Gakkou Gurashi! Episode 4 “Outing” Recap

Welcome back to the Gakkou Gurashi recap!

This weeks episode, “Outing”, is all about Miki. It’s also the most graphic installment of the series so far. Beyond just the violence, however, it also manages to deliver a fairly decent dose of feels.

Before we start, let’s take a moment to revisit what little we know of Miki so far, which isn’t much. She’s the most somber of the group, withdrawn and quiet, and apparently an avid reader. I like that about her, personally. She’s been shown to be the one most reluctant to let Yuki remain in her delusional state, isn’t very well liked by Taroumaru, and despite her insisting she doesn’t like to be touched, through use of a rather suggestive scene, doesn’t actually seem to mind it too much when it’s a girl.

Yeah, they implied pretty heavily last week that Miki is gay. Frankly, I kind of hope that’s the case, as we can always do with a little more LGBTQ representation in anime. Or rather, the kind that isn’t done by playing to stereotypes.

Anyway, here we go.

We open on Yuki drawing with all the skill and grace of a second grader, while humming the shows theme song no less, claiming to the others that she’s putting together a graduation album. Kurumi pokes fun at her artistic skills before Yuri notices that Miki is helping, with Kurumi pointing out that she’s got some mad talent.

04-1It’s worth noting that the album in question here is the same one we see in the opening credits, and Yuki’s drawing have all served as title cards for previous episodes. Nice work, Studio Lerch.

When asked who the other girl in the picture is, Miki gets visibly bothered as she says it’s a close friend of hers. Then, it’s off to flashback land! Woosh!

The day of the outbreak, class let out early, so Miki and her close friend, Kei headed to the mall to hang out and buy a couple of things. On their way, Miki notices the same news broadcast we saw Megumi watching last episode, but like Megumi, doesn’t really pay it much mind.

She’s too busy looking at Kei. Strong suggestion #2 has arrived.

04-2After the opening credits, which continue to be disturbing, Miki and Kei are coming out of a record store, were Kei got a new CD. Miki gives her crap for still listening to CD’s, with Kei insisting they have superior sound quality. She’s distracted from this by a cute puppy that we learn is Taroumaru, who belongs to a little old lady that carts him around in a baby carriage.

The girls head off to the book store, where Miki picks up the novel we’ve seen her reading for the past three episodes, appropriately enough, a “Stepphen King” novel. Which reminds me, Kei’s CD player is a Parasol brand. Yeah for dodging copyright!

The girls are interrupted by screams, and head out to see people on the ground floor of the mall running. The PA system comes up, claiming there’s been an incident within the mall resulting in injury, and asks everyone to follow the instructions of mall staff.

Kei decides it’s time to bail, and grabs Miki by the hand, heading for the escalator, but those have stopped. People are panicking, trying to shove their way down, and some folks are getting trampled in the crush. Starting to get frightened, Kei heads for the elevators, but they don’t seem to be working either.

Just as they realize this, it begins to operate, coming up. Personally, I had a pretty bad feeling about this. I write zombie fiction, and I know what I’d be doing here. This show, however, I often forget, prefers to go for the psychological horror first, and in that, they did not disappoint.

04-3Kei runs for it, dragging a shocked Miki with her. Around them, the mall is erupting in chaos as people try to escape. The lights go out, and Kei drags Miki into a clothing store, hiding them in a dressing room. The two take a moment to try and understand what is happening, but don’t get much chance as Taroumaru crashes in on them, covered in blood.

They realize it isn’t his as they hear groaning from outside. Peering past the curtain, they see the little old lady again.

04-4Some time passes, though it isn’t clear how much. Kei and Miki have holed up in a storage room, barricading the door with heavy boxes. They have access to a bathroom, and running water, as well as food and drinking water there. The two sleep, curled close to each other, holding hands.

Why hello, suggestive scene #3.

04-5We get a glimpse of their routine, confined to the small storage room, as they eat, talk about how help must be coming, and just try to stay alive. Miki is scared, while Kei keeps her spirits high, assuring her that help really is coming. Taroumaru is with them, and they seem to be doing well.

Later, as Miki reads her book, Kei is listening to the radio on her CD player, but can’t find a station anywhere. A zombie wanders up to the door and tries to get in. The girls brace their barricade until it loses interest and wanders off. Sitting and catching their breath, Kei wishes she could go outside.

04-6Miki freaks out. It’s too dangerous, and they are safe where they are. Kei agrees, but that night, as Miki sleeps, we watch as Kei, still awake, lets go of her hand.

More time passes. Their food and water supplies won’t last forever, and Kei is realizing that help might never find them if they don’t get out of the storage room. Miki doesn’t want to go, however, thinking it’s far too dangerous. They argue it a bit, but it’s clear, the strain of it all is getting to Kei. Not just cabin fever, but the despair in general.

As they sleep that night, Miki stares at Kei’s back sadly.

Meanwhile, back at the school, Yuki wakes up in the middle of the night having had a bright idea. She wakes Kurumi, who asks her what it is, only to be told she’ll have to wait till morning.

Kurumi is less than impressed.

04-7They wake Yuri, who mediates, getting them to go back to sleep. Yuki continues snickering, driving Kurumi nuts, but Yuri’s already fast asleep, which Kurumi, with a sigh, finds pretty normal.

Over at the mall, Miki wakes to find Kei getting ready to leave. In a panic, she tires to stop her, but Kei won’t hear it. Sooner, rather than later, they’ll run out of food, leaving them where? Miki has no answer to that, but prefers to keep hiding. For Kei, that isn’t enough. She needs to do more than just hide, wait and survive.

Miki tries to hold on to her hand, but Kei lets go, giving her the CD player, and promising to send help before slipping out the door, leaving Miki alone. Taroumaru barks after her, prompting Miki to scream at him. She instantly feels bad, and holds him as she cries.

