This was my gateway anime, so I may or may not be slightly biased with my review.
Ah, Highschool of the Dead. It's been nearly three years since I first watched it, and even now, I still enjoy the shit out of it.
Highschool of the Dead, or HotD from here on, is rather unique with its premise - at least, in the anime world.
What starts as a normal day for Takashi Komuro turns into hell on Earth as his school is overrun with the living dead. Hardships are faced, classmates drop like flies, and the situation constantly looks bleak.
As with many other works involving zombies, the plot mainly revolves around Takashi and his group of new friends - Rei Miyamoto, the childhood friend; Saya Takagi, the self-proclaimed genius; Saeko Busujima, the kendo club captain with a dark secret; Kouta Hirano, the chubby nerd with a knack for firearms; and Shizuka Marikawa, the school nurse - attempting to survive the zombie outbreak.
HotD does incredibly well with ramping up the atmosphere in various ways. It takes the Romero approach of zombies - slow, shambling living dead that spread through bites. But this show also does well with how the characters change to adapt to the situation. But more on that later.
Of course, when talking about HotD, you can't avoid the fanservice. If you haven't watched many ecchi shows before, then the constant overdosing of fanservice will quite possibly turn you away from this show. However, this by no means makes HotD a horrible show from the get-go. While there are moments that will make you throw your hands in the air and say "What the fuck?", they are more than made up for by the various action sequences.
Again, not really much for me to say in regards to animation. The animation present in HotD was consistently smooth and well-done; the action scenes in particular are incredibly fluid, most clearly seen during episode 5's bridge battle, with slow motion once Hirano manages to upgrade his weaponry, and Saeko's general performance with her wooden sword.
The smooth animation also transfers over to the more light-hearted moments of the show, i.e. the fanservicey parts. Episodes 6 and 8 in particular stand out in a more negative way than the rest of the show, but hey, I don't mind it any more.
I have a lot to say about the sound.
The usually quiet background music in HotD always tends to fit the on-screen situation, and as such increases the tension and atmosphere in the series. One particular instance that stood out for me was near the end of episode seven, when one of the characters had to escape a horde of zombies by walking on a thin wall - one that could barely fit their feet when put one in front of the other.
The opening, for me, would get me excited for the upcoming episode, but other than that was rather... forgettable. The same cannot be said, however, for its ending - or endings, as the ending changes each episode. From the hopelessness of episode 8's The place of hope to the cheerful tune of episode 5's Memories of Days Gone By, each ending song was pleasing to the ear and always stuck with you.
The voice actors were tremendous, with Junichi Suwabe and Miyuki Sawashiro bringing Takashi and Saeko respectively to life in a spectacular fashion. Another special mention goes to Mamoru Miyano for bringing an incredible, albeit short-lived performance as Hisashi Igou, particularly during said character's last moments.
The characters were a joy to watch as they desperately struggled to survive admist the chaos that comes with the end of the world. Takashi in particular undergoes a lot of change from a heartbroken moper who's reluctant to fight in episode one, to willingly killing another human being in order to protect the ones he loves.
Saeko starts off calm and collected, but later in the show, she starts showing a secret nature that is fully laid-out towards the end of the show's run.
Due to the nature of the plot, there can't be a true villain, but for the heroes there is a villain with a teacher at their school, Koichi Shidou. He isn't shown much in the first two episodes, but in his proper "debut" is shown to be a heartless, manipulative bastard aand this is only solidified as HotD goes on.
In general, all characters serve their purpose and their voice actors do a fantastic job in bringing them to life.
Well, with one notable exception...
In the end, Highschool of the Dead is overall just fun to watch. It's one of those shows where it's better to just sit back, relax and switch off as the characters smash heads and struggle to survive. Just don't have TOO much fun watching the blood fly...
Also, if you want to enjoy the horror and gore to its fullest, try to ignore the fanservice. There's more than one moment where the show just shoves it into your face, but if you've watched enough ecchi anime before this show, you should be able to focus more on the story.
Story - 5.6
Animation - 8.5
Sound - 7.7
Characters - 6.2
Enjoyment - 9.0
FINAL SCORE - 7.40/10