Gakkou Gurashi! – 12 (Fin)

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Though Yuki is the only one who can save everyone, I appreciated that she didn’t have Kurumi’s zombie-smiting strength, as her first target doesn’t even feel the force of the aluminum bat she swings. She’s not going to get it done with brawn, but she does get it done with a bit of luck, as well as the relationship she’d cultivated with Taroumaru all this time.

He’s loose again, but rather than bite her, he chooses to bite the zombies cornering her, remembering just enough of his pre-zombie life to instinctively protect his friend, just as Megu-nee did by staying in the basement. It gives Yuki the moments she needs to slip into the broadcast room.

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There, she makes a P.A. announcement that school is out, along with a moving speech that mirrors her monologue in the first episode. Only now, her eyes are wide open, and she’s aware that the ideal school she speaks of is no more. The announcement works, and the zombies disperse, freeing Miki, who rushes the medicine to Kurumi in time to save her. Thank goodness!

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But there is a price for Yuki and Miki succeeding and Kurumi recovering, in the form of the show’s biggest gut punch yet. Taroumaru is doing much better than he was, but he can’t eat and only drinks a little bit of water before letting out one last little yip before dying in Miki’s lap. Needless to say, this was a heartwrenching and tearful scene, but like Megu-nee’s end as seen in flashbacks, and Yuki saying goodbye to her “specter”, the sendoff further demonstrates this show’s devotion to giving its doomed characters a proper, unblinking sendoff.

The girls bury Taroumaru next to Megu-nee; two protectors who gave their lives to save them, and when Miki says she’s fine, Yuki lets her know it’s okay to not be fine; to not bottle up one’s grief, but let it flow out without reservation. This is sage advice coming from someone who once broke from reality rather than face what was going on, but eventually opened her eyes.

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With the school’s utilities trashed and provisions dwindling, the School Life Club must disband and depart from the school for a more suitable shelter. Megu-nee provided locations of other shelters on a map, and though the group doesn’t know what kind of survivors (if any) they’ll encounter, they have little choice but to take their chances out there.

The graduation ceremony they have isn’t some empty gesture, but is carried out with the same decorum and formality as the real thing would have had most of the school not been zombified—Yuki even neatens her hair! They are literally graduating from one kind of life, one of relative safety and routine and contained within the walls of their beloved but now-broken school, and striking out into the vast, unknown world, full of as many possibilities as hazards.

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But I have no doubt that they’re ready, if they stick together, they’ll do fine. And when Kurumi fires up the Mini Cooper and they pull away from the school, even when Miki catches a glimpse of one last zombie who may well be her friend Kei, she doesn’t insist they turn back, because they can’t turn back.

Megu-nee, Taroumaru, and even Kei may be lost to them, but they wouldn’t be alive without them, and aren’t going to squander the product of their noble sacrifice. We also get a glimpse of the puppy Taroumaru saved; an upbeat parting shot of the school grounds.

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After the gang heads off into the horizon and the credits roll, there’s one last ambiguous scene imparted with GG!’s signature sneakiness, in which a glasses-wearing girl we’re not familiar with (but who definitely isn’t a zombie) approaching a field of debris (though it looks more like building rubble than car wreckage) finds Yuki’s childish drawing of the School Life Club members with the message “We Are Happy”.

Is this something Yuki left behind, like Miki’s note to Kei on the blackboard, for anyone who might come past, like this girl? Or is this drawing all that’s left of them? The latter possibility is too dark and ghastly for me to contemplate any further, so let’s say the latter and call it a day, shall we? After all, it’s School-Live, not School-Die,right?

…Right? O__O

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 11

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After multiple events at the end of last week’s episode piled upon each other like so many zombies, spelling imminent doom for the School Life Club, this week starts off with a continuation of that despair, with no shortage of intense terrified close-ups of Rii-san and Miki. But Yuki’s expression is different. It’s not existential fear…it’s an awakening, which comes in the form of a sudden flash as she sees her former choker-wearing classmate as she truly is.

