It’s like The Breakfast Club, but with zombies.
No Judd Nelson, lots of blood.
Finally, after a week of wandering in the desert, there is sweet watery relief! As of today I have my On Demand fixed, and the first thing I watched was the final episode of Highschool Of The Dead. If you’ve been reading my reviews from the get-go, you might be surprised that yours truly enjoyed such a bloody slice of apocalyptic life as this. But there was something about it that really drew me in…
The gist of this tumultuous tale is nothing new: one day, out of the blue, zombies attack a high school in Japan. It begins from the viewpoint of the central character, a sophomore student named Takashi, and quickly adds on the female protagonist Rei, Takashi’s classmate and ex-girlfriend (an awkward way to begin an apocalypse, in the company of an ex!). Soon thereafter the main characters meet up with the rest of the band of survivors that are at the heart of this series: Saya Takagi, the smartest girl in her class who is bossy but brilliant; Kohta Hirano, the nerdy military otaku who comes out of his shell by demonstrating his prowess with firearms; Shizuka Marikawa, the ditzy school nurse who tries to take care of the students as best as she can; and Saeko Busujima, the stoic kick-ass president of the kendo club. Little by little each one meets up with the others and they make their escape from their now infested high school. Later on they add two more members to their survival party: a little girl they rescue named Alice and a dog named Zero.
This anime is your typical survival story that chronicles the trials and tribulations of the students as they encounter one obstacle after another in this new world that is overrun with zombies. As someone interested in human psychology I enjoy tales of survival. I like seeing how different characters react to monumental change, and of course I always wonder what I would do in their situations. That’s why it irks me when someone in these stories does something completely idiotic that goes against all survival instincts. I was pleased to note that there were refreshingly few of those scenes in this series. Most of the time I agreed with the actions taken by the characters, which made me more invested in them, which drew me further into the story.
The group sets out to find their respective families, unsure if they are alive, dead, or undead. However, there’s more than just zombies on the road they travel: thugs who celebrate in the chaos and try to take whatever they wish pop up, as do police trying to help (but ultimately failing), natural blockades, and one of the former high school teachers who turns out to be a sadistic cult leader. But the bulk of the problem is the zombie outbreak, so for those who love a good zombie fight, this show is your bread and butter, as nearly every episode has a solid fight or two.
A word of caution: though it says “high school” in the title (or “highschool,” to be precise) this show is extremely adult-oriented, perhaps the most out of all the anime I’ve viewed thus far. There is fan service in every corner of this series, from bloody gun fights to a laughable amount of over-the-top panty shots. It’s incredibly ecchi (especially considering that part of Shizuka’s whole purpose seems to be comedic relief stemming from her ginormous breasts) and there’s all sorts of adult language. Personally I was glad to hear the f-bomb dropped so frequently. If you’re going to have a show with that much ecchi and violence, why not have curse words, too? I must say that it was very satisfying to hear Takashi exclaim, “F***in’ A!” at finding a mass storage of guns or laughing as he rightfully tells an annoying character, “Hey, f*** you, a**hole!”
Highschool Of The Dead is a tale as old as time: zombies attack, the world gets turned upside down, time to watch how these characters maneuver through their new hellish landscape and see who makes it and who doesn’t. There’s nothing particularly different or inspiring about this zombie drama compared to the next one. However, if you enjoy horror or fan service anime, this fits the bill to a T. After episode one I almost stopped watching (really, so many panty shots, really?!?) but I kept at it, and by episode seven I was fully hooked. The characters developed into figures I could root for (especially Saeko and Kohta, my personal favourites) and I was always eager to find out what would happen next.
One thing that I really loved was how the show gradually broadened in scope. At the beginning the entire world was in the high school, then the landscape widened as they journeyed on the road, then it encompassed the city, then outside the city, and finally we saw the effects of the outbreak on other countries and even in outer space. You really feel as though you’re traveling and discovering alongside these characters, learning to survive as they do. And the more that they grow on each other, the more they grow on the viewer. I laughed, I was sad, I got freaked out, I was concerned, I got genuinely scared… H.O.T.D. delivered the whole emotional package for me, and that is the sign of a good anime. With cautions heeded, I would fully recommend this series, and I very much hope to see a season two.