Fuck you, Gakkou Garashi. Just… fuck you.
How I usually write these recaps is to first, watch the episode, and just let it hit me. Then, I watch it again as I write the recap, so I don’t forget anything important. Then, I’ll go through it a third time to get the screencaps.
I have never wanted to watch an episode of any anime a second time less than I do this one. This isn’t a complaint, but a credit to the writing. I dread a second viewing, not because the episode was bad, but because it just hurt so damn much. Everything I have been dreading is coming to pass, and though two episodes remain, I cannot see any way that this series will end in anything but despair and grief.
Last week I said that not much really happened, and that’s still true. This week, EVERYTHING happens. Just, not quite in the way I expected. No, it was much, much worse than anything I thought. So much worse, I don’t even know how to properly digest it all.
One thing I do want to touch on before I get into the events of the episode, though. A couple of other places I visit that recap the show talked about how slow moving the plot was, and how the show spent too much time on the girls doing slice of life comedy stuff. Last week’s episode kind of made me think that they had a point, while this week drove home that none of that was ever really filler, or pointless.
I haven’t read the manga, not yet anyway, so I can’t say how it compares, but it’s obvious at this point the writers and director knew exactly where they planned to end, be it the series or the first season, and decided to take some time to really flesh out the characters. Had what happened this episode occurred mid way through the season, I don’t think the emotional investment in the characters would be there like it is now.
While much of what has made up the season so far has been cutesy stuff, there was always that underlying threat. That harsh reality hovering just outside. The girls were doing whatever they could to fend off the despair and hopelessness that lurked with that reality, and the writers turned that to an exploration of not just who they were, but why they were that way. It gave us, the viewers, enough time to really know these characters, to care about them, so when the end comes, it hurts a lot more than it would have.
Whether this works for any particular viewer is, of course, purely subjective, but for me, it does, and I give the writing team over at Studio Lerche a lot of credit for this long, slow buildup they have done. While the Moe style animation is cute, and much of the story has focused on cute things like sports festivals, tests of courage, and so on, through all of it, they were carefully building up the characters as people, rather than archetypes. Now, that all comes to fruition, and the pain is real.
Are you ready to get into the episode? Cause, I assure you, I’m not.
We open on a storm moving in on the school, both literally, and metaphorically. In the club room, Miki has finally finished the book she picked up at the mall back before the zombie outbreak. Yuri, the only one with her, asks what it was about, and Miki tells her that it’s the story of a group of children who, after losing their home during a war, go traveling with their dog. Sadly, it ends with the loss of the dog, in a giant fucking red flag of foreshadowing.
Not caring for how close to home the story touches, they talk about the weather, but this makes Yuri sad, as the last time there was a big storm, they lost Megumi, who gave her life so the girls would survive. This led to Yuki’s break with reality, so any time it rains, Yuri can’t help but think of that day.
Miki, concerned about the increasing number of zombies outside the school, asks if they’ll be okay. Yuri assures her they will be, for a while anyway. The barricades should hold up, though they have no supplies to reinforce them, so eventually, well, they’ll have to leave the school and search for a new safe haven.
On the matter of the ever increasing number of zombies outside, Yuri has speculated in past episodes that the zombies move according to faint memories of their lives before they turned. Since school had let out early, a detail established during the Miki flashback episodes, most of the students had already headed home, and have slowly, over time, been wandering back, driven by the routine that still lingers somewhere in the remains of their minds.
They conversation is interrupted when Yuki arrives, looking for breakfast, still half asleep, and notices that Taroumaru isn’t there. He wasn’t in his box back in the bedroom, either, and Yuki noticed he had slipped his leash, but assumed he had gone to the club room. As he isn’t there, either, the girls all go on high alert.
The opening credits come then, but instead of the usual silhouette of the girls passing under the title, we see Taroumaru alone. This isn’t the only thing, either. Taroumaru’s leash and collar are shown in sepia, and zombie Megumi makes an appearance as well. Let’s all notice Yuki’s blood stained hat as well. None of this is comforting.
Back in the club room, Kurumi is playing with a ping pong ball as the girls watch the rain, Yuki noticing that it’s driving the sports team inside. What we see are the zombies gathering around the entrance to the school. Out in the hall, Miki is trying to get Taroumaru to come by calling and offering food, while Yuri is noticing their dwindling supplies in her ledger.
This leads the others to decide to go searching for him. Miki, Yuri and Yuki will search the upper floor, while Kurumi, with her shovel, searches the more dangerous places. Pocketing the ping pong ball, she heads out, eventually going to check the roof, just in case.
Up there, she sees the cross the girls put up as a memorial to Megumi, and remembers talking to her about having cut her hair, explaining why Megumi has had two different hair styles through the previous episodes. In the brief flashback, Megumi claims she’s trying to appear more mature, and she and Kurumi talk about forming the School Living club. It’s obviously a fond memory for Kurumi, showing her own attachment to their former teacher.
Asking Megumi to watch over Taroumaru, she heads down to the barricades and spots his footprints, realizes he passed through, and headed further down. Several zombies appear, and Kurumi follows his tracks to the entrance to the sub basement, where she hears Taroumaru whimpering. Calling for him, she is almost bitten by the little pup.
Taroumaru has turned, and attacks her. Kurumi tries to fend him off, but is rattled. She can’t see the smoke around him, and because of this, can’t fight back. After he bites the handle of the shovel, narrowly missing her fingers, she manages to lure him into a room using the ping pong ball and shuts him in.
