Gakkou Gurashi! Episode 3 “That Time” Recap

After last weeks reveal that Megumi is, in fact, not really there, Gakkou Gurashi decides it’s time to tell us how the zombie apocalypse all went down, and to do that, they decide to use Megumi herself as the focus character of the episode. While this does prove my suspicion that she really was a teacher the girls knew, it also comes with a few new pieces of information about the girls themselves.

We open on Megumi, sitting alone in a bloodstained office. Everything in here looks tattered, and from the broken windows and rain falling outside, it’s easy to see why. It does raise the question of how long it’s been since the zombies rose up, and more importantly, how long the girls have been surviving on their own.

Megumi is writing down her thoughts about everything that’s happened, even labeling this entry her will. She mentions that she was the schools Japanese teacher, then crosses that out, writing that she IS their teacher. She talks about her hope that they will be rescued, somehow, some way, but until then, she vows to protect the girls, the only students to survive the zombie uprising, with her very life.

03-1This episode jumps about a bit in terms of time, and is not told in a liner fashion. The opening here is some time after the zombies arrive, but before whatever happened to Megumi that she is no longer with the girls. It establishes very quickly that yes, Megumi was one of their teachers, not just a figment of Yuki’s delusion, as well as showing that she is a major reason the girls survived at all.

Not bad for one minute of air time.

After the opening, which I should mention is a truly bizarre mix of upbeat music and singing, and horrific images of zombies, and desolation, we come back to the day of the zombie outbreak, as Megumi begrudgingly drags herself out of bed to answer a text from her Mom. It seems she doesn’t really think Megumi is cut out to be a teacher.

Nothing like parental support, am I right?

We see her going through her usual morning routine and heading off to work, ignoring further texts from her Mom. They keep coming, even as she’s driving to work, and Megumi reflects a bit on just how non-supportive her mother was of her decision to be a teacher, as police cars and ambulances race past her.

Even at school, the vice principle flat out says she wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, for much the same reason her Mom cited. Namely, that she treats the kids around her like friends. Megumi is pretty young, so there’s really not a huge age difference between her and her high school age students, but at every turn, we see people basically talking down to Megumi, reminding her that students and teachers can’t be friends.

Another teacher tells her not to worry over it, that the vice principle gives every new teacher that talk, before they are both distracted by the news, talking about a large scale collision on the freeway, not far from the school. Megumi heads off to class, only paying it the most cursory of looks.

03-2The scenes through here are all broken up by a grainy film reel, which is actually a pretty effective way of reminding us this is all a flashback, as well as serving as a clean break between the scenes. It’s actually a nifty effect.

That aside, we next see Megumi finishing up class by handing back graded tests. We see Yuki for the first time this episode, and it turns out, she actually is a bit of an airhead, prone to sleeping in class, and not overly good at school work. I took much of her attitude from the last two episodes to be mental and emotional regression in the face of the zombies, but this makes it seem like she really is that way, which is somewhat disappointing. I could understand it, under the circumstances, if it had been a side effect of her delusion, but seeing her acting exactly the same kind of takes away from that in my book.

Of course, I’m not ruling out that, since we know Megumi is either dead or a zombie now, much of this is being told via Yuki, so that would explain, sort of, her attitude here. I guess we’ll see as the show progresses, but for now, Megumi is having Yuki stay after class for some tutoring.

Yuki calls her Megu-nee, and Megumi corrects her, reminding her to call her Sakura-sensei. This causes her to reflect on what she has being chastised about up till now, about being too close to her students, and she briefly wonders if she really is, and if it makes her a bad teacher.

In the next scene, as she tries to help Yuki, Kurumi comes by and seems to want to talk to Megumi. She leaves Yuki to retake the test while she goes to check on Kurumi, and learns the Kurumi is having trouble figuring out her feeling for a boy she likes. Rather than give some pithy adult advice, Megumi listens, and acknowledges her feelings. Kurumi feels better, having just talked to someone, having just said it all out loud.

Despite a repeat of the Megu-nee, Sakura-senpei joke, Megumi realizes that she is a good teacher. Her students feel they can come to her, talk to her, that she’ll actually listen, and do her best to help them. Feeling validated, she heads back to Yuki, who’s finished her test and is rambling on about wanting to get some ice cream on the way home.

