Had Gakkou Gurashi simply been about its one “plot twist” – shown in the final moments of its premiere episode – it likely wouldn’t have held my attention. However, its third episode delivers a poignant and well-directed look at a young teacher who steps up in the fact of overwhelming adversity.
Megumi “Megu-nee” Sakura is the lone surviving authority figure – within the scope of what she is able to see and experience – following a zombie apocalypse. Once a soft-hearted teacher who was continuously taken advantage of by her students, Gakkou Gurashi shows how Megu-nee hides all of her innermost fears and emotions in order to care for her charges. When she is bitten and inevitably succumbs to the virus, her thoughts remain with her students, even in undeath.
Watching Gakkou Gurashi naturally led me to read the manga (advertising works) which delves a bit deeper into Megu-nee’s psyche rather than focusing primarily on Yuki Takeya – center of the Episode 1 plot twist, for whom time has stopped. In the anime series, Megu-nee is present more as a projection of Yuki’s suppressed memories. Yuki’s mind refuses to recognize what is actually happening, but it cannot forget completely nor can she wholly ignore the danger that zombies present. This is when Megu-nee appears, telling Yuki to be quiet at crucial moments, or rationalizing what is actually happening within the landscape of Yuki’s delusions.
The Gakkou Gurashi manga takes a bit of a different tack, as it shows just how guilty Megu-nee felt as an authority figure, in spite of the fact that she hadn’t known prior to the apocalypse itself. An emergency school manual serves as the center of Megu-nee’s overwhelming guilt, as she grapples with her task of keeping the girls safe all while realizing that she was, inadvertently, complicit in the entire plot simply by virtue of being an adult.
Sadder still is that the girls continue to look up to Megu-nee and are thoroughly grateful for all that she did for them. Upon finding the emergency manual, Yuuri Wakasa almost immediately recognizes the guilt that Megu-nee must have felt and laments that she was unable to tell Megu-nee that it was in no way her fault. While Miki Naoki attempts to console her, there’s the lingering feeling of regret over both parties presented. Megu-nee passed away before she could address or even confide in anyone regarding the weight of her personal burden. Meanwhile, the girls – who hold no grudges against their former teacher – were unable to communicate just how much she meant to them following the weight of their own discovery.