I subscribe to Crunchyroll, which includes an anime series called School Live. If you’ve never seen Episode 1 of School Live, be warned, this post is a major spoiler.
School Live appears to be an over the top moe anime series bursting with pink and purple sugary kawaii cuteness. Protagonist Yuki has pink wear and wears a cat-eared beanie.
Episode 1 starts with a classic anime opening: Girl Late for School. The joke is that Yuki manages to be late for school- even though she’s part of a special club of girls who have decided to live right on the school campus. Major feat of school girl laziness.
From the theme song to the wacky hijinks, everything about this anime seems cute. There are subtle hints that all was not as purple and pink as it seemed, but I missed them, perhaps too excited that I understood bits of the dialog with my meager Japanese.
At any rate, the ending of Episode 1 was a total shocker for me. We’d been seeing events through Yuki’s delusion. In reality Yuki is barely surviving in the midst of a gruesome zombie apocalypse. Her school is trashed and abandoned, Yuki and a band of girls are barricaded inside. Monsters scuffle across the soccer field and peer at them through barricades made of student desk chairs. These girls and their little dog are the only things left alive in a dead world. And it’s not even clear whether the girls and dog are even there, or if they, too, are part of Yuki’s imagination.
I barely slept the night we watched School Live. Yuki’s delusion is gut wrenching and disturbing. It freaked me out because we all live our daily lives under the spell of delusion. We see the homeless person camped out at the grocery store and say, that could never happen to me. Our delusions shield us from failure, from fears, from the impending doom of mortality. Even in the happiest and luckiest of lives, friends and loved ones get sick, grow old, die. Each and every one of us will get sick and die, or slowly age, weaken and die.
Thinking about impending death all day is a perspective that’s incompatible with mental health and productivity. We all need to construct a more cheery story to get through our days. But that doesn’t mean the terrible, awful, unhappy fact of mortality is any less real.
That moment when we realize one of those those scary things we try not to think about is actually happening? The stomach dropping terror is captured extremely well by the first episode of School Live.