For some, school was the last place they wanted to be. For others, it’s the last place they want to be each day. Four girls start a “School Living” club where, as the name suggests, they live at school full time. The twist? The horde of zombies outside doesn’t really give them an option to go home. The group of girls fight to survive inside their school, which is oddly equipped to support people living in it…
Yuki Takeya warms my heart. She embodies almost all of the positive spirit of our group of girls. If the Greeks had a sun god, Yuki would be the sun demi-human that radiates positivity and childishness on all of us mortals. In fact, her warmth and her unreliability are pretty much the only thing you can rely on from her. We always see her with, or comically without, the groups’ dog, Taromaru. Yuki feels very immature in comparison to the rest of the cast, but a very needed break from the somber nature of our group. You would think that Yuki lives in a whole other world than the rest of the cast and honestly, saying that is not far from the truth.
Kurumi Ebisuzawa is our “smack the crap out of someone first and ask questions later” cast member. Kurumi is easily the most traumatized of our club members, which begs the question why she is the only member actually armed with a weapon. The position she was in forced her to choose life or…unlife?…and because of this, she thrust herself into being the school security guard. Kurumi is kind of a bland character. She interacts a fair amount with the rest of the girls but not too much. She is neutral about almost everything, except her shovel, which she loves with all of her heart. She is pretty much the only character that we are given immediate clues that there is some long standing emotional trauma from…you know, civilization ending. Yet, despite this, she really falls into the predictable character trap and really struggles to break out into something interesting.
Yuuri Wakasa was my least favorite character for three fourths of the show. She is the School Living Club president who has the classic anime mom passive aggressiveness. Not to mention the matching fear of god that she strikes into everyone around her when she smiles angrily. It reminds me of my own mother… all that was missing was the middle name reference. The whole show I craved that she would have more of a role, literally anything more than what she was. Please. It took about three fourths of the show to get there. Then she had her shining moment of decision that had incredible steaks for the story and I could truly appreciate her. But what about the rest of the story? Am I supposed to be satisfied with a bland, occasionally humorous, character? Should I not want more from her? Well I did, I still do.
Miki Naoki is our black sheep. Miki was found in a mall by the rest of the School Living Club. She is the one who originally started off with Taromaru. Yet, Miki was so scared of going outside the room that she barricaded herself in, even Taromaru left her. So when the School Living Club came by in search of additional rations, she had to make her move and finally get out. The problem is that Miki is kind of a pessimist. Okay, Miki is a huge pessimist. She spends most of our first interactions with her totally raining on the wonderful Yuki parade. For this reason, I immediately disliked her. She was insistent on people seeing the world in the same sheltered and sad way that she did. Great for being a unique character in this show, not great in getting me to like you. Your name is Miki, not Debbie, so cut it out. Even Taromaru doesn’t like her! Miki’s road to redemption is a long one and you have to wonder if she ever gets there in the end. Do pessimists make it out of the apocalypse or are they the only ones that survive?
Taromaru is the MVP of the show and the only four legged character. The Shiba Inu was found in the mall by Miki and her friend Kei. Potentially the smartest character in the show, Taromaru consistently slips out of his collar to cause all sorts of controlled chaos, saves the girls from certain trouble, and eats more food than dogs five times his size. Because as much as my labs eat, my eighty pound lab eats less than half of what they put in that dog’s bowl. Not by my lab’s choice, of course.
When you first start School Live you can’t really tell if you are going to watch a show where absolutely nothing happens or the girls start a band together. You are quickly pushed into some kind of almost-horror survival show with a dash of mystery. It is a transition that sneaks up on you very quickly. One moment you are watching Yuki sit in a classroom with her emo choker friend and the next you are considering the possibility that the school was created to sustain a certain percentage of the student population living inside of it. I could never shake the feeling that the show lacked excitement, but I was totally pulled in by sheer curiosity. I had a feeling I knew what was coming next in a small sense but then larger plots would develop and my curiosity would run down a whole other path before being pulled back in by the main plot. It might be comparable to a huge role playing game. The side stories are so interesting that you can’t help but do all the quests. Maybe the main storyline is a tad basic and predictable, but you always know that the mystery of the stories will pull you along and keep you interested, at least enough to do a full playthrough.
Yuki refused to see what was right in front of her. We can see that the school is in a ruined state. The windows are broken, the doors are barricaded, and the girls patrol the school for any stray zombies. Does Yuki see this? Certainly. But she is a lot like my friend Dan in Valorant, who somehow never sees the enemies despite them being right there on the screen. Except Yuki doesn’t get her head clicked. She simply cannot wake up from the dream state she is living in because that means that she will have to confront the horrible reality that she is living in. This becomes not only a stress point for Yuki, but for Miki, because she also struggles with the new reality that she lives in, but cannot ignore this new reality.
