Yuri Wakasa, Kurumi Ebisuzawa, Miki Naoki, and Yuki Takeya are the members of the "School Living Club", which is all about living at their school, of course- because they've got no choice. The question is, how long can they stay safe and maintain the status quo?
The idea that Japanese schoolgirls can overcome ANYTHING, including supernatural monsters, may have transcended Japanese pop culture- and if you doubt me, check out the U.S. film Cabin In The Woods. School-Live! tries to combine kawaii and horror with, I feel, mixed results- my main problem is with the character who's the most obvious attempt at kawaii- but the other characters are wonderful, and this show often demonstrates an intelligence, and a consideration of nuance, well beyond what you'd expect in a zombie show; some of these girls are actually pretty sharp.
The leader of our "School Living Club" (which is physically confined inside barricades of stacked desks) is Yuuri Wakasa; she's also the bustiest, as will be made plain in the obligatory swimsuit episode. She's a peacemaker who manages by persuasion, but hesitates at making certain hard-hearted "practical" decisions. (This is also true for Kurumi, who we'll meet next; their vacillation will, at various times, prove to be both a curse and a blessing.) I didn't warm that much to Yuuri, maybe because we get less of her background than with the other girls.
Kurumi Ebisuzawa was my personal favorite. As far as what we're shown, she's the only one of the girls who had an actual romantic interest before the zombie plague spoiled it. (Zombie plagues spoil EVERYTHING.) Kurumi is the only actual warrior in the group; her weapon of choice is a shovel. (They all tell the delusional Yuki that she's carrying it just for gardening.) She's "point" in all their journeys, and scouts beyond the barricades, a very dangerous business you might think, and you'd be right.
Miki Naoki was my next-favorite; she's a brooding, reserved girl who was not part of the original group- they found her in a shopping mall. It's been pointed out that she dithers a rather long time in a situation where one of the other girls is in imminent peril, but in her defense, her mall experience taught her that hiding was the key to survival, a traumatic lesson that it might be hard to unlearn. (In flashbacks, we get Miki's story, and the insert song here, a piano-based romantic ballad called "We Took Each Other's Hand", is an absolutely perfect complement to the story, tempering Miki's tale of melancholy and despair with a wistful sweetness.)
The remaining girl, Yuki Takeya, was... not one of my favorites. The one who the show most clearly plays for Kawaii, she basically snapped after a beloved young teacher fell to the zombies, and started living in a fantasy world where the teacher, and all her classmates, are all still alive. Yuuri has not tried to dissuade her of her version of reality, since she's still cheerful (and that raises everyone else's spirits as well), but I'm with Miki on this- as she is, she's a hazard to herself AND the others. Most of the show's maudlin sentimentality attaches to her - and there's a surfeit of that, alas- though to give her her due (and to also be a little snarky), sometimes it's a good thing that no one wants to hang around for long-winded speeches.
I said the show explores areas zombie shows usually don't. Here are a few:
-Normally zombies don't seem to retain memories of their former lives; maybe here they do.
-The possibility is explored that animals might be transformed by the "zombie virus" as well. (I DID see this idea used, just a little, in the Korean live-action film Train to Busan, but HERE it's integral to the plot rather than just an excuse for a startling visual.)
-The girls realize there's something peculiar about their school- it seems suspiciously well-prepared for disaster- and their explorations of this situation prove critical to their survival.
The opening theme song also goes for kawaii- it's perky and "cute"- but honestly the show is more interesting to me when it's going less for the kawaii/horror contrast and more for such issues as what people will (and will NOT) do in extremis. The personalities of the girls are well-developed, and mostly pretty endearing. There's also a hint that a character who's supposedly completely imaginary is somehow nevertheless helping out, which was intriguing. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mild fanservice (swimsuits), but tense (and later unnerving) zombie attacks and violence. Right Stuf rates this for 14+. I'm OK with that.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
School Live! © 2015 Lerche
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