Before we take a deep dive into my School Live(Blu Ray Info) Review, hear me out: if you haven’t watched the first episode, do so before reading this. The events that occur in that first episode largely shape how I feel about the show. As such, I feel not knowing the premise beforehand is part of the fun.
That’s my warning. Take it or leave it.
I assume you’ve watched it and/or don’t care at this point? Okay. Great. So what the hell!? The curve-ball to end all curve-balls. Four young girls holed up in a school against a zombie outbreak for the sake of one that’s clearly traumatised. Yuki, Kurumi, Miki and Yuri are living day to day as if everything’s normal. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
But purchase decisions should first and foremost be informed by the contents of the product. As such, in our usual fashion, here they are:
School Live Blu-ray Contents
- Episodes 1 – 9
- Japanese or English audio
- Episodes 10 – 12
- Japanese or English audio
- Special Features: clean opening, clean closing credits, “More from Sentai” highlights.
School Live is a very good show, but I find myself conflicted. Its character work is excellent. I really felt for the four (sometimes five) girls and their dog; Taromaru. Learning about how they came together and the events they’d suffered in the process grounded them in this fantastical setting. That said, the plot itself jumps around in time a fair bit. It can be jarring. I also feel as if the writers (of the manga) cop out on an emotional plot point by the end of the show. That said, the journey is an enjoyable one, even if it’s not the best I’ve ever seen.
In a nutshell, School Live focuses on the daily lives of four survivors of a zombie-like outbreak. Yuki is the cheerful optimist. Kurumi is the tough, shovel-wielding muscle of the group. Miki is the straight-laced realist to Yuki’s crazy antics. Finally, Yuri is the mother-like figure to them all. All of them attend the same school; Megurigaoka High. In truth, Yuki has suppressed her recollection of the outbreak and is suffering delusions of grandeur, believing that her life is the same as it has always been. The rest of the group know of the zombie outbreak, barricade themselves on the third floor and do their best to protect Yuki in the process.
School Live has a unique premise and a great cast of characters. I just don’t think it stuck the landing with the emotional pay-off it seemed to be building towards. It telegraphs a little too much about where it’s heading early on. But I still feel it’s worthy of your time. With twelve episodes total at twenty-three minutes (approximately) per episode, it’s hardly a huge investment to make.
Animation (by Lerche)
School Live’s animation is well done as a whole, but it has some stand-out moments and some pitfalls too. For the most part it’s your typical anime style as expected. However, the way they depict the violence of the world without leaning in to a gore-fest is impressive. There’s no escaping the massive smears of blood in a zombie apocalypse, of course, but the dark shading of the zombies themselves and the way the scene frames with a film grain-like effect whenever they appear sets a sudden, effective shift in tone. Especially when we spend a lot of our time in the bright and cheerful delusion of Yuki, equipped with bright, colourful school backgrounds and bikini water fights.
Another positive point is in the handling of a field trip episode. In the moment where Kurumi has to drive a car out of the school grounds, the animation of the swerves and subsequent escape is just superb. It’s brief but commendable. I really appreciated it.
On the downside, there’s a brief over-reliance early in the show with story-board style moments. It’s clearly depicting comedic events in a way they found funny, but it simply didn’t land with me. I’m not sure why that stuck with me, but it’s a minor gripe that hasn’t left my mind since.
Aside from its tendency to jump through time at unexpected points, I feel the writing of the show is pretty great. The interactions between the characters are believable and the world-building of this zombie apocalypse is convincing. They don’t try to over-explain it, but they also don’t leave the question itself hanging.
The tension of their reality is counter-balanced by Yuki’s suppression of her trauma and that gives the other girls the enthusiasm to carry on. The progress of Yuki’s plot is paramount, but it impacts everything around her and the other girls have a heavy investment in this school too. It’s hard to say too much without ruining the show entirely, but I was satisfied with the way the show delivered its narrative. Even if I didn’t fully gel with how it finished.
Characters and Performances.
If there’s a true highlight in this show, it’s the convincing character work and performance of the English dub cast.
Brttney Karbowski does a great job of delivering Yuki’s mental state throughout the show. As the cornerstone of the narrative, it’s important for Yuki to be convincing as a character. I feel Brittney managed that and then some, as Yuki runs the gauntlet of emotions. From hyperactive joy to crippling sadness depending on the events of the time. If she doesn’t deliver, the show doesn’t either, and thankfully both did. Yuki’s presence as a character is hugely important for the rest of the group too. In a world where the other three girls could easily resign themselves to their impending doom on this school’s third floor, Yuki’s delusion serves to lighten the mood and help them all enjoy their (School) life. The grim, over-arching narrative is lost in the rainbow that is Yuki’s suppression of her own trauma.
Kurumi, Miki and Yuri act as a strong supporting cast to Yuki’s progress over the show. Each with own dedicated roll and plausible path for how they came to be in their position. Kurumi’s lost love, Miki’s narrow escape and Yuri’s inheritance of responsibility. It’s all put together quite well to make these characters feel very real in a surreal environment.
Add to that the mischievous-yet-cute dog Taromaru and the mystery of Megumi, their kind-hearted teacher, and the show has a solid foundation of characters with a satisfying plot to follow. In fact, honestly, the more I write, the more I find myself appreciating the ending of the show.
Unfortunately there’s not much to say here. With a clean opening movie, clean closing credit feature and the standard trailer reel from Sentai, I found myself wanting more. After the excellent Umaru-chan extras, it’s hard to measure up in that department. Still, with such an endearing cast, a few animated shorts of cast interviews would have been pleasant to include.
School Live is an endearing journey through a young girl’s personal trauma. It’s a well-executed anime filled with solid English performances. The Japanese audio is there for those with that preference too. It’s a shame that the special features section is so barren. Still, despite some minor, personal gripes, I’d absolutely recommend School Live. Just prepare to get hit right in your feelings. Oh so many feelings.
About This Show
Anime Name: School-Live!
Review Format: Blu-ray
School Live Verdict
Animation - 8/10
Characters - 9/10
Writing - 7.5/10
Performances - 8/10
Special Features - 5/10