School-Live continues to be one of the stronger manga reads available in print.

School-Live! Volume 6Title: School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!)
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Houbunsha (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist: Sadoru Chiba
Writer: Norimitsu Kaihou (Nitroplus)
Serialized in: Manga Time Kirara Forward
Translation: Leighann Harvey
Original Release Date: March 21, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press.

I have to admit my heart sunk a little bit when I saw the cover. In the last volume of School-Live!, Yuki and her friends graduated from high school and were prepared to take on the world. (Read: zombies.) While we know there are still other people out there, I can’t say I’ve been longing for a cutesy little sister-type character like the girl on the cover appeared to be. While we as readers know there are still other people out there, often the little kid characters end up either just being annoying for one reason or another or just usurp all the attention.

As you might expect, a lot happens here in this volume. Yuki and her friends drive through the city on a “graduation trip”, but it’s difficult with the current state of the world. Then they hear a voice on the radio, and then later find a handwritten note. They’ve already found Miki, but can they find someone else out there in the apocolytpic world?

Well, one look at the cover makes this question redundant.

While the search for survivors could have been the focus of this volume, instead, it’s Yuki and friends who remain the stars. A lot of media portray graduation road trips as a way to discovering one’s self, and we get to see an even deeper insight into the characters. Almost everyone finds themselves under new stress, and Yuuri in particular approaches her breaking point. We’ve seen her on the edge before, but now she can’t even hide her panic from the others. Meanwhile, Miki suspects Kurumi is not as fine as she pretends to be as Yuki becomes a little more responsible. This volume illustrates perfectly how the group survives because of the delicate balance between the members and why I was worried about the introduction of a sixth member of the School Living Club.

So, how about the new girl? Not much to say yet. She literally hasn’t said anything yet. The situation has caused her to be (I assume) temporarily mute. Being as she’s so much younger than the other girls, I don’t know if she’s going to have any role outside of being Yuuri’s opposite — everyone’s little sister instead of everyone’s big sister. The cover and insert makes me believe the little girl is going to be around for quite a while, but I wish her addition would have had a little more drama like the voice on the radio.

Plus we don’t actually get to see her being rescued, so I hope a future volume will show a flashback. (I wouldn’t be surprised considering she’s obviously been through a lot.) The final pages present some interesting opportunities for the next volume, and I wonder if the girls are going to have to put off college for a little bit.

Visually, the little girl doesn’t appear much younger than Yuki and company. (Well, minus the more mature-looking Yuuri.) That’s not too surprising considering Chiba’s moe designs. A new character had a lot of potential for some new visual flair (cool, edgy, and feminine), but she exits stage right before we really see her. I never thought about it before, but it might be interesting to see someone join the School Living Club who clings to beauty even at the end of the world. It really might add to the forced everyday life feel if someone still focused on still wearing their multiple pairs of earrings everyday.

Regardless, Chiba includes some terrific shock visuals to show the battle each of the girls are fighting. Kurumi stares silently at the rotting corpses while later receiving a fright. Yuki balances her happy-go-lucky smiles with her “avoid the subject” small upturns of her mouth. You’ll see a lot of hand-holding, representing how everyone is trying hard to be someone the others can cling to. Whether you view these as a shipper or not, the girls are already swearing their lives to each other. When you see some of the zombies — some disturbingly smaller than the others – you’ll see how soon “until death do us part” really is. I only wish we could have seen a few more moments that were implied and skipped over, like the encounter at the radio station.

The girls of School-Live! may be moving on from school, but I know I am not moving on from the series. A very strong volume with the only caveat being I’m not sure how “Ruu-chan” will change the dynamic of the girls. She only appears at the end, but big changes could be afoot.