This article contains spoilers for the game School-Live! anime.
Have you ever played Doki Doki Literature Club? If so, do you remember the genre change in the middle of the game? Now imagine if the anime followed a similar formula, but with zombies. That’s what School-Live is. The anime was released back in 2015 and became a byword after the first episode aired, but since then it has been forgotten about. But was it worth it to be thrown on the sidelines?
School-Live is an anime about four overly cute girls who survive in everyday life at their school. Literally. In fact, Yuki is completely delusional and hallucinates an ordinary life with her and her friends. Meanwhile, her friends living in reality are just trying to keep each other alive in their old school, which was almost destroyed during the ongoing zombie apocalypse. Most of the anime takes place in Yuki’s illusions, occasionally flashing into their deadly reality. But what does anime have to offer besides the infamous plot twist in the first episode?
Anime is a unique experience
The first episode alone is one of the most unique anime episodes ever. It starts as a bright and fun introduction to your typical anime from life and waits to reveal the true intentions behind the anime until the last two minutes of the episode. What happened before the most stereotypical and cliched CGDCT anime episode turned into an atmospheric horror in a matter of seconds and played out just enough for you to understand what you are really getting into in School-Live.
At the same time, little is said after the first episode. This is unfortunate, because the anime organically combines the two worlds presented in the first episode. This is an equal amount of life illusions and the attractiveness of Yuki and the gloomy setting of the zombie apocalypse. The other girls at school, playing along with Yuki’s illusions, are a bridge between two worlds and are written very well. While some aspects of this may recur a bit as the series progresses, it still provides a unique atmosphere and a haunting story about friends rescuing a hallucinating Yuki from what the real world has become.
However, there is something more than a unique atmosphere
Where the plot lands and escapes from is also well done. Take, for example, the second episode; while exploring the remains of the school, the girls stumble upon a school supplies store. While the other girls use this as an opportunity to stock up on a temporary supply, Yuki takes the opportunity to buy as many candies as possible. During this zombie sneaks into the school. Megumi pulls Yuki away and silences her, closing her eyes so she can’t see how the other girls are dealing with the situation.
This scene not only shows how the girl defends Yuki’s delusions, but also shows that zombies can actually infiltrate the school. To make matters worse, it was possible to find the girls without them noticing until it was too late. Now the girls need to figure out how to prevent more zombies from entering the school before they are captured.
The development of the girl’s characters in the series is also done well. Returning to the second episode, Kurumi experiences events that remind her of her past, especially someone she was in love with before the apocalypse. In the third episode, it turns out that Megumi was the girl’s teacher, and this episode demonstrates the events before the apocalypse, when different girls from our main group recognized her as a new teacher on the day when zombies began to appear. This episode is especially important for establishing one thing; Megumi’s desire to be loved by the students. In particular, the story begins to establish each of the reasons why the girls indulged Yuki’s delusions, as well as explain their manners and how they react to the apocalypse in our time.
The infamous plot twist Isn’t the Only Shocker
Although some people in online anime spaces are criticized for being a one-trick pony, this is only said by those who have not completed a short series of one season. In fact, some of the paragraphs above were meant to be deliberately misleading to avoid revealing spoilers that appear in later episodes. The plot twist in the first episode is far from the most shocking and definitely not as emotional as the later twists.
School-Live may seem like a shocking horror mixed with a slice of life, but it’s much more. This is a story about a complex and confusing friendship structure built on the support of one of the participant’s misconceptions, about escaping from a zombie-infested world that the girls would like to have themselves. The story immerses us in the unique and painful world of these young heroines trying to preserve the innocence of their friend, protecting her from the apocalypse, which she does not suspect.