‘I stayed up late on the night before the day everything came to an end.’
Before I begin this review, I would just like to take this opportunity to admit that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to zombie flicks. I don’t mean to be. Don’t get me wrong; I occasionally enjoy a cheesy film with bad acting and a brainless plot now and then (no pun intended). Preferably the kind of zombie films of the 80’s where the term ‘braiiinss’ became a household phrase. But as the years went by and my tastes matured, I found that I wanted something a bit more from the genre. I desired not only a much more serious take on the monster, but also a hard, realistic view on the world that is born out of a zombie apocalypse.
Thankfully, films such as World War Z and television shows like The Walking Dead are doing just that. Zombies have become the new ‘it’ monster of this age, gathering up fans faster than I’ve seen in ages. So when I came across the anime Highschool of the Dead, as much as I am a otaku (anime-fan), I will admit I was hesitant at first. How would the zombie genre translate into anime?
Quite well actually!
Written by Daisuke Sato, the story follows a group of high-school students, their school nurse and an orphaned girl as they fight through the streets of Japan during a world wide catastrophe known as the “Outbreak”. The formula is the same with this as with any zombie story. The group must battle not only the undead, but also face additional threats of societal threats and the possible loss of their own moralities.
The cast consists of Takashi Komuro, the group’s appointed leader, Rei Miyamoto, Takashi’s ex-girlfriend and occasional cry-baby, Saya Takagi, the group’s brain and cry-baby number two, Saeko Busujima, all-round bad ass kendo student (LOVE HER!), Kohta Hirano, the geeky recluse and gun nut and Shizuka Marikawa, the ditzy nurse. Along the way, the group come across a young girl, Alice Maresato, and her dog Zero.
Let’s started off with what’s good about the series. The story telling is excellently gripping. It’s not rushed and allows some times to pass for the tension to build and for the viewers to get know characters and their plight. The slow pace is actually one of the best features of the show. Too often in zombie films that it’s all about the action, and often at times, the plot suffers just for the sake of raising the body count. Here, time is taken to allow the viewer to get accustomed to the world’s new order of rules as well as the new dangers. The world itself becomes a character, a villain that is constantly throwing new twists at our heroes.
Another plus for the slow pacing is that we are given several moments with each character and given insight on who they were before the apocalypse began and who they’ve become now because of it. Thankfully these pauses aren’t boring. We get the chance to admire the character’s strengths, relate to their weaknesses and generally grow closer to them.
I want to take a moment now to acknowledge the music used in this series. The soundtrack is truly something to fall in love with. From the moment the world begins to go south, the music is reminiscent, if not identical, to the film 28 Days Later. Whether or not this was a homage to the film, I don’t know, but it certainly helps set the mood. And speaking of setting the mood, there’s nothing more haunted and unsettling than a scene of empty bloody streets and stores, trashed with the remnants of a former life with a woman singing opera in the background.
This series is all about atmosphere. The atmosphere of a world that is slowly coming to an end. Why not enjoy it?
The characters are very relatable, though at times they have their moments where they are downright annoying. Moments such as where Takashi’s ex girlfriend tends to berate the poor guy and adds insult to injury by comparing him to his best friend (Really? We’re going there?) But it’s moments like these that are forgivable since this is a teen drama in a way.
If I did have to have one compliant about this series, it would be one of the features that most fans of the series would consider the best. I’ll just say it: this series is raunchy! I mean, ridiculously raunchy . If I were to make a list of the number of boob shots and panty shots and turn it into a drinking game, I’d need a new liver by Act 3. Don’t get me wrong; I ain’t no prude. I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to anime. The shameless breast jiggles and ‘convenient’ crotch shots can be a bit overwhelming for someone whose not used to it, and it could possibly cheapen how tire the seriousness of the situation the characters are in. Even so, one can simply chalk these moments as pure fan service.
And it is.
Word of warning to new comers with small children: Beware of Act 6!
All in all, Highschool of the Dead is the must have for any zombie fan. The anime follows the traditional formula on how a group of people try to survive the zombie apocalypse while adding something more to it. The drama draws you in and the action and violence keeps you hooked for the next episode. With twelve episodes with a possible another season rumored to be in works, this is a series you need your dead-head collection.
Oh, and don’t forget, it has boobs.