It’s time for the sixth and final first impressions post of the summer anime season (covering episodes 1-3), and I’m going to end things with a title I originally had no intention of watching: School-Live! AKA Gakkou Gurashi! In which four girls and their teacher have cute club activities at an everyday school.
I gave this a shot because some folks online suggested it, and they specifically requested I watch it “blind” (i.e. not look up anything about the show beforehand). I’m going to go ahead and suggest that to all of you too! Suffice to say there is more to this anime than there first appears, and your experience with the pilot episode will be more interesting if you go into it without knowing which direction the plot advances. (Yes… despite how it looks, there is a plot for this one.)
You can watch the first episode here for free on Crunchyroll right now, if you wish to heed my advice. Otherwise… spoilers!
The series starts by introducing the curiously-named “school living club,” in which four girls engage in the generic slice-of-life banter you’ll find in the likes of K-On and Tamayura. Not enough humor to be considered a comedy (like the bizarre classic Azumanga Daioh), and none of it mellow enough for me to consider it iyashikei (like the Aria franchise). For most of the first episode, I wasn’t quite sure why I was being suggested this series.
Fortunately, there were little “mystery” hints scattered about here and there–just enough to make me wonder if there was something a little… off about everything happening on-screen. What exactly is a “school living club,” for example? The girls eat a meal together before classes start. The viewpoint character leaves class when she feels like it (and suffers no consequences). A hallway is randomly blocked off by a tower of desks. And one of the girls is always carrying a shovel. What the hell is going on?
It’s the goddamn zombie apocalypse, that’s what. And amazingly, our mad protagonist has deluded herself into believing her everyday school life is still a thing. Only her interactions with the “school living club” are real, as everyone else is a mindless zombie lurking outside the school.
It’s actually… very interesting. The stark contrast between what we’re shown and actual reality makes for a very unique atmosphere. All this cutesy stuff is happening, but it’s all one big fat lie–very reminiscent of Higurashi: When They Cry, in that respect. This is very much a series that messes with you on a psychological level, rather than one that relies on a more conventional and in-your-face series of events. What makes it all so effective is not what is shown, so much as what is not shown. Suffice to say I’ve been increasingly impressed with this anime from one episode to the next, and I’m curious to see where things go from here.
Definitely give the show a try if you’re up for something that manages to mash bitter and sweet in one of the most unsettling (but intriguing) ways possible.