I will save you some trouble in case you haven’t watched or heard of this yet. This is a series that combines the cuteness of a school-themed anime with the terror of a zombie apocalypse. Having said that, there are two very different worldviews going on in this show. As it appears in its reality, it’s a zombie-ridden world where one’s own survival is necessary.
And yet in the eyes of one girl, it is the last chance to enjoy high school life before graduation. You would be right to call me crazy to think that somehow both of these worldviews are compatible. But what transcends from this series is a case not just to survive, but to live, even when the world goes to Hell.
School Live (Gakkō Gurashi) may take place in a world where zombies pervade, but it is mainly about the lives of a small group of young ladies and one dog who struggle to survive in this world. Thanks to their ambitious academy’s plan to turn their school into a massive evacuation site in case of disasters, Megurigaoka Academy becomes their fortress when the dead come out
at night on school grounds. I guess there was a reason for having solar powered backup generators and a large rooftop garden after all!
The zombies themselves usually come out in the day, and the only ones that the girls ever meet seem to be their former classmates. It’s as if they were programmed to come to school at the same time each day, as if it were some kind of mindless, routine activity. But I’m not here to argue over a philosophy of education at the moment!
The real highlight of this series is not the world of zombies, but the world as seen through Yuki Tetsuya, a member of the School Living Club who enjoys life, yet doesn’t seem to do well in any academic subject.
To every other girl in this series, this normal classroom scene doesn’t exist. The school they once knew is just a memory of their past lives. With windows shattered, desks removed for barricades, and blood stains that have yet been cleaned up, the pinnacle of Japanese schools is lost in this dystopian paradigm.
You might say that Yuki is delusional or has special needs, given how she acts as if nothing had happened to the school. But even so, her friends still accept her as part of the School Living Club, even though she makes everyone else work that much harder. The School Living Club was established to maintain the essence of school life in this dire situation. To them, that means survival in a world of zombies. But to Yuki, that means making every school day matter, the same way it’s always been.
Yuki’s relaxed way of life seems to be counter-intuitive to their situation, but her friends Yūri, Kurumi, and Miki all accept her as she is. They may be avoiding death by staying cooped up in a school-turned-fortress, but life inside that school can be very boring. And when you’re spending months with the same people in the same confined space, doing the same thing, any normal person would have gone crazy by now!
But to the School Living Club, Yuki became a necessary addition to their goal. Despite their dreaded disposition, Yuki makes things exciting for them with her optimistic persona and making everything fun. Kurumi admits that Yuki helps her when she needs it most, even though she’s come to accept that survival is the primary objective. And while she thinks that Yuki is a little too silly at times, Miki regards her as her senpai. What Yuki brings to the School Living Club isn’t so much a strategy or willpower, but something more on the lines of hope. For even in a world where survival is the law, Yuki maintains her kindness.
Yuki may have a kind heart, but there is little she can do when it comes to engaging zombies. And when survival is of utmost importance, you might think that she needs to learn how to fight. Otherwise, that’s more work on everyone else.
As their “graduation” approaches, the girls come to realize that resources are growing more scarce, and they cannot stay inside the school forever. Megurigaoka Academy’s evacuation plans made it possible for a large group of people to maintain security inside the school, but it was only meant to be a temporary solution. Looking for a way out, the School Living Club finds the school’s disaster plan. And what they find in it is alarming.
When the world presumably goes to Hell (by which it has), kindness and compassion is the last thing you ever want. In other words, someone like Yuki would have no place in this paradigm.
This is where School Live becomes most critical of our way of life. We may think that someone like Yuki has her strengths now; and since we’re not living in a zombie apocalypse, we probably don’t have to worry about it. But the truth is that our world as we know it can be destroyed in an instant, particularly in times of war. And in “times of war,” leaving behind kindness is the prevailing theory. You may feel sorry for Yuki and the School Living Club now, but in the direst of situations, it is more likely that most will turn against kindness.
I said before that Yuki is delusional of the fact that she is in a world of zombies, but I don’t think that’s because she doesn’t know. Given some of the flashbacks in this series, Yuki seems to be very conscious of the fact that the world is changing, and she doesn’t like it.
Yuki’s response to the zombie world is more like a denial of the truth, a very common survival mechanism so that we might cope with traumatic experiences. In that sense, Yuki acts as if nothing ever happened, seeing the world as she wants to believe it. You might say that Yuki is in a kind of dream state whenever she sees ghosts or goes to class. But like any other dream, she eventually has to wake up.
Regardless of her psychological disposition, Yuki does “awaken” to find that her world has come to an end. And for a brief moment, all of the happy moments she had experienced were replaced by a sense of fear and loneliness, as if the world abandoned her. But even so, she comes to accept her situation.
And with that, she finds her own way to fight back.
In a situation like hers, many would probably not give kindness a chance, looking out for our own survival. But with that mentality, we may just be prolonging our eventual deaths. It is highly unlikely that someone like Yuki would ever survive because she is too kind. But because she is kind, she had the sincerity to see the situation as it is, and to respond to it with ease. It really takes someone like her to recognize that all the zombie students ever wanted to do was go to school, just as they did when they were alive.
We respond to many situations throughout our lives. In the most critical of these situations, it seems much easier to give in to our own survival and reject any form of kindness. But with kindness, there is hope. It is not easy to be kind in these moments, but it can open a way out. Kindness does not mean that we deny the severity of the situation, but that we face the truth for what it is. Thus, kindness is not meek, but for the strong who can change the situation.
Even in a zombie apocalypse, kindness is valuable. And while her friends may have a reason to survive, Yuki has given them something more: a reason to live.
So if you like a good zombie narrative and thought that the genre needed more cuteness or something, watch School Live. And remember to always make a life worth living.