That awakening continues gradually and painfully throughout the episode, as more and more, it becomes clear Yuki is the only club member who can save everyone. Her emotional scars are re-opened and reckoned with, and the same voice in her head that’s taken the form of Megu-nee for so long steps into high gear, putting Yuki not only in a position to stay alive, but help the others, starting with Miki. Now that she finally sees again the danger she and her friends are in, she doesn’t crumple into a ball; she picks up a shovel.

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Nostalgia, despair and hope go hand in hand (…in hand) this week. Rii-san remembers promising to “do what must be done” if Kurumi were to get infected, and as she’s being slowly driven mad by Kurumi’s increasingly horrifying moans and screams, with a knife in her lap, Rii-san starts to contemplate fulfilling that promise. Meanwhile, the zombies are everywhere, including the roof, where a lightning storm ignites the zombies, who then ignite the crops and Megu-nee’s grave marker.

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With all this grimness, Yuki’s strength in this time of ultimate crisis, and her desire to have more fun times with the club in the future, inspires Miki to action, after she was briefly paralyzed by her grief over Taroumaru. She then use’s Kei’s discman to try to sooth/distract the zombies at another barricade as she heads to the basement to find medicine. As that gorgeous music first we heard in episode 4 plays, we return to the day the club drove out in Megu-nee’s car and ended up saving Miki.

On the drive home, Kurumi and Rii-san (the only two still awake) talk about whether the zombies are still “aware”, and Kurumi hopes they aren’t, after all the terrible things she’s done to them. She says she had no choice—it was them or her—and she’s right. But that doesn’t make what she’s done, or not knowing the true nature of the zombies, any easier a pill to swallow.

Back in the present, Rii-san prepares to stab Kurumi to death…but just can’t do it, thus avoiding the possibility of Miki getting the antidote, only to return to find Kurumi is dead. If Rii-san isn’t already FUBAR, she certainly would be under that scenario.

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But Miki is still a long, long way from getting that antidote to Kurumi. It’s by no means a sure thing. She encounters Megu-nee down there, gets cornered by her and pays her respects, cognizant of the possibility the teacher’s stayed down there all this time in order to prevent hurting her still-living students. Despite that apparent awareness Kurumi mused about (and hoped wasn’t true), Megu-nee is still, ya know…a zombie, and grabs Miki’s ankle, forcing Miki to take her out.

Just then, as if there was a chip in Megu-nee tied to the school (though probably a coincidence what with the roof generators going haywire), an alarm sounds and red lights come on, and a P.A. system announces emergency power has been activated for the shelter (which probably means batteries, which aren’t going to last). All that noise attracts hordes of zombies to Miki’s location, and she ends up trapped in a room, unable to act, just like when she was at the mall.

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Thus Yuki becomes the only one who can save everyone. She does so by finally opening her eyes to “the hard stuff” she left to the others for so long, even before she went into her dissociative state, because she deemed herself clumsy and weak. But she’s able to use a vision of Megu-nee to get to the place she needs to be, have one last conversation with her through a door before opening it, and seeing, finally, that Megu-nee is no longer around, that she’s gone, and now it’s up to her.

It’s not easy, nor is it painless, but it’s what has to be done, or, Yuki knows, the School Live Club is finished. Her smile and her silly optimism sustained the club for so long, but now she has to do more, by breaking out of the protective shell she created in her mind, facing the reality of her situation, grabbing a bat, and getting to work. Everyone is counting on her.

No matter what happens, everyone will be scarred by this day they’re having. But can Yuki stand strong and act; protect and guide as Megu-nee did; be the new guardian angel, so that she and the others can live a little longer? I hope so.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 10

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Fun Time is officially over as shit hits the fan on all fronts in this taut, slithering, devastating, unforgiving powerhouse of an episode. It starts quiet on a rainy morning. Miki laments that she’s finished her book—at the end of which its implied the dog comes to a bad end—Rii-san informs her why she’s so down: this is the same kind of day when they lost Megu-nee, their sensei and caring protector. Ever since then, Rii-san has been trying to fill the void Megu-nee left, and the strain shows this week as pretty much everything that can go wrong, does.

