School-Live [Anime Review – Psychological Horror / Zombies / Slice of Life]

School-Live School Live zombies zombie apocalypse Kurumi Ebisuzawa Megumi Sakura Miki Naoki Taromaru Yuki Takeya Yuuri Wakasa
Class is in session … but so is the apocalypse

What time is it? That’s right, it’s time for another anime review! This time around, we’ll be diving into a show that I’ve meaning to write up for a little while: School-Live. I’m not a big zombie fan at the best of times, but you never know, right? For every generic flesh-muncher, there’s a Della Morte Del Amore. Where does this fit in the zombie scale? Let’s find out.

Background: The original manga is written by Norimitsu Kaiho and is illustrated by Sadoru Chiba. The seinen magazine Manga Time Kirara Forward currently runs the serialisation, so that should give you an idea of what to expect with regards to themes. Lerche, the studio responsible for Persona 4: The Animation and Monster Musume, produced the anime.

Throughout the series, we follow the ever-cheerful Yuki and her friends Kurumi, Yuri and Miki. The girls are part of the School Living Club, meaning that they live within the school grounds. While initially appearing to be a standard sort of slice of life show, the series soon reveals itself to have a very dark underbelly.

School-Live School Live zombies zombie apocalypse Yuki Takeya
Ofsted were impressed with the improvements the school had made since the last inspection

The Good: Oh boy did this one catch me off guard. All through the first episode, I was getting the feeling that what I was watching was an average, cheerful sort of show about four friends living together. Little things start to crop up though, like the odd cracked window or Miki’s reactions to Yuki being a little ‘off’, and by the end of it, you get the big reveal: The school is abandoned, the zombie apocalypse happened, and all the happy stuff we’ve just seen was in Yuki’s head. Speaking to others, even when you know this is coming, it’s no less effective. The execution of this is beautifully done, and the sudden change in art style for the backgrounds is really quite wonderful.

The character designs for the leads are fine, with each girl having their quirks, such as Yuki’s hair and hat, Kurumi’s tooth and arm warmers, and so on. What really impressed me though (aside from the post-apocalyptic backgrounds mentioned above), were the zombies. You don’t get many clear shots of them initially, but the art team really made an effort to make them suitably horrific.

Reading the manga, the series makes a few changes from the source material, and for the most part, this was a good decision. Miki’s back story is given a slightly more streamlined approach in the anime, and it ties in nicely with the story arc centred around Taromaru, the School Living Club’s pet puppy. In the manga, said pup is given a few pages to run through his entire arc, but the anime stretches it across the entire series, giving the whole thing a far more gratifying feel.

School-Live School Live zombies zombie apocalypse Kurumi Ebisuzawa shovel girl
Shovel girl is adept at more than just gardening

The story itself is a good one. While there is a lot of focus on the girls’ day-to-day activities, there’s a lot going on in the background that builds up slowly and keeps you guessing. The backstories are short, but well done. The constant questions that you’ll have about what has actually happened, what’s going on with the girls’ teacher Megumi, and just how vital Yuki’s delusions are, are all covered in such a way that it fells very organic amidst the normal running of the club. In particular, there is a lot of hinting about the nature of Yuki’s outlook, and it’s such an interesting thing to speculate about (for my own views, check out my article on the subject).

At only twelve episodes, there’s a fair bit to fit in, but School-Live manages it. I think that, had it gone longer and not advanced beyond the point that it did, it would be far less satisfying as a series. In that respect, the short length is a positive.

The Bad: While most of the changes made, there is one scene from the manga that did not get included, and I really have to question that. The girls head off to the mall to do some scavenging (or shopping in Yuki’s head), and on the way, Kurumi stops at her house. The place is abandoned, and she ends up leaving a note for her parents. It’s sad, it’s touching, it gives a little bit of extra development to our Shovel-Girl, and yet it wasn’t in the anime. To me, that’s a real shame.

School-Live School Live zombies zombie apocalypse Yuki Takeya
The entertainment team tried hard, but in the end, the school disco was dead

While I thought that it worked quite well, some may find the cutesy art style of the main characters a little jarring when set against the darker, more mature themes. To me, it created a nice juxtaposition between the lingering innocence of the leads and the harsher world that they’d been thrust into, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The opening theme song is all sorts of catchy. In fact, it’s probably one of my favourites at the moment. The weird thing is though, the opening video has an odd moment where Yuri is subject to spot of fan service. Putting aside my own views on such things, it really doesn’t fit with the series as a whole and just kinda felt shoe horned in for the sake of doing it. It’s not a major thing at all, just strange.

Subbed or Dubbed: I watched the subbed version on Crunchyroll, and I’m not aware of an English dub, so I can’t really compare. The subbed version is good though. I thought that Ari Ozawa (who has also appeared in Noragami and Flying Witch amongst others) stood out as Kurumi Ebisuzawa, but there weren’t any really bad showings here,

Final View: School-Live is a deceptively smart show that takes an interesting approach to the zombie genre. The cast may not be as stand-out as something like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but the way that they complement each other and are so integral to each other’s survival makes for entertaining viewing. The show manages to blend horror with the slice of life genre, and even throws in some touching moments to boot. With that sort of combo, it’s well-worth checking out, and was a surprising favourite for me.

Final Score: 5 / 5

Like what you read? Want to help me out? Click the affiliate link below to purchase the first School-Live manga! You get to see where the story all began, and I get some cash. awesome, right?

8 thoughts on “School-Live [Anime Review – Psychological Horror / Zombies / Slice of Life]

  1. This one was full of surprises. I especially enjoyed all of the silent nods and audible sound effects used around the teacher. For instance, there’s one scene where the MC hands an item to the teacher. Then the camera pans away. While we can infer the item was simply transferred to her (relying on sight alone) what we hear is the sound of said item hitting the floor. Small touches like that make the show feel like it has such attention to detail. Enjoyable review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And absolutely! The show is so well done, and it does such a good job of throwing in the little touches like that. I loved the way that it all inevitably descended into chaos by the end too, with the girl’s safe haven coming crashing down at the save time as Yuki’s world. It’s just a shame that there’s not a second season yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been seeing this around a lot lately and I am very curious. The combination of the cutesy s-o-l delusion and the grim reality sounds like it’ll be a blast.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this show. I’m glad I had the first episode twist spoiled, because it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have been interested otherwise. Since then, I’ve come to know better. Cute girls do not always equal empty story, even if said show doesn’t happen to be K-ON.

    Now I’m thinking a rewatch is in order, and maybe a new piece on the subject too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really did catch me off guard with the twist. I think that had it not been a Crunchyroll of the Dice entry, then I likely wouldn’t have watched because I knew nothing of the show beforehand and I wouldn’t have expected much from the art style. As it was though, it was a marvellous find. It’s a fun one to write about too, because there are so many little things to pick up on.

      Liked by 1 person

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