Episode 12

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 12 of
School-Live! ?

Though the ordering and play-out of events may differ markedly from those in the source material, the anime adaptation of School-Live! has been remarkably carefully-written throughout its run, such that almost nothing in it happens out of the blue. Virtually everything has had a firm foundation in either the setting's logical structure or in previous events. The final episode does not change that – not one bit. No deus ex machina is needed to keep the girls all alive at the end despite the very troubling circumstances of most of them at the end of last episode. And the solution to the zombie problem at the school, while it may seem silly and almost ridiculously simple, has also been presaged by comments and observations made throughout the series.

Despite the grim circumstances (Miki having to climb up on a high shelf to just barely be out of reach of the zombies, for instance), the one heartening aspect to the episode's beginning is that Yuki, now that she has come to accept things, has taken her role as the group's motivator and emotional center to the next level. Her daring dash through zombies to get to the Broadcast Room is a harrowing experience, one that she ultimately only survives thanks to the intercession of an infected Taromaru. As convenient as that is, last episode did show Miki unwittingly letting him loose, and based on what's been shown before, who else amongst the girls would he first head to on instinct? That Yuki immediately recognizes that he's still potentially a threat even though he did save her is a sure sign that her mental readjustment to reality is complete.

And then, for her grand trick, Yuki solves the immediate zombie problem in direct and elegant fashion: she tells them all to go home over the intercom, just like an announcement might at the end of the school day. Because the series has spent so much time establishing that these zombies retain some residual awareness, we can readily accept that they would actually heed such a proclamation given that way. Yuki's impassioned commentary on the joy of school as part of the scene may run just a little long, but that is a minor complaint and is more tolerable because of how much the series has also stressed the importance of school to the students' lives, both figuratively and literally.

With the zombies at least temporarily out of the way, space is opened up for a mostly happy ending – or at least one which does not involve any of the girls dying, anyway. The medicine works on Kurumi, but Taromaru does not survive because he has been infected for too long. His send-off will probably leave many viewers teary-eyed (though perhaps as much for how Miki reacts) and also gives a sense of finality to the girls' time at the school. They realize that both the emergency power and the supplies will soon run out, so they plan to head out. A symbol on a map found in the emergency guide, which was probably drawn by Megumi, suggests a possible alternative, so they decide to head there using Megumi's car. But first they have to mark their departure from school with a graduation ceremony.

And thus the episode's title, “Graduation,” becomes literal in meaning as well as symbolic. Graduation has been an on-and-off topics for most of the series, so using this kind of scene (which is heavily reminiscent of the graduation scene in the final episode of Angel Beats!) to mark the end of the girls' stay at school is quite fitting. So is the final message that Miki leaves on the blackboard addressed to Kei. The series ends with the girls driving off into the city, their future prospects uncertain but not necessarily grim. And the epilogue scene proves that they aren't necessarily the only ones who survived, either.

Is this all that will be animated for the series? That seems to be in doubt at this point. From what I have heard, though, the story goes off in a distinctly different direction from this point, so if this is all we get then at least the story finds a satisfying place to stop.

Anime has seen one other dedicated “zombie apocalypse in a school” scenario: the trashy High School of the Dead. The two could not be more different in style and approach, though. While High School was a graphic, sexually-charged, action-oriented work, School-Live! is a much more intimate tale as much about survival of the spirit as physical survival. It also makes no apologies about being a peculiar variation on “cute girls cute things” series. That element may come on a bit heavy in the first episode, but over the course of the series it works surprisingly well, as it successfully adds a charming, almost cloying element to a genre that is practically antithetical to it by nature. The summative evaluation on this is the same as I've commented on many times during the individual episodes: the combined effect is handled as well as could possibly be imagined, and far better than I would have expected at first. As a result, the question is less whether or not this deserves to be considered amongst the best series of the year as it is whether or not it will rank #1 on that list.

Rating: A

School-Live! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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