Medium Matters: School-Live! II

Okay, so last time we looked at how manga and anime differ. Anime is an action medium while manga has more depth; the anime business is higher financial risk/reward proposition while manga can be riskier in content because of the lower costs involved.

Right. I just summarized a thousand-plus word post in one compound sentence. Just go read it if you haven’t.

What does that mean for School-Live!? Well, a couple things.

The anime has lower production values than the manga

I mean, seriously. The characters aren’t drawn very well. Plus there’s a major error you can see if you look at the picture of the four main characters.

You see, Yuri, Yuki, and Kurumi all go to the same school, while Miki is from another. So why is Yuki wearing the odd uniform?

From left, Yuri, Kurumi, Yuki, Miki. Why does Yuki have the wrong uniform???

You know what happened: no one gave a crap. There’s a reason for that: in anime you have a financial motivation to keep your costs down. Right? Income – costs = profits. That’s true of the manga business, too, of course, but manga is lower risk. So you go ahead at breakneck speed – time is money, right – and it’s not until a couple episodes are out that anyone notices Yuri and Miki have swapped uniforms.

Around about episode six they stuck in some BS about how Miki is actually from the same school. It’s what we call a retcon, a retroactive reconstruction, making up something after the fact to cover for something that shouldn’t have happened.

The structure of the story is changed in the anime

One of the major changes is that in the manga it’s Yuri, Yuki, and Kurumi together at the start. They are the “School Living” club, a fantasy created to defend them psychologically from the fact that they are living in a virtual prison, surrounded by zombies. It’s not until roughly volume three, when they go to the mall to replenish their supplies, that they find Miki and rescue her.

Structurally, what happens is that Yuri, Kurumi, and Yuki form a stable “Mind-Body-Soul” trio, where you have the smart one, the strong one, and the emotional one. This trio is really stable because they complement one another, making it possible for them to overcome obstacles, and it’s good for storytelling because their different strengths lead them to approach solving problems differently.

When Miki arrives in the manga, she is a fourth wheel for a while but is subsumed into the group as a sort of backup at all three positions. She also provides someone for each of them to talk to, an outsider they can confide in without possibly upsetting the stable trio.

In the anime Miki is part of the group to begin with. I suspect they did this to break up that stable trio, to try and create a unique role for Miki to play. Didn’t work. I mean, you can’t have Yuri, Yuki, and Kurumi together, have them act anything like themselves, and not have them be a Mind, Body, Soul trio. Anime or manga, Miki has no seat on that tricycle.

The characters are somewhat different

This is the key difference, of course. The story of School-Live! is farfetched zombie apocalypse twaddle. What makes the manga fascinating is how the girls all suffer from honestly-portrayed psychological damage as a consequence of their fight to stay alive.

This isn’t one of those zombie apocalypse stories populated with hard-eyed killers (See Woody Harrelson in Zombieland); these are high school kids. Yuki is in a fugue state: she literally does not see any zombies, inhabits a fantasy world where everything is normal and their teacher is still alive and watching over her. Kurumi turns cold – literally so later in the series. She had to kill the boy she loved when he came after her. She carries a shovel with her everywhere and uses it as a weapon. Yuri is hiding the fact that she’s stressed out of her mind, barely holding it together. She breaks down several times in the face of adversity and later develops a case of survivor guilt so deep that she nurtures a Teddy bear, believing it to be her lost baby sister.

That’s tough stuff, of course. In the manga these kids are close to the edge, holding it together by pretending there’s nothing wrong. They are desperate. That’s what makes the manga so good: the portrayal of the psychological damage these kids have suffered is honest and real.

But look at what the anime has to do: it has to attract the highest possible audience. And the anime audience is generally relatively young, at least in the first run in Japan. High school and younger.

High school kids like to watch high school kids, right? Think of Revolutionary Girl Utena or Code Geass or Neon Genesis Evangelion or … Do I have to go on? They project themselves into the story. Sailor Moon. High school kids. Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star. High school kids.

But who wants to project themselves into THAT story, where all the “heroes” are emotionally damaged?

So in the anime that’s played down. Played way down. Played way way down.

Yuki is still the damaged one. It couldn’t be School-Live! if Yuki wasn’t in a fugue state.

But the others? Happy-go-lucky happy happy.

There’s some sadness, of course. Megume, the teacher, still dies and her story comes out. A dog they found has an expanded role being cute and then contracts zombieism and has to be finished off (off screen) by Kurumi. Kurumi is injured, and Yuri has a breakdown.

But the whole sense is lighter, happier, more playful. There’s even some fan service, prancing around the school’s rooftop pool in their bikinis. (Yuri is a tad bit on the busty side.) Kurumi especially is a great deal less grim.

Because why not? They have to attract an audience. If no one tunes in next week, no one gets paid. And the animation company already laid out a whole bunch of buckadingdongs to make the show.

So they lightened the mood. It is a decision that makes sense economically. You can’t scare your audience away by being too brutal.

So the medium matters.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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