School-Live [Anime Review – Psychological Horror / Zombies / Slice of Life]March 17, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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