Zombie Holocaust, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later and Resident Evil: all standout zombie entertainment in their respective media, however none of these (bar the distinctly average Degeneration movie) have crossed into the anime world. Enter stage right Highschool of the Dead, a slick Romero-esque translation of a manga that has had otaku tongues wagging for a while and seemingly for a good reason. As a salute to those that came before it, there are numerous nods to the masters of the genre. Most are too spoilerific to mention here, so just keep an eye out for the “Shaun” petrol station.
First and foremost, this show is a horror – and a good one at that. It is not the lurching zombies thirsting for human flesh that invokes fear, although this does add to the overall atmosphere of the series. Instead, the terrifyingly accurate and desperate attempt at survival of an unlikely group of kids as their world slowly starts to fall around their ears that will cull the most alarm. Exploring the motivations of each character, the tense drama that ensues gives rise to the question: what exactly would you do in their situation? Yes, they do act like angsty teens, but when day to day living becomes reliant on glimmers of hope, such as crossing a river to reach a safe house, then I think their reactions are justified.
Of course, there are still the zombies to consider. The writers stick with the traditional slow moving, brain-dead corpses; their strength and sheer volume are frankly chilling, especially as the usually dependable protection of the police and army seems completely useless. Since the authorities are so inept, the transformation of an overweight geek into a life-saving crack shot, and a school kendo champion suddenly able to launch 10 foot into the air for a breathtaking aerial attack seem completely unbelievable. But who cares? This is entertainment and a few liberties are allowed, especially when the action scenes can immerse the viewer so successfully. Further hooking the gore junkies, the excessive bloodshed builds on the shock factor making the pulse-raising chase scenes even more hectic.
But who can talk about High School of the Dead without mentioning the shameless ecchi? Giving a hint of the impending fan service, up-skirt shots and well endowed women pressed face first against a metal fence greet the viewer during the opening credits. Sadly, those who haven't built up their immunity to perversion may find the misplaced fanservice a deal breaker. Although it doesn’t hit full force until episode 7, even I found myself questioning the reasoning behind four buxom babes fondling each other in a bathroom during the zombie apocalypse. However, I’m sure there’s some psychological thesis exploring the mental state of those in such a precarious situation... probably...maybe.
Another buzz-kill in the show is the sheer lack of explanation: Why did people turn into zombies? Is it all one big government conspiracy? Although readers of the manga assure me the story is ongoing and therefore still time for these to be answered, there are many people waiting ravenously for season two, and for good reason. Sexy, slick action and a damned good story save the show from the over the top ecchi and make High School of the Dead one of my favourite shows of 2010.
Decorated with countless buckets of blood, the camera artistically displays red splatters as another of “them” is brutally dispatched with a baseball bat, adding to the tension and desperation of the survivors. Also aesthetically pleasing is the fluidity of the action, especially when Saeko takes centre stage during her balletic performance with the sword. The numerous chases down endless corridors and tight alleyways is furious and fast paced; the scenery distorts as the focus moves around a slickly drawn character with an amazing overall effect. Unfortunately, the same sticking point in the story also trips the animation: breasts. Swinging like udders or shuddering as if filled with jelly, the unrealistic funbags are an unwelcome distraction from the adventures unfolding on-screen.
Varied and exciting, the initially quiet opening theme suddenly bursts into life as the credits depict a fervent zombie slaughter. The closing tracks are unique to each episode and feature emotive lyrics that follow the plight of the survivors. What also works well is the lack of background music during the show; a haunting silence isn’t immediately noticeable, however it adds to the sense of impending doom that hangs in the air throughout.
Marina Inoue brings her Yoko (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) attitude to the girlish Miyamoto, whilst the perpetually surprising Miyuki Sawashiro serves up equal measure of badass and seductive siren as Saeko spends half her screen time slaying zombies and the other flirting with Takashi. The show’s high budget is especially apparent in the choice of seiyuu, each bringing their stereotyped character to believable life. My only issue is with the high-pitched voice acting for the school nurse Miss Marikawa. High pitched and grating, the vocal range was not the only thing to irritate me about her....
Instead, the gigantean breasted blonde bimbo acts just as one would expect – like a completely feckless waste of ink better suited alongside some loser in a tedious harem. Featuring in brashly implied yuri, the supposed nurse aimlessly bumbles along wasting oxygen for twelve episodes. Although Marikawa undergoes little to no development, one of her final lines sums her up perfectly and allows a little forgiveness: “It’s because I was written this way”.
