Sometimes, we really just don’t know.
“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 I watch Yuzuko Nonohara, I am oddly comforted. She also makes me a bit sad.
“That was the kind of conversation young people have. I wonder how we got there.”
-Yukari Hinata, following a conversation with Yuzuko Nonohara and Yui Ichii regarding her future, Yuyushiki, episode 11
What do you see when you dream about the future?
“Really gives you that ‘new life’ feeling, doesn’t it?”
-Mio Akiyama to Ritsu Tainaka on waking up to their first day of college, K-ON! College, page 4
An odd social experiment was conducted in my third year of college. Notorious for its faulty internet services – registering for classes became an all-day activity beginning at 5:00a.m. involving constant browser refreshing and oceans of tears – the servers experienced a significant crash for the first two months of the 2004 autumn semester. I was on the school newspaper staff at the time, and one of the more interesting articles written on the subject involved the social effect on incoming freshman that year. Past classes of wide-eyed, confused, and lonely first-years had relied on the likes of AIM or other varied internet messaging systems to stay in touch with their high school friends, as cell phones were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now. These options were not available to what would become the graduating class of 2008, and their safety net of existing friends and family was further from reach than it had been for previous classes.
So what did the class of 2008 do?