Gakkou Gurashi – Dat Jazz, Dat Feels
Note: Major spoilers in this post, especially for episode 4.
Cuteness and darkness have always been an interesting mix-Madoka made this odd subgenre a success, and subsequent anime like WIXOSS and Yuyuyu followed suit. Gakkou Gurashi, a currently-airing anime, is also similarly a slice of life/yuri/cute girls doing cute things show, at the same time, it is also a zombie anime-obviously joining the ranks among the many “moepocalyptic” (as OG would put it) anime.
What this does is that it creates an emotional dynamic where it’s more easier to sympathize with the characters-the younger-looking characters and the slice of life nature of Gakkou Gurashi really bolstered this too, instead of being a pure “actionfest” like it was with High School of the Dead (don’t even get me started on the ecchi).
The feels however, couldn’t even begin to compare in episode 4, when the emotional build-up culminated with a jazz song during the credits.
When you are by my side
I never felt so complete
From deep inside
One day when I wake up
From this never-ending dream
I want to see you again
Episode 4 entailed the backstory of Miki and Kei during the zombie outbreak. From what we can observe from the little moments that they had, we can see they are definitely the “best friend of friends”-which obviously screams YURI in the world of yuri subtext. It becomes even more apparent when they were forced to barricade themselves inside the room from all the zombies. Since they were all alone in that room with zombies loitering around everywhere-they needed each other more than ever. Food and water supplies were fortunately plentiful so they were able to stay for awhile.
All of your warm tender days
So many memories with you now gone
I feel so lost without you here by my side
When I wake up from this dream
I want to be with you again
Being in such a scenario for an extended period of time would definitely stress everyone out, until Kei decided to leave the room, after all, help wouldn’t arrive and they couldn’t possibly just stay there forever. Miki disagreed with the idea however and quarrel ensued, their /yuri/ relationship strained. Despite so, Kei did leave in the end, after a lengthy period of strained relationship. After she left, she was never heard of since, just pure silence-the only audible things Miki could listen to was the howling of the zombies and the pounding of the doors, and a jazz song played from the CD player which Kei left behind-playing the song “We took each other’s hand” by Kaori Sawada.
Remember the moment
We took each other’s hand
If I’d never let you go so far away
we’d still be the same
The song speaks of separation, but when you apply the lyrics to the context of the anime, it brings a whole new, direct meaning. The song’s feels-inducing-Kei won’t be coming back, no matter how much Miki wished for it; the song’s depressing-we can probably expect the worst as far as Kei’s situation is concerned; and yes the song’s ironic-Miki might be able to see Kei again, but zombified… The sense of irony is especially magnified by the last line “If I’d never let you go so far away, we’d still be the same“-this line within the context, can really be interpreted in a literal way. Same thing can obviously be said about the “dream” the lyrics kept repeating, which made it look like more of a nightmare than a dream, and judging from the zombie-infested world of Gakkou Gurashi, a nightmare is the best description, and who wouldn’t want to wake up from it?
The use of jazz music here is fascinating-it helps viewers better empathized Miki’s emotions, and because of the smooth, soft and soothing nature of the song, it really reinforced the feelings far beyond even the anime’s genre-which in itself already made it easy to portray emotionally-inducing scenes to begin with. Being able to integrate part of the music to the anime itself instead of being a completely separate entity as an ED theme is brilliant too. Snippets of the episode in one portion, with the static all over it, create a nice, finishing touch to the extremely emotional, beautiful music.
Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping up with Japanese music much, but if I haven’t heard of Kaori Sawada before, I sure do now, as I love my jazz. Anyone watching Gakkou Gurashi this season? What do you think of it? And feel free to recommend me more songs from Kaori Sawada, I could certainly use them.