Hi everyone! It’s that time again- time for my monthly OWLS post. If you aren’t aware, OWLS is a group of anime bloggers that promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being!
Every month we are given a theme that relates to our cause. Here is September’s prompt:
There are moments in our lives where we lose our sense of self-worth and value and as a result, we find ourselves deep in darkness or drowning in the ocean. However, every person in this world is a treasure—we treasure ourselves or we are treasured by others—and at times, we may need to be reminded of that. We will be exploring characters who have suffered from mental illnesses, depression, and/or suicide, and then discussing how these individuals cope with these issues, the reasons for their emotions, and how they handled the situations they were in.
Mental illness and other forms of psychology are very important to me because I suffer from anxiety myself. I actually wrote about anxiety and mental illness in a previous OWLS post about Amanchu! I personally know how important it is to have a “treasure” or something that helps you cope with your insecurities.
For this prompt, I have chosen an anime series that is close to my heart. That anime is School-Love! or Gakkou Gurashi, as it is known in Japanese. On the surface, this is a moe, cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime that doesn’t look particularly innovative. Except it is. It deals with themes of mental illness and other important issues.
Warning: This post is going to have major spoilers.
Yuki is a very happy-go-lucky and optimistic high school girl. Her outgoing (and a little odd) personality allows her to get along with others and make a lot of friends. Because of this, school is a very fun place for Yuki and she loves going to it every day. She also has a favorite teacher, Sakura-sensei. This gentle teacher understands Yuki (even though she is an oddball) and tries her best to support Yuki, who isn’t always the most consistent with her school work. Yuki absolutely adores her sensei.
Except there is one problem. This ideal school and her beloved teacher do not exist. School-Live! takes place during the zombie apocalypse, in a school that was completely overrun by zombies. All of Yuki’s classmates are dead, including Sakura-sensei.
The other girls that are still alive (Kurumi, Yuri, and Miki) are well aware of their situation. They saw their classmates, senpais, and teachers get eaten alive. It is extremely obvious that the school is abandoned, with broken windows, empty classrooms, and blood smeared on the walls. If these three girls notice all of this, why doesn’t Yuki?
It’s because Yuki is demonstrating symptoms of PTSD and Psychosis. Yuki is imagining her classmates and her sensei to help her psyche cope with what has happened. She cannot admit that everything and everyone is gone because she saw it as a treasure, one that she doesn’t know how to cope without.
What is PTSD and Psychosis?
Usually, PTSD (an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is associated with veterans and soldiers who have been through war. However, it can affect anyone who has been through some kind of traumatic experience. Usually, someone with PTSD has gone through something so horrifying or appalling that they cannot simply cannot forget. It literally haunts them. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with PTSD exhibit at some of the following symptoms:
- “Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
- Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.”
Yuki does have some of these symptoms, although they do not show up right away, which is normal for people with PTSD. She does experience them, though. Throughout the series, she has some flashbacks and nightmares. However, the most prominent one is avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of trauma. Yuki avoids her memories of trauma by pretending they never happened.
Yuki is experiencing psychosis. The definition of this disorder is a “severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.” In other words, Yuki was so traumatized that she lost her grip on reality. Instead of admitting that all of those terrible things happened (which relates to PTSD), her mind is coping by having her experience hallucinations and delusions. She won’t feel mental anguish anymore because her friends and favorite teacher are still “there” (only they are not real).
It doesn’t stop there, though. Yuki’s trauma is severe. Most people only experience psychosis for a short period of time directly after experiencing extreme stress. However, Yuki’s hallucinations are ongoing. They do not last for a couple of days. They last for weeks. It gets to the point where she still attends classes, speaks with her “classmates” and has tutoring sessions with an imagined Sakura-sensei. The other living girls have to convince Yuki that they have a “living at school” club to prevent Yuki from leaving the school and getting eaten by zombies. They also pretend to speak with Sakura-sensei, who Yuki imagines constantly at her side.
Once in a while the other girls may mention reality, but they usually try not to trigger Yuki. Her denial is so bad that when she begins to realize the actual situation, she gets headaches and begins to blank out. Afterwards, she reverts back to her delusional self.
Yuki Overcoming Her Fears and Finding Her Real Treasure
When someone is so far gone, how do you bring them back? The answer is a support system. Kurumi, Yuri, and Miki do their best to help Yuki. They take care of her, feed her, protect her, and have fun with her. At first, they play along with her delusions because they know she isn’t ready to admit everything that has happened. However, Miki thinks that enabling the delusions is hurting Yuki more than it is helping her, and she tries to become closer to Yuki to fully understand her. Also, over time, Yuki can no longer avoid everything going on around her. She slowly begins to realize the situation and, although it is painful, each time she gets a little more accostomed to the idea. In psychology, this is called exposure therapy. The idea is that when you expose someone to their fears gradually over time, they will begin to get used to it and will no longer fear it.
This slowly helps Yuki get better. The final push is when she comes across her beloved Sakura-sensei in zombie form. At that moment, the delusions crack and Yuki remembers everything.
It is a very painful moment for Yuki, but she ends up being okay. Why? Because she has found a new treasure. It’s the “School Living Club.” The girls who supported her and accepted her, but also wanted her to get better. They have become extremely important to Yuki, her closest friends. The real Sakura-sensei may no longer be around, but Yuki treasures all of the support she gave her. Above all else, she treasures her memories of Sakura-sensei.
With renewed clarity, Yuki decides that she wants to continue living and surviving, but wants to do so while facing reality. And she has the perfect treasure to help her do that. Together with her important friends, Yuki can face whatever challenges and traumas her zombie-filled world has to offer.
Overall, it may seem like a cutesy series, but School-Live has a very important message. Mental illness is real and can negatively affect people who have been through trauma. At the same time, however, anyone can overcome their fears, anxieties, or illnesses with the right support system. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves cute girl shows, zombie shows, psychological shows, or anyone who wants to see all three combined!
HELP SPREAD MORE AWARENESS!
If you liked this post and want to spread awareness about mental illness or other social issues, please follow the other work of OWLS. Here is the official OWLS blog.
For the full schedule of OWLS’ September blog tour, click here.
The post before mine was “OWLS Treasure Blog Tour: Loving Yourself Is A Process Requiring Strength and Perseverance” by Crimson.
The next post in the blog tour is from Arria! Be sure to check it out once it is up.
You can also check out my last OWLS post here and see all of the previous OWLS blog tours here:
January Blog Tour: Disruptors // February Blog Tour: Flight // March Blog Tour: Sanctuary // April Blog Tour: Colors // May Blog Tour: Strength // June Blog Tour: Team // July Blog Tour: Mirrors // August Blog Tour: Bloodlines