It was Miki’s turn to take the spotlight this week, as Gakkou Gurashi! continues to make every character’s backstory a heart-stopping and heartbreaking experience.
It took me a while to recover from the intensity of this episode. We already knew that Miki had lost her friend in the mall, but how she lost her friend was more tragic than I could have ever expected. It wasn’t a sudden death like Kurumi experienced – we didn’t even see whether Kei lived or died. Miki lost her friend while she was still alive. Her fear of leaving the shelter clashed with Kei’s desire for escape as the apocalypse gradually tore the two of them apart.
The moment she left was made even stronger by the revelation of why Taroumaru always rejects Miki – her outburst at the poor thing meant that after Kei abandoned her, she lost her only other chance at company. Another thing I didn’t expect was how important her relationship with Taroumaru would suddenly become. All the humorous times she failed to get the dog on her side now sound like apologies for that moment when she lost her cool. Tarmoumaru must also act as a constant reminder for what she lost in that mall.
Gakkou Gurashi!’s pacing this week was perfect; cutting back to the School Living Club and the three girls sleeping together, all supporting each other, contrasted so well against Miki’s growing loneliness as her friend turned away from her as they slept. It felt like Miki could do nothing to support Kei, but Yuki’s friends made – and still make – use of her delusions for the benefit of everyone. This shows how much Miki needed this group to find her, adding a hopeful side to her tragedy which made the ending all the more emotional to behold.
The insert song, as well, couldn’t be faulted. It brought together all the elements of this backstory; what Miki will gain in the car speeding towards her, what Miki lost in the room she now occupies alone, and all the things Miki had before in the credits. The feels this week were delayed through the cutting away from Miki’s perspective, but when the song brought everything the episode stood for back, it was heavy. If this is how Gakkou Gurashi! gets the tears flowing in just a few episodes, how much stronger will the feels be towards the end?
Kurumi gets fantastic action sequences every episode, so it was thrilling and terrifying to see her so bold and yet so vulnerable as she raced to Megu-nee’s car. The pulsating darkness that engulfs the zombies always makes their psychological threat feel so much heavier, marking them for me as more than just your average zombies. They’re distorted memories, the normal thrust into the horrific, and neither us nor the characters can bare to see them for what they truly are. The threats Kurumi throws herself into would feel so much weaker if we got to see everything.
Thinking about the bigger picture, this regular use of flashbacks is doing wonders for keeping Yuki interesting. It would be harder to develop her PTSD with just a chronological narrative without making some things repetitive, so jumping around the story gives us all kinds of snapshots of her, like jigsaw puzzles, which come together in a harrowing dance of empathy. Every backstory still goes back to her, with Kei’s longing for the outside reflecting her delusion that life can go on as normal, making the whole story a powerful reminder of the importance of friendship.
Miki and Kei knew each other for much longer than Yuki had known the School Living Club, and yet the latter are so much more of a unit in times of crisis. It goes to show that it isn’t time that builds friendships, but purpose. By leaving the shelter, Kei showed that she didn’t think that she needed Miki to survive. I can relate to her selfishness, but it stands as her fatal flaw, exacerbated by Miki’s inability to stop or support her, being too inactive or afraid to reach her.
Yuuri, on the other hand, knows just how to reach and relate to Yuki, and Kurumi is willingly to put her life at risk for the benefit of the whole club. This is exactly the kind of group that would survive during an apocalypse, understanding and supporting each other above themselves. Even Yuki’s delusional desires are, in her mind, ways of making the whole club more fun and supporting everyone’s time there. It feels like a legacy, a spirit even, passed down by Megu-nee, as this episode further reinforced her vital importance to the group while stressing her demise prior to Miki’s rescue.
The more we know, the more we don’t. What happened to Kei? How did Megu-nee die? How will Miki react to this group as they find her? Gakkou Gurashi! knows how to carefully string its plot together for emotional tension; I’m always scared for these girls for more than just their survival.
As this arc comes to a close in the next episode or two, we’ll surely get more of an insight into Yuuri, who I’ve barely talked about until now because of her important lack of importance. she’s the bedrock of the club, and rightly supports everyone while shying away from the spotlight. I’m assuming she has a much more tender side because of this, so the moment we get a hint as to what her past was like, I’ll be over-analysing it like mad.
Until then, I’ll be over-analysing the dog. Is there a secret behind the intonation of his woofs? Anything could matter!