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.
“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.
“I am Sakura Megumi, I was the Japanese teacher at Megurigaoka Private High School . . . no, I am still the Japanese teacher. Even if this building no longer functions as a school.”
-from Megumi Sakura’s journal, School-Live!, Episode 3
“Then, if we stay together, we’ll be immortal!”
-Yukari Hinata, Yuyushiki, Episode 5
Nearly all high school slice-of-life stories – K-ON!, Yuyushiki, Hidamari Sketch, Azumanga Daioh, even Free! immediately come to mind – pit the looming implications of graduation against the every day life of series participants. High school is a perfect fishbowl setting that allows for exploration in friendship group dynamics while the audience puts on their rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and celebrates their personal youth through a happier framework.
Graduation becomes something often dreaded by in-universe characters, as it will inevitably tear them apart. While they scramble about organizing their future plans, graduation to the viewer becomes the final curtain that closes across the stage, effectively ending the narrative.
As the audience is presumably watching a slice of the characters’ lives, the implication is that life goes on after that series or manga volume, just as their life continued – or will continue – following high school. It is this structure that School-Live! plays with.
“Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
Love deeplier, darklier understood;
Behold, I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee.”
– In Memoriam A.H.H., Alfred, Lord Tennyson