Shelf Life School-Live!
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
My daily streaming review shows for this season have a suspicious number of things in common. Both New Game and Gamers are video game-themed slice-of-life comedies (one about the people who make them, one about the people who play them), and both have at least one exclamation point in their titles. I suppose the best thing to do is to make them fight to the death. That sounds reasonable, right? Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online? - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $44.99 Amazon|$59.99 Amazon
Synopsis: Hideki Nishimura swears to never trust female characters in online games after accidentally confessing his love to a male player, but he may have to change his mind when one of his guild members turns out to be a beautiful girl.
Captain Harlock: Arcadia Of My Youth Endless Orbit SSX - Complete Collection DVD
Discotek - 500 min - Sub - MSRP $49.95
Currently cheapest at: $32.47 Right Stuf
Synopsis: After being forced to flee the alien-occupied Earth, Harlock and his crew search for a new home for humanity on the legendary planet of Arcadia.
Extra: We don't have any reviews for this series, but our user ratings average out at around 7.6 out of 10. While it does't appear to be available streaming, the related Space Pirate Captain Harlock series can be found on Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: When the overwhelming forces of the Empire of Death invade Earth, mankind's last hope rests in the hands of a team of mecha pilots.
Extra: No formal reviews for this one either. Our user ratings average out at around 6.5 out of 10.
Synopsis: The world is at peace after the defeat of Majin Buu, but a new threat is lurking on the horizon.
Synopsis: Martial artists from around the world fight to claim the six pieces of the Armor of Mars, which is said to grant incredible power to whoever wears it.
Extra: A previous DVD release of this movie was reviewed in Shelf Life a few years ago. Not all of the retail sites list the same release date for this one, so you may want to make a note of that if you're planning to buy it.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Season 1 [Limited Edition] BD
Viz - 650 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.99
Currently cheapest at: $45.79 Amazon
Synopsis: A young aristocrat named Jonathan Joestar battles against his arch-rival Dio Brando, whose lust for power leads him to the supernatural realm.
Synopsis: Private detective Goku uses his cybernetic left eye to solve dangerous cases in a futuristic version of Tokyo.
Extra: Our coverage for this pair of OVAs is fairly limited, but our user ratings average out at around 6.2 out of 10.
Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls - Complete Collection BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 350 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98|$149.98
Currently cheapest at: $40.29 Amazonf|$34.49 Amazon|$86.29 Amazon
Synopsis: When a new law allows demi-humans to assimilate into society, hapless everyman Kurusu Kimihito ends up playing host to a house full of monster girls.
Extra: We have episode reviews and a full series review for this series, along with a tongue-in-cheek guide to dating monster girls. You can stream it on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu. Note that the limited edition set may be delayed, as I've seen at least three different release dates for it.
Synopsis: After pollution and earthquakes leave the city of Tokyo in ruins, the best chance for recovery rests with pilot Ken Ando and a mysterious machine from another world.
Extra: We have a review of a previous DVD release of this series from back in 2004.
Synopsis: Sakura and Rinne continue their paranormal adventures along with some new troublemaking spirits.
Shelf Life Reviews
I don't normally issue spoiler warnings for our reviews, because we're usually able to write around any big plot twists. School-Live is an exception, because it's almost impossible to talk about this show without giving away the big reveal at the end of the first episode. If you're not familiar with the series, you may want to stream the first episode before reading anything about it. Now that you've been warned, let's take a look at what James has to say about this interesting genre hybrid.
