Gakkou Gurashi! – 09

Even the swimsuit episode is more than meets the eye.

Gakkou Gurashi! is chock-full of symbols already, but the show just keeps adding more. Now the setting is attracting a lot of my attention; the secrets of the school are buried in the basement, but the girls are drawn more to the roof. They’ve sent away their hopes and dreams in balloons before, and this week they continued to cling to the ideal of youth by making use of the rooftop ‘pool’. Megu-nee’s grave is also up there, rather than ground-level with the zombies or beneath the school where she really resides.

It feels like the whole school is drawing upon the classic link between setting and character that shines in horror – what’s physically deep down echoes what darkness lies at the bottom of the soul (Yuki’s mind in this case) – while also echoing the girls’ desire to defeat ‘reality’ by carrying on with their High School lives as usual through the use of the roof. It’s fitting that they’re as far away from the basement as possible this week, like they’re trying to delay the confrontation that’ll come from delving into the school and themselves.

All seriousness aside, this was one of the most fulfilling ‘fanservice’ episodes I’ve ever seen. Rather than overemphasise anything, it all watched exactly how the girls experienced it themselves – a relaxing, joyful day that neither Yuki nor I would mind repeating. It’s probably the strongest example yet of the girls’ defiance of the apocalypse – the only zombies we see are the crowd who feel so distant from the girls’ fun and the one who will soon undo it all. It’s important that Gakkou Gurashi! took this time to solidify the kind of life these girls are fighting for – if the show can indulge in the ultimate High School anime trope, aren’t these girls doing an incredible job of maintaining that world for themselves?

I’m similarly in love with how this week added to the small thoughts I had last week on the ‘bioweapon’ drawing attention to how the natural order – both biologically and and in terms of normal High School life – was corrupted by adults. It feels pretty significant that the girls manage to use the fish’s habitat for their fun without disrupting it at all; it makes them feel more heroic, and the villain of this story is shaping up to be the overwhelming sense that these girls were failed by those responsible for them. Indeed, Megu-nee was likely not briefed on the bioweapon until it was too late. I’ll be looking for more signs of adult corruption of a young girl’s world as the show continues.

We also got a heart-warming moment in the ending of the Miki-Taroumaru gag. The way it was followed up with Miki discussing Kei, and surrounded by reminders of her, makes me sure that Taroumaru’s acceptance of Miki was a result of Miki’s acceptance of her own situation – knowing Kei is gone, but not necessarily for good, and that she needs to carry on living like Kei would have wanted her to. Miki could join in outwardly with the group’s ethos, but it’s only now that it really looks like she’s warming up to it on the inside, and a warm heart like that is something any dog would snuggle up against.

But is this a sign that trouble may be in store for Taroumaru? If we’re heading towards challenges for our cast – Yuki confronting undead Megu-nee, for instance – then Miki’s trials could surely come through the canine companion we’ve become too used to having around. The dog’s adventure towards Megu-nee also furthered the link between him and Yuki – Yuki always gives chase to Taroumaru, so it’s safe to bet that she’ll be led into that basement very soon. Rii-san confirmed this herself. it seems I have more to dread of next week than things to look forward to. But that, of course, is part of the beauty of Gakkou Gurashi!. The happiest episode can end on a note that brings every worry back.

Final Thoughts

No more swimsuits. No more relaxed, happy School Living Club. As meaningful as the cute things these cute girls have done are, it’s hard to see anything other than their comfort going downhill from here.

I can see what’ll challenge Yuki and Miki the most, but what about Kurumi and Rii-san? I’m excited to see how the advance into the dark heart of the school and the show will affect them, since the unspecific death flag that emanated from Kurumi’s words after the Mall still hasn’t left my mind.

And as hard as it may be to watch, I’m doubting that our beloved dog will survive. A smaller gravestone may soon take the space beside Megu-nee’s. ;_;

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