Okay, to kick off our Spooky Anime theme for this month, we start with a show that includes a staple in any real good scary story–BREASTS! Oh, I’m sorry…I mean ZOMBIES! But you’ll find plenty examples of the former in this series…and then some….and then some MORE. “Highschool of the Dead” pretty much takes your standard horror movie plot and ramps up certain elements to 11 and beyond. What ARE these elements? Well, grab your weapon of choice and enter, if you dare. I’m Cajun Samurai, and this is my review of “Highschool of the Dead”.
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – Oh boy… um…where do I begin–Violence, Sexuality, Blood, Gore, profuse swearing, and general scariness is the order of the day for this series. Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husbands too cause breasts are bouncing everywhere ’round here. This show is rated TV-MA, and I agree with it completely–once again, Hide your kids, hide your wife…and hide your husband too, because this show leves little to the imagination.
Series Availability – “Highschool of the Dead” can be found in just about any retail store that sells anime like Best Buy and FYE. Walmart, for understandable reasons, might not carry “HOTD” in a brick and mortar store, but it is available for order online.
Story Premise – “Highschool of the Dead” is a 12 episode series plus one OVA based on off an ongoing manga created by Daisuke Satō. The series follows our main characters, a group of high school students from various walks of life as they struggle to deal with the sudden, rampant infestation of creatures in their city known and referred to only as “Them” [To prevent confusion, we’ll refer to “them” by what they’re actually supposed to be–ZOMBIES]. Though their origins are not explained in the series, it is quickly determined that they mass-produce by biting living human beings which then almost immediately turns them into the living impaired. The series follows our intrepid group of students [and one school nurse] as they move from place to place, trying to survive and locate their parents while fighting off the living dead. “HOTD” is a lot of stories jammed into one. It’s a great and intriguing action/horror/thriller series and it’s also a kind of low-level coming of age story, which is awesome and pays off towards some of the later episodes, but in some weird sort of way, “HOTD” has traces of a harem story. Now, I’m not one to hate on harems–there are some good ones out there. But when you try to add in a harem element to a show involving bloody violence against zombies, it seems extremely out-of-place. I mean, every girl in this group has the hots for our male leader. If you’re going to involve any kind of romantic element to a story such as this, you should stick with ONE pairing and call it a day; roll off the others into their own relationships or, even better, KEEP THEM SINGLE! There’s nothing wrong with having single guys and girls who are just good friends in the same team, ESPECIALLY in a show like this. The ending was OKAY. Not spectacular by any means, but satisfying in its own little way and a good jump-point for a potential Season Two…assuming a Season Two even happens…or assuming that the viewer reads the manga. [19.5/25]
Favorite Scene – The English Dub has provided me with so many funny scenes so I’ll pick my top two:
- In Episode 6, our group arrives at a “safe house”; the home of special ops agent and a friend of Shizuka Marikawa, our local nurse. While the girls are bathing in what has to be one of THE most blatant fanservice moments in anime, the boys found the secret stash of weapons our Special Ops agent kept under lock. Komuro gawks at the weapons saying “So she lives with a friend of hers, isn’t that right? Who is she, Sarah F***ing Palin?”
- In Episode 8, the team arrives at the other side of the river they were crossing in the previous episode. Shizuka guns the motor in the hum-vee she aquired from the house. The car flies in the air just above where Kota is standing. He dives to one side just as the truck lands. Reflecting on his near-death experience, Kota says “All these zombies and I’m gonna get killed by an Asian woman driver!”
