a lot of them took up a frame momentarily; which I did find to look a bit cheap and visually jarring.
On a musical level, I really liked the Opening song and video that accompanied it. On the surface, it sounds incredibly happy, while also being visually inviting. But the video slightly alters the way it presents itself with each passing episode to make you fully aware that the state of minds for all of the girls are slowly crumbling apart as the veil of comfort is progressively slipping away from them. So, I thought that was cool. The background music and Ending songs weren’t quite as noteworthy and memorable, but they fit the ambience of the show’s setting and didn’t feel like a weakness.
All in all, I thought Gakkougurashi! was a worthwhile watch as a viewer. It really does an excellent job of subverting viewer expectations by delivering as both a Moe/Slice-of-Life and horror anime at the same time, which is very rare and admirable in my opinion since I expected this concept to fail. If you are able to look past it’s deceptively kawaii aesthetic, you’ll be treated to a fairly complex psychological-horror, while still making you smile and laugh every now and then.