OK, so clearly nobody followed my instructions in my last post where I asked you to, sight unseen, watch School-Live! I even gave you this link so that all you would have to do is click on it and waste 24 minutes of your life.
Now I still want you to know nothing about that first episode when you watch it but if you must be spoilt then come with me while I explain why it was worth me coming out of my year long slumber to tell you about this.
Right, so I love a story being told by the wrong person. Sometimes it can be for comic effect, like with the Cornetto Trilogy (which, of course, Shaun of the Dead is a good reference point for watching this show) and it can be done for added pathos and drama, like To Kill a Mockingbird. They're based around something big and important happening but being seen from the point of view of people who are not big and important. School-Live! tries its hand at both of these approaches at once.
So here the premise is, what if a zombie apocalypse happened and the only survivors were moe schoolgirls? And the moe schoolgirls part is important. This isn't Highschool of the Dead. We're not here to see bouncing, buxom beauties in their underwear and there is no paedo bus.
So we're left with this impossible idea that girls are somehow going to remain cutesy and moe in that sort of environment, which is why the first episode is so important. By never letting on what's happened you become invested in that carefree school life of the living at school club, where they just live at school because it's fun, before you realise that it's all actually a psychotic episode of the one character that refuses to accept the reality she's living, aided by those around her that love her too much to make her understand.
Oddly, it's her insanity that keeps everybody else sane. They really do have those moe set piece moments because she brings them out of the horrifying day to day. And it really is horrifying.
That first episode is a massive tease. It gives you brief glimpses of the things that might be wrong and it's well constructed enough that you miss some really obvious things that are going on like the demented scrawls on the blackboard, the grave in the rooftop garden and, of course, the dead end.
I was lucky to have only seen a brief synopsis so I thought I was watching a prologue episode. The reveal at the end still hit me pretty hard in the feels.
But then how would they keep up that momentum? As it turns out, amazingly.
The next three episodes, those being what have been released so far, tackle each character's story and they're all good stories. Episode 3 and 4 both would have been perfectly decent first episodes for the show but they're all the better for knowing the characters already. By knowing the characters as they will eventually be we're enticed by seeing them pre-Z and know that terrible things are going to happen. All the silly little moe affectations characters have end up having proper and devastating reasons. Especially the puppy.
Seriously though. That puppy.
And I know I've been focusing on how they maintain the moe but it's important to note that the horror aspect of it is fully there. You feel actual peril and you understand why they can't get away. This all despite the fact that they rarely show any gore. Hell, they barely ever show the damned zombies and when they do they sort of blur them out. This is not so much to censor the gore but, I like to think, to leave it to your imagination and to make you realise that these are things that the protagonists' minds just don't want to deal with.
I could go on for ages breaking down the first episode scene by scene and then just carrying on with every other episode too because they're all masterful. That blend of high school fun and legitimate terror and despair is spot on and I can't wait to see how the story progresses.
So while you actually go and watch that first episode, I'm off to see what else is on.