This is actually a year old post that’s been re-dated. Back in January 2019, I held a poll asking visitors of the blog to pick from four non-seasonal anime for me to cover in episode reviews. School-Live! ended up being the winner. Much to my embarrassment and chagrin however, I struggled with finding the time for the show and I was extremely infrequent with getting the next post up. The past few months, I’ve thought long and hard on what to do with this project. In the end, I decided that I still want to keep my end of the bargain and so, I’m reviving this series of posts. The first four episode reviews will be the same ones, just re-dated and slightly re-edited, but after that, it’ll be entirely new writings. I also still haven’t finished the show so for all intents and purposes, this series is still going to be a blind run.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts of School-Live‘s first episode.
Out of all the shows I listed in the poll, School-Live! was the one I knew the least about. It was an honest shot in the dark. Really, I added it in the poll because it seemed to be very popular and the one key visual I saw had cute girls in it…yes, I really am that simple sometimes. So when School-Live! won the poll, I was curious as to why it did and with a pretty staggering lead too with 43% of the votes.
Now that I’ve seen Episode 1, I see why people voted for it.
For a while, I really did assume School-Live! was your typical CGDCT anime. The main character, Yuki Takeya (Inori Minase), is a girl so obsessed with school that she actually lives at hers. She’s even a part of the “School Living Club”, a group dedicated to making the most of their time in school. What a silly premise but one that does brim with potential charm. I can easily imagine a production committee fawning over it, greenlight the anime adaptation, and spawn merchandise for it.
The characters introduced so far also supported my preconception. A number of them seem very archetypal. Yuki is the energetic one, Miki (Rie Takahashi) is calm and quiet, Kurumi (Ai Ozawa) has a bit of a spunky attitude, and Yuuri (M.A.O.) is the confident leader. There are some oddities here and there but I honestly first thought they were just quirks to boost the moe. Why does Kurumi carry around a shovel? I assumed it’s just some weird hobby she enjoys. Someone in the audience will surely find it cute and use it as evidence for when they title her Best Girl. Why does the School Living Club have Taromaru, a dog running around school grounds? Look, it’s a dog. Why not throw one in your CGDCT anime? Everything from his surprising ability to open doors to him disliking Miki for no apparent reason just writes itself.
At the same time though, I did find myself unable to shrug off this feeling that something is rather off with School-Live!. When the really upbeat OP began, I was perplexed to learn that the School Living Club’s sign is actually just the name written on a piece of paper, taped on the Student Council’s. That seemed odd, more so once the show implies that there is no Student Council to be found anywhere. After that, you’re presented with a drawing of the club with the words “We’re Fine” written on it. I thought maybe that’s just Yuki writing about how much she loves school life but the exact wording bugged me throughout my time watching the episode.
And within the actual episode itself, there were some very choice shots scattered throughout. One shot where Yuki walks across the hall in search of Taromaru (the club’s dog) reveals the windows are actually shattered. Another presents a wall of desks seemingly blocking a hallway and neither Yuki nor Miki were alarmed by its presence. And every once in a while, I just get the impression that all of Yuki’s friends secretly know something. They’ll look far more serious than a happy go lucky school club ought to be. For example, Yuuri visibly expresses concern when Yuki mentions that she almost went home last night. This episode doesn’t linger too much on these moments, distracting you with an admittedly fun chase between the girls and Taromaru, but that these moments happen at all gives cause for suspicion.
Which finally brings me to the ending.
I expected a big twist but goodness, I wasn’t prepared for it to be so damn dark. Turns out that this whole time, the School Living Club are survivors of a zombie apocalypse and Yuki’s perception of happiness and fun is all in her head, a mental retreat from what’s actually happening. It’s a reveal that really puts the events I just witnessed in a different light. Yuki living in school isn’t so quirky anymore when you realize the building is a safe haven and Yuki convinced herself that it’s her dream come true as part of her ability to cope. All of her classmates, even the ones who have character designs, are hallucinations and Yuki is actually talking to herself. While Miki enlisting Yuki’s help to chase after Taromaru is arguably still charming, one can infer that Miki was making sure her friends are in sight. The harsh reality is that Yuki could end up getting herself killed by zombies if she’s entirely left to her own devices. Overall, it’s a pretty depressing turn of events but it did catch my attention and even made me retroactively appreciate the whole episode more.
Given that School-Live! won the poll, I was going to sit through it all regardless if I had liked it or not. I’m glad though that this show has quickly proven to be far more interesting than it first seemed. When I started the first episode, I was honestly stumped as to why something so seemingly innocuous garnered the lead in the poll. Now, I see that was the point — a bait and switch in the same vein as Madoka to hook in the uninformed. And at least for me, it works. Now that School-Live! has revealed its true colors, I’m intrigued to see more.
OP: “Friend Shitai” by Gakuen Seikatsubu
This OP lied to me!
ED: “Harmonize Clover” by Maon Kurosaki
At least this is a little more honest.
Thanks for reading!
This post was originally published on February 27, 2019