Realizing he must have been bitten in the sub basement, she heads down to get revenge on the zombie that took their precious pup from them, but ends up coming face to face with Megumi. Hiding, Kurumi tries to figure out what to do, as Megumi draws ever closer. Frightened, shaken, Kurumi forces Megumi to be surrounded by black smoke so she can strike.
It fails. She can’t help but see Megumi. It’s Megumi, dammit. Her teacher. Her friend. The person who saved her life. The one who held them together, and gave them a fighting chance to live. Without her defense mechanism, Kurumi freezes. Megumi does not, and bites her.
Megumi, now a zombie, has bitten Kurumi. This is… I can’t. It’s too much. The wrongness of it. All of it. It hurts. It hurts so damn much.
Back in the club room, Yuri is watching as all the gathered zombies try to cluster around the entrance, driven by memory to go inside, and out of the rain. She is clearly worried about how many there are, but doesn’t have much time to deal with it, as Miki and Yuki return, having had no luck finding Taroumaru.
Kurumi arrives, staggering into the room, covered in blood, the bite marks on her arm obvious. The girls fly into emergency mode, with even Yuki acting, going to fetch the first aid kit. They take Kurumi to the bedroom, the virus spreading through her quickly, giving her a fever and making her incoherent. Still, she manages to let Yuri know it was Megumi who bit her.
She also reveals the fate of Taroumaru, devastating Miki. In the club room, Yuki is boiling some water, a task given her by Miki mostly to get her out of the bedroom. She glances over at Kurumi’s shovel as she prays for Megumi to protect Kurumi, and sees the bite marks left by Taroumaru.
Meanwhile, Kurumi is having the worst fever dream of all time. She’s in a school roomm, the windows covered by smoke shrouded zombies. Taroumaru approaches, his usual happy self, then turns vicious. Kurumi tries to escape him, putting ehr back to the wall. Then, she hears Megumi clawing at the door, begging to be let in. This whimpering, off sounding voice, asking, pleading, to be let in.
It’s utterly horrific.
Even worse, Yuri has handcuffed Kurumi to the couch, just in case she turns and tries to come after them. As she watches Kurumi struggle with the virus, she goes to her bag and pulls out a knife, horrified by her own thoughts, yet wanting to keep the promise she made to Kurumi back at the mall. The one where she would put her down if she was ever bitten. This is not an easy choice for her, either, and she is visibly repulsed by her consideration of it.
Miki returns, giving Yuri a reprieve. It seems Miki has been going over the emergency manual, and has learned that down in the sub basement, there may be something that can save Kurumi. It’s a long shot, and an incredible risk, but Miki wants to go try to get it. Yuri won’t hear it at first, but Miki argues that the biggest obstacle is the presence of Megumi. Since she didn’t know her, it’ll just be another zombie to her, an argument that finally wins over Yuri.
Yuri’s primary objection is that Miki shouldn’t go alone, which while logical, isn’t practical. Yuri needs to stay with Kurumi, and they can’t take Yuki down there. That just leaves Miki, who promises not to do anything rash. Kurumi promised the same, and while Yuri is terrified at another of them getting bitten, she does give in and lets Miki go, alone.
Yuki returns with the boiled water as Miki leaves, going to get the shovel. For the first time since the zombies appeared, she’s ready to fight. Not for herself, but for a friend, one of the people that saved her. It is all she can do now, and despite her fear at knowing she will face zombies, she is determined.
Yuki struggles to fit all of this into her delusion, but is left shaken after seeing Yuri crying over what’s happening.
Miki recovers the shovel, but then sees Taroumaru’s food bowl in the hall. For all her determination, she collapses into tears. That one thread of hope she had is gone.
As the closing credits roll, all the happiness, joy, and laughter seems a distant memory now. All the silly shenanigans and cute slice of life comedy has faded away. There is only the horror now, inevitable and certain, and there is no escape from it.
Everything is falling apart. Miki has lost that last connection to Kei, and the sliver of faith in a brighter tomorrow with the loss of Taroumaru. Kurumi, the only capable fighter of the group, is losing the battle to the zombie virus. Yuri, the calm and steadfast one, is crumbling under the weight of the decision she must make, to wait for Miki, or end Kurumi’s suffering. Yuki, the spot of sunlight in this dark world, her delusion the only thing that keeps them going, is seeing the word as it really is. Even the barricades, the only thing holding back the horror, are coming down.
I don’t know what is going to happen. I cannot even guess. There are still two episodes left, but with the state of things, I don’t know how the girls will survive, or even if they will. The world is falling apart around them, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. What little hope existed, is slipping through their fingers.
It is perhaps Yuri I feel the most for, though. She made a promise to Kurumi, and though she is loathe to keep it, especially knowing there may be a chance to save her, she must consider that Miki will not make it there and back in time, if she even returns at all. Does she let Kurumi continue to suffer ? Does she wait until there is no hope left? It’s an impossible choice, and yet, only she can make it.
Even if Miki does make it down to the sub basement, avoids Megumi, and finds the medicine, there’s no guarantee it’ll work. Much less that she’ll be able to make it back through the horde of zombies that are now over running the school. It’s practically a suicide mission, yet she is determined to try, for Kurumi’s sake.
Then there’s Yuki. Her delusion is collapsing. Soon, she will have nowhere to hide from reality. Will she be able to handle it? Can she hold it together long enough to help the others escape alive? Or will she freeze up?
All I know right now, for certain, is that the long effort spent building the characters, not into archetypes, but fully realized people, has been worth it for Studio Lerche, as I cringe, scream, cry, and desperately try to hang on to the hope that somehow, they will all get out of this alive.
Next week, the penultimate episode, Scar.