High School of the Dead
No one can accuse the makers of High School of the Dead of thinking too far outside the box. This show was clearly made by fans of classic zombie movies, but in that way, it’s kind of refreshing. Recent zombie productions have drifted to the extremes of self parody and depressing realism. HOTD manages to find an entertaining mix of fun and horror.
The action starts within the first few minutes. After zombies attack his high school, Komuro and his childhood friend/love interest, Rei, pick up a group of students and the large-breasted school nurse and make a break for it. After that, the group struggles to survive and escape the zombie-infested city.
Anyone familiar with zombie movies will recognize the steps along the way. They hide out in places until the zombies overrun them and they have to leave, they find people driven mad from the horror, they steal cars and find/make weapons, etc. But while the plot isn’t ground breaking, it is well executed. It’s like it takes the best of the best of what I like to see in zombie movies, and assembles it into a satisfying and atmospheric whole. There’s something to be said for looking at what makes a genre popular, and doing more of it.
If the plot uses old zombie cliches, then the cast is a collection of anime archetypes. The bland hero, the childhood friend, the nerd, the little girl, the traditional Japanese girl, etc. But what’s great about this series is that the zombie outbreak effects them in significant and believable ways.
Zombie movies in general tend to get caught up on the natural aversion people have for hurting others; making it a mental block that people have to fight past, and presenting those who lack said aversion as maniacs. But I think part of the popularity of zombie movies is that they present a socially acceptable outlet for violent fantasies. There’s a giant crowd of weak, slow-moving people who are already dead, and will kill you if you do nothing. It’s the perfect opportunity for people to play out their darkest desires.
High School of the Dead plays up the fun of killing bad guys. First with Hirano, the nerdy gun otaku. He was bullied in school, and says at one point that he always kind of wanted to go on a bloody rampage, but didn’t because he wanted a normal life. Now that that’s impossible, he’s able to live out his dream (and in the process, becomes the hero he never could have before). Busujima is the female Kendo (sword fighting) expert. She relates a story about a man who attacked her years earlier. She was easily able to defeat him, and doing so made her feel powerful and in control. Since then, she’s had a terrible urge to fight people to regain that feeling. The zombie outbreak gives her that opportunity.
The combination of zombie and anime cliches play off each other to create a final product that feels a lot more original then it is. While it doesn’t posses a strong story arc, the pacing and tension level kept me interested throughout. The characters are likable, and convincing survivors of a zombie apocalypse. This is the kind of show whose only goal was to be fun, and it succeeds at that.
The animation is on the higher-end of the TV-quality scale. Music is appropriate, with some very familiar ‘zombie-movie-esque’ background pieces.
There are no real extras included but video is presented uncut, with the original Japanese credits and titles.