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School-Live Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

School-Live Blu-rayIt’s all fun and games until you realize the world ended in a zombie apocalypse.

What They Say:
Why would anyone form a School Living Club? Could four girls, their advisor, and a puppy really love their school so much that they’d want to live in it? Or is there another reason, something that lurks behind the façade of their comfortable existence? Something that waits outside their school’s doors. Something that has already robbed one girl of her sanity? While the others try to come to grips with a dark new reality, the rest of the world falls to ruin at the hands of a ravenous force, and insanity may be the last hope for survival. Shocks, heartbreak and stunning revelations await as the twisted tale unfolds.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as an English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one where there are a few flashes of action to it that ramp up the intensity a bit but is otherwise all about the dialogue and ambient sounds of the moment. This is all handled very well with some good placement throughout with the way the scenes are set up and that includes the realm of depth as well with characters set further away to enhance the tension of several scenes. The show operates with a quieter approach overall because of the material but it also brings everything through in a clean and clear fashion so that it’s problem free. Dialogue works well throughout and the incidental music from the score helps to set the mood even more, making it a pretty engaging show with some good shock scare moments here and there.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Lerche, the series has a very good look about it with a high-end design in terms of backgrounds and the fluidity of many of the sequences. The character designs are nicely detailed without being overboard as they need to lean more towards cute but the end result is a show that looks fantastic and brings the right elements to life. The encoding deals with the backgrounds and all their detail very well with a clean and solid approach that doesn’t have anything in the way of noise or noticeable breakup while the stronger color fields maintain their own solid look in the character animation. There’s a really great richness to this series with the color work being used and it helps to enhance the seriousness of it while also disarming the viewer.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover works the familiar and really appealing key visual for the series with the main group together in their school environment that’s collapsing around them, giving way to the rote of it all while showing some really detailed and polished pieces. The back cover goes for some moody material that hints at the darkness within, which is something that the summary of the premise tries to skirt around and not say outright but providing more than enough clues. It’s a curious balance to be sure but I think they mostly pulled it off. The back has a few good shots from the show that avoid any big reveals and we get a good listing the extras, episode count, and disc count here. The remainder is the familiar production credits as well as the technical grid that lays it all out cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included.

Menu:
The menus for this release are nicely done pieces overall as they showcase some great artwork from the Japanese release. The layout works a static image while the left side features the breakdown with the navigation as a piece of paper with a shadowed effect behind it. This brings us some yellows and purples together with dark lettering that’s cute and keeps it inviting. The submenus load quickly both during playback and as the top-level menu and overall everything is easy to navigate. The first disc is a fun one that has the group as a whole in class with everything bright and inviting while the second one goes for the fanservice Japanese cover artwork with the girls in their swimsuits at the pool, which I can’t fault them for using too much as it is a great looking piece.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Norimitsu Kaiho and Sadoru Chiba, School-Live, aka Gakkou Gurashi, is a new summer series animated by studio Lerche. The original work began back in 2012 in Manga Time Kirarara Forward and has nine volumes to its credit so far with five out when this originally aired, so you know there’s only so much of an adaptation that can be done here. The show is one that has an unusual feeling to it in general since it’s playing in the zombie realm, an area that really doesn’t get utilized as much as one might think overall. There’ve been few zombie based series over the last few years, which is surprising since they tend to do decen in general but strong overseas and can expand the shows reach as well as that of its merchandising. With this one though, it takes an amusing and rather interesting approach to the whole idea.

The show revolves around Yuki, your basic and familiar high school student who is the bright and outgoing type with a bubbly personality that makes her fun to be around as she’s a bundle of positivity. She’s also extra positive because she spends some of her school day with her favorite club, the School Living Club. In the club, we get other students such as Kurumi, Yuri and Miki, who she calls Mii-chan more than anything else, all of which have some particular skills it seems. Yuki even has a teacher that watches out for her a bit with Megumi who also serves as the club advisor for the School Living Club. The first half does a decent job of introducing the characters and situation while also making Yuki pretty much the center of the universe for herself, and seemingly or her friends as well.

