“There are days when nothing goes right. There are days when you stumble and fall. There are days when you just want to cry. To cry a lot. To sleep a lot. Or even to eat a lot. It’s alright as long as you pick yourself up again. Until the day you no longer draw breath.”
-Gakkou Gurashi, Vol. 5, Ch. 28
Mild manga spoilers to follow.
A primary difference between the Gakkou Gurashi manga and the recently completed anime is pacing. That’s not to say that one is paced better than the other, but that they move at different paces based on their medium. While there are equally desperate times as in the animated series, the girls’ world in the manga doesn’t crash down upon them as catastrophically.
As previously mentioned, the anime uses a more traditional framing of the zombie apocalypse narrative, taken from films like Night of the Living Dead. Therefore, after holding out for almost the entirety of the series, everything breaks simultaneously – Taroumaru is bitten, Kurumi is bitten, the barrier collapses, the garden and power supply are destroyed in a fire, and Miki is trapped in the emergency shelter with no way out.
This all sets the stage for Yuki Takeya’s awakening.
“I’ve kept my eyes closed to the scary things all this time, and had the others take care of the hard stuff. I don’t think I can do that anymore, or I’ll lose everything that’s important to me. That scares me a lot more.”
-Yuki Takeya, Gakkou Gurashi, Episode 11
For most of the series, Yuki had been shielded from the full scope of the situation by her classmates and teacher Megumi “Megu-nee” Sakura. In exchange, even with her shattered state of mind, Yuki had kept her compatriots sane by living rather than merely surviving. When everything falls apart, they continue to protect Yuki by sheltering her, each taking on a part of the emotional burden. Unfortunately, the situation is too much for Miki Naoki and Yuuri Wakasa, as the former is trapped in the emergency shelter on a mission to save the ailing Kurumi while the latter is forced to contemplate killing her friend should she turn. They leave Yuki alone in the classroom, but that’s not enough for Yuki, who is now more aware of the cracks in their overall demeanor.
Stepping out from behind their protection is something that’s visibly difficult for Yuki, and speaks more to her love of her friends than anything else the series does with her character. Previously, she had recognized the long looks on the faces of her friends, but had gone about creating fun activities with the School Life Club to erase their tension and sadness. She can no longer do this when they’re pulled apart in different directions, inspiring a final push through her own mental blockade into reality. Yuki’s encounter with Taroumaru and her speech to the student body reiterates this.
“Not at all. If you bottle up your sadness too much, you forget what’s really important. So if something sad happens it’s okay to feel sad. You don’t always have to be ‘fine.'”
-Yuki Takeya to Miki Naoki, Gakkou Gurashi, Episode 12
Gakkou Gurashi the series rewards her courage by recognizing the varying students’ remaining memories and allowing Yuki’s voice to somehow reach them, or at the very least herd them away long enough to save her friends. Like stepping out from behind the curtain that had closed off her mind, or later acknowledging graduation, Yuki finally comes to realize that moving forward is necessary. The watershed of events in the series’ penultimate and final episodes facilitate Yuki’s triumph.
“I always end up letting everyone else do the hard work. It’s my turn this time, okay?”
-Yuki Takeya, Gakkou Gurashi Vol. 5, Ch. 28
Yuki reaches a similar conclusion in the Gakkou Gurashi manga when she and Yuuri are separated from Kurumi and Miki. With Yuuri breaking down in the moment and no one else to turn to, Yuki bravely steps up and tells Yuuri that she’ll handle the situation herself.
Rather than piling everything on at once, the manga slowly builds, with each character having their own respective moments of both weakness and strength. The events leading to the girls’ “graduation” and departure from the high school are not combined with Kurumi’s illness and vaccination. Dark, and tense moments are interspersed with lighthearted scenes – Yuki hamming it up on the radio at their “cultural festival” – before immediately launching into the bitter defeat of perceived rescue gone wrong. When Yuki steps up, she does so before she herself commits to saving her friends, as her voice reaches Kurumi and Miki through the intercom system. Rather than relying on latent memories in the zombified students, Yuki’s voice in the manga inspires her closest friends.
The effect is that – with constant rising and falling action – everyone grapples with their inner demons at separate times, but cover for one another when necessary, including Yuki.
Gakkou Gurashi the series relies on a traditional narrative climax, where the manga slogs through the everyday. There are lesser emotional highs in the latter; however, it makes up for it with a far more nuanced approach to the individual characters themselves. There are key takeaways to be had from both stories and, one’s attachment to one form of Gakkou Gurashi over the other will likely depend on the type of narrative that said viewer, or reader, is inclined to favor.