Megumi gets another text from her Mom, realizes that she’s missed a lot more than she thought, all of them begging Megumi to call, with a couple linking news broadcasts, showing people attacking other people at a local mall.

It’s worth pausing here to note that what I thought was a throw away line last week about Miki having been at a mall when the outbreak began may not have been after all. The mall, possibly even the same one Miki was at, is shown as major area of the outbreak. The teaser at the end of the episode also indicates that next week is going to be all about Miki, so the writers are building a solid bit of continuity here.

Back to the show, as Megumi watches the news video, showing people not just attacking each other, but eating one another, she stares in shock, momentarily forgetting about Yuki, who tries to see what has her interest. Deciding it isn’t all the interesting, Yuki decides to head for home, just as Megumi sees that the trains have all shut down.

Getting a very bad feeling, Megumi convinces Yuki to remain with her. Yuki complains about being hungry, then talks Megumi into heading up to the roof to check out what the Horticulture Club has going, thinking she might be able to swipe a tomato or five

They head up, and meet with Yuri, who’s all alone, the rest of the club not showing up for some reason. Yuri takes Yuki off Megumi’s hands for a few minutes, and Megumi uses that time to try to call her Mom, but gets no answer. Another teacher calls, asking where she is, sounding panicked.

Someone starts banging on the roof access door. The teacher on the phone realizes where she is and begs her to lock the door and not let anyone in. She starts to say something about the staff room, but is cut off. Judging from Megumi’s reaction, what she hears is less than pleasant.

03-3Yuki goes to open the door, but Megumi stops her, clearly terrified, until they hear Kurumi begging to be let in. Megumi quickly opens the door, allowing Kurumi, who is hauling the boy she is crushing on, the captain of the track team, with her. Yuri wants to get him to the school nurse, but Kurumi says no, that they can’t go back. As that’s happening, we hear Yuki make a shocked comment from near the edge of the roof top.

Megumi joins her, and sees it as well. Down in the yard, students are gnawing on students, as more zombies wander up from the streets. Kurumi explains that it just happened, out of nowhere, as the boy she brought with her groans in pain. Megumi desperately tries to get through to emergency services, but can’t.

Everything comes to halt as a massive explosion from somewhere in town goes off. Turning back, we see smoke rising from all over. Yuki, overwhelmed, wonders why this is happening, and yes folks, that is the first step towards her mental break, right there.

03-4Heavy, slow banging begins to echo from the door, moments before the glass is shattered, hands reaching out towards them. Every one panics, because that’s the sensible thing to do. Megumi regains her wits quickly, and drags over a locker the Horticulture Club uses, trying to barricade the door, but the zombies push against it, threatening to knock her down. Yuri jumps to her aid, and Magumi calls for Yuki to bring over another heavy item to help.

Kurumi begins to go help as well, when the boy she brought with her stands up, groaning, and knocks her down. With heavy, methodical steps, he approaches her, forcing her to scramble back in fear, as he leans in to grab her, intent on taking a bite.
Kurumi grabs a shovel, the very scene we saw in the previous episode, only this time, we get all of it, without Kurumi waking up, as she buries the shovel in his neck. Megumi watches all this, helpless as she tries to hold door, shocked and terrified. Kurumi’s crush falls to the ground, and tries to get up as she pulls herself to her feet, and buries the shovel in his head.

03-5Then, she does it again.

And again.

Megumi, Yuri and Yuki watch in horror, as she goes for another strike, when Yuki grabs her around the waist, crying. Kurumi drops the shovel and they collapse to their knees, Kurumi holding Yuki, wondering why she’s the one who’s crying, as she herself does as well.

03-6It’s little wonder Yuki lives in a delusion.

Megumi is paralyzed as Yuri begs her to tell them what to do.

We see more of Megumi writing, talking about how all the students, all the teachers, everyone but she and the three on the roof, died. She reaffirms her vow to protect these girls, no matter what.

We return to the present as the girls eat survival rations, the electricity out, preventing them from cooking, heating water, or even taking a shower. Yuki, pained at first, decides to make it a camping trip.

Yuri remembers that they have a four person tent in storage, meaning they could all get it in. Yuki chastises her for forgetting Megumi, and Yuri quickly recovers, leading the other girls in thanking Megumi for having saved their lives, and continuing to protect and guide them.