Characters – Our main cast of characters are pretty much a role-call of many anime character tropes, save for one. I’ll get to him last, but in the meantime, Sound off! “Reluctant Somewhat Lone Wolf Shounen Hero” [Takashi Komuro]? Check. “Potential Love Interest #1 Who Was Dating The Best Friend But Now Has Eyes for The Main Character” [Rei Miyamoto]? Check. “Potential Love Interest #2 Who is A HUGE Tsundere, Spoiled Rotten, Stuck Up to High Heaven and Also Filthy-Stinkin’-Rich” [Saya Takagi]? Check. “Love Interest #3 With the Dark Background Who Just Met our Main Male Lead and Already, Somewhat Inexplicably Has the Hots for Him” [Saeko Busujima]? Check. “Moe Blonde Klutz With A Size HHH Rack Who Gets All Horny When Overheated/Drunk” [Shizuka Marikawa]? Check. And last but not least, “Unabashedly Cute Kid with Customary Mascot Animal” [Arisu Maresato and Zeke/Zero]? Double-Check. The only character that really doesn’t fall into any of the stereotypical tropes mentioned above from the main cast is Former “Drew Threw it to You” Award Winner and military gun otaku Kohta Hirano. Seriously, this dude is all kinds of awesome; his knowledge of military history and weaponry is astounding and he proves to be a valuable asset to the team, unlike many nerd characters in anime. I have a feeling he was created to appeal even more to the otaku viewing audience, as if the creators wanted to say “See, we can have overweight, glasses-wearing nerds just like you become one of the main heroes of the show!” Overall, all the characters were OKAY, and the bits of character development between zombie attacks and underwear shots are well done. I just wish they would’ve broken the mold a little more like they did with Hirano. [19.5/25]
Animation – The animation of this series is, I have to say, really well done. Studio Madhouse really went all out for this particular project, for better or worse. All the colors are rich and natural with amazing details. I love the use of shadows and light throughout the series, especially in Episode 9. The fighting scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The camera angles and swooping motions used are extremely detailed and really make you feel like you’re moving. If there is a Blu-Ray version of this show, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at it. That being said, this series suffers from some of the most extreme fanservice I have ever seen in all my years of watching anime. Up-skirt shots and bouncing, undulating breasts are the norm with this anime, and a lot of it, I would say 75-80% , is NOT necessary and excessive. [And I think this is the first time I’ve ever used the word “undulate” before in a review…] I mean, when I’m watching a story about an epidemic of carnivorous zombies slowly taking over the world as we know it, the last thing I would expect to see is a random bath scene with our female cast wearing next to, and in some cases absolutely, nothing. And while we’re on the subject of our female cast, some of their character designs are WAY off proportion! I mean, it’s not quite the level of “Grenadier”, with ta-ta’s the size of a small vehicle, but the dizzy nurse Shizuka has a bust that is almost Rushia-level! The animators seem to take any and all opportunity to show off her curves, and while I do appreciate the female form, I don’t want it or “them” slammed in my face. Also, there’s one scene where our male lead Komuro, suddenly unarmed with a horde of un-dead marching towards him, grabs a rifle that female lead Rei has strapped to her body and, instead of doing like any other normal human being and un-strapping it before shooting the zombies, lays down next to her, and uses her breasts as a rack [::rimshot::] while firing at the heartbeat handicapped. Not only are we treated to slow motion rippling of Rei’s ta-ta’s with each shot fired, but we actually follow the trajectory of a bullet as it makes its way from the barrel of the gun, through the air, through Saeko’s thighs and finally impacting the target. There’s one more bullet-time shot in this scene, but I’ll leave that up to you if you decide to pick up this series. Just be forewarned…[3.5/12.5]
Music – “Highschool of the Dead” has a very interesting soundtrack. “HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD” by Kisida Kyodan & The Akebosi Rockets is an awesome opening theme a series of this nature. The female vocals combined with the punk rock rifts are amazing. The eclectic comic-book style animation used for the opening is equally awesome. It pretty much sets up what you’re going to see–guns, zombies, and plenty of ta-ta’s. There are multiple ending themes for this series, all performed by Maon Kurosaki. Each of them blend in perfectly with the action from the preceding episode and I have to admit, the idea that they came up with 12 separate ending themes is very unique and commendable. The simple end credit sequence, featuring a photo of our main characters on a large wall of “Missing” and “Have You Seen Me” posters, is simple, yet it works well. All the incidental music is eerily appropriate, especially the operatic music used towards the beginning. [12.5/12.5]
