Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The School Living Club hasn't left the school at all since their formation, so Yuki suggests that they go on a field trip! The other girls aren't sure it's a good idea at first, but with Megu-nee's permission, they take her car and head out to the mall. Meanwhile, another survivor is trying her best to carry on in a different location. Will the girls meet up and gain a new member for their club?
Even if you've seen the anime, it's worth reading the School-Live manga, because this volume shows just how much was changed or left out in the adaptation. The storyline for the second book in the series covers the “field trip” storyline – after days trapped in the school building, the girls of the School Living Club are beginning to feel a little restless, especially Yuki, whose mind has essentially fractured so that she doesn't have to deal with the trauma of living in a zombie outbreak. While Yuri and Kurumi have been playing along with her delusions in order to keep her safe, they realize that her idea of a field trip isn't a bad one, provided that they can work around the difficulties of venturing out of the school. Armed with Kurumi's shovel and Megu-nee's car, they set out to see what's going on in the world around them.
While I will not catalog the differences between the anime and the manga here, the storyline does show some pretty major differences. Among them are the way that the fourth girl (unnamed in this volume, although anime watchers will know it) has survived. The volume opens with her living in a small room and trying to follow her normal school schedule in an effort to achieve some sort of normalcy. It's only a thin veneer, however, and we see that she's really at the end of her rope. Flashbacks throughout the volume show us that originally she was with her friend Kei, who decided that a life in a box wasn't worth it, essentially saying that she'd rather die than live such a small life. Additionally we see that the girls were not the only survivors in the mall initially in a flashback that foreshadows future events some readers may be familiar with. Even if you aren't aware of where the story is headed, it's a powerful scene that speaks of how the hope that has sustained the School Living Club can backfire, as hopeful delusions win out over common sense.
In her sections, the new girl is clearly seen reading Stephan King's tome The Stand, which is about a similar post-apocalyptic world. Though King's disaster is spawned by a mutated flu strain, it is clear that Norimitsu Kaihou is drawing a parallel between King's world, where survivors must ultimately choose between peace and chaos, and this story's. This also may be an indication of what caused the zombie outbreak in the first place – in The Stand a patient infected with the disease escapes from a secure facility, sparking the rapid spread of the illness. Could that also be the case with these zombies? We've seen how quickly the bitten become infected – shown twice in this book alone – so it certainly feels like a plausible explanation. Given the end materials in the first volume and the way they clearly anticipated a disaster, it certainly seems like the government had an inkling that such a disease existed and could potentially destroy society.
As with the first volume, School-Live continues to maintain a balance between horror, sadness, and light-hearted slice-of-life antics, with Yuki providing the majority of that last one. Kurumi gets the emotional content this time around, as the girls' drive to the mall takes them past her house. They stop to allow her to go in (at Yuki's behest; her memories may not be buried as deeply as we all think, something borne out later in the book as well), and it's very clear that something horrible happened there, possibly to both of her parents but almost certainly to her mother, judging by the shoes. (The shoes may also indicate that that something was due to her father.) The scene of Kurumi flinging herself on her bed and clutching her pillow is heart-rending – she's largely been the strong one in the more physical, gung-ho sense, and to see her give in to despair and a clear wish that when she opens her eyes everything will be normal reminds us of what she's been through and how young she really is.
School-Live remains relatively gore-free for a zombie story, letting our imaginations fill in the blanks left by zombies shown primarily in black outlines with the occasional bone breaking through the skin or open skull on a lurching figure. It's gross when it really needs to be, but largely this is about the girls' fight for sanity and survival rather than a physical battle against monsters. Sadoru Chiba does sneak some low-key fanservice in with Kurumi and Yuri trying on clothes at the mall, and he draws a nice female body (albeit not always anatomically perfect). The new girl's garters seem a little much, especially for a high school student since they're visible beneath the hem of her skirt, but overall the art compliments the story well.
This series is much more than its apparent gimmick of cute girls surviving a zombie apocalypse. It doesn't shy away from looking at their emotional traumas or the less adorable aspects of their lives, and this volume adds a lot to consider in terms of the rest of the city, along with some substantial hints about what might be going on. The end may be nigh, but despite that, there are definitely some people who want to hold it off for as long as they can.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Good hints and foreshadowing for larger truths and events, Kurumi gets some development that lets us see her as more than just “the strong one.” Lots of information that will be new even to those who have seen the show.
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