What really makes School-Live! stand out from other shows that mashup moe cuteness and eldritch horrors is how it manages to excel in both of the genres it fuses. It succeeds both as an amicable slice-of-life show and a taut, thrilling horror story, and that alone makes for compelling viewing. Another point in the show's favor is the way it handles its main twist, which is revealed at the end of the very first episode. Instead of trying to simply trick the viewer, School Live! has Yuki genuinely believe in the fantasy world she's constructed. The thread of dissonance between Yuki's imagined world and the bleak reality the other girls live in is a constant throughout the story, so what could have been a cheap gimmick for drawing in unaware viewers becomes an integral aspect of the story itself. The core of this story is about finding a reason to go on in a world that has all but abandoned humanity, and Yuki's delusional break from reality is simply another method of coping. The fact that the other girls do their best to support her survival tactic might seem implausible at first, but it makes sense when you consider that everyone in this “club” is just trying to stay sane for another day. Sometimes that means improvising fun club activities to take their minds off the stress of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Other times, it means bashing in the skulls of the undead with a shovel when Yuki isn't around. The fact that School-Live! can have its zombie-flavored moe cake and eat it too is the series' singular success.
It also helps that this is just a compelling, interesting, and rewarding anime all around. The entire cast pulls their dramatic weight, with each girl in the club having the potential to be someone's favorite. Kurumi is possibly the breakout character of the show, with her sardonic charm and aforementioned talent in shovel murdering. Yuri and Megumi are also likable and relatable leads, though my personal favorite character has to be Miki. As an outsider introduced to the club late in the game, Miki provides some of the most rewarding conflict and character development in the series' short 12-episode run. While every character goes through some pretty scarring stuff, Miki's arc is possibly the most satisfying aspect of the show in the end. Taromaru is also a valuable addition as perhaps the greatest dog to grace the small screen since Ein appeared in Cowboy Bebop all those years ago.
Artistically, School-Live! works in congress with its script by meshing its hypercute day-glo aesthetic with routine yet unexpected bouts of shocking violence and darkness. The quality of the animation is fine, but it certainly isn't Studio Lerche's most impressive work, though the quality of the show's atmosphere makes up for it. This is a series where framing and general control of pacing and tone outshine pure technical merits, a skillset that director Masaomi Ando would also let shine in his work on Scum's Wish. Really, the only major letdown of School-Live!'s production would be the series' musical score, which does its job alternating between being cute and creepy but ends up being fairly forgettable overall.
Speaking of forgettable audio, we also have Sentai's English dub of the series, which is the only major addition to this Blu-Ray release, outside of the usual trailers and clean animations. While the work put in by the main cast is perfectly acceptable, it has a stiffness to it that hearkens back to dubs of the early 2000s. For a show that revolves mostly around girls talking to each other, none of the cast feels particularly naturalistic in their line readings or delivery. While this is somewhat appropriate for Brittney Karbowski's take on Yuki, the other girls just end up sounding too disaffected for my liking. It certainly does its job, and outside of some suspect pronunciations of words (like Taromaru's name), there are certainly worse dubs out there. For my money though, I'd stick with the native Japanese.
I still wholeheartedly recommend this School Live! set to anyone with an interest in either cute girls or horror anime in general. The audio and visual quality of the Blu-Ray is polished enough to be preferable to streaming, and it's a fairly unique take on a genre that can be absolutely bogged down in wishy-washy sameness. Some might be unsatisfied with its relatively tame levels of zombie carnage and horror, but I can appreciate that the gore and scares aren't intense enough to ward off more casual fans, while the story and characters are strong enough to keep more bloodthirsty viewers interested. Really, my only complaint is that the ending of the series feels too much like a commercial for the manga, since it's clear that this club's adventures are far from finished. Still, if my main problem with a show is that I wanted to watch even more of it when it ended, that says a lot about its overall quality.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Ashley:
"My name is Ashley, and I was hoping to show you my family's anime collection. I own pretty much all of the manga (buying them out of my own pocket), my brother owns the Gundam figures, and my dad bought pretty much all of the anime DvDs over about twenty years, collecting them when old Blockbuster stores were closing down and the DvDs were on sale. Some of what is here is ancient or obscure, so maybe someone would be interested in seeing them."
I'm green with envy over that You're Under Arrest set - one of my greatest anime-related regrets is not picking up the original TV series while it was still in print. Love the collection, thanks for sharing!
If you'd like to see your own collection in a future installment of Shelf Obsessed, send me your photos at [email protected]!
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