School Live! was a series I went into pretty much completely blind, not knowing much about it, just that it had some kind of unexpected twist. Even the packaging of the set only provides a high level description of the plot. As mentioned, I did know going in that there was a big plot twist and the show wasn’t all that it seemed. I’ve seen plenty of anime and films with plot twists in the past and they generally occur on the tail end of the series.
Not here! the big reveal happens at the end of episode one. Revealing that this isn’t a slice of life anime based on a group of eccentric schoolgirls living in inside their school. It’s a bloody zombie survival show centering around a Yuki Takeya, a girl with major PTSD and psychosis. She has lost her contact with reality and views the world as a happy, clean, functioning school when it is in fact a decrepit wasteland full of old students that have become zombified.
The overall plot of the series focuses on the daily struggle of survival for the members of the School Life Club. A group of 4 surviving girls and their guardian figure teacher that reside inside Megurigaoka Private High School in an attempt to survive the zombie outbreak and simultaneously play along with Yuki’s psychosis where she is convinced everything in the world is perfect and that they permanently stay inside the school because they are bonded together via this social living club arrangement with the school.
Along with Yuki there is the shovel-loving Kurumi Ebisuzawa, big-sister figure and club president Yuuri Wakasa, club advisor/school teacher Megumi Sakura and rounding out the group is Miki Naoki, an outsider that makes her way into the School life club throughout the course of the season. Oh and who could forget the super cute Shiba-Inu puppy Taromaru that acts as the club pet/mascot. Each of these characters have their own distinct personalities that you get to know quite well over the course of the 12 episodes. And with such a condensed cast of characters I felt like you got a decent amount of back story and time spent with each one individually to let you understand what kind of person each was.
I will praise School Live! for it’s ability to tell an interesting zombie story in a time where it seems pop culture is full of nothing but cookie cutter zombie shows capitalising on the success of The Walking Dead. I appreciated School Live! approaching it from a different angle and adding the unique twist of Yuki’s mental trauma in it’s storytelling. Allowing it to present 2 perspectives of the same story in a short period of time.
The main plot across the whole 12 episodes is just providing a short insight into the lives of these 5 characters, hanging out, going on supply runs, or as Yuki refers to them, group field trips and just surviving. It doesn’t really have some overarching story to tell but is more of a short diary from the girls. Because of it not working towards an overall goal that is established early on in the series like many anime, many of it’s episodes feel like what you would expect from filler episodes in a longer running anime trying to stretch out the plot.
School Live! over its 12 episodes has around 3-4 main plot points that twist the plot in interesting ways. For the most part these twists are great although as mentioned, the 3 or so episodes between each of the twists occasionally feel like unneeded filler and could have plenty of its content cut or condensed down to keep the pacing of the series on track a little more.
There are also times where if you pay enough attention, you will see where the show is heading due to unnecessary hints they drop in the script which lessened the impact of the twist they were heading towards because I predicted it 2 episodes prior due to unneeded dialogue they threw in. Saying that, there are still some incredibly impactful moments throughout that I genuinely didn’t see coming and am still dealing with.
The conclusion to the School Live! set is quite bittersweet. It ends on a high note for the group, but not before taking you on an emotional roller coaster during it’s final arc. The show could definitely use another season to flesh out the characters and world a little more and provide a more definite ending point. Not saying that the ending we got is unsatisfying if there wasn’t to be another season. It just left things very open to interpretation and there could easily be further stories told with the School Life Club members. The manga is still on going, and that seems to be the only way right now to enjoy more time with Yuki and the gang, but we can still hold out hope for another anime series can’t we?
Overall School Live! is an interestingly unique take on the zombie genre with a good dose of slice of life thrown into the mix. The pacing is inconsistent at times making some of the episodes feel like filler between plot points, but it does have plenty of twists and emotional turns throughout it’s short 12 episode run to make it worth a watch. It’s not a show I will go back to for occasional repeat viewings but after watching, I am interested in reading some of the manga volumes to experience more adventures with the School Life Club.
The Madman home release of School Live! contains both the original Japanese and the Sentai Filmworks English dub tracks. The only special features included in the set are clean opening and closing animations, which is a bit unfortunate but is all I expect from Sentai releases these days.
A blu-ray review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment for the purposes of this review.
All images ©Nitroplus / Norimitsu Kaihou, Sadoru Chiba, Houbunsha / Gakkougurashi Production Committee.