[Series Review] School Live! – A Zombie Masterpiece

I think its fair to say that I watch quite a bit of Anime. Most of that however ends up falling to the waist side to only be brought up later with the phrase, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that”. But every once in a while a show comes around that I truly enjoy not only on an entertainment level, but on a more artistic and deeper level all together. A show comes along that I can find true meaning in and that I feel that can spark real discussions as opposed to the usual “best girl” or “shit/not shit” comments that plague every anime forum. Don’t let its cute girls and colorful art style fool you, School Live! is such a show that breaks that mundane mold to entertain and inspire.

Yeah Yeah it’s a Zombie Show… Boooring

I think its hard to for someone in the current pop culture loop to get excited about zombies anymore. The markets been too over saturated with zombie content for too long and its starting to get boring and predictable. Even so that doesn’t mean that there can’t be fresh stories that deal with zombies in new and creative ways. It’s just hard.

School Live! is able to break the zombie monotony the same way that “The Walking Dead” was able to  climb to the top of everyone’s weekly twitter feed. By having the zombies take a backseat to whats going on with the characters, it gives us something relatable to care about. With fleshed out characters we now have something that can ground the context of the show and have it relate to ourselves. So even while we aren’t being literally attacked by zombies like the characters in the story, we can still feel their struggles as they deal with there zombie infested world. This is where the strength of School Live! shines most bright and marks it as my favorite zombie anything.

Characters that Make me Feel

School Live! makes it’s big reveal at the end of episode one. Where high school senior, Yuki Takeya, is revealed to be in a serious case of denial about the state of the school she and her friends now live in. To her its business as usual and she goes about her daily school life zombie free. In reality, her and her three classmates are held up in the school trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.

To be fair I haven’t seen all of the zombie content there is, but I’m pretty sure this has to be the only zombie story to deal with this sort of trauma. Yuki’s situation sets a tone for the show that is forever looming not only her but the other characters as well. Sure it may be easy to ridicule Yuki for not being able to face reality and come to terms with her situation. This however is the most relatable character if you think about it. Every one of us has had those moments in life where we were shaken to the core and it takes us a while to get back on track. Not always do we get back up right away either. In fact there may be times where we revert back to a previous self to try to protect ourselves from facing something like that ever again. Yuki isn’t weak, she just needs time to deal with the trauma she’s had.

It’s not like she is just some crybaby curled up into a ball either. Having her be in her disillusioned fantasy world helps bring light to some of the darkest parts of the show. She inspires the other girls to stay strong with her uppity attitude and is always there trying her best for her friends. The fact that she is disillusioned almost helps the situation they are in if you think about how the other characters react to her carefree antics.

Yuki isn’t the only character who has a great amount of depth to them that helps sell this cute girls vs. zombies scenario. The whole cast is very relatable and charming. Their conflicting chemistry with one another is great to watch as well, and it really shows just how close these girls have been forced to become given their dire circumstances. Their closeness and relationships with each other is what drives the show, so its redundant to keep saying that it’s great, but it is.

Symbolism of Zombies

While I wouldn’t consider School Live! a horror show I think that its core message is delivered a lot like a horror story. And I’m not talking about horror movies like “Saw” or “Human Centipede”. I’m talking about classic horror films (honestly though I’ve probably seen more of the former). In School Live!, like most horror works, the main threat is an allegory for something else that the characters are facing internally.

In School Live! the zombies represent the inevitability of change and the fact that every one needs to move on with their life even though it seems scary. Sure a plot that’s been tackled before, but still interesting none the less. This running theme throughout the show gives the shows school setting justification because it’s what they ultimately need to move on from. They all know they can’t stay in the school forever because the zombies will get in, but they try to avoid the fact with wacky antics all the while avoiding the problem. This is what made the show feel so real to me because I’ve had that same mindset on countless things in my life as well. It’s message is timeless because until we die there will be things that we have to face that may seem foreign and scary, but we must do them or else we won’t be able to move on, in turn dying in a sense. Even if their circumstances are a little more extreme, Yuki and her friends have to come to terms with graduating, even if that means making decisions that they won’t know the outcome of.

One other equally strong message in the show is coming to terms with loss and mistakes that you have made in the past. To be fair this message plays in a lot with the first message but at the same time holds weight on its own. The girls are constantly regretting things that have happened and can’t seem to get over them. They blame themselves as “could have” “would have” thoughts start to plague their mind, and this ultimately holds them back from moving forward. Its only when they come to terms with the things that have happened and the things that are happening, that they are able to move forward. Personally I think that one of the best things a show that is trying to have depth can do is have overlapping themes, so its fair to say that this hit a major button with me. And I think that it will with most people.

Annoying Zombie and Cute Girl Stuff

While School Live! is as close to a masterpiece as a show like this can be, it still has some stupid things that if dwelled on can ruin parts of the show. One of these things is the fact that the level of danger that the characters are feeling and the show is portraying aren’t always consistent. Sometimes the music and scene composition are trying to make a moment really intense, but when I see a bunch of girls with only one having a weapon and prepared to kill a zombie, it sort of confuses me on how I should be feeling. I’m not expecting that all these girls have sawed off shotguns or anything, but Jesus, you would think you would be prepared to be attacked by zombies when they are literally surrounding your school. Maybe they are overly confident in their barricades but it just seems dumb to me. Most of these scenes are caused by Yuki’s carefree whims in her seemingly zombie free world that everyone is trying to go along with. But it would have been nice to have more scenes where everyone else is nervously trying to stay cautious while wearing a happy-go-lucky face for Yuki.

Another thing is that whenever a character is trying to get away from a zombie, it always seems like the zombie should have got them. Theres a scene where a girl is standing on a piano and its surrounded by zombies that could easily reach up and grab her. But they don’t, instead she just tip toes around until someone comes and distracts the zombies. This happens a few times and I kinda roll my eyes every time. I get that they are trying to make it as tense as possible but don’t put the zombies hand right next to her face, if you do that I expect that person to die. They try to get the zombies so close to make it feel intense but every time it just looks like the zombies are too stupid to just grab them. You can have close calls but there’s a point where you have to say, “yeah there really isn’t any logical way for them to get out of this”. That’s when you know you have to pull back on the reins if you intend for this person to survive this encounter.

So Yeah Best Zombie Thing

I think its safe to say that this show did a whole lot of things right. Those things just so happen to fit perfectly in with my tastes, which is why I enjoyed it so much. With that said, I can easily see how someone can take this show and not relate to its meaning as deeply as I did. But even if you didn’t enjoy the execution as much as I did, it’s still a show that can spark a conversation about bigger and important things, and that’s a sign of true art. Which is exactly what School Live! is.

Logan Peterson
Logan Peterson
My names Logan and I love writing about Anime. Other art is guchi too. When I'm not writing gonzo reviews I'm writing books. *If interested look up The Dream Sequence on Amazon.* I usually write more editorial stuff than just plain reviews. I like my writing to be more big picture. I feel consumer reviews are a thing of the past and more personal reviews are the most valuable nowadays.