It seems you can’t throw a rock with out hitting a zombie related work of fiction.
Weather its films, TV or comics they seem to have the fingers in every undead pie. Heck there’s even a Star Wars zombie book out there.
However, when it comes to anime there’s really only one place where the undead hang out.
And it turns out it’s at high school.
High School of the Dead is an anime series based upon a manga written by Daisuke Sato and illustrated by Shoji Sato. The show was produced by Madhouse.
The show follows a group of teens and young adults that try to survive the zombie apocalypse that’s taken over their school, town and the rest of the world.
The team is led by Takashi Komuro (Leraldo Anzaldua) an over monologging, mopy 17-year-old student. He’s followed by; his ex-girlfriend Rei Miyamoto (Jessica Bonne), sword touting and apply named Saeko (pronounced Psycho) Busujim (Taylor Hannah), pink haired know-it-all Saya Takagi (Maggie Flecknoe) , gun nut otaku Kohta Hirano (Mark X. Laskowski) and their ditzy school nurse Shizuka Marikawa (Monica Rial).
The group has to band together if they wish to survive the zombies and other survivors who roam the streets.
At a glance HOTD is little more than an anime version of thousands of other horror films already released. However, there’s more to the show that just that.
While other titles might play on the melodrama of the situation, most of the show is told with a fun loving vibe.
After the second episode most of the characters have seemingly dealt with the whole zombie shock and end up being perfect little zombie killers. Little time is even spent with the drama of survivors guilt.
The action scenes start off normal with large sweeping 3D camera movements adding to the scope of the students prison like situation, however when the group escape their school the action soon goes so over the top that even Michael Bay would bow down in appreciation.
Character’s end up jumping impossible heights and hit the zombies with such force that you’d think that their high school were feeding them Superhuman serum.
Adding to the lunacy are the show’s characters themselves.
While you’d expect that characters would develop over time the group does little growing and stick with their basic description.
There’s the normal horror film clichés of the stupid blonde and the overly calm killing machine but the use of a otaku with a gun fetish is something out of the norm.
It’s hard not to think that Kohta’s soul purpose in the plot was to empower the show’s target audience of overweight fanatics who feel like losers (don’t worry, I’m one to).
Furthermore the show features a strong and deep soundtrack, with each episode featuring it’s own song that only appears in that episode. All of the songs feature rocking guitar chords and riffs that add to the action scenes a great deal.
These elements along with a quick moving plot allow HOTD to be a light show that viewers don’t have to take seriously, something you wouldn’t expect from a zombie show.
Despite the show’s fun loving attitude there’s still a number of issues with HOTD, one of which being it’s character design.
While each character looks distinct from each other it’s hard not to notice that most characters share a similar head shape featuring a dramatically pointed chin (no beards here).
Additionally the designs of the female characters are…I guess boobtastic?
While I’d compare the female character’s gravity defying breast’s to the Dead of Alive game series, HOTD ends up being worse than anything Tomonobu Itagaki could of dreamed up.
To say that the bodies of the characters are offensives to women would be an understatement and for a medium that isn’t known for subtly in this department that’s saying something.
The breasts seem to not only have minds of their own but possibly their own gravitational pull, or at least that’s what I attribute to the hundreds of jiggle and up skirt shots throughout the show.
School Nurse Shizuka is the worse example as she seemingly has two CFL regulation footballs attached to her chest (yes there is a difference between NFL and Canadian footballs. Why? Cause the CFL is RADICAL). It’s also something of a act of god that her back doesn’t break from the sheer weight of her mammaries over the course of the show’s 12 episodes.
Additionally the show seems to jump back and forth about how much they want to show the characters off. While most of the show doesn’t have nudity there is one episode where the go full out and show Shizuka’s sweater meat.
This brings up the question, why stop at once? If you plan of having nudity in the show then why back off after just a couple of scenes?
It’s odd that I’m criticizing both the shows use and lack of nudity but the inclusion of nudity almost makes the show look bipolar in a way.
The show also suffers from the same issue as the new Doctor Who as all of the female characters want to sleep with the main character like he’s Kintaro from Golden Boy (that’s a reference). In fact, it seems to be one of the few character elements that’s advanced throughout the show.
To go with the misogyny is the show’s is it’s lack of tight storytelling.
Throughout the series Takashi narrates the story. Despite this he never really has anything to say during these parts and more or less ends up saying the same thing over and over again.
More over, the show at times has bad pacing. The best example coming during the fourth episode, Running in the Dead where the plot so far is recapped for no good reason.
Pacing is also an issue during the shows OVA called Drifters of the Dead (yes all of the episodes have Dead in the title) where the group ends up getting high on a beach and trip out for the night.
Despite the shows up skirts, clunky storytelling and sharp chins HOTD is still a fun show. It doesn’t take itself seriously and seems to pick the best clichés from the genre and uses them well.
If you get tired of the over preachy “The real zombies are inside us!” nature of the Walking Dead then maybe you should look up HOTD…just remember that this is a world where bra’s have no meaning or power.
Highschool of the Dead was produced by Madhouse and licensed by Madman Entertainment (Austria), Sentai Filmworks (North America) and Manga Entertainment (United Kindom). A second series is currently in production.