SCHOOL-LIVE! – Anime Review
Synopsis: Yuki is the most energetic member of the School Living Club, a club that’s so dedicated to the school that they live in it! However, the club’s true nature holds a dark secret. (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Significant 1st Episode Spoilers to Follow):
(School-Live!’s first episode hinges upon surprising you with an end of episode twist and thus if you’d like to remain surprised, do not continue reading.)
Linny: Zombies vs School Kids anime are a dime a dozen but School-Live! manages to stand out by having an all moe-sized cast and focusing on drama and emotions rather than zombie slaying. Not that there isn’t any zombie slaying, but the show makes it clear that it’s all about the girls trying to survive and lead a “normal” life in their apocalyptic environment. Unless you’re new to anime or the horror genre, you may have already had this show spoiled for you, which is a shame as going into the show blind really highlights how it starts off strong with its uncommon storytelling style and approach to life in a zombie laden world.
Tom: School-Live! forces the viewer to sit through an overly sappy opening that has the extreme danger of turning many viewers away, but once that zombie apocalypse reveal hits it more than makes up for all the slogging required. The mysteries and surprises don’t stop there. School-Live! continues to pepper clues throughout every episode, which eventually build to another show changing reveal. It’s quite well done and while some viewers, like myself, may notice the clues and predict the reveal early on, others will find themselves caught off guard and suitably impressed. It’s a unique take on the zombie genre, peppering in hefty amounts of moe, girlish anime adorableness, in-between the stark contrast of the broken zombiefied world.
Linny: The show manages to mix thrilling scenes and emotional ones well, offering a story that still gives off an apocalyptic vibe while making it cute and touching. Fans of the manga who are curious about picking up the show should know that the anime decides to do a lot different. Several incidents are rearranged and even changed completely. So, it would be best to view the show as almost independent from the source material. For people who don’t mind huge digressions from source material and want more moe than the manga offers, the show is definitely the way to go.
Tom: In some ways the anime is an improvement over the manga. Characters introduced after the manga’s opening chapter are integrated far better into the story. The dog, Taroumaru, is actually a sizable character in the anime, where as in the manga he’s all but a brief side story. Because of this greater integration and character building, the anime possesses far stronger character development and pay off. Characters actually feel like they’ve grown from beginning to end, where as the manga doesn’t possess quite that level of growth for its main cast. That said, the manga does continue far past the anime. All praise aside, School-Live! is anything but perfect, butchering aspects of the manga in favor of doubling down on the moe angle as Linny mentioned above.
Linny: The emphasis on moe acts as a double edged sword for the show’s likability. While it guarantees the influx of moe fans, it also raises the likelihood of turning off fans who enjoyed the manga and anyone else who wanted solid and constant action, fighting or just a more consistently dark atmosphere. The amount of airtime focused on the girls bonding and doing silly, cute things highly outweighs the gore and action. For example, there is an entire episode dedicated to the girls washing out a huge water tank/swimming pool atop the school roof and then playing in it. Basically the ‘beach’ or swimsuit episode of the series, as is so common in moe anime. Hence, if you are a fan of the manga like me and liked the fast paced story, there’s a good chance the show will feel extremely slow and boring. And for purists who like adaptations to be extremely faithful, this show will make you see red.
Tom: There’s exceedingly poor execution between balancing the moe and zombie elements. Episodes should be half and half, featuring aspects of both styles and tones, but there’s at least two episodes wholly devoted to the moe, and conversely the final two episodes focus almost exclusively on the darker zombie plotline. There needed to be balance and there simply isn’t. The finale isn’t aided by questionable choices towards concluding the Taroumaru plot line. Ultimately School-Live remains without a second season, meaning teases in the final episode ultimately mean nothing, and since the story diverges enough with the manga, it can hardly be called a “go read the manga” ending, as audiences are almost better rereading the manga from page 1. Critical world building events are missing in the anime, making the connection between the two stretched at best for anyone seeking a continuation.
Linny: The reveal in the final episode of School Live! just pops up out of nowhere, and has no buildup, clearly nothing more than a bid for a second season making it feel cheap and desperate and only adds to the issues plaguing the anime. With the minimal buildup and randomness of it, it just falls flat and feels like a lazy shoo-in, rather than a genuinely gripping revelation. The mix of moe and zombies gives this show a unique edge, one that could pull in fans for its different approach to the zombie sub-genre not only with its cast but with its decision to prioritize emotional content over zombie slaying action. It does however demand some partiality towards moe characters as there’s quite a high amount of ‘cute’ moments that will feel out of place for more hardcore horror fans and those averse to moe characters and content.
Tom: School-Live showed a lot of promise, but often fails to deliver. It’s a shame, and while there’s still a lot to enjoy, the truth of the matter is the manga will always be what I recommend between the two versions, even if the anime has certain strengths over the source material. However, if you’re dead set on watching the anime over the manga, know that it’s not the greatest way to experience School-Live’s narrative, but remains a decent good source of entertainment none the less, even counting all its flaws over its 12 episode run.