*Note due to the nature of reviews I am required to talk about the story for a little bit to get any points across. School-Live has a major twist near the end of the first episode that is much better experienced first hand. If you do not know what it is I’d suggest watching the show for a bit then coming back. The first 4 episodes will be what I cover that could be spoiled but you should be fine with only episode 1.
Every anime season has that one surprise. This was mine. I went in knowing the fan title of “Moe-Zombie Apocalypse” which was obviously an attention grabber. That still didn’t prepare me for what was probably the biggest feels trip of the season (or in any anime I’ve watched in a long time) but I’ll get into that later. I guess we’ll get into the review to avoid talking too much in the intro!
The story starts with a young energetic girl named Yuki Takeya waking up in a classroom and doing an internal monologue about how much she loves school and how interesting everything is. We learn she is a member of the “Live at School Club” along with the leader Yuri Wakasa, resident shovel enthusiast Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the mature kouhai Miki Naoki, the supervising teacher Megumi “Megu-nee” Sakura and their pet dog Taroumaru. The only real activities of this club are done at night and before school as we see Yuri and Kurumi helping the Gardening Club. Anyway Yuki heads to class before Miki bursts in to tell her Taroumaru has escaped and is running around the school. Yuki and Miki set off on a chase before he makes it to the roof where the Gardening Club is working and we see how Yuri, while nice, is able to intimidate others fairly easy. Yuki realizes she forgot her backpack in the class and heads back to get it and in probably the most brilliant set-up they could have done we see her talking with her friends, Miki shows up and we get a close up of her showing a few cracks on the wall, with a much darker colour scheme, cut to Yuki keep this new colour scheme, with a crack in the window behind her, Miki calls our to Yuki now showing all the windows have been smashed, Yuki turns around, smashed windows and ripped bloodstained curtains decorating her background and smiling asks Miki “what’s up?” camera panning showing turned over desks, blood everywhere and one of Yuki’s friends chokers ripped and stained on the desk she was supposedly sitting at. Every character not in the Live at School Club is dead and they are currently living in the school warding off from zombie attacks.
The characters are extremely well done. While I often find the energetic air head type like Yuki to be annoying she worked so well as the lead I couldn’t help feeling so sorry for her (even crying at points) when the anime focuses on her mental state (which it does quite a bit). You can see how strained the rest of the students in the club feel as the show goes on. There are points where they stop and have fun but then right away they’re back to the hell they’re unfortunately stuck in. Yuki holds the group together with her cheerfulness which is why Yuri and Kurumi refrain from telling Yuki what is truly happening. Speaking of the others Yuri is the mature older sister type character that puts others before herself which puts her in a very difficult position later. Kurumi Ebisuzawa is the sporty girl who often overestimates her abilities but is doing it to try and protect her friends due to an event that happened when this first started and Miki Naoki is a more serious thinking character that is worried she’ll lose everyone but not sure how to deal with it. Megu-nee is an airhead like Yuki but more mature and understands the problem and Taroumaru is a dog. A smart one that can open doors but still a dog.
Something done very well is foreshadowing. I’ve watched the first episode 3 or 4 times now and I keep noticing new details for events that don’t happen until episode 12. You become conditioned to be looking for these tiny clues which leads to probably my biggest (and only real) issue with the show. In the manga Miki and Taroumaru aren’t supposed to be introduced until the events that take place in episode 4. These events still take place which now makes it feel really weird as it introduces it as a flashback but never does a “now we’re back in the present” thing. As I mentioned earlier we’ve been conditioned to be looking out for the smallest details (I still missed so many) and such a glaring flaw really stands out.
These are great. As I mentioned in story the sudden shift from bright and cheery when in Yuki’s imagination to dark and depressing works so well. There are also so many visual cues for future events. I also like how the zombies have these black clouds around them. This was probably done as they wanted a lower rating and zombies without ripped flesh or organs hanging out isn’t realistic but I felt it worked well with Yuki pretending they aren’t there for us to not actually properly see them.
The character designs are also pretty good. All the characters have that moe vibe we’re used to from shows like K-On! and their faces are incredibly expressive. There were some weird fanservice bits though. I say weird as whenever characters fall down their legs are in the way of a panty shot yet we have a scene with Yuki running around in a bra and skirt for a few minutes and a few shower scenes. Miki also wears lingerie which is not only weird for a second year high school student but for the situation she’s in.
The music is all great. The ending song changes along with the mood of that episode, the opening has foreshadowing hidden in it if you find translated lyrics, the background music is even great. The character voices are also really good. Ari Ozawa is Kurumi so there’s that! The rest all fit the vibe the character needs to be giving off. As you probably guessed there are a lot of high level emotions and the actors all pull these off perfectly. When a character is stressed the actor sounds stressed. Same with anger, sadness, hopefulness, etc. Yuki’s actress Inori Minase was probably a standout purely based on how she portrays Yuki in the last two episodes.