Performances and Production – Now things get interesting. In Japan, “Highschool Of The Dead” was created by Studio Madhouse with director Tetsuro Araki at the helm. He’s directed some interesting projects including “Death Note”, “Di Gi Charat”, and “Guilty Crown”. In the US, the series was licensed by
ADV Films Sentai Filmworks with director Steven Foster at the helm. If you recall, we discussed several of his ADR directorial works including the all-dramatic “5 Centimeters Per Second” and the anything but comedic romp of a dub known as “Ghost Stories“. This time, Director Foster gives us a combination of both; giving us a highly dramatized script peppered liberally with his own blend of 4th wall breaking, profanity-spewing, pop-culture spouting, ad-lib heavy creativity. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it is by far one of the most creative ADR projects to come along in a while. To me, it feels more like a Funimation script; more of an adaptation of the original than a direct translation. Heading up our band of Zombie-Fighting bandits is Leraldo Anzaldua as Takashi Komuro. This is the first role I’ve ever heard him in, and he does a very commendable job matching the original actor, Junichi Suwabe very well. If I had to say anything about his performance it’s that he just doesn’t sound natural when swearing. It’s like he’s FORCING himself to swear instead of it coming naturally and fluidly. All the other characters swear with fluid like abandon. Jessica Boone plays our female lead Rei Miyamoto and, let me tell you, she does an AMAZING job! Ain’t no Chiyo-chan or Misaki-chi in this performance–she is all business this time around and plays all the required points perfectly. Taylor Hannah plays the katana wielding Saeko Busujima. Her voice is refined, sexy and strong just like the original voice actress Miyuki Swashiro. Maggie Flecknoe plays the ultra-tsundere, hyper witch-with-a-CAPITAL-“B” Saya Takagi. To me, she sounds a little too old for the role. Perhaps that’s what they were going for; a refined woman who likes to pretend she’s better than everyone else, but the effect is kinda ruined on me. On the flip side, Mark Laskowski as the military otaku Kohta Hirano is perfect! He hits on all points with the original actor Nobuyuki Hiyama flawlessly. Monica Rial as the ditzy, top-heavy nurse Shizuka Marikawa and, well…her voice is perfect for this particular role, for better or worse. Lastly, rounding out or main cast as the adorable Alice Maresato, is Brittney Karbowski. She does a very good job playing such a young role without sounding annoying. [20/25]
Story Breakdown – 19.5/25
Characters – 19.5/25
Animation – 3.5/12.5
Music – 12.5/12.5
Performance and Production – 20/25
Final Score – 75/100 = 75% – (C-)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):
- The character designer for “Highschool of the Dead”, Shōji Satō, previously worked on Adult video games and hentai projects before coming to “HOTD”. He also runs his own hentai genre manga artist group called Digital Accel Works. […much as just been explained.]
- The character design for Kohta Hirano is based on of an actual manga-ka with the same name.
- In Episode 11 “Dead Storm Rising”, before executing a Counter-Strike, the Captain and Executive Officer of a NAVY submarine discuss the Presidential Line of Succession and mention that the Secretary of Energy was the current President before dying from his Zombie injuries. This means that the current POTUS in “HOTD” is the Secretary of Education. Should he bite the big one–or should the big one bite him–the duties would fall to the Secretary of Veteran Affairs and then the Secretary of Homeland Security. [Please note that in my research, I have yet to find ANYONE who would take over if the Homeland Security Secretary is not around…guess I’ll have to step in…]
So where does that leave us? Simple. “Highschool of the Dead” is yet another example of a “guilty pleasure” anime. It’s a show that you KNOW won’t get you any extra cultural or intellectual points, but somewhere, deep in your heart, there’s a little immature thirteen year old screaming in delight at the bouncing breasts, the rapid-fire swears, real-world pop culture references, blood thirsty zombies and the drool inducing gun violence. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to handle everything “Highschool of the Dead” throws at you, I can certainly guarantee once you see it, for better or worse, you will NEVER forget it.
And that’s it for my review of “Highschool of the Dead”! Coming up next down the spooky anime line, we’re going to take a look at a show from the ladies of “CLAMP”. I really wished I reviewed this show earlier in the year when I reviewed “Chobits” and “Angelic Layer”, but because we had a full line up, fitting it in was next to impossible! But now, during Spook month on our humble blog, my wish has been granted and I get to review…