School-Live! Episodes 4-5
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 4 of
How would you rate episode 5 of
Episodes 2 and 3 indicated that Miki, though a schoolmate of the other girls, was not with them from the beginning; she instead started separately at a mall and joined them at some later time. Episodes 4 and 5 detail exactly how that happened, as well as how Taroumaru (who also did not start at the school) came into the picture. What they do not show is what happened to Megumi, but that will presumably be the fodder for a future episode.
And really, does anyone who has seen at least through episode 4 still have any lingering doubt that the present-time Megumi is just a figment of Yuki's imagination? The way she appears and disappears is just too random, and the series is just too carefully specific about not providing anything which could contradict such a supposition, for any other truth to be reasonable. The Yuki/Kurumi/Yuri side of the storyline jumps forward several days (or perhaps even weeks?) from where the flashback in episode 3 ended, and apparently whatever happened to Megumi happened during that interval between the beginning of the zombie plague and when the girls finally find Miki. (And the present time of the story seems to be many days, or perhaps even weeks, beyond that.) Aside from how she died, the other lingering question is whether it was the shock of seeing the zombie horde, or the shock of Megumi's death, which caused Yuki to go delusional. At this point I am leaning towards the latter.
Together episodes 4 and 5 form a mini-arc which in part details how Miki and her friend Kei became trapped in a mall when the zombie plague created chaos around them. The two of them manage to hide and, along with a cute dog they met before the trouble went down, hole up in a barricaded storage/break room. Though Miki remains resolute of spirit, Kei gradually shows signs of restlessness over being virtually held captive in the room over the course of many days, to the point that she eventually cannot stand it anymore and strikes out on her own to seek help, leaving a despairing Miki behind. Meanwhile, on the school front, Yuki's proposal for a field trip leads to the girls using that as an excuse to make a supply run to the mall, which involves a daring effort to get to Megumi's car and drive it through the zombies. At the mall they dodge more zombies as they gather supplies and try on new clothes, and in the process encounter Taroumaru, who had gotten away from Miki. Overhearing Taroumaru's barking and the sounds of what may be living people encourages Miki to dare venturing out, which nearly gets her killed before the other girls come to her rescue. Of Kei, though, there is no trace.
Trying to successfully balance elements as diametrically contrasting as cute girls doing cute things and zombie horror is a seemingly-impossible task, but I cannot imagine it being done better than what this series is doing. The way the creative staff is doing it suggests that the girls are trying to actually live their lives despite the zombie threat, which may be another excellent reason why Kurumi and Yuri tolerate Yuki's delusions; playing along helps them to cope with the situation, too. Further evidence of that is the dramatic contrast to Miki and Kei's situation, as they lived like veritable prisoners and that drove them to despair. The way the series carefully mixes the outright horror of the zombies with the more implicit horror of certain situations – such as Kurumi's thoughts about the theater full of zombies and what the door to the theater having been barred might imply – is also a deft touch, as are the occasional cracks in Yuki's delusion. Kurumi's run to the car even works pretty well as an action scene, the artistic quality control has been well above average, and the voice acting has been top-tier, too. Episode 5 does add the first dashes of fan service, but even those are quite mild.
So is it too early to start talking about School-Live! as one of the best new series of the summer season? Maybe, as the fear still exists that it may flounder once it runs out of backstory material to explore. For now, though, it is maximizing the potential of its concept and rumbling along without significant missteps.
School-Live! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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