Gakkou Gurashi and Escapism Through Moe
If this current season of anime and my personal life have taught me anything its that life can get really busy and one needs sufficient rest to recuperate from the hustle and bustle of normal days life. I have personally gotten more work in my personal life recently which has given me less time in front of my computer to do silly fun stuff like play Civilisation V all day (and night) and the luxury to watch trashy moe shows. However, I have also noticed thanks to the second season of Non Non Biyori which aptly has the subtitle ‘Repeat’ that the gap between good moe anime and average moe anime is extremely large, let me explain.
Moe anime has certainly gotten its fair share of a bad reputation over the years and looking back at the copious amounts of shovel-ware, built for market, designed by committee with no artistic value whatsoever material out there its easy to see why. On the other hand, every once in a while we get gems like K-on! And Squid Girl which allow us to remember what makes the sub genre so good in the first place.
Its hard to describe in words but the best moe anime for me is the one that magically makes me nostalgic for a simpler usually high school life. A high school life that I really never had in all fairness, I mean I certainly didn’t go to an all girl high school in Japan for example and I was never part of any musical club. I think this kind of nostalgia trip is healthy in the right doses, it makes my memories of high school seem wonderful, when really they weren’t that great, it wasn’t terrible but man, it sure was an awkward time of life in general for most people as well.
Another of my favourite moe anime is Working! Working! Resonates with me on so many levels because I actually worked in a restaurant for about 3 years and it was fantastic. Really really really hard work but it was still super memorable. Watching Working! Gives me a soothing nostalgic and happy memory of what it was like to work there even though Yamada’s antics are from the realities of working in a real restaurant. I can definitely see some similarities in characteristics between working’s! cast and the staff I worked with but that’s where it ends.
Coming back to Non Non Biyori and shows like Hanasaku Iroha and a few episodes of A Channel, the best part of those shows for me is their perfect depiction of the comical and fun part, not energetic, but fun nonetheless part of mundane life. Its scenes like Renge walking home from school marking her path with a stick that put the sharpest grin on my face. Its very difficult to get the balance between boring unnecessary scenes and ambient ones correct. Nailing that balance to me is the real bar for a quality iyashi-kei anime. Non Non Biyori in particular really helps me relax and escape the busy realities of my life, maybe its the music, maybe its the character designs or the awkward humour, perphaps both. All I know for certain is that the combination is perfect for transporting my mind to a happier, quieter place.
Which brings me to Gakkou Gurashi, a seemingly mundane by the books moe anime set in a high school with usual cliché set ups and pranks until the twist at the end of the first episode. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen the episode yet to try it out even if you aren’t a fan of moe anime to atleast participate in the discussion to follow.
*Sliight Spoilers Ahead*
The protagonist in Gakkou Gurashi is revealed to be escaping reality by re imagining her harsh world as a mundane by the books high school moe setup. I find this scenario extremely fascinating because as a 3rd party viewer we get to see what she is imagining the world to be as well as what it really is. My hope is that the anime expands more on the effects of using escapism to soften the blow of a harsh reality especially since this is a particular kind of escapism which I certainly enjoy and mildly participate in myself.
Kyoto Animations Chuunibyou and Steins;Gate had a go at the subject and their effort was commendable. Steins;Gate in particular with Okabe Rintarou being forced to deal with his realities no matter how hard he tried to run away from or fix them. Gakkou Gurashi has certainly caught me by surprise and has the potential to be something special, I really sincerely hope it doesn’t go off the rails and become another generic moe show.
Moe n Me – an article I wrote some years back explaining how I got into moe anime.