Luckily, her compatriots save the character section and make an excellent horror anime even better. The main protagonist Takashi starts off lovelorn by following the helpless and confused classmate Miyamoto like a lost puppy, but becomes a stronger figurehead who carries himself like a hero. Although unbelievable as a real otaku, Kouta’s one month gun training course in the US coupled with a degree in Call of Duty instantly turns him into a crack shot with a Springfield M1A1 Super Match; but he remains a firm favourite and generally likeable as he protects those closest to him. Despite the sultry Saeko easily dominating the female protagonists, Saya is a surprise swan that blossoms from an ugly duckling; starting out as an utterly detestable self-confessed genius, she transforms into likeable human during a surprise revelation.
Devouring this show in one sitting, I became akin to a crack addict desperate to get their next fix. The numerous flaws are easily overlooked as the pacing of the action and development of characters remains Highschool of the Dead’s strength throughout. Arm yourself with a copy of the Zombie Survival Guide, turn off the lights and get ready for a timely reminder as to why horror and anime should go hand in hand.
If you are a real zombie fan and looking into seeing an anime that is all about zombies, gore, and survival...Look elsewhere. This anime is not about the zombies. It seems the artist was so concentrated on making this as close to a hentai as possible without classifying it as such. Every five seconds (no joke, I'm being literal) there is some kind of ecchi scene. It is really annoying, frustrating, and ruins the hell out of the anime.Not to mention that there are some scenes in which are unrealistic to fighting, but that's not too uncommon in anime's so I won't rate it for that...It's just all the damned ecchi. So if you're looking for zombies, not ecchi, then yeah this is not the anime for you.
This anime is very good at trolling. It begins with a premise that makes you think it will be far better than an average action or ecchi show but eventually ends up being far less.
In the beginning most were made to think that this will be Resident Evil with fan service; which sounds too good to be true even if you are not a fan of the games. I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome to see Claire running in her underwear in a road filled with zombies before Leon jumps on board a motorcycle and starts to shoot at them with a machine gun, then grabs her and takes her to a mall where they get naked and ….
… Um, I drifted off to fanfic land too much; back to the review.
Anyways, in a way this anime REALLY is all of the above. It does start with the usual zombie infestation and people trying to get over the shock, organize and try to find a way to survive. It also starts with people being bitten and friends turning to foes right away. Plus, it all happens in a highschool, where there is a lot of teen angst, romance and plain old hormones speaking loud and clear. I must say that the first three episodes had created a setting where you would be offered an amazing horror-survival/action/ecchi/romance/comedy/drama anime.
… And then it went down the drain. Because it soon turned from “zombies with some boobs in the background” to “boobs with some zombies in the background”. It all reverted back to a retarded ecchi show, with the threat of the monsters being completely superficial and unimportant before watching the characters getting naked and drunk in the bath.
But the show keeps trying to fool you it has an actual plot somewhere in it by constantly showing what is going around in the city around other people, how they are reacting to the crisis and how madness and panic are taking over the population. As much as that appears to give depth to the setting, in reality it is nothing but a few minute skits done on the run around people you will never see or care about again. It is nothing but a lame attempt to remind the viewer for a few minutes that there are still zombies somewhere out there before the camera swifts back to its main plot: Retarded fan service.
The show also attempts to make you think the main characters have depth by shoehorning silly romance, teen angst and a few dementia scenes here and there. All that are again nothing but red herring as they are there just to poorly dress naked caricatures that are mostly fit for a hentai rather a horror survival show. You only end up remembering the girls for the scenes they are naked or in their underwear and you only remember the guys for the scenes they are all horny peeping toms. Of course, for the same reason they are far more memorable as this superficial combo of extreme ecchiness and drama makes them easier to distinguish next to the casts of other harem casts. For example, I will never forget Saeko and her bullet-time boobs or Hirano and his crazy otakuness around weapons.
One would of course wonder why he should view the show as nothing but ecchi and enjoy it as nothing more other than that. Sure, I must admit that it has a very high factor of nude and erotic humour that surpasses most of everything else out there. It also has some really crazy action scenes with the characters fending of zombies with various unrealistic yet hilarious methods. It has good production values that offer very fluid animation, catchy songs, zany battles and high quality fan service. All those make this anime far more memorable than most other ecchis or braindead action shows. On the other hand it’s not like you get something amazing, since the characters look like hentai stock material and the artwork is quite the standard one.
