While 2020 and 2021 have been bumper years for anime, sometimes you want to try something a little different. Thankfully, with streaming services breaking down international distribution barriers, it's now easier than ever to watch the best East Asian shows. One such show is The School Nurse Files, which is sure to delight drama lovers and anime fans alike.
Written by Chung Serang and Lee Kyoung-mi, the series is based on Chung Serang's novel School Nurse Ahn Eun-young. It was produced by KeyEast in 2019 and released internationally by Netflix in 2020. Unfortunately, while the show was heavily promoted pre-launch, the landscape of 2020 meant that it didn't get the attention it rightfully deserved.
The School Nurse Files follows Ahn Eun-young, a school nurse with the ability to see Jellies, tiny creatures that are representations of human desires, feelings and even spirits. While they're usually harmless, some can become dangerous and do horrible things if left unchecked. Thankfully, Eun-young does have ways to stop these creatures, including a toy gun and sword that make the Jellies pop like balloons.
However, when she moves to a new school, Eun-young finds herself tangled up in a strange mystery. She has to solve this mystery while helping the students with their various day-to-day emotional issues. Eun-young isn't alone in this endeavor as, during her time at her new school, she meets Hong In-pyo, another teacher. In-pyo has a special aura that makes him immune to the Jellies, and he eventually becomes a helpful ally to Eun-young, even if they don't fully understand one another. After spending time together, the pair quickly wonder if their relationship is something more than an alliance of convenience.
The standout part of the series is the visuals. The CGI used for the Jellies is fantastic as it makes them feel both cute and offputtingly weird. Their movement and texture really help ram home how otherworldy these things are. The designs for the gigantic Jelly creatures are also fantastic, often resembling strange versions of regular sea creatures. The show often blends the real and the whimsical to great results, making the world feel familiar and unusual at the same time. These visuals work perfectly with the action sequences that are fast, fluid and have a real anime vibe. Again, the blending of reality and fantasy helps a lot, creating situations that turn everyday objects and locations into stunning obstacle courses and scary jelly lairs.
However, this isn't just style without substance. The plot is engaging and intriguing and does an excellent job at drip-feeding the viewer information, giving them a chance to understand the setting without crushing them under long, tedious exposition monologues. The show seamlessly fuses action, romance and comedy in a way that lets every genre shine without one ever feeling like it's just tacked on. The humor is brilliantly done, especially in scenes where Eun-young's Jelly fighting is seen from another character's perspective.
The core cast is brilliant, Jung Yu-mi's performance as Eun-young is believable, and she strikes the perfect balance between drive and melancholy. Nam Joo-hyuk brings similar talent to the character of In-pyo, and both leads have fantastic on-screen chemistry, which makes the pair's unique and unlikely relationship shine. The rest of the school staff are equally well-acted, and they make the location feel like a real school, complete with tangled webs of interpersonal relationships and dramas.
With only six episodes, The School Nurse Files is an excellent binge watch for anime fans looking to push their boundaries a little. Eun-young's personality and the show's general lust for life will stick with you long after the series ends. And while there are currently no plans for a second season, we can only hope that Eun-young returns one day as there are plenty more stories the daring school nurse could tell.