The girls gather in the tent, trying to decide if they want to tell scary stories or not. Kurumi nixes that idea, with Miki admitting she disliked it as well. Yuki hugs her up, asking if she’s scared. Miki flushes furiously, and rather suggestively, at the notion before trying to get Yuki to back off by claiming she doesn’t like being touched.

Yuki decides they should tell romantic stories, about their crushes, suggesting she has several, or none, to Miki’s eternal annoyance. Kurumi says she had one, but that he rejected her, even mentioning that Yuki was there to comfort her when it happened. Yuri gives her a dark look and a warning head shake, shutting her down. Kurumi admits she may be remembering it wrong, leaving Yuki lost. Not that it takes much.

It’s an interesting scene, in that Kurumi almost told a story that would have threatened Yuki’s delusion, with Yuri waving her off at the last moment. The truth remains, none of them know for certain what will happen when and if Yuki has her delusion irrevocably challenged. She could come back to her sense, or she could dive deeper into her world of make believe. It’s a touchy subject, and the girls all are aware of this.

Yuki claims Megumi is coming, and they kill the lantern, feigning sleep while Megumi warns them about staying up past their bedtime, then leaves. As soon as she is gone. Yuki gives the all clear, and everyone piles back out to get the lantern going again.

Yuri, Kurumi and Yuki joke a bit about Megumi being a tough teacher, but their favorite, before Yuki waxes poetic about how sad it is they’ll be graduating soon, leaving Megumi behind. Miki comments that all of them seem to love Megumi a great deal, as she’s possibly the only one who didn’t know her.

The girls call it a night, as we see one last shot of Megumi writing her last will and testament.

03-7Gakkou Garashi Episode Three does a solid job of filling in some of the back story that’s only been hinted at until now, as well as filling out the characters a little more, all while telling us what happened the day the zombies rose. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one they do a pretty solid job of managing.

As I mentioned above, my only real complaint about this episode is that it shows Yuki to have always been something of a lazy airhead. I admit, I’d just built it up as my own head cannon, that as a high school student nearing graduation, Yuki was much more together than what we’ve seen, but this feels like a wasted opportunity. Seeing a different, more together Yuki here, we could have gotten a better feel for just how deeply traumatized she is, not just mentally, but emotionally as well. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out in future episodes, and with this only being the third, I may be criticizing them hastily.

Something that really appealed to me in this episode, on the other hand, was their handling of the violence, especially the scene where Kurumi takes out the zombified version of her crush. We are never actually shown the shovel striking his head, there is no gore, and frankly, it isn’t really needed. Every time she begins to drive the shovel down, they cut to a black screen, then back to the others reactions, especially Megumi, as they stare on in horror. Notable is also Yuri, looking away, unable to bear what she is seeing.

Likewise, we are never shown the zombies, or what they are doing, clearly. It’s always pulled back shots, giving us a wide view, with a camera that doesn’t focus long enough for us to get a good look at the carnage. This is an incredibly effective device, as it leaves us to fill it in on our own, while keeping the focus of the story directly on the characters, their reactions, emotions, and thoughts.

While this episode lacked any major reveals or plot twists, like the previous two had, it does a good job of filling in the blanks, and that’s something that was needed. It also establishes Megumi as the character who took action, and saved Yuki, Kurumi, and Yuri, as well as established the School Life Club when Yuki couldn’t handle the horror and broke with reality.

One other thing it does is remind us that the version of Megumi we know, part of Yuki’s delusion, is aware of reality in a way Yuki herself isn’t. In the previous episode, Megumi knew that they were facing a zombie, while Yuki was oblivious. Megumi acts as her ability to cope with and navigate the harsh new world she lives in, protecting her from the dangers she faces.

Just as she did in life.

While Megumi is a heavy presence in this episode, the scenes that revolve around the girls at the tail end are heavy with her absence. We know, as the viewers, that Megumi kept her vow, and gave her life to protect them. The hows of that remain to be seen, but I am even more concerned than ever after this episode that sooner or later, we will see a zombie Megumi threaten the girls, and Yuki’s reaction to that may break her.

Gaakou Garashi continues to not only deliver superb psychological horror, but makes us dread what may come next, as well as beg for the next episode.

See you next week!

Remember, you can catch the show yourself, being simulcast over at Crunchyroll.

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