by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Let this be a lesson to all you young 'uns out there: not even an existing zombie apocalypse scenario can derail the penchant for a series featuring cute girls to have a pool episode. (Well, okay, it is technically a “biotope” intended for academic study and not a pool, but close enough.) The result is an episode which has about as much fan service in it as all the previous episodes combined – with Miki once again getting the raciest shot – and no, the camera angles are a little too specific in certain places to pass it all off as innocuous. Normally I wouldn't mind this kind of thing, but in this series it feels more like a distraction from something good than a cover-up for inadequacies elsewhere. Put more simply, the series has plenty enough else going for it to not need to resort to it. (And to be clear, I am not referring to the scenes of the girls cavorting around in their bikinis, which are mostly tasteful, but to the shots which specifically linger on the girls' chests or the more revealing shower shots towards the end.)
But enough of that. The pool business arises when Taroumaru once again turns up all gunky after having taken a dip in the algae-overgrown water tank on the roof. Since it's a warm day, Yuri agrees that it is an appropriate time to clean out the pool – and if they happen to have some water play fun in the process, so be it! And that is mostly what ends up happening, too: once the fish have been transferred out and the tank cleaned, even the initially-reluctant Miki winds up frolicking like they have no cares.
Everyone but Yuki fully understands that this is just a brief respite, though. They definitely haven't forgotten about the revelation of the emergency manual from last episode and even wonder how much Megumi might have known about it. They also contemplate further how specifically this building is designed for the purpose it's serving and how many survivors it was meant to accommodate. The emergency plan also yields another discovery: a reference to a secret second basement that was apparently part of the emergency plan. They plan to check it out the next day (presumably next episode), although as Taroumaru discovers that night, the zombie that they least want to meet seems to be wandering around down there. . .
Yeah, that disturbing final scene puts a pretty definitive end to any speculation that Megumi actually did get put down and buried. That she is down there may also explain why the girls do not seem to have come across her yet in zombie form. But why is she specifically down there? Did she know about the hidden basement before she got zombified and instinctively head down there? And is that where the previously-shown room with the lamp and Megumi's diary/journal is actually located? In retrospect, that did always seem like an underground room. Whatever the truth is on these matters, this now virtually guarantees that an encounter between the girls and zombie-Megumi is inevitable, possibly even as part of the season's climax. That also leaves open the possibility that such an encounter could be the trigger which finally breaks Yuki out of her delusion; Miki and Yuri were mildly pushing her in that direction last episode, after all. I look forward to that with a combination of eagerness and dread, the former because it has the potential to be the series' shining moment (I think the writing has proven itself good enough to handle that well) and the latter because of what it could mean for the girls.
There were a few other nice touches this episode, too. I had long wondered why the girls had not been shown trying to check out a TV or radio for a signal; issue resolved, as apparently Kei's CD player can – and, according to Miki's flashback, has in the past – be used for that purpose. The scene where Miki is finally able to pet Taroumaru was also well-handled and even carried a tinge of emotion; in some senses it is reminiscent of the famous scene involving Sakaki and the Iriomote cat near the end of Azumanga Daioh, though the inherent emotion has an extra layer to it here due to the involvement of Kei in making the connection. Also note how the visuals carefully avoid any dissonance in the pool part by never allowing an angle with a view off of the roof except when serious matters are being discussed.
Overall, this is the season's weakest episode (except possibly for the first episode, although I think that episode comes off much better in retrospect). It is still entertaining and better than a lot of other series' best efforts this season, though, and all signs point to this being a temporary lapse rather than a trend.
School-Live! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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