So, this week I want to talk about School-Live, or more importantly, one aspect in particular of School-Live. I’ll be focussing on the anime here (though this will apply to the manga too). This is largely because, as much as I’m enjoying the manga, I thought that the anime did certain things better. Such as Taromaru. Oh, that and I saw the anime first, thanks entirely to my 2016 Crunchyroll of the Dice tournament.
By way of background, the series began life as a seinen manga written by Norimitsu Kaiho and illustrated by Sadoru Chiba. The manga is currently ongoing, but the anime ceased in September 2015. Will there be a second season? My word, I hope so! Despite being dumped out in round one of the aforementioned tournament, I dove straight back into watching the show and managed to watch all twelve episodes in (for me) a relatively quick time.
The basic story, as stated on Wikipedia, is: ‘Yuki Takeya is a cheerful school girl who, along with her friends Kurumi Ebisuzawa, Yūri Wakasa, and Miki Naoki, is a member of the Megurigaoka Private High School’s School Living Club. As Yuki seeks out fun school activities every day while living at school, the other girls work to keep her safe, because in reality, they are the sole survivors of their school after a zombie outbreak overruns the city.’
Now, when I first watched the show, I didn’t bother to check out the synopsis, so what I got treated to was an opening episode that at first appeared to be a passable, relatively cutesy, slice of life show. As the episode drew to a close though, things took a very dark turn indeed, and the truth of the girls’ situation was revealed. The execution of this was superb, and as the series continued, this quality remained consistent throughout. I could easily throw out one of my normal reviews for this, and I’d be more than happy to give it an easy five out of five, but I didn’t really want to do that this time around. The reason being that one thing in particular really impressed me with School-Live, and that was the function that Yuki’s delusions served. Honestly, I feel that I will be doing the series more justice if I focus on that than if I were to simply write a regular review. Be warned though: there be some mild spoilers ahead!
So, Yuki has suffered a lot in the lead up to where the series starts. She was in the school when the zombie outbreak occurred, and being a generally carefree and happy-go-lucky kinda girl, she doesn’t quite have the same temerity as her fellow survivors. Kurumi has learned to swing shovels with deadly precision, Yuri has become a motherly figure, and Miki has for the most part just plain survived, but Yuki has essentially retreated into herself rather than accept the dark reality in front of her.
For Yuki, the days go by in the same way that they always did, but with the added caveat that she stays in the school as part of her membership of the School Living Club. What this means is that Yuki gets up in the morning, gets ready, and heads off to class. Sure, there’s no teacher there, and her school friends are long gone, but in her head, nothing has changed. As a result, it’s not an unusual occurrence for one of her clubmates to walk into a room and find Yuki sat at a broken desk, chatting merrily to people that only she can see. If the first question you thought of here is whether she should be allowed to carry on like this, then you’re not alone. Miki actually thought the same way for a while, but in the end, she agreed not shatter this imaginary world that Yuki had built for herself.
That was a good move. You see, Yuki’s daily fantasy is not bullet proof. Every now and then, little things will creep in for her, giving her mind little hints about where she is and what’s happening. For the most part, these are simple things like noticing a crack in a window, and moments like that do nothing to phase her. The problem is, Yuki is a very innocent girl, and although she is in her high school graduation year, she comes across as being a little younger as a result, at least in her mindset. Everything that has happened has left her fragile, and there are clearly times when the reality of her situation sneaks past her defences. When this happens, Yuki seems on the verge of breaking down, and only really recovers because she’s able to wrap her delusions tighter around herself.
Eventually, we learn that Yuki was initially all too aware of what has been happening around her. She was struggling, but she was surviving, thanks entirely to the support of her friends and her teacher, Megumi. This all came crashing down one rainy day when said teacher sacrificed herself to save the girls from certain death. That was the moment that broke Yuki. Rather than suffer a complete breakdown, she shut down her perception of reality and let herself imagine that nothing had changed since before the outbreak. It should be noted here that one important part of Yuki’s delusion is that she still speaks to Megumi, often in the spot where she got bitten. The reliance on this spot is perhaps a hint at the truth still lingering in the back of Yuki’s mind: this is where she lost Megumi, and so this is where she will still find her, and still be able to lean on her for support. For their part, Yuki’s friends aid in this illusion and pretend to interact with Megumi when they’re aware that Yuki is speaking to her. When they’re not aware of the teacher’s presence though, Yuki’s mind is quick to cover for this, and throws up Megumi acting flustered that people are ignoring her, and even trying to excuse it as being a result of her being too plain.
In the end, Yuki’s delusions do fall away, largely because she is faced with a situation where she has no choice but to accept reality. While this is an important step in Yuki growing as a person, it really wouldn’t have been possible with the delusions being in place first. The poor girl suffered horribly, and to retreat into a fantasy world where the mundane moments of everyday life still played out was the only way that she could stop herself breaking. In essence, it acted a crutch that she could support herself with while she healed. But … that’s not the only purpose that her delusions served.
It is outright stated that Yuki’s behaviour provides a pick-me-up for the other club members. I do not for one moment doubt that they appreciate the severity of her condition, and despite Miki’s protests to the contrary, they were probably right to let things play themselves out for as long as they did, if for no other reason than that forcibly breaking Yuki’s walls down would have been a major risk. At the same time though, Yuki is in many ways a crutch for her friends as well.
When things seem bleak, Yuki finds ways for the group to have fun. It may not be the way it used to be for anyone other than Yuki, but it does provide the girls with suitable distractions from their troubles. The games they play gives them a reason to smile despite things slowly getting worse. The trips out mean that they can gather necessary supplies, but without having to worry about how to explain things to Yuki (which kinda makes it seem like the defence mechanism has its own sense of self-preservation).
Perhaps most importantly though, it gives the girls something to focus on. They don’t want to see Yuki hurt, and so they throw themselves at helping her maintain her world, and keeping her out of harm’s way. To a degree, I think that they would feel like things were more hopeless if they were simply moving from day to day. Having someone else to look out for, who clearly at this point cannot look out for herself, means that they have another reason to stay alive and keep moving forward.
In this way, while it paints the girls as having a mild amount of selfishness in them with regards to why they look out for Yuki, it does mean that the act of maintaining her delusions is as much of a crutch for them as it is for her. In that regard, Yuki may be broken, but she is still the lynchpin that keeps the others alive.
So, there you have it. I truly hope you’ve enjoyed my School-Live ramblings this week. I cannot stress enough how well the whole thing is executed, especially given the short running time of the series. This, along with several heart wrenching moments, horror elements, and some nice animation (along with an almost inappropriately catchy opening theme song) all make School-Live deserving of a hearty recommendation. The opening video is above, and there’s an AMV below.
Does the series sound up your street? Feel free to click on the Amazon affiliate link below. Ding so will earn me some money if you decide to buy the book 🙂