In all, this show is basically a high-quality ecchi comedy which lures you with an interesting premise that is barely taken seriously. It manages to become memorable without ever having actual depth. Its story is otherwise a joke and is left even incomplete, while the OVA that follows was nothing but storyless softporn. How much you end up enjoying it depends solely on how much you prefer erotic humour over good storytelling as well as how funny you will find the fact you were trolled to think this was actually Resident Evil with boobs.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 2/2 (matrix boobs)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (very loose)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered as dumb guilty pleasure)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot and too much retarded fan service)
Memorability 4/4 (over the top to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 0/1 (looks typical)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 1/3 (good ideas presented too light)
Characters 2/4 (they are fun but not special)
The Storyline was well unique!... No that’s not it... crazy! Yes Crazy is the word I shall stick too. I do not normally go for Ecchi Anime, but the Zombie and Survival and all that won over the tag ECCHI!... If you don’t like Ecchi... don’t bother watching this Anime. The only reason I actually watched this Anime without giving up was because I managed to put it through my head that what I am seeing ISNT REAL!... I shouldn’t keep talking about the Ecchi side. The horror, gore, survival, bloody and action side too it was AMAZING. I am not kidding I loved how it progressed but of course the ending LET ME DOWN… even if you add the OVA... it still let me down. * Don’t watch the OVA if you HATE ECCHI... IT’S EVEN WORSE in the OVA.
The Animation and Sound WAS AMAZING and perfect and was the elements that helped with keeping my interest in the Anime.
The Characters … well I am not sure what to talk about here. The main guy Takashi was the only character, bar Alice that I actually liked from the get go and I have never not liked him. The girls bar Alice were annoying, pathetic at time and I KNOW it’s hard to deal with Zombies, but COME ON.. You don’t have to keep showing off your BOOBS!
Alice being the cute little girl I keep talking about was my favourite female girl character in the whole Anime and she didn’t even come into it from the start. The other guy Kouta was pretty funny at times and helped with the humour part of the Anime. One more thing on the characters part... I hate I HATE Koichi.
Overall I did enjoy the Anime… but the overdramatic parts with the Ecchiness and just the Girl characters in general (bar Alice) just made this Anime pathetic at times. The ending also was… bad and I know there was a reason but still…
WARNING: The following review contains Strong Language, if that is not your cup of tea, I suggest you do not continue. Thought I'd warn you.
Critic's Log - Earthdate: December 24, 2012. Review #27: Highschool of the Dead
On November 30, 2012. I went and saw the new James Bond movie Skyfall with a friend, and after the movie was over, we went to the library and I checked out some anime because my friend usually suggests animes that I haven't watched yet that were available at this library. She had me check out Gun x Sword (which I previously reviewed) and another anime called "Highschool Of The Dead". I remember my brother telling me that the show is full of "tits and ass" and I told my friend that and I asked her if she'd seen it and she told me that she hasn't seen it yet but she insisted that I watch it. Well, I've held back quite a while and since Christmas is tomorrow, I'm in a holly jolly mood and I can't wait to BITCHSLAP this anime for this review! This anime is obviously going on the naughty list. So... Let's shoot the fuck out of Highschool Of The Dead!
Takashi Komuro is just an average high school boy, that is until an infection breaks that turns people into zombie-like creatures. Alongside his friends and a school nurse, they fight their way out and continue their journey to find out what exactly is going on with the world.
There! That is the basic gist of the plot of this bloody mess.
To be technical, this is a Madhouse production and to my surprise. The animation actually looks really good in this show. In fact, it's probably the only good feature in Highschool Of The Dead (or H.O.T.D. for short) Madhouse is known for their really good production quality from back then as well as today and the animation is mostly good while having a few problems. One is that the zombies could've looked a little better but they still look alright to a degree. The big problem I have with the animation department is them throwing in fanservice in the middle of a damn action scene. Not only that but there are many scenes with lots and boobies and plenty of panty shots. Expect to see a few scenes of nudity too. I wouldn't mind the fanservice if it wasn't thrown in from scene to scene from time to time. That's my major bone to pick with H.O.T.D.
The music by Takafumi Wada is not that memorable to me, but there are some worthy mentions in the music department for Highschool Of The Dead. The closing credits feature 12 songs with one song for each episode. It's kind of nice, but there are some songs that really feel a little out of place. When it comes to the opening, I just have a few things to say about it. The opening theme kicks ass, the visuals are pretty cool for the most part, and it's a song that is stuck in my head for a while. The highlight on the music is definitely the opening.
When it comes to Voice Acting, The Japanese Cast is decent but it's not really an all-star cast. Junichi Suwabe plays Komuro just fine for the most part. Marina Inoue (the seiyu of Yoko from Gurren Lagann) is fine as Rei Miyamoto, Eri Kitamura is okay as Saya. Junko Takeuchi (The seiyu of Naruto from...Naruto) sounds nothing like Naruto and yet plays her role just fine. Miyuki Sawashiro plays Saeko pretty well for the most part. Nobuyuki Hiyama is pretty good as Kota Hirano *Record Scratch* Kota...Hirano...? You mean that this character was named after Kouta Hirano, the manga artist and creator of Hellsing.
Ok, there's no coincidence. The Kota Hirano you see in H.O.T.D. was modeled after the real-life Kouta Hirano. You know what? I liked Hirano throughout the series, he was alright.
