Can’t get more straightforward than that
An anime adaptation based on an old sci-fi novel that’s been made into drama and movies in the past before, Nerawareta Gakuen is about a school being threatened by a mysterious psychic whose aim is to control the school through the student council. Or so it says, but actually it focuses more on the main quartet of the story.
Our main hero is Kenji, your typical dense harem lead who’s been best friends forever with his neighbour Natsuki. While Natsuki has a massive crush on him since forever, our hero is enraptured by the beautiful and perfect Harukawa on the student council. Things start changing when mysterious transfer student, Kyougoku, arrives. Soon mysterious things start happening and it’s not long before it affects the three of them too.
Boy meets boy.
While it certainly sounds like a setup for a sci-fi mystery action thriller, there’s really not much real fighting or conflict going on in the movie. Heck, even when the psychic parts kick it, it’s as if the director just remembered that this isn’t just a romance drama. Which is what this rendition of Nerawareta Gakuen really focuses on.
In fact, NeraGaku actually works a hell lot more better as a romance drama, which it does quite well for the first half of the movie as we get introduced to Kenji, Natsuki and Harukawa and the love polygon forming amongst them and Kyogoku. Even later on, when the “conflict” starts, rather than forcing a change of tone to action, things get solved in rather… unexpected ways (including a scene where Kenji grosses everyone out by pulling his phone out from his trunks!) instead of having psychic battles. Or any form of violence in fact. Probably disappoints a few people, but overall, everything worked out fine for me.
Where else do I keep it?!
The strength of the movie is really in the visuals and the production quality, which never seems to drop even for a second. It’s extremely colorful, with almost every scene having photorealistic backgrounds and fluid character animation all around. I would love to see more of this style from Sunrise. There’s opinions that there’s way too many Photoshop filters being used, but I actually didn’t really mind it much once I got into the movie.
Guess how many filters
On the seiyuu side of things, there’s great performances to be found from Kana Hanazawa (voicing Harukawa) and Ono-D (voicing Kyogoku) to be found here, but I found myself being swept away at parts by Mayu Watanabe’s performance of Natsuki. Sure, it’s pretty rough and it doesn’t have that “anime voice” quality, but she has a really expressive performance and that’s really all I ask from voice acting. I’d already quite liked her performance in AKB0048 as Chieri, but seeing her Natsuki makes me think she might stand a chance as a seiyuu as well.
To wrap things up, Nerawareta Gakuen is very pretty and touching movie. Just don’t get tricked by the whole “Psychic School Wars” tagline that the movie is selling on. It’s really more of a romance drama with some sci-fi elements, in the vein of Mamoru Hosoda’s (TokiKake, Summer Wars) works, but Nerawareta Gakuen is a lot more competently done. A recommended watch on a weekend.
Additional Reading: A slightly more straightforward review by NovaJinx.