Back at the school, the girls are having breakfast, and after a bit of dithering about some topping for their rice, which mostly involves Yuki being silly, then generous, she gets around to the big idea she had last night. Namely, that they should go on an outing.

Kurumi and Yuri try their best to dissuade this idea, reminding her the School Life Club is forbidden from leaving school grounds. Yuki however, has found a loophole, namely that an official outing is a school function, so they aren’t technically leaving.

Yuri tries to dissuade her further by pointing out they’ll need to write up a proposal, which Yuki has already done. She points out Megumi will have to approve it, and Yuki heads off to get her permission. Yuri and Kurumi debate this a bit, recognizing that they need supplies they can’t get on school grounds.

Yuki heads off to the staff room, the last place we saw Megumi alive, in one of the shows creepiest scenes ever.

Seriously, show, do not tell me they have a zombie Megumi chained up in the office or something.

04-8She returns shortly, claiming Megumi has given her permission, and even offered to let them use her car. Kurumi offers to drive, while delusion Megumi whines about not getting to drive her own car.

There’s a cute scene where Yuki acts surprised that Kurumi can drive. In return, Kurumi assures her that she’s a better driver than Megumi. Which is completely true, what with Megumi off being a zombie somewhere at this point, hopefully not in the office.

Yuri sends Yuki to get the keys while she and Kurumi comes up with a plan to get outside, retrieve the car, and leave the school, all without getting eaten. Everything depends on Kurumi being able to get to the staff parking, which will involve climbing down a ladder from the second floor, and running through the zombies in the school yard.

Yeah. Piece of cake.

04-9Exiting the school, Kurumi battles her way through the zombies with her trusty shovel. It’s a fairly tense scene as she fights her way to the staff parking, and upon locating Megumi’s car, has to climb up and run across the tops of other cars to reach it, just to stay away from the horde of zombies crowding around her.

As she’s doing that, Yuri is leading Yuki past the barricades and downstairs to the front. Yuki keeps asking if things are under repair, and Yuri assures her they are before reminding her other classes are in session, so she needs to keep quite. Hiding behind one of the pillars near the front of the school, she promises to be, as Yuri looks around for Kurumi with worry.

A couple minutes later, Kurumi arrives with Megumi’s car. Megumi is, naturally, already inside, so Yuki and Yuri pile in, which is where we learn that everything Kurumi knows about driving she learned playing video games. This is not taken with comfort by the rest of the group.

Regardless, she proves her skill by racing them away from the zombies in the yard, out the gate, and into the city, where we are treated to some spectacular scenes of devastation.

04-11Back at the mall, Miki wakes up, having fallen asleep listening to the CD player, only to realize that Taroumaru is gone, possibly having slipped out the open transom over the door.

The show closes in a very different manner than before, as Kaori Oda, of FictionJunction, sings “We Took Each Other’s Hands” over the closing credits, done like an old film reel, and replaying only the Kei and Miki parts of the episode.

04-12Gakkou Gurashi Episode Four: “Outing” accomplishes a number of things beyond just showing us another character backstory. Unlike Yuki and Kurumi, who have a self defense mechanism to deal with the horror, Miki doesn’t. She can’t help but see the zombies just as they are, and is terrified of it all. So much so, she would rather lock herself in a small room and subsist than take a single risk.

The episode also builds on the suggestive scene from last week, strongly implying that either Miki and Kei are more than just close friends, or that Miki wants to be. Which is never made clear, though I feel strongly that Miki is intended to be seen as gay, and all without falling back on stereotypes to do so.

Now, the anime is inspired by a manga, written by Norimitsu Kaihō and illustrated by Sadoru Chiba, of Nitroplus. I’ve not read it, and in order to avoid any potential spoilers for the anime series, have decided not to, so it is possible I’m seriously misreading what’s being said here. If so, I’ll find myself disappointed in the series, yet again, as I feel they will have missed a really incredible opportunity to do something great with a very well put together character.

That aside for the moment, this episode had a lot of great scenes, and really played well to the visual storytelling, especially with Kei and Miki’s growing divide. From holding hands as they slept peacefully, to Kei pulling away, to Miki staring at her back as Kei slept, they managed to explore Kei’s growing dissatisfaction with their situation, and Miki’s growing fear of being alone, without a word of dialogue, and that’s pretty damn impressive.

The action scenes with Kurumi are beautifully animated as well, with a sharp color shift taking place as she prepares to climb out and face the zombies. As always when the story focuses on Kurumi, we only see the zombies as shadowy figures, and her fight with them plays heavily into her character, especially as we realize she’s a major gamer. She uses that to her advantage here, rendering the former friends and classmates around her into video game style monsters that she can effectively battle.

We’re also given our first real cliffhanger, as the episode ends without the central plot being resolved clearly, which is something new. It’s a trend I hope they keep up as well. While we know this is all a flashback, and obviously, everyone made it back to the school, without Kei, it does still manage to create some effective tension as we now wait to see how the girls all met, what happened to Kei, and where Taroumaru got off to.

The episode also raised two questions in my mind. The first being the location of what I am guessing is the zombified Megumi, and whether or not the girls have her tied up in the office. The second, though, is the question of just exactly how much time has passed since the zombies rose up. While everyone is presented as basically still high school age, the devastation suggests it’s been longer, making me wonder if the girls are actually much older than we think, with their ages being reflected through the prism of Yuki’s delusion.

Granted, that’s unlikely, but it still makes me wonder.

Despite the slight slow down in last weeks episode, where we bounced from flashback to present day, this one keeps the focus firmly on the then, and it’s stronger for it.

Another solid entry in what is a promising show. I’ll see you next week, with Episode Five: “Meeting”

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