Gakkou Gurashi!/School Live!
Dammmmmmmmmn! Talking about this without using straight up spoilers will be hard.
Gakkou Gurashi is essentially two different shows running parallel with each other, making it extremely difficult to form a concrete opinion on the overall result. I’m sure I’d heard about the gimmick the show employs pre-season, but promptly forgot in the interim. As a result, it took me two attempts to make it through the episode, nearly yelling at the screen over how much of a brain-dead, emotionally stunted protagonist Yuki ended up being. Knowing how the episode eventually addresses her outlook on life goes a long way to contextualise the silly hi-jinks and give them a narrative purpose, something I don’t think I’ve seen any other show pull off in the same way, but I’d be lying if I said it was any less agonising sitting through her infantile behaviour.
While the ending sequence is neat, it was the build-up that I found most affecting, displaying a firm grasp of the mystery/horror genre. Sly hints are peppered throughout the episode, such as Yuki constantly being reminded of the school club rules, Kurumi carrying that stupid shovel, or the out of focus shots over the school grounds. They all slowly instil a real sense of wrongness into the setting. I particularly loved how Miki’s reactions to constantly interrupting Yuki during her lessons started off as polite and formal, but turned increasingly more curt and resentful the more stressed out she became throughout the day.
I think the biggest concern I have so far is whether this concept will be used to further a story or remain a gimmick to generate interest. I hope it’s the former, but for the most part I think the gag-comedy slice of life scenes are played straight, with the subtext merely background decoration. It would be incredible if Gakkou Gurashi ended up as a meta-commentary for how interest in moe derives from a place of arrested development and an unwillingness to embrace real world matters. Unfortunately, like Yuki herself, I imagine the audience for a show like this would probably rather remain in the realm of fantasy rather than address the premise as anything other than a neat hook. I hope I’m proven wrong on this, but I remain highly sceptical.
Aquarion LogosFor whatever reason, the first episode came with an Aquarion EVOL ova, largely serving as crappy fanfiction to give closure to a story arc that had already been perfectly resolved in the tv series, instead of focusing on fun characters like Andy W Hole, MIX or the fujoshi girl. Mecha frogs and Fudo cameos aside, I was largely unimpressed.
That said, it was still miles more entertaining than the episode and half of Logos I subjected myself to. This is what happens when you take an already mediocre franchise (nobody mentions the original series) and give it to people not up to the task. People may love EVOL, but the success of that show was almost entirely due to Shoji Kawamori’s New-Age hippy (or straight up cultish, if Earth Maiden Arjuna is anything to go by) philosophies and Mari Okada’s melodramatic, overwrought dialogue combining to create a gloriously absurd piece of entertainment. Meanwhile Logos is penned by one of the scriptwriters of the hugely unpopular second season of Psycho Pass, & directed the guy behind Nobunaga the Fool. I can’t believe anyone would let him near another mecha show again after that mess.
The show itself feels like a cast-off from around 2004, coming across dated and unambitious in scope. From the poor animation and cg, the visually dull shot composition, the bland character designs to the rote dialogue; everything feels unexciting and ill-conceived. The chief antagonist’s ability to alter the properties of words and language in the real world is a fairly neat idea, but little imagination has so far been put into the possible applications. It’s like an interesting Stand power that lacks the creativity to be utilised in a fun way.
It doesn’t help that the protagonist is incredibly obnoxious, being super capable in any situation, yet dull as dishwater, with a completely self-absorbed hero complex that comes across as two-thirds chuunibyou, one third autism. He’s like a straight man version of Macross 7’s Nekki Basara, in a show lacking the charm and self-awareness to make the concept work. It’s not they didn’t have a solid point of reference already in EVOL.
I’ve seen no sign that this show has any idea what it’s even supposed to be even doing, let alone be entertaining so I’m not sticking around in the hopes it figures it out. An established franchise and a cool gimmick aren’t enough to guarantee a success if their strengths aren’t utilised, and trying to capitalise on the good will EVOL generated with lame background nods like figurines just makes me want to go re-watch that show instead. Dropped.
Non Non Biyori S2Non Non Biyori is a moe slice of life anime about group a of cute schools girls being insufferably nice to one another. It also happens to be one of my favourite shows from the last several years. I’m as surprised as anyone.
In many regards, there’s nothing about the show that distinguishes itself from the multitude of K-on clones flooding the market. Most of the cast are your standard archetypes, while the dialogue and humour doesn’t stray too far from expectations. If this is a genre that leaves you pulling your hair out with boredom and frustration, then Num Num Biyrani (mmmmm) will do nothing to change your mind. It’s not interested in reinventing the wheel or trying to up the excitement; quite the opposite in fact. However, the show has two selling points that I’ve completely fallen in love with.
The first is the absolutely stellar atmosphere conveyed with the environment. The characters are usually secondary to the idyllic, rural setting of the village they inhabit, with long drawn out shots of the countryside frequently breaking up scenes. This definitely stems from the same type of drippy nostalgia towards yesteryear that the likes of Makoto Shinkai are known for, yet the direction is so much more effective. Constantly scenes will slow down and the music will stop to just sit in particular moments. Not just background shots either but also character interactions, as if the show is giving you time to put yourself in their headspace as they journey to the near-abandoned school or the singular store in the village. Considering the rather light comedic nature of the show as whole, the shift towards something closer to a mood piece never fails to suck me in. The only other anime I’ve found as effective at soaking in their own environment are Aria and the movies of Studio Ghibli.
The second reason is Renge. Unlike the rest of the cast, she’s still too young to fully comprehend the world as an adult would, so you find yourself in the presence of an extremely bright and perceptive child who sees things in entirely differently ways. There’s always a sense of meaning to her actions and non-sequitur lines, however random they initially may appear, so it becomes a fascinating game of trying to puzzle out what’s really being conveyed. I absolutely adore characters like that. I could spend all day in in the askew, yet oddly logical headspaces of Osaka from Azumanga Diaoh, or Nino or Arakaa Under the Bridge and Renge is right up there with them.
It takes a real talent to create magic out of the mundane and Non Non Biyori absolutely nails it. This show is pure crack to me.
Anyway S2 is just more of the same so I couldn’t be happier.