High School of the Dead

Now to steer things back to normal, lets start off with a nice, casual show. I’m thinking of something that’s fun, upbeat, and with lots of blood. Hey, I know! How about the recently aired first season of High School of the Dead! Yet another series I’ve come across by Madhouse Studios, High School of the Dead is jam pack with undead beasties and more fan service than an aired television program should probably have.  This twelve-episode series is an adaptation of the long running manga series of the same name which follows a group of high school students, a school nurse, a little girl, and her dog through a classic zombie apocalypse. I approached this series with a lot of excitement, because up until now most anime I have come across featuring zombies seem to lack the emphasis on how deadly the average zombie can be, and they’re usually the annoying grunts of some deadlier supernatural being, such as a vampire (think Hellsing); however, now we have a good ol’ fashion nightmare featuring zombies as the primary threat.

The series starts off with our lead protagonist, Takashi Komoro, apparently ditching class to brood by himself in the school stairwell. From where he stood he was able to fully witness a teacher get attacked by a wandering man from off the street; as if that wasn’t shocking enough, the teacher got back up and attacked the other teachers nearby! Not taking any chances, Takashi rushes to find the girl he was brooding over, a childhood friend by the name of Rei Miyomoto, to try and get themselves to safety. Meanwhile the entire student body learns firsthand what the commotion has been about as the zombie plague sweeps through the school. Gathering as many survivors as they could, including Saeko Busujima, Kouta Hirano, and Saya Takagi, Takashi and Rei attempt to escape the school, find their families, and survive this zombie apocalypse. Will the group find their way out alive, or will they fall victim to this epidemic like the rest of the world?

One of the very first things you’ll notice when watching this series is the excessive amount of fan service; for those who don’t know, fan service is a term we like to use in cases like these to describe panty shots, bouncing breasts, and other like occurrences of sexual appeal offered to the audience, and this show certainly isn’t lacking. In fact, the fan service in High School of the Dead is so apparent that it actually stops being service, and nears the point of subjecting the audience to it. However, the alternative of watching a censored version is much worse, as the black blurs take up half the screen and then you don’t see anything. But hey, blood, guns, and bouncing breasts aren’t too bad, right? And rest assured that there’s no actual nudity. Towards the end of the season the fan service starts becoming less obtrusive, and we get to see more of the blood and gore that we truly love about zombie flicks.

But wait a minute, this is a show out of Japan, the country that looks more down upon violence rather than sex, not to mention that High School of the Dead is an aired television program, leaving little room for the animators to get creative with the violence. Yes, the violence isn’t all that great, especially around the first few episodes, but it’s still really gritty. I was really hoping for a throwback to the classic elevator scene of the original Dawn of the Dead, but after viewing the first episode and not once seeing even the slightest bit of dismemberment, I realized that I was stuck only with blood. However, all is not lost! Thankfully we get lots of blood! Not to mention that the action gets more creative as the series goes on and the characters get more weapons to play with.

So, I’ve talked about the fan service and the blood, two things everybody likes to see in a zombie story, now what about the characters pushing the plot forward? Well, the characters start off pretty flat, but still pretty damn cool. Each character is a different anime archetype and each has a distinct personality. While at the beginning the characters are card board cut-outs of the average anime show, a few of them show a tremendous amount of development in the latter half the series, and each of them become that much better. I’m sure by the end you’ll have picked your favorite; mine’s Saeko. I’d also like to add that a lot of the characters remind me of the Resident Evil series, both movie and video game. Not because the characters are similar, but because each of them are kinda badass in their own merit. They’re not your average group of scared teenagers running blindly from a hoard of zombies; these characters are actually capable of doing something about it, and they do, which I really liked.

The plot is also very typical of a zombie story, especially one that’s been converted to an anime version. There’s not much to talk about here, however the fact that High School of the Dead is an ongoing series rather than a movie allows it to explore more aspects of the zombie apocalypse, which I thought was one of the more interesting points. It deals with how different levels of society collapse, and how different groups of people react, so we really get a good strong feel of what this world is like now that it has fallen apart. I hope this continues in the following season.

One thing that the plot does fall victim to is not deciding which character romance it wants to go with. While this is a trope many romance shows have (one male and a bunch of females after his gun), it is still not a particularly good one, and can be considered another form of fan service. Sure, for romantic comedy flicks it might keep the ending a surprise, but for a zombie show it’s very unnecessary. The main reason I believe this is done is so that the fans can go crazy and create their own pairings, but it’s still a cop-out in my opinion. Pick a couple and stick with it. But I digress. It’s not that bad, and it doesn’t get in the way of the show too much.

So, what’s the best part about High School of the Dead? Well, it’s just very enjoyable. This isn’t the kind of story you need to take seriously, or even critique. In fact, I don’t even think it takes itself seriously, in a good way. A lot of it is over the top and unreal, which is entertaining to watch. For the most part, High School of the Dead is just a fun ride, and wants you to enjoy it. It’s a nice break from reality, and candy for the eyes and ears. In a way it is sort of like a cross between Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Ikki Tousen, and Dawn of the Dead; it’s over the top, full of fan services, and with zombies.

Overall, I think High School of the Dead is a very decent show. Not impressive as far as plot, characters and gore go, and a little excessive with the fan service, but everything together makes it a fun watch. If I were to seriously critique this show on the same level as I do with a Satoshi Kon movie, well, it would be safe to say that High School of the Dead would score very low. However, since I know the difference between art and entertainment, I’m going to give High School of the Dead a 6/10, for being so damn enjoyable. I recommend this show to anybody looking for a nice, casual show that’s fun, upbeat and has lots of blood! Until my next review, this has been the Geek With Taste, geekin’ it up once more!

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