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Kurumi, the muscle of the group, confidently strikes out to find the escaped Taroumaru, assuring Rii-san she won’t do anything rash. She ultimately can’t abide by that assurance, first locating a zombified Taroumaru, then Megu-nee herself, in the previously un-explored basement. Why she goes alone is beyond me, but like I said, she’s a tough one, so I guess Rii-san felt she could trust her to come back safe and sound on her own.

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As soon as she spots both Taroumaru and Megu-nee, Kurumi knows what she has to do; it’s just a matter of being able to do it. She was able to kill her would-be boyfriend before he killed her back when this all started, but her hesitation results in Taroumaru running rampant until she can trap him in a room (with a non-sliding door he can’t open). And when Megu-nee raises her face, Kurumi can’t help but see her memory of her warm, beautiful, heroic teacher, not the shambling monster before her.

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She loses her nerve, and Megu-nee bites her. Damn, that was fast. Kurumi gets back to the safe zone, but it isn’t long before the wound starts to fester, and it becomes pretty clear that things are not going to go any better for her than they went for the dog or the teacher. It’s only a matter of time.

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During this time, as she screams in her sleep, we go inside her head, where she’s trapped in a nightmare in which countless zombies stalk her from just behind the walls of a classroom she’s in.

When they break through, her mind will be lost and she’ll be one of them. The only glimmer of hope she can be saved comes when Miki consults the emergency manual, which indicates there’s medicine—an antidote?—down in the basement shelter.

Rii-san doesn’t want Miki to go alone, but she doesn’t have much choice; she has to be there if and when Kurumi turns. As for Yuki, her bubbly obliviousness is more of a liability than ever. Miki and Rii-san are going through emotional issues of their own, and they have no time to babysit her.

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Miki finds Kurumi’s shovel, but also spots Taroumaru’s still-full dog bowl and collapses into tears, remembering how Kurumi lamented that she’d “failed”, and believing she too had failed to protect Taroumaru, just when they had kinda become friends last week.

Miki claims not being close to Megu-nee (who we see sitting down there, “writing”) will make it easier to take her out, but the dog’s down there too, so her task to grab the medicine—before Kurumi turns—is not going to be easy, to put it mildly.

As for Yuki, when she stops in the hall to remark to herself how today is like “that day”, and she then asks herself what “that day” is, and then feels the cold rain hitting her on the face. She sees the broken window now, just as the zombies burst through the ground floor and start bringing the barricades down.

We can imagine what she’ll see next week. The question is: how will she react to her sudden awakening? Will she be able to play a role in her own and everyone else’s survival, or are they all doomed?

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 01 (First Impressions)

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In a new re-imagining of the fairy tales of yore, in which Shirayuki (Snow White, voiced by Hayami Saori) is perfectly content with her life as an herbalist until the unscrupulous prince of her territory, Raj, learns of her rare red hair and decrees she is to become his concubine.

Rather than face that future, Shirayuki flees, and by chance meets a trio of young swordsmen led by Zen. After healing his bruised arm, he offers her shelter at an abandoned house they use, but it isn’t long before a basket of apples from Prince Raj arrives. Zen eats one and is poisoned, and Shirayuki is captured and brought before Raj. 

Shirayuki is about to relent to Raj in exchange for the antidote for Zen, but a healthy Zen bursts in, revealing himself as the second prince of the neighboring Clarines and getting Raj to agree not to pursue Shirayuki any further. Shirayuki chooses to go with him to his kingdom and continue writing her own story.

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This was an exceedingly well-polished, gleaming, rich and verdant outing; one that felt like a movie in miniature (one produced by Studio Ghibli rather than Mickey), with a well-developed arc from start to finish. Things look peachy for Shirayuki but her fortunes fall fast and she snips that seemingly accursed hair and runs…out of the kingdom of a pig and into the company of someone willing to view her not as a piece of property, but an equal.

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I like the idea of Shirayuki wanting to write her own tale, and that tale is to be the best damn herbalist she can be. It’s what she’s trained for and it’s what she wants to do. Whatever Raj wants (and I have a fairly good idea), he won’t let her decide her fate. There’s no future there. So it’s a good thing she ran into those who appreciate her for who she is.