Much of the opening of the series works around the overall group dynamic that exists and the way that Yuki is pretty much taken care of by her friends. She’s not a ditz per se, but she has a certain simplicity about her and obliviousness that comes into play regularly, such as when her dog runs off in the school and time is spent finding him, which les us get a look at some of the other areas of it. While there’s a few teases along the way as to the gimmick of the show, it doesn’t hit until closer to the end with what’s really going on here. When we learn that Yuki is in a deep state of denial and that they’re the sole survivors of a zombie apocalypse, it’s brutal. Yuki talks to many students as they go throughout the school but none exist outside of the trio that spends their time protecting her and watching over her. Though we see the school as clean and pristine for much of the episode, when the illusion for the viewer is pulled away, it’s made clear just what kind of dark time these kids are living in and how they’re trying to protect the obviously very damaged Yuki.

The danger of a series like this is in how it presents things after that opening episode. Spending so much of it painting a familiar girls hanging out after school thing and then hitting us with the hard truth at the end is a nice twist for those that don’t know what it’s about going into it. But once that’s there you really have to play strong with what you do. School-Live largely does that though it doesn’t go as far as I would like. What we do get is a show that feels like it tells a complete enough story while being open to more that it works better than it should. Spending time through Yuki’s eyes isn’t something that dominates but it plays well as it progresses because it offers the viewer that bit of hope even amid the way her mind deals with the shock of it all and compensates. Yuki’s vision of what the world should be like is an area that you don’t see explored in the majority of zombie shows since the focus is elsewhere but it left me appreciating that angle here, even if I would have preferred more time spent showing what it looked like from the others perspective when it came to Yuki’s interactions with those that don’t exist. It’s an area where they play it kind of loose and it works but I would have liked more of it to really add to the pathos of it all.

With it at its core being a cute girls doing cute things show we get a good help of that with the familiar stories at play, just with the darker edge coming about at times. The show spends a little time bringing everything together with it moving backwards early on to reveal how the group came together and what they went through but it also moves into more familiar times. That has “sports events” being held in order to help Yuki not think about the reality of the world and we even get a pool of sorts put together on the roof from the water tower so that they gang gets to have some fun there. Classes continue on at least for Yuki with some fun bits and there’s playfulness with Taro, the cute pup that is something of a mascot for them and something that adds some pleasant lightness to it all. There are some trips outside as well but these tend to be a bit more serious and less through Yuki’s eyes because of the dangers.

What I really did enjoy here is just seeing the way the zombie element itself plays out. The kids are mostly kept inside the school building in a semi-secure area so they have some sense of safety but are still taking precautions. They know they can’t stay forever but are running it out as long as they can, and I think they could do a lot more with a bit of thinking. But there’s a lot to like here in what we see of the state of the world combined with some of the flashbacks we get early on showing how aspects of this went down. There are no big answers to be given here and part of me wishes that the season ended with something more concrete instead of open-ended due to the manga. The violence is definitely here but it’s a background piece that comes bursting out at times when you least expect it. When things start taking an even darker turn toward the end it really clicks well with what it does in ramping up the intensity and almost give you those moments where you think it may go the distance. It’s not surprising that it doesn’t but it would have bumped up my opinion of the show more.

In Summary:
School-Live as a whole here is a strong work with what it sets out to do and how it wants to accomplish it. The visual design is great, the hook with the first episode hits all the right notes if you make it to the end of it before thinking it’s just another fluffy show, and it doesn’t play-cute the whole violence side that exists here. It may have a lot of familiar things but the execution is strong and you can easily become invested in what it is it wants to do. It’s also a book that has me a lot more interested in actually checking out the manga than I thought I would be! The big draw is the way the show plays with the reality versus fantasy elements here and it’s wrapped up in a beautiful work of animation that delivers on the feelings it wants to convey. A very good show that could be a great show if it challenges itself more with what happens after it finishes.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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