Gakkou Gurashi! First Impressions *Spoiler Free*
Before I get into the thick of this largely spoiler-free review, I should state that this episode, and possibly Gakkou Gurashi! on a whole, is very much a “Your Mileage May Vary” scenario. This is a somewhat intriguing beast to tackle. Sometimes in fiction, simply acknowledging that there is a twist is enough to spoil said twist. Once you know that the rug it supposed to be pulled out from under you, you keep an eye out to see whose hands will be doing the pulling and you’re more likely to indulge suspicions and potential theories. Maybe that crippled con man isn’t all he appears to be. Maybe that psychiatrist can’t communicate with his wife, because of something more than just marital problems. Maybe that cross in the garden on top of the school has something buried underneath. Fortunately, Gakkou Gurashi! or School-Live! is, in my experience, not the kind of twist that is diminished by expecting one to occur.
The majority of the episode plays out like your standard moe experience, but with the occasionally odd detail. Our main character is Yuki Takeya, a rather ditzy and absent minded member of the School Living Club. It is a peculiar club whose clubroom is marked by a taped up sign and whose members live on campus in an unused classroom. Their stated goal is to promote self-sufficiency, and we see that a couple of the members, Yūri and Rin, aid in maintaining a garden on top of the school along with the horticulture club. Each of the characters seems to have their own little distinctive quirks, from Yūri’s tendency to carry around a shovel to Rin’s ability to scare anyone in the group into behaving with only a glare. We’re also introduced to their advisor, Megumi Sakura, but as of yet she hasn’t really played much of a role.
For most of the episode, Yuki runs around with Miki, one of her fellow club members, trying to track down the club’s pet dog, Taromaru, as he runs around wreaking havoc. Again, there are little hints at something being off, like tables being stacked up to block off a hallway or Miki’s slightly uncertain or confused approach to dealing with Yuki. The thing is, despite these brief questionable moments, much of the comedic antics come off as being rather tedious and only occasionally come off as being mildly droll. Now I’m not a big fan of the “Cute Girls doing Cute Things” subgenre of slice-of-life that has become so popular in recent years, so it’s probably not surprising that I’d find these moments to be a bit tired or uninteresting. Taromaru makes for a fun enough mascot, but, watching them chase a dog for most of the episode, just left me feeling slightly bored. But, that would appear to be the point. This is one of those weird scenarios where my biggest complaints about an episode turn out to be strengths once the episode is viewed as a whole. That is to say that they appear to become strengths when it is viewed from my perspective. As I stated before, your mileage may vary, and it is quite possible that many viewers find that the journey is not quite worth the destination, whereas I feel that it adds value and impact to that ultimate destination. Your ability to enjoy this episode is probably dependent on your ability to withstand moe tropes for an entire episode… which can admittedly be pretty trying.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- For some reason, I thought this was based upon a light novel, but apparently it is based upon a manga. Obviously, I have not read the source material, but it is my understanding that Miki doesn’t show up until later in the manga, and that this raises questions about how the anime will be structured.
- In some ways, the style and certain aspects of the production remind me of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Given the fact that the Gakkou Gurashi! manga started up in 2012 after the original Madoka series aired, and that it is published in the same magazine as two of the Madoka spin-off manga, I wonder if it took any inspiration from that series.
- I ran this episode by both Birdy and Caveman who were far more lukewarm to it than I was. So, like I said, mileage may vary wildly between the twist justifying the show and making it worth it, or it being too tedious to become invested.
As it stands, I highly recommend watching at least this first episode. Furthermore, I recommend going into it somewhat blind, without knowing what the twist is, but knowing that there is a twist. In my opinion, it is at least worth checking out, as it is an inventive and intriguing start for a series, and I’ll definitely be coming back to Gakkou Gurashi! to see where it goes from here.
This is a difficult one. I can really only rate this as I see it, and I enjoyed it on the whole... despite being bored for roughly 18 minutes of the episode. Personally, I recommend everyone at least watch the first episode Gakkou Gurashi! to the end before dismissing it.