I was very excited to see Nerawareta Gakuen, I truly was. Before the movie, I discussed and defended studio Sunrise’s recent Slice Of Life projects as some of the surprisingly well made ones around (most of them mainly in the comedy department.) So I thought that this could be a contender for the best film at Scotland Loves Anime and most importantly it was a world premiere, meaning that we’re the first ones to see it. However around halfway through the film, I realised how horribly wrong I was. Basically what I’m saying is Nerawareta Gakuen is a disaster that I didn’t want to see and I’ll tell you why.
The plot centres on the new mysterious transfer student Ryouichi Kyogoku, who has the power of telepathy. As the story unfolds he uses this power on students to mind trick them, so that they become unfriendly to each other. This is mainly achieved by using his power to force the student council to ban mobile phones to the point that if a student is caught, they are suspended from the school. Ryouichi’s overall plan is to take over the school, but it turns out that his ability doesn’t affect our main protagonist Kenji and it’s mainly up to Kenji to solve this problem, by basically being a idiot.
Another sub-plot is the romantic relationships between Kenji and his tomboyish next-door neighbour Natsuki, plus one of Natsuki’s friends Kahori, starts to develop feelings for Ryouichi as well, although one relationship is much more developed than the other.
Now before I unleash the rare cynical beast inside me, let’s talk about the positives that I thought worked in the film’s favour. In terms of the visual style, I really like the look of the backgrounds and that aspect felt very appealing to me, although the overuse of sakura petals at the start of the movie was a bit unnecessary. There are some generally funny bits, one scene in particular is when Kenji, trying to get Natsuki’s attention next door, gets his pellet gun; every time it fails, he keeps upgrading it, reminding me of the Gun Assembly scenes from “Naked Gun 2 1/2”.
That’s it; everything else is complete utter rubbish for most of the movie. Does it explain Ryouichi’s motivation into why his taking over the school? Not really. Does it give a reason why Kenji is not affected by Ryouichi’s power? No. Did the ending answer my questions? No, it left me even more confused. That’s basically Nerawareta Gakuen’s crime: it adds new developments but never explains them when it desperately needs to; it’s incredibly bad storytelling, to a point where it becomes hilarious.
The romantic elements are also painfully underwhelming; the relationship between Kahori and Ryouichi is awfully one-sided, it’s never developed until the final part of the movie and it’s very frustrating. The relationship between Kenji and Natsuki fares a bit better but all the angst towards each other really makes it unconvincing; I never liked them both anyway, Kenji is way too ditzy, making me cringe for the most of the movie, and while I feel Natsuki gets the best character development throughout the movie, she comes across as too mean-spirited, making her unlikeable.
The soundtrack is unmemorable, the character designs are generic at best, and the really awful ending left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I debated this with fellow Anime UK News members and other friends, just to see if I simply just didn’t get it, but the same problems kept popping up, and the overall verdict on the movie was that it was a complete utter shambles.
In conclusion, I REALLY wanted to like Nerawareta Gakuen but when I bring up the positives, the glaring negatives are very hard to ignore; it’s probably the disappointment of the year for me, which is a big shame.