School Live! is a cute and bright school-centric slice-of-life anime from 2015. After four cute high school girls and their little dog, most of the first episode would lead viewers to believe that the series is as wholesome as it looks. . However, in reality, School Live! is so much more than that, tackling a variety of dark themes in a series that deserves far more attention and analysis. The show not only simulates the viewer in the first episode, but also features heavy subject matter, an unreliable narrator, and some good re-watching factors.
The start of School Live! lulls the viewer into a false sense of security that the show is just another mundane series of moe blob. The series appears bright and colorful, with an adorable upbeat opening song. The plot follows the main character Yuki Takeya and his three friends – Miki, Yuuri and Kurumi – as well as their dog Taroumaru, who are all part of the “school life club”. They explain that it is a club where the main objective is to be completely independent and to live full time on the school grounds.
The show begins fairly normally, following Yuki as she walks towards the class, but as the episode continues and the viewer begins to meet Miki, things seem a little stranger. Miki is confused at Yuki and disrespectful of classes, which confuses Yuki. Then, at the end of the first episode, it’s finally revealed that there are no other classmates – at least, not alive. It turns out that the four girls are living in a zombie apocalypse, and Yuki, the main point-of-view character, has no idea what’s going on.
This zombie apocalypse setting creates many dark themes for the series to dive into. In a zombie apocalypse, mortality and morality are often questioned, and School Live! is no stranger to these types of themes. Kurumi’s character in particular often deals with these kinds of issues, as she is the one who protects the group with her trusty “shovel-kun” and is the only one in the group who fights and “kills” the zombies. She then bears the brunt of the psychological damage of surviving in a zombie apocalypse.
The show has a very interesting take on what zombies are. Although they wander aimlessly, there is a pattern to their wanderings: they stay where they would go in their lifetime. Thus, students come to the playground but usually leave the field at the end of school. It makes the zombies feel a bit more human, so much so that if Kurumi sees the real faces of those zombies – those of real students she may have known – she can’t bear to kill them and blocks the faces in her spirit, as shown to the viewer.
Kurumi isn’t the only one having trouble. Yuki, the unreliable narrator herself, continues to think that nothing bad is happening throughout the series; she believes she is going to school as usual and she is constantly guided by her favorite teacher Megu-nee. Megu-nee is still with Yuki as the teacher who runs the school life club, but she only interacts with Yuki. The new girl, Miki, is the voice of reason in the series, showing the viewer what’s really going on.
Miki is the only one of the group to wonder if lying to keep Yuki happy is the best idea, as well as the person to give the biggest reveal of the series: Megu-nee isn’t real and is just in Yuki’s head. , because the real Megu-nee is dead. It brings a whole other layer to the show – Kurumi and Yuuri have suffered from the knowledge of their beloved teacher’s death while having to maintain the ruse that she’s alive for their friend’s mental well-being.
This revelation gives the series some viewing opportunity, as the viewer can see the show in a new light, watching it again after discovering that Megu-nee is dead. The viewer can better understand Yuki and how her psyche works – how her brain protects her from psychological trauma. Megu-nee is used as a guardian figure for Yuki who encourages and protects her, but since it’s all in her head, it’s Yuki who protects herself.
There’s a tense scene in Episode 2 where the girls take a “test of courage” to get more supplies at night and encounter a zombie. Yuki is accidentally separated from the group, and Megu-nee comforts her and tells her not to look – help is coming. Rewatching this scene, viewers can see that this act of Megu-nee comforting Yuki is an act of Yuki’s brain calming down. This is just one of many scenes that can be interpreted differently upon rewatching the series.
Not only do the girls grow throughout the anime, but it’s also almost as if the viewer grows with them. School Live! is a complex series with deep characters, and it only gets better as audiences consider the implications of what’s going on. With its fake foreplay, complex characters and unreliable narrator, the series creates fun re-watchability and is top notch to look back on – a cute anime that should stand the test of time.