When things go sideways, there is always someone who gets really quiet. They sit in the back and silently brood over some weird detail that they fixate. Next thing you know they find a shovel and start digging some graves. Okay so, maybe that last part is just Kurumi, but my point still stands. In a way, this feels a lot like the opposite of what Yuki does. Kurumi, instead of hiding from what is in front of her, puts on a brave face and violently confronts her situation. What makes Kurumi interesting is that she never really interacts with Yuki like other characters do. They exist together like yin and yang, but they just exist next to each other, not truely with each other. It feels like these kinds of people put on a brave face to convince themselves that everything is alright rather than to convince everyone else, because it seems so clear that something is clearly wrong. Both with the situation and how they are acting.
If I learned anything from Tiktok, it is that there are people who live and people who *live*. We can live our lives day by day surviving, like Miki wanted to, or you can break out of the room and experience life. There are scary things out there. There are things that we do not know how to handle, either by ourselves or with others, but at a certain point you have to go. I have been spending more time lately going out with my friends Nick and Lucas on our weekly restaurant expedition and it has made me want to go out more. Safely of course, have to mask up when appropriate. So this past weekend I did a city ride on my rollerblades. I am very socially awkward so seeing all the people dressed up to party on a Saturday night, at the bars, and walking around was fun but I couldn’t help feeling out of place. But being out there was nice. Despite the awkward feeling, it’s worth going out and experiencing what the world has to offer because “the room” will never measure up. Miki’s whole story is finding this out. She was reluctant to leave the room she was trapped inside by the zombies, but eventually, she had to leave. Will she regret leaving? Will she find the closure she needs for her anxiety? I genuinely felt like she could go either way throughout the show, which made this an even more compelling idea. What does it mean to live?
As is common for anime, each of our characters seemed to represent an idea or a struggle. The four young girls each have a struggle that they must deal with in order to get out of their situation alive, which is the goal for zombie apocalypses. It feels a little basic to take an approach like this. There really was no cohesive idea for the show so I struggled to give it a high score, but for the length of the show, I was not disappointed.
School Live does foreshadowing in a way that makes you feel smart. You aren’t spoonfed what is going to happen next, but are shown all the pieces that lead to a single seemingly unavoidable outcome. We are introduced to our characters, exposed to the situation, shown how we go to this point, and then we watch the inevitable happen. Maybe we aren’t masterminds for being able to see the outcomes of the show, but it certainly felt like I needed to keep watching to make sure that what I thought was going to happen, did. I got annoyed several days in a row at lunch because, surprise surprise, the lunch hour ends and I would much rather continue watching than poke away at my keyboard. It pulls you in for such a short show and tells a decent story for lack of action.
We can be pretty blunt here, the animation is really nothing impressive. We get some very cute characters with an equally cute dog, but other than an intense water gun fight, we don’t get much more than that. Someone forgot to add a budget for the zombies to have faces. I have heard of people having black bags under their eyes but never black bags over their faces. I felt a bit shorted by their use of outlines and shrouded darkness for the zombies. There were very few action shots overall so I felt like the least that could be done was to give the zombies some interesting features. Maybe the idea was that the darkness and lack of clarity played into Yuki’s delusions and contrasted with our character’s cute and bright style, but I was not particularly impressed with that.
As the name suggests, we spend almost one hundred percent of our time at the girls’ school. While normally I would rip a boring setting like this apart like one of my dogs with a new stuffed animal, the show had one saving feature that really pulled me in: not everyone saw the world the same way. In a post society world, the glass of the school is broken, the halls are dirty, the students are roaming the grounds as undead residents of one of Japan’s last human strongholds, but Yuki sees everything unchanged. She still attends classes, she still talks to her teachers, and she still closes broken windows when she feels a draft. School Live does a fantastic job of making you forget that you are seeing the world through Yuki’s rose tinted glasses. Her warmth as a character relaxes you until the show suddenly forces you to confront reality, over and over again.
The theme of the shows seems to be the contrast between what we reality is and what we see… or in this case, hear. Where the world, in reality, is dark, broken, and dangerous, the music is bubbly, wandering, and gives some major Super Mario Bros. 1st world vibes. So while zombies roam the school yard we are too busy rocking out to xylophones and slide whistles to care one bit. I have no idea what kind of drums they used but I can only describe them as what sound I imagine a coconut shell makes if you were to hit it in a video game. The music feels exactly like what I would expect from a show about four girls living at school, you know, without all the zombies and societal collapse. That said, it doesn’t really add anything to the show. It continues the theme of the show but where is the interest? Where is the heightened emotion? This is what we need from the music and it never really got there. Yuki was so positive and carried so much of the illusion that the music just felt tacky when I noticed it.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||5||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||4||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||2||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
For the small percentage of people that loved school so much that they would want to live there, the premise of this show is a dream come true, until the zombie versions of your classmates are banging on the doors trying to infect you. School Live is an odd show in the sense that I found myself pretty indifferent to the characters and the animation, but completely hooked on the pacing and the mystery. I got invested in the girls (and Taromaru) not because they were incredibly deep or unique, but because the way we were presented the story and the girls explored the world was incredibly tense. Interested in a short almost-thriller with an air of mystery? School Live is for you.