Despite the flashbacks, School-Live! Volume 8 brings some much-needed action to fight off the mindlessness of the last few volumes.

School-Live! Volume 8Title: School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!)
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Houbunsha (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist: Sadoru Chiba
Norimitsu Kaihou (Nitroplus)
Serialized in: Manga Time Kirara Forward
Translation: Leighann Harvey
Original Release Date: September 19, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press

It’s no secret that I haven’t been a fan of the college arc of School-Live!. While the high school arc provided the perfect blend of the zombie apocalypse and cute schoolgirls, the manga suddenly tripled its cast size, and the sheer number of characters lost much of the dynamics of close friends trying to stay positive.

Well, outside of the volume’s obsession with flashbacks and abridged background stories, School-Live! has got its groove back.

The story this time around starts right off with one of the Militants dying. Although readers get to see the whole incident, the Militants believe there is only two options: infection or murder. Either way, they’re going to take on the Circle, the members of which are already stressing about their upcoming separation. The night before some of them prepare to go on a club excursion, the Militants start capturing Circle members. Yuki and her friends only have had to face zombies before, and the prospect of having to fight still-fully-human opponents means the story could get darker.

In fact, in many ways, the plot is already getting darker — but maybe not in the way you think. Yes, there is more blood and death, but School-Live! is also hammering the psychological aspects. Kurumi’s symptoms are only getting worse, and she wonders if killing the zombies is really the only option. Yuuri is becoming even more dependent on Ruu-chan. Yuki is aware enough to know Kurumi isn’t just talking walks for fun in the middle of the night, but she’s also talking to her Megu-nee. Is this the type of conversation we all have with deceased loved ones, or is her hat-wearing self now seeping into her knows-everything self? Several of the militants’ personalities are explained in the aforementioned flashbacks. One, for instance, has a superiority complex in the vein of Light from Death Note, and the other appears to be a formerly-repressed serial killer.

The problem with this volume is that these explanations are short and unnecessary. As readers, we already side with the School Living Club and now the Circle; the Militants’ strictness is the antithesis of the “enjoy living and enjoy friends” motto that Yuki has been promoting. But as the Militants try to capture the Circle, the story suddenly stops this potential life-or-death chase to give us a couple pages showing their “I’m better than everyone” attitude. A couple of times, it was so sudden, I didn’t realize the narrator had switched! It would be like interrupting the mob scene from Beauty and the Beast to show a 15-second scene of Gaston bossing others around as a kid and celebrating his first kill. Everyone already doesn’t like you, and there’s a whole group of people charging toward a castle. Maybe you want to see it, but right then and there? And that short? In addition, we also get some insight into Kurumi’s and Yuuri’s pasts as well as an introduction into a no-longer-around Circle member. So this action and the intrigue of the volume is constantly interrupted by the past.

But despite my gripes about these flashbacks story-wise, artistically, they’re stellar. Most are shown with minimal dialogue, and I could almost hear the creepy music that would swell in a movie/anime adaptation in these scenes. Visual hints that the situation is even more complicated are scattered for savvy-eyed readers. Even if you miss these small cues, seeing Kurumi’s pained expression, Yuuri’s rage face, and, of course, zombie hordes will keep your eyes glued to the page.

A conflict with the Militants was always inevitable, but I like how School-Live! Volume 8 has discarded the slow approach. The manga could go a number of different ways at this point, as facing zombies is a completely different for the School Living Club struggle than dealing with people who think — and think so differently from them. Despite the awkward pacing surrounding the flashbacks, School-Live! has injected itself with some much-needed action to fight off the mindlessness of the last few volumes.