It’s a terrible day for rain.
I don’t think they could have done any more in the first few minutes to signify that this was the beginning of the end. Not only had Miki finished her book – an item claimed from the Mall, possibly symbolising its connection to ‘normal’ life – but her stifled explanation of its ending showed that Taroumaru would indeed be in danger and set up such danger for having a profound effect on her. It’s a tradition in tragedy that characters will lose something valuable that they’ve only just gained; coupled with the grief of losing Taroumaru, Miki must also now be painfully wishing she’d made last week’s leap of understanding a lot sooner.
I forget to mention that there was a significant lack of Yuki bringing up Megu-nee in last week’s ‘fanservice’ episode. In a way, the absence acted as a kind of precursor to Yuki’s development this week; she’s been gradually changing on the inside, and it made cracks that showed themselves in front of the window feel more natural. There’s something to be said about the pathetic fallacy of rain being used for great effect when it otherwise could have been cliche – having the rain as the stimulus for the start of her breakdown connects Yuki so well to the origin of her delusion, the day it also rained. With the windows broken, how could they stop her from feeling the rain and remembering that day? With normal school life ‘broken’, how could the Club be in control of Yuki maintaining her delusion of it? Just as the weather is unpredictable, the horrors that lie beneath us can be stirred without warning.
Another sense of the girls’ lack of control over the situation was felt in the bitter irony of the girls speaking of Megu-nee, asking her to watch over Taroumaru and protect them. The corruption of her has turned her ‘love’, which the girls have kept alive, into a consuming void that, through their clinging-on to the real love of Megu-nee, they’re in danger of falling into. Miki believes she’s immune to it, but she’ll have her own problems when dealing with Taroumaru. I doubt someone familiar with the walking dead could think that they might also walk on all fours. I connected with Miki so deeply as she broke down in tears, fearing for her life while at the same time knowing that she has to face and deal with this tragedy, knowing that she doesn’t yet know herself the extent of the horrors that lie beneath the school. Perhaps neither do we.
More important, however, was the feeling that Yuki was no longer driving this story. Before her happy delusion, through Rii-san’s manipulation, was what took the girls to the Mall and deeper into the school. She filled their days with action. But now she was more of a passenger. Taroumaru was the impetus for this week’s nightmarish descent, and the parallels between him and Yuki rose to the surface. While the girls would have been happy to spend day after day at the pool, Taroumaru’s instinct was to delve into the depths of the school, just as his instinct before had been to find Miki. I’ll have to wait until the end to see what can be said about his role in the plot and the wider ideas he may represent.
For now, at least, Taroumaru’s loss, coupled with Yuki’s deterioration, is a massive sign that the girls will have to shift into a completely different gear in order to survive from now on. Kurumi made her first ‘mistake’, losing the girl’s their greatest weapon against the undead. Seeing Rii-san start to break down, and shovel-kun falling into different hands, adds more and more to the sense of an absolute shift. If that wasn’t enough, the undead have broken into the school and filled the lower levels, and thoughts of a ‘cure’ have sent the plot in an entirely new direction. I can only expect that Megu-nee’s proximity to it would mean that she could have it on her.
All these terrors feel at one with the twisted take on ‘graduation’ that Gakkou Gurashi! has embodied. Just how much do the undead reflect the potential for horrifying monotony of life after school? It’s not hard to see how many working adults live in a dead kind of way, drawn back to their youth but all the while just tearing more children away from it. Kurumi’s dream of the zombies calling out to her, and Megu-nee begging her to open the door, captures a struggle of many meanings. while she’s also resisting turning into a zombie, she’s also echoing how isolated a girl can feel when the adult world tries to drag her away from her youth. Having just left school myself, I can connect deeply with the show’s allegory for this injustice. Tweets and facebook posts about how children have to go from asking for pocket money to being asked how they’ll make their own are a good example of how this worry rests in modern thinking.
The only piece of the puzzle that Gakkou Gurashi! feels like its missing is some sense of the girls thinking about their families; they do have families, right? Parent-less survival is a common theme in teenage fiction, and Megu-nee acts as a warped motherly figure to add to that effect. But the realism of the show would be benefited immensely by an appreciation of the girls thinking about their loved ones who didn’t come with them to school.
Unless, of course, the darkest truth of this story lies in the absence of parentage. What if Yuki isn’t the only one with gaps in their memory? Why do none of the girls reminisce about anything that wasn’t connected to someone else they knew at school? This concern is too stark to be unimportant, and the overall plot will be weakened if it doesn’t address it.
I look forward to a final, potentially fatal twist. What will change if the ‘cure’ is retrieved? If Kurumi’s fate can be reversed, what else can?
Of course, everything will come to head when Yuki enters that basement. Her breakdown is surely being saved for last.