Summer Anime (2015) Preview: がっこうぐらし!

11:24 PM

The Summer Season is upon us! Kicking off a long a storied tradition here on the blog is Gakkou Gurashi!

Title: がっこうぐらし!(Gakkou Gurashi!), Living at School!
Production: Lerche (script by Nitroplus)
Airs: 09/07/15 (July 9th)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Horror

Spoilers ahead in my discussion of the series. I know a bit about it, and I really think it can be a really good series, so long as there's a balance in all of this series' parts.

It follows a general trend that I've noticed for this season. I worry about the adaptation. The adaptation of this and a few other series will make or break them - potentially differentiating a great series from a mediocre one. For this one, the make or break topic is balance. What makes this series so interesting is the juxtaposition of it's cutesy facade, and it's underlying zombie apocalypse survival story. The cute exterior is a pretty face - it lures you in, makes you like the characters, pick favourites. Then it switches gears, puts those same Manga Time Kirara-esque characters into life or death situations against zombies, which really need to be horrid and grotesque. The bigger the dichotomy between the two halves, the more impact they'll have, as neither half is strong enough to stand on it's own. The cute school life itself bellies are darker side, which needs to be taken care of carefully.

Another issue with this series is pacing. The key visual above gives us some information to work with. The main one is that teddy bear situated front and centre. It's there from the beginning of the series, but starts playing a larger role in the second act - which I honestly would prefer the anime not get to. As interesting as it is, the first act can easily be made into a 12 episode series. The split between the first and second half also works absolutely perfectly for a season finale, should they decide to use it. Rearrange a few scenes from the manga and you could have a classic Hollywood ending - and a really good one at that. The cast would be driving off into the vast world, leaving their old home behind. Fade to black. Next scene has a hazmat suit-clad team opening a briefcase full of materials they've sent out or left behind. Leaves it open ended, but is also a satisfying end. Going back to the topic of balance, a rushed, super dense adaptation would certainly emphasize one half over the other, and like I've said before, would result something less than what it could be.

I think of this series having as much emotional impact as Madoka could have. Now, before you start rolling your eyes going "Madoka is an overrated series", hear me out. They work in almost the same ways, using preconceived notions of what this kind of series is. For Madoka, the magical girl genre is synonymous with happy, cute, fun and whimsical. In the 3rd episode, Madoka took a decidedly dark turn with Mami, and progressively went further and further down that path. Gakkou Gurashi is the same. It's being advertised as a fun and cute series. Staff comments echo this, all of the promotional art out so far just reinforces this idea. They're playing this to their advantage. My hope is that they save the big shock for the end of first episode, or at least for the first half of it. Play it off as a generic school story, and drop that curtain so hard it blows everybody away. This series has the potential to be that and it all depends on how it's adapted.

In summary, Gakkou Gurashi's success depends on the directorial decisions in the adaptation. Do they try to appeal to the otaku crowd by playing up the SoL (Slice of Life) elements, playing up the non-existant fanservice? Do they rush through the first act to adapt parts later in the story (such as setting the full cast up)? Do they structure the series to have maximum impact - even if it means filling out episodes to delay the bomb drop? Is that filler going to do any of the above? Time will only tell, and for this one, I'm hoping that any PV they release plays up the SoL, but hinting at something darker. Please don't lay down all you cards before the rest of the cards are dealt. 

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