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In Zen and his two mates Shirayuki gets some security and structure, but I knew at some point someone from Raj would come calling, and the use of the poison apple was, while not altogether surprising, novel enough in execution. Shirayuki comes to Raj offering what she knows he wants—her—which is all she has to bargain with for what she deems to be Zen’s life.

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But Shirayuki, like me, made a few false assumptions about Zen: one, that he has built up a tolerance for poisons, and two, that he himself is a prince (which explains the need for the tolerance, and the fancy steel). Turns out she of the hair the color of fate ran from one prince into another, only Zen is a good guy who has an “amazing way of thinking about things”, who offers not captivity, but a chance for her to practice her herbalism in a more official role (as the ED montage indicates).

The show can be a little preachy and obvious at times, but hey, it’s a fairy tale; I’ll cut it some slack. On the whole this is a earnest, well-made episode and a fun fantastical ride, and I can’t help but root for Shirayuki as she continues to write her own story.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 12 (Fin)

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I was wondering last week: “Why would Beelz be able to control Bahamut?” The answer?” Err…he can’t.

Bahamut is the third MAPPA anime we’ve reviewed at RABUJOI (the other two being Zankyou no Terror and GARO) that suffered from dull, uninspired villains (Beelzebub/Martinet, Five, and Mendoza, respectively). But that didn’t stop this from being the best Bahamut of the past seven episodes, oh-so-close to a return to the heady first handful of eps that made us fall in love with the show in the first place.

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Wait, his name is Gilles de Rais, and he can change his form to various people, from Lavalley to Kaisar to Martinet? Oh, whatever. The bad guy doesn’t matter so much as getting our trio of Fava, Kaisar and Amira back together and taking care of that little Bahamut-related problem. What does turn out being important is the fact that de Rais really just wants to watch the world end.

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Beelz wanted to grab control of the demon world and subjugate the realm of angels too. That wasn’t happening, as Bahamut is not a tool, he’s simply a means to an end…the end of the world. Azazel gets to finish Beelz off (good for him), while Fava wakes up from his arrow-induced nap and crosses swords with Kaisar once more as everything blows up around them.

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Fava seems to mouth something to Kaisar, who makes Rita promise not to interfere, and she doesn’t…but de Rais does, tossing a sword to Favaro, who uses it to slice off Kaisar’s arm just above the wrist. However, it’s that very wrist that has Kaisar’s still-active bounty armband attached to it. Fava uses it to capture de Rais into a stone tablet, which he tosses to Bacchus for a handsome reward!

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Turns out Favaro and Kaisar had a plan all along. The bolt Kaisar shot Fava with had the antidote on its tip, thus curing Favaro, then Kaisar cut off Fava’s arm to make sure de Rais would be convinced Favaro was still under his control. You have to ‘hand’ it to Fava and Kaisar: they work really well together in a pinch.

With that, the two board an embiggened Hamsa, but for different reasons: Fava thinks he has to kill Amira to stop Bahamut, but Kaisar holds out hope he can free her. Their aerial trip up to Bahamut’s head is suitably harrowing, and looks fantastic.

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When Hamsa can get no closer, the fact that Martinet’s goals (the end of the world) didn’t jive with the goals of either the gods or the demons (neither of whom want to die or for the world to end). Thus, both gods and demons work together to build a fresh barrier, which gives our heroes the opening they need.

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Once atop Bahamut’s head, the show never lets us forget this is a gigantic beast moving all over the place; as such, it’s hard to maintain footing, especially Kaisar, who’s down a limb. Favaro manages to plunge Bahamut’s own fang into the symbol on his head (a conveniently lit-up weak spot). This seems to start the process of shutting Bahamut down. By doing so, Favaro not only changes his fate and the fate of the world, but also Jeanne’s – she is merely a spectator in Bahamut’s demise.

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Fava falls off the head, but his rope keeps him suspended right in front of Bahamut’s eye, from which a glowing Amira emerges.

