With the arrival of Volume 3, this is the best time to dive in to School-Live.

School Live Vol 3Title: School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!)
Genre: Drama, Horror
Publisher: Houbunsha (JP), Yen Press (US)
Creators: Sadoru Chiba (art), Norimitsu Kaihou (Nitroplus) (story)
Translation: Leighann Harvey
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Review copy provided by Yen Press

Most of us know Rule 34 of the Internet. If you don’t…my, what a sheltered online life you lead. But if there were Rules of Manga, surely one of them would be, “If it exists, there is a manga of cute moe girls doing it.” Going to school? Azumanga Daioh. Singing and dancing? Love-Live! School Idol Project. Fighting aliens? Mao-chan. Surviving the zombie apocalypse? School-Live!

The first two volumes of School-Live! slowly dove into the world of main protagonist Yuki and her friends in the School Living Club, the shovel-wielding Kurumi and mature Yuuri (Ri-san). Meanwhile, another girl tries to have a somewhat-normal life despite being alone, and many questions were raised about what Yuki sees and beloved teacher Megu-nee’s situation.

I wasn’t too impressed by the first couple volumes. The idea wasn’t bad (and I’m not a horror fan), but many parts just seem to drag. Well, School-Live! Volume 3 turns out to not only the best volume of the series yet, but it is a really good one at that. The School Living Club recruits (read: finds) another member, Yuki’s situation is explained, and we start to really understand the horror the girls have been going through. If that wasn’t enough, the ending of the volume sets the stage for a dramatic Volume 4. I found myself hooked.

If you enjoyed the struggle in the mall last volume, you might be disappointed by Volume 3. We learn a little more about zombies, but the group only encounters them once until the last few pages. However, this hardly makes this latest entry of School-Live! boring. Instead, this volume concentrates on bonds and trying to make the best decisions in a difficult world. Kurumi’s shovel may have taken a break, but Kurumi herself comes face-to-face with trouble at the end. The addition of Miki, the survivor from the mall, also adds an interesting dynamic to the School Living Club.

Yes, it is Miki’s presence that really helps move the manga along. Her debut in the previous volume was limited to her being alone with her promise to live on, but now Miki finds herself surrounded by other survivors who call themselves club members. Kurumi and Yuuri have to reveal to Miki (and readers) what the situation is with Yuki. There were two possible explanations for Yuki’s conversations with other students, and we readers finally get confirmation as to which one is correct. In addition, Miki can do things Kurumi and Yuuri can’t because they’re too close to the situation. However, this doesn’t mean Miki is cold; she’s just another girl stuck in a horrible situation, and it’s nice to have a (somewhat neutral) third-party give their opinion. Psychology is a tricky subject, and it’s hard for any professional — let alone high school students — to know what is best for someone.

Speaking of psychology, the manga dives a bit into dissociative identity disorder, once known as multiple personality disorder. While many fiction stories tend to distort the illness, neither popular beliefs nor realities of dissociative identity disorders are present here. It feels like the author just went with the most well-known mental illness, but any professional (heck, any first year psychology student) will know that this is an absurd diagnosis. If Kaihou wanted to add a psychological angle to this series, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (both of which can cause psychosis, detachment from reality) are much more appropriate diagnoses. Dissociate identity disorder involves a person believing they are different people; psychosis often involves hearing or seeing hallucinations. Mental illnesses are often misconstrued in media, and this manga is definitely an example.

The art continues with its moe style, but it seems to be even more cutesy than the previous books. I don’t know if it was because I was more engaged with the story this time around or what, but Yuki and the other girls all look even younger than before. It’s hard to believe they’re in high school and not middle school. The zombies continue to just be black blobs, but with the story ramping up, their appearance may become more grotesque. I know many people are mixed about the character designs, but I’d like for the artist to really play up the disconnect between the visuals of characters and the zombies.

With the arrival of Volume 3, this is the best time to dive in to School-Live! I originally only picked up this series due to sales, but this latest entry has me hooked.