Playing out like your typical zombie-fare, High School of the Dead is a short 12 episode anime series that features plenty of zombie-bashing. Basically, the story starts out with a couple of Japanese high school students