“Then, if we stay together, we’ll be immortal!”
-Yukari Hinata, Yuyushiki, Episode 5
Nearly all high school slice-of-life stories – K-ON!, Yuyushiki, Hidamari Sketch, Azumanga Daioh, even Free! immediately come to mind – pit the looming implications of graduation against the every day life of series participants. High school is a perfect fishbowl setting that allows for exploration in friendship group dynamics while the audience puts on their rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and celebrates their personal youth through a happier framework.
Graduation becomes something often dreaded by in-universe characters, as it will inevitably tear them apart. While they scramble about organizing their future plans, graduation to the viewer becomes the final curtain that closes across the stage, effectively ending the narrative.
As the audience is presumably watching a slice of the characters’ lives, the implication is that life goes on after that series or manga volume, just as their life continued – or will continue – following high school. It is this structure that School-Live! plays with.
When Yuki Takeya comes up with something for her club to do – be it a trip to the mall, sports festival, or graduation album – the event is almost always something that would also happen in a so-called normal slice-of-life series. This creates obvious tension because the world that Yuki and her club inhabit is one ravaged by zombies. Their new high school life is a more literal fishbowl as they are trapped within the school.
As the newest member of the School Living Club, Miki Naoki supplies an important critical viewpoint. While the rest of the club hides their emotions a bit better – and with Yuki living blissfully in her own ignorance – Miki is a bit more nervous and high-strung. She’s constantly preoccupied with her own pessimistic thoughts of their situation, to the point where it previously forced her into staying put rather than moving forward. When Yuki comes up with a sports festival, Miki is the person who wonders why they are having fun rather than something more serious.
At the end of School-Live!’s sixth episode, Miki realizes why Yuki’s attitude, even if it is based on a delusional outlook, is so important. When she was trapped in the mall, Miki’s friend Kei challenged her to look past simply surviving and move forward to living. Yuki’s presence transforms the School Living Club from a club about surviving a zombie apocalypse in a school to truly having life in spite of those dire conditions.
Zombification has been equated with many things – slavery, consumerism, general conformity, among others – and in School-Live! it’s mashed directly with a slice-of-life schoolgirl narrative, somewhat replacing the impending doom of graduation. The important thing for Yuki and company is to find a way to both survive and live in a manner that means something to them personally. Like graduation, death, or simply being an adult, a zombie is a nebulous thing that cannot be defined without becoming one. And that lack of knowledge can be terrifying.
“All people’s memories are vague. That’s why you need to do things like talk to people and keep a journal. That makes memories become more tangible. At least that’s what I think, even if the person that it’s about goes away.”
-Megumi Sakura (Megu-nee), School-Live!, Episode 7
Much like a typical high school slice-of-life setting, the girls of School-Live! won’t be able to live in the school forever. Eventually, they’ll have to move on, with the hope that there are other survivors out there. While a lack of knowledge is almost always a constant source of fear, in this one specific case it also offers hope.