Now that I've brought up the subbed version of Highschool Of The Dead, it's time that I mention the dub. OH...FUCK! Before I mention the vocal talent, there's something I must mention. Steven Foster is responsible for writing the Adaptive script as well as being the ADR director for the dub of this show. If you know what I'm talking about. It's THAT Steven... Motherfucking...Foster. He's a ADR director that I assume proudly shows that he doesn't give two fucks about the original material regardless of what it really is or how people would react to the dubs he produces. The only dub I think was a good one he did was Cromartie High School. However since he produced this dub, expect a few things.
1. Characters swearing up a fucking storm. I don't know how many times the F-Bomb has been dropped.
2. He has a tendency to portray the characters as mean-spirited while the original Japanese intent of the characters tends to differ.
3. Some rare adaptive script writing that has some awkwardness.
4. Pop culture references that don't make sense in the context of the story.
5. A mixture of over-acting and wooden acting.
What Steven Foster should do is try to re-create the intent of the original material and maintaining the spirit of the original Japanese intent instead of making a bastardized juvenile adaptive script that mocks the material instead of being faithful to it. If other dubs produced by Steven Foster have the same problem, then this dub has the same old Foster bullshit from before. When I mentioned the juvenile feel of the adaptive script, it's a little surprising to admit that it actually fits the show to some degree. Now that I'm done mentioning about Steven Foster, I'll actually get right down to the dub. It's not good at all, it's pretty bad. Leraldo Anzaldua is okay as Komuro but sounds off at times. Jessica Boone is alright I guess. Maggie Flecknoe is way off as Saya. Mark X. Laskowski is not all that great as Hirano. Monica Rial sounds way off as Shizuka (the Nurse). Taylor Hannah is a bit decent as Saeko, nothing more. Brittney Karbowski (Black*Star from Soul Eater, Pride from FMA: Brotherhood) plays a little girl and it's nothing to write home about. Hey! the English voice of Krad (Illich Guardiola) voices Shido in the dub and he's alright for the most part. Still, the dub is pretty bad and it is much easier to watch this one subbed. Thank God that's over and done.
When it comes to characters, they are poorly written. Especially the female cast. Komuro is a little uninteresting to me and comes off as a bit one-dimensional at times. Rei is alright, Saya is a rich bitch (really, she is), Shizuka is...uh... well... she doesn't really do a whole damn lot. Saeko is a little interesting. Hirano is fun to watch at times and a character that I liked for the most part. The characters are still not written that well and that's another big flaw.
The biggest flaw I see is the story. It's sort of a average story about high school except that there's an outbreak of zombies swarming around mixed in with some gun action and bouncing boobies as well as some panty shots. It's a real fucking mess and I feel as if the show is confused itself because the school plays little to no part later on unless you count the students as part of the school setting I guess. I will say that the weirdest thing is when Arisu is thrown in the mix of characters. She's just a 7-year old and having the majority of female characters being labeled as "sexy characters" seems to not mix in too well, at least there's not any innuendos thrown in during her moments. As much as I am trying to hate this show. I can't fully hate it for some reason. The fanservice is a bit fucking annoying, but the action scenes were sure cool. The animation was a solid effort by Madhouse and I do label this anime as "brainless entertainment" because this show doesn't hide from what it really is. This anime doesn't feel rushed or slowed down either, so that's also a good plus. Wanna know an extreme mindfuck? Tetsuro Araki is the director of this show and he was very well known for his direction on Death Note.
This really is a mixed bag kind of anime, but this will be memorable for a while. The ending isn't all that great but what do you expect after sitting through 11 episodes of brainless entertainment. If you have extra time to spare and want to see Zombies getting shot to hell as well as seeing some nice animation, give this anime a try. Just get ready to be bombarded with big bouncing boobies as well as panty shots, Cleavage, and some nudity. In other words, expect a whole lot of fanservice before you sit down and watch it. It is quite entertaining either way.
Highschool Of The Dead is available from Sentai Filmworks. The manga written by Daisuke Sato and illustrated by Shoji Sato is available from Yen Plus. An OVA called "Drifters of The Dead" has not been released stateside for some odd reason, which is kind of a shame to say the least.
With all that said, Highschool Of The Dead is a mixed bag with a mess of a plot, a unmemorable soundtrack, poorly written characters, and a pretty bad dub. It's action scenes and animation is what saved the show from being absolutely awful. The fanservice should be viewed as "Take it or Leave it". It's surprisingly an entertaining show for what it is. This is an anime that may be hard to hate, but it is hard to like if you are trying to take it seriously.
I give Highschool Of The Dead a 5.7 out of 10, it is SO-SO!
Feel free to comment below, and Merry Christmas.