School-Live! handles the zombie apocalypse with a surprising amount of delicacy and poignancy.
“For many of us, school is (or was) a haven where you can spend time with your friends, hang out in after-school clubs, eat lunch together, fall hard for your first crush, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. It’s meant to be a safe environment where you spend your days preparing for the future, making lifelong friends and memories.
That’s life for Yuki Takeya, a student at Megurigaoka Private High School. She’s a sprightly and cheerful student who absolutely loves school life and the world around her. She’s a little forgetful, but she always means well, even if she falls asleep in class. And school is going great for her. There’s only one problem. School’s not in session, there are no classes, and there’s a zombie outbreak. As it happens, Yuki and her friends are some of the only survivors left out there. Welcome to the School Life Club. Don’t forget to stay home for after-school club activities.
School’s Out Forever
School-Live! is an intriguing anime for several reasons. One, it lulls you into a false sense of security. The entirety of the first episode revolves around finding a Shiba Inu dog named Taromaru as Yuki runs around the school pretending things are just as perfect as they were in the past.
You’re given the false impression that everything is just fine at first, if a little odd, and that there’s some sort of club that involves staying at school and living there for some reason. There’s such a jarring twist at the end of the episode that the rest of it needed to be as saccharine as possible, especially Yuki, to make the harsh reality of the outside world really hit home. Nothing shakes Yuki’s optimism, which is downright creepy and unsettling when you think about how much of a front she has to put on to not suffer another psychotic break.
The rest of the club goes along with Yuki’s delusions because it’s simpler to keep her safe, and as the show unfolds it becomes clearer and clearer that this is no simple task. The “club” consists of Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the twin-tailed, shovel-wielding member, who’s often sarcastic and quick to make quips. We learn why she carries around the shovel later, as she’s revealing a pretty depressing secret.
Then there’s Yuri Wakasa, the president of the club whose responsibility it is to take care of food, electricity, school materials, and
more. It appears she has everything together quite nicely, but it’s very clear that inside she’s suffering and having difficulty keeping up the delusion.
Miki Naoki, or “Mi-kun” as Yuki calls her, is the most pragmatic of the group and just can’t get behind the group nurturing Yuki’s delusions, but eventually comes to terms with the School Living Club’s decision to keep her safe and happy at all costs. She follows Kurumi and Yuri’s lead whenever she can even though it becomes endlessly frustrating to her.
Though the main characters are just about everyone who’s left, there are other characters to keep track of too, such as Megumi Sakura, or “Megu-ne,” as Yuki and other students refer to her. There are a few other teachers and friends around too, but as the show wears on it becomes difficult to tell just who’s part of Yuki’s grand scheme of hallucinatory visions in an effort to keep herself sane or real survivors.
Don’t Open, Dead Inside
School-Live! does an excellent job of illustrating the zombie apocalypse in a school setting in various ways, ascending various tropes to create a unique environment that engenders love and care for the various characters. It’s also a story where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen. Around the third episode, Megumi looks back on what started it all in a heart-rending vignette that involves her mother. Subsequent episodes investigate the way each member of the club recalled life before the outbreak and what happened around the time everything started to go awry.
The show doesn’t take place solely inside the school, however. Like Telltale Games’ vision of The Walking Dead and other similar works of fiction, the group must venture out into the world for supplies and, well, to see what’s out there. Painful and heartbreaking things take place as the group leaves the school, and everyone learns more about the world and each other. This takes the show from being just another slice-of-life comedy you think it’s going to be and really flips things on their head.
There’s one particularly sad moment where a good friend that’s been there for the girls the entire series has to say goodbye, but the show handles it with a surprising amount of delicacy and poignancy, the likes of which the entire show weaves into nearly every area of its content. That’s what makes School-Live! much more worth watching than other similar shows.
I’m A Survivor
School-Live! stretches across 12 episodes, but the story is still continuing as far as the manga series goes. The latest volume, Volume 8, is poised for release soon, but the story is still moving along. There’s plenty to discover after your time with the anime has ended, but you’re definitely encouraged to keep reading to see where the girls end up.
School-Live! is a journey that’s absolutely worth taking, especially if you’re into slice-of-life fiction or zombie adventures that seem bleak at first, but offer glimmers of hope here and there. You’ll love the characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the way they deal with even stark, harrowing things like Yuki’s delusions and psychotic breakdowns. It’s a testament to how friends sticking together can get you through even the toughest times—even the zombie apocalypse. And if that’s not good watching I can’t tell you what is.
School-Live! is available from Section23/Sentai Filmworks and can be streamed on HIDIVE.