The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Community score: 4.1
SCHOOL-LIVE! so far seems to exist purely for its twist, so it's hard to say much about this episode specifically. What we get in the actual body of this episode is as harmless a “cute girls in a school club” scenario as you could possibly imagine - an almost willfully banal episode, full of silly reaction faces and a hunt for a puppy that goes on for at least half the episode. The humor could not be more tame and characters aren't particularly distinctive, so even though this first stuff clearly isn't going to match the show's overall tone, it doesn't leave me with much impetus to continue. You kind of have to care about one story before it's meaningful to learn that story is actually a different story.
All that is actually good in this episode revolves around its twist, and the various cute hints pointing to that twist before it comes. An odd piece of decoration here, a strange addition to the garden there, some scrawled words and shots that seem to linger a little too long over character reactions and fading daylight. These are cute tricks, but I was frankly so bored by the actual content of the main portion of the episode that it doesn't seem likely a weird balance between that style of humor/characterization and the Big Reveal would be something worth watching. But this first episode is a gimmick, and so it'll really take until episode two for us to know what to actually expect from this one.
SCHOOL-LIVE! is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: The first episode of School-Live! is one of the most hard-core cases of early misdirection in anime in recent memory. Fully 95% of the first episode – including its chipper opener and gentler closer – studiously implies that it is something other than what it actually is, and only in the last minute or two do we learn the truth. As to what that truth is? You'll have to watch to find out. If you do sample this one, though, definitely watch it all the way through to the end before giving up on it, as the twist at the end is a savage one.
What it appears to be is a cutesy, slice-of-life tale about four girls who are part of the School Living Club, which means they actually live at school, in a resource room, in order to “foster independence and self-governance.” If that seems like an odd theme for a club, well, that is supposed to be the first of several clues – some of them on the blink-and-you'll-miss-it level – that something is not exactly right with what we're seeing. Energetic airhead Yuki is ostensibly the oldest of the bunch but is also the smallest and least reliable, while twin-tailed Kurumi walks around with a sharpened shovel (for no immediately apparent reason), Mii-kun is a short-haired girl who frets over having no presence and reads “Steppen King” novels, and Rii-san is the responsible one who can also be scarily intimidating when necessary. Most of the episode involves Yuki merrily bouncing off of the other girls (sometimes literally) while attempting to both attend classes and keep track of her dog Toramaru, but along the way the suspicious details mount. The barricade made of desks at the end of one hall is not so suspicious, as using such things to block student access to unused parts of a building is an ordinary thing to see in schools with extra space and no security gates, but why does one girl not seem to be attending class? And is that broken glass in the window or a cross in the vegetable garden on the roof?
If you have already read the manga this adaptation is based on then you already know what the big reveal is going to be, but how it gets there is still a surprise, and a devastating one at that because of what it implies. As a result, this series practically compels its viewers return next week to find out how the heck things got to this point and where the series can and will go from here. While the humor is lamely cutesy, the technical merits are good enough that they shouldn't single-handedly discourage anyone from continuing to watch.
How good this series is going to be is impossible to estimate from this first episode. I am giving it a high mark because of how slickly it pulls off its gimmick, and I will definitely bite on it hard enough to be back for episode 2. Will you be able to resist?
Wow. I don't really know what else to say except, "Wow."
To be honest, I'm not sure how well the rest of the series will hold up after the first episode reveals its cards, but at the very, very least, the first episode is worth watching, even just as a stand-alone short. Regardless of what happens in the episodes to come, these first 20-some minutes are a strange and tense experience that shouldn't be missed.
Normally, quirky school comedies exasperate me pretty quickly, and there are certainly parts of School-Live! that tested my patience. I can tolerate hopelessly ditzy and clumsy girls for about 15 minutes until I want to strangle them, but at least with this episode, something kept me going. There was just something off-kilter about the girls and their environment, and it had my eyes glued to the screen. There are some fun hints scattered around the episode that make you raise an eyebrow, but even then, nothing quite prepares you for the big reveal.
That everything else about the show is so delightfully generic makes this show extra exciting to watch, especially because you know there's something beyond that shiny-kneed, blush-faced, ultra-moe exterior. When it does hit, it makes all the prior tedium worth it. I'm definitely going to tune in next week.
Rating: 3 (for the end)
SCHOOL-LIVE! wants you to believe that it's a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show about 4 adorable moe girls in a club where they apparently live at the school. The show is not about that.
I have to hand it to SCHOOL-LIVE! – I knew the twist was coming, but the show managed to bore me to death hanging on to the “nope this is just a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show!” fakeout until the very very end of this episode. Until then it's as banal and pointless as can be – super-genki Yuki-chan runs around causing mischief with her puppy and interacting with the other personality archetypes in the club, and that's about it. Once it finally happens, the reveal is pretty effective, I think, even if it's just cramming one overdone genre into another, but that reveal is basically all the show has going for it right now, so rather than spoil it, I'll just say this – go watch the first episode of SCHOOL-LIVE! and see how you react to the end. It will dictate whether or not you're interested in seeing more.
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