がっこうぐらし! (Gakkou Gurashi!)
CHIBA Satoru (art); KAIHOU Normitsu (Nitroplus) (story)
Seinen – Drama, mystery, psychological, horror, supernatural
3 Volumes (ongoing)
Yuki and her friends Kurumi and Yuuri (Ri-san) are a part of the School Living Club. With their teacher Megu-nee as their advisor, the girls spend their days — and nights — on school grounds doing everything from helping the gardening club to hosting school events. But there may be a darker reason why the girls do not go home…
Don’t let School-Live!‘s moe character designs fool you into thinking this is just another Lucky Star or K-On! There’s much more going on here.
I only started this series due to a sale. All I really knew about it was learned from the synopsis on the back, that a bunch of girls are survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Well, the first thing that surprised me was Yuki. You see, Yuki is currently ignorant of the current situation. To her, her life is normal: she goes to classes (and some after-school classes thanks to her grades), hangs out with friends, and assists other clubs. The only really unique part of her life is that she, her closest friends, and her favorite teacher are part of a club that lives at the school instead of going home.
If you jump into this manga blindly (which you are not likely going to now), the initial setup is likely to take you aback. Author Kaihou’s story sneakily hides the true state of the world until the very end of the first chapter. Yuki talks to students, and fellow club member Kurumi just seems to be in love with shovels. Then, surprise! Zombies. The fun school camping adventures suddenly have a sorrowful tinge to them. Kurumi’s obsession with shovels starts to make sense. Club rules become necessary. As for Yuki, for most of these volumes, it’s up to reader interpretation if she has supernatural powers or is hallucinating that she’s talking with her classmates.
Speaking of hallucinations, the manga dives a bit into about psychology. Unfortunately, the storywriter doesn’t seem to be relying on good information. Mental illness is serious, and School-Live! feels like they just went with a well-known rather than correct diagnosis. I can’t even chalk up the inaccuracies to fiction and media, as even they are at least a bit closer in accuracy. I love when a manga incorporates psychological aspects. In this case, it actually hurts my enjoyment of School-Live! I wish the author and/or editor had done more research and fact-checking.
Anyways, since Yuki is pretty much out of commission, Kurumi and Yuuri share the bulk of the responsibilities. Kurumi ends up the de facto warrior of the group. Armed with her shovel and a few distraction tools, Kurumi has to face the zombies that threaten the group. Yuuri, meanwhile, is in charge of making sure they have enough supplies. Megu-nee (short for Megumi I’m assuming, but I don’t remember if her name is revealed) is a source of inspiration for the girls. I can really feel how close they are to each other, and this bond is a key part of the manga.
The first two volumes of the series are just basically Yuki living happily while the others deal with their unfortunate situation. Another girl, Miki, is shown to be living alone, but she doesn’t really interact with the others until Volume 3. That’s when the story starts getting really good. As an outsider joining the group, she tries to shake up the status quo for the School Living Club. It’s an interesting dynamic: they’re all young and in a life-changing situation. No one is completely right or wrong, and there’s nobody around to tell them they’re right or wrong anyway.
I really like how Miki offers a different outlook from the others, but that’s not the only thing great about the third volume. Before this, zombies were just mostly around. They are just kind of like random monsters in RPGs that no one blinks twice at. However, events suddenly bring the zombies back into focus and even seems to be devoting more of the plot to them. This series is a horror series, and while I don’t want it to lose the friendships, I want to see more of the tragedies that have and are befalling the group. The dog flashbacks moves the series in an excellent direction by showcasing how emotionally draining the girls’ situation is while also providing a little more information about the epidemic. The end of the volume had me on the edge of my seat, as either outcome of the current crisis will like shake up the School Living Club even moreso than Miki’s arrival.
Chiba’s art falls on the cute side for the girls (obviously), but the zombies are a bit uninspired at this point. As the zombies come into attention, I’m hoping to see more of the disconnect between the girls and the monsters. I think the art will really stand out when we see the contrast. Otherwise, the designs are pretty standard: Yuki is on short side, Megu and Yuuri have the long hair found in most mature characters, and Miki and Kurumi have sharper expressions. (Kurumi even has the official tsundere hairstyle: twin tails.) The action is easy to follow, and pages are filled without being overcrowded. I also really like how the volumes end with bonuses like diagrams to help readers get a better understanding of the school.
Honorifics are used. Translator notes are included, but they’re pretty short. I don’t think I noticed much about the adaptation, so I don’t think there’s any issues.
The third volume made me addicted. I hope the quality keeps up. If you can ignore the poor psychological aspects, then School-Live! is one of those “cute girls doing things” plots that actually has a story.
Crunchyroll has the anime available for streaming, and Sentai Filmworks has licensed the series for a home video release.
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