School-Live!

School-Live!

imageYuki is a girl in love with her school. In her eyes it’s a place of limitless possibilities where she can have fun, be with her friends and indulge in various activities. She especially likes the activities of the club she’s in, the School Life Club. Yuri is the president, Kurumi is the sporty one and their teacher, Sakura-sensei or ‘Megu-nee’ is always looking out for them. But outside of Yuki’s pastoral mind, the reasons behind the School Life Club are too much to accept for her.

Based on the manga by Kaiho Norimitsu and Chiba Sadoru, School-Live! is an anime that completely threw me in the first episode. As we see things chiefly through Yuki’s eyes I assumed this to be a school-centric slice-of-life anime with a dash of moe. As soon as I settled myself in for the first episode the tables were turned and we see that, in fact, the girls live at school because there has been a zombie apocalypse outside and Yuki lives in her own little world because she refuses to accept the horror that’s going on around her, much to the dismay of the other survivors. It’s an unusual take on involving zombies which goes completely in the opposite direction of other well-known anime such as High School of the Dead – it’s quite amusing and not particularly gory, but since it’s turned the tables on me once already, I half-expect them to try to do it again in other ways.

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In the beginning we are quickly introduced to all the other members of the School Living Club: mature and responsible Yuri, strong and athletic Kurumi, studious Miki and, of course, Megu-nee, who serves as the club advisor. We also notice early on that Yuki is a big focus not only of herself, but also her friends. They are always checking up on her, going along with her whims and making sure she stays happy.

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Yuki is your usual high school student: outgoing and positive with a bubbly personality. She’s so excited to be spending all her time in the School Living Club and the others make sure she is taken care of. Though not particularly scatterbrained or helpless, there is a simplicity and a level of obliviousness about her that is made obvious several times in the first few episodes. When her pet dog escapes into the school, she immediately flees after him from classroom to classroom and almost makes it look like a game.

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There’s a few moments within the first episode that give away subtle hints as to the reason intents of the show, but it isn’t until right at the very end where the reality is revealed and we see just how deep a state of denial, and how truly damaged, our main character is. This is when we realise that all the classmates she has been talking to in her quest to track down her puppy don’t actually exist other than the members of the School Living Club that are watching over her. The school always looks pristine and tidy according to Yuki but when the illusion is lifted we actually see it as dark and in disarray, with little electricity and with zombies prowling around outside, just waiting for the girls to come out.

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I was really impressed with how a series with such moe art could be so successfully shocking and a little frightening. This show has a tinge of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica about it that’s right up my street. There’s some real intensive scenes and elements of suspense that suddenly jump in and threaten to pop Yuki’s bubble of idealism. When a zombie infiltrates the library during an innocent trip to get some books, the others do all they can to keep her calm and we can see that, despite all the light moments, the club members really rely on each other for security and comfort.

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The way School-Live! portrays their particular ‘zombie outbreak’ is very clever (and quite scary). The darkly horrific parts and the light-hearted hijinks are kept very separate, so it’s quite jolting when the tone switches from one to another, reminding us that there’s something very bad going on around this small schoolgirl domesticity. In one scene, Kurumi is forced to kill the boy she has a crush on in order to save her life and those of the other club members. Whilst it is quite a gruesome scene, it is done in a way that doesn’t mar the school-like atmosphere. However, just because gore and bloodshed is kept to a minimum doesn’t make these scenes any less creepy. In fact, they’re more creepy because of how creative they can be sometimes.

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Since the first episode finished with a big twist, School-Live! is picking up the pace. It’s quite open in regards to where this could be taken: down the psychological route, maintain its slice-of-life air or incorporate more action, horror and drama. There’s a lot of things I hope they will address in future episodes, such as how damaged Yuki really is, how the club members met Yuki and how the zombies originated and how they cleared out the school to live in.

imageThis is an anime that refuses to reveal all its cards at once, which promises a very unusual and thrilling watch. With so much potential and intrigue thrown in this early, School-Live! is one of my onset favourites of the season. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this one.