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In this gloriously-staged and touching farewell, Favaro tries to lie with a straight face one last time. When his face finally breaks into a goofy smile, Amira smothers it with her lips, thanking him for what he’s done before returning to Bahamut’s eye. Kudos to the show for not pulling a deus ex machina out of its ass to save Amira. I trusted the old dragon in the forest: there was no saving Amira, except to save her from being the instrument of the world’s destruction.

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When Bahamut blows, Favaro is way too close, and loses a leg (just as Kaisar lost an arm. Interesting symmetry), but Kaisar escapes aboard Hamsa. And thus, the world is saved, by the most unlikely group of characters imaginable!

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Fast-forward half a year, and Anatae is being rebuilt, Jeanne has a new ‘do and is back in the Orleans knights, Fava has a new metal leg, and Kaisar has a new metal arm. Kaisar seems poised to join Jeanne as a lieutenant, but as Favaro departs the city, Kaisar chases after him, just as he did in the first episode.

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Favaro is somewhat comforted (as am I) by the fact that while he’s asleep again, Bahamut will never truly die, which means neither will Amira. All in all, not a bad way to bring things to a close.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 11

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In “All Roads Lead to Abos”, Bahamut is bursting with big bold Bahamut battles, as befits a show nearing its big finish. Things weren’t going so swell last time we were here: Jeanne’s a demon, Favaro’s a demon, Amira’s a key, and practically everything is going Beelzebub’s and Martinet’s way. Oh yeah, and Kaisar is released from his crystal coffin to fall to his death.

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Meanwhile, with Azazel aboard Bacchu’s carriage, Rita continues to slave over her alchemy equipment, brewing…something, and the angels continue to drop one after another from the honeycomb barrier keeping Bahamut at bay. We see what Martinet had in mind for the great saint when Dark Jeanne swoops in on her stone dragon and skewers both Raphael and Uriel, weakening the barrier significantly before turning on Michael. What a terrible perversion of Jeanne’s power!

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Kaisar manages to catch the rope of Favaro’s (I think) crossbow, but falls again when everything starts shaking. Fortunately, Bacchus’ carriage arrives in time to catch him. UNfortunately, that’s when Goth Jeanne spots them, and she’s not going to leave them alone.

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This means Bacchus has to actually do something, but Jeanne knocks him off his carriage, forcing Hamsa to blow up like a balloon and catch him. Nice work, Hamsa. After bandying words with Azazel, Kaisar is given an antidote to give to Favaro by Rita, who prepares to toss a second into Visual Jeanne’s mouth. Unfortunately, Hamsa accidentally knocks Kaisar overboard (Fall #3) and deflects Rita’s severed arm-and-severed hand pill flick. Nice work, Hamsa.

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Jeannetallica seems poised to finish our motley crew off, but Michael swoops in, grabs her, and having caught Rita’s antidote, puts it in his mouth and transfers it to Jeanne’s with a kiss. Good ol’ Regular Jeanne is back, but is distressed to find she had already stabbed Michael through, dispersing (and possibly killing?) him. For his part, Michael is glad Jeanne still lives to lead humanity to salvation, but that’s looking like a taller order by the minute as Beelzebub nears Bahamut.

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Bacchus, Hamsa, and Rita arrive on his ship thing’s deck as Azazel, having saved Kaisar, starts to battle Beels mano-a-mano. Meanwhile, Kaisar turns his attention to Dark Fava, who doesn’t even fight like the Favaro he knows. Convinced he has no choice (or there’s no hope for him), rather than give him the antidote (I guess he lost it?) he fires a quarrel into Fava’s chest, disabling him. Obviously, this can’t be the end of Favaro, though.

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As for Keymira, she emerges from her red ball glowing pinkish purple, and lights spring forth from Bahamut (now free of his barrier) to snatch her up. Uh-oh…

Kaisar is surprised to find Lavalley has arrived, as am I. I’m even more surprised to know he wants Bahamut released. He then shoves Kaisar off the ledge (Fall #4).

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Even with gods arriving from left and right (well, actually, from above), things are still not going to hot for those who don’t want the world destroyed. Amira may already be one with Bahamut now, who wakes up in the last shot, apparently ready to throw some titular RAGE around. How in the heck is this mess going to get resolved?

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