Where Daily School Life is Sports and Cultural Festivals, Clubs, Field Trips….and zombies….
It’s the season for Tricks and Treats, for Spooks and Scares, and for Thrills and Chills. Happy Halloween, everyone! This is a special holiday review straight from skylion’s goody bag. Lets see what happens when you mix “cute girls doing cute things” with a High School of the Dead style zombie apocalypse.
A bit of disclosure out of the way first. There was a time in the previous decade that I was seriously zombie infected. Any movie, television show, comic, game, what have ya, I watched, read or played. Well, nearly everything, time allowing. When I ran TRPGs, I went for the Old West zombie and cowboys game, Deadlands. My low level mooks, and even some serious baddies at times were undead. But to make a long story short, I became over-indulged in the stuff. So much that I would put on semi-Hipster airs about anything with the zed word. But I always remember what I have to say about the form, “It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the survivors”. So with that in mind, Gakkou-Gurashi is a fresh take on the thing, High School of the Dead aside. This is cute girls doing cute things and surviving…the other is about boob physics..
At it’s heart, this is the story of the daily life of the members of the Campus Life Club in a somewhat typical after the end, undead take-over of the world scenario.The series is written by Nitoplus’ Norimitsu Kaihou (who’s done some anime screenplays) with art by Sadoru Chiba. For those that don’t have the experience with the genre,it’s best summed up as, survival is key, and try, perhaps in vain, to lead a somewhat normal life. In this world without our advanced society, things like rationing, quick thinking, getting over grievances, getting along, and even staving off boredom become the underscored facets of the day. We do this on a daily basis, but the horrors creepy around every corner put explanation marks on all these activities that we can and do take for granted. So with that in mind, let’s meet our cast. It’s about the survivors after all.
Our lead character is Yuki Takaya, the neko-mimi-hat wearing, loliesque girl. And she is right down to the dot on the “i” a genki girl. Happy, energetic, optimistic and her cheerful nature is infectious; and like so many of the type: buzzed on positive feelings to such a point that sometimes the obvious is just missed. That infectious nature and her eternal positive feedback is essential to the story and to the rest of the cast.
Next is Kurumi Ebisuzawa. She is my favorite character of the entire series. She bears a lot of the emotional brunt the world throws at the characters, and she works this off as the primary Yuki-wrangler and all around action girl. She’s quick to speak her mind, and is darn quick with a shovel upside a zombie’s head. If Yuki could bee seen as the heart of the cast, then Kurumi is that heart in action.
And the last of the main characters is Yuuri Wakasa. As the club president, she takes the situation more serious than the rest, but she plays this off as a cool, level headed center. She’s the one that balances the rations, and basically sets the day’s routines. This is an ever so important factor, not only for a club with it’s mission statement, but for the sake of survival. She will turn down an idea and use her authority and charisma to back her decisions up.
So, what does the Campus Life Club get up too? Well, as typical with school life stories, “Lead a happy and fulfilling school life!” I’m not going to break the manga down chapter by chapter or book by book. It has a great amount of appeal and charm to it even with the encroaching undead. But the themes of survival are what carry the day. From the opening it is quite obvious that Yuki is not doing well. It’s not that her spirit is diminished, but rather it is in the highest gear it can run in. She is a PTSD survivor, with her genki nature running to keep up with the mental and emotional damage she’s sustained. And it doesn’t run smooth at times. She is constantly repainting the ruined world around her, casting her now gone friends and school mates in her mind as she runs her daily course. She talks to them, and interacts with her ghosts as if she is carrying on as normal. She doesn’t see the ruined bits of the school, she is too busy repairing the busted parts in her minds eye. But as I said, her infectious nature is a saving grace for her, and for the rest of the cast.
In many zombie stories she would be the first to go; wandering off in blissful unawareness straight into the teeth of the nearest shambling horror. But for her friends. In respect, it seems like a hassle to care for some one that probably can do more harm than good, and in some cases the story structures this as a very typical “burden to my friends” scene. But, in truth, both Kurumi and Yuuir need her as much as she needs them. If they can care for her, the that lifts them up. And in so many survival stories, it reminds us of the very best a society can do. The infrastructure may be gone; electric power is failing, a quick trip down to the store is out of the question, and the school is falling apart. But, if you can keep to the core values, then you have a chance even without all the amenities.
As the story moves along, they do take field trips, and they do have festivals, in as much as they can, and in as much as needed. They find other survivors, and that shakes the status quo up quite a bit. They are in danger, and the manga manages to find the right balance between the two genres. Genres which should be at war with one another…and really they are. Pages will go on engaging in slice of life high-jinks, with a sliver of horror just running under the current, and it builds up until there is an inevitable confrontation. It gets tense, and it is incredibly scary so many times. But with that, the manga rewards us with warm feelings after, and sometimes they can be heart breaking in how they are conveyed. Yes, these two genres are at war with each other, and it shows.
A Look into Her World
I hope you enjoyed the review. I’ve had a great time reading this one over the past couple of months. Fosh recommended it too me after I read the announced anime adaptation, and I am thankful for that recommendation, and hope that I can spread that around a little. If you find yourself a bit weary of zombies as of late, this will probably refresh your dead battery. Now, with that in mind, it does get to be a gory series at times with the monstery scenes not so much overly drawn or done just for the sake of rotten flesh and gross out horror. It is quick in display and more evocative than anything else. The art is suggestive and shadowy, and it relies on tension to tell it’s scare. It’s almost as if it wants to look away, but cannot quite do it, so it leaves us with visions in our mind’s eye of what we choose not to look at. For some that can be even more terrifying than just showing the full gross out, but for me, I feel that it is a perfect match for the story and the characters. Then they will swing out and just cover you in crazy shots when you least expect…and the same thing goes for the heartwarming stuff.
Now as for the anime announcement, I’ve found nothing since then, and that was late June of this year. But I’m not about to let lack of details get in my way. I’m hoping that DogaKobo or maybe even Silver Link will pick this one up. The character design is very much in the slice of life vein, so anyone that has worked on the DogaKobo shows, Love Lab or Yuru Yuri can probably do a great job on character design, but that won’t keep me from enjoying, say, Non Non Biyori’s designer (who has done design on Shana…so cute…monsters….). As for voices, the only consistent one that sticks out with me while reading the manga is Kana Asumi as Kurumi; and not so much her Nyarlko voice as her Yama no Susume Hinata performance, just a bit more aggressive when shoveling the undead.
And with that, I bid everyone a creepy, fun, and safe Happy Halloween!
Bikini’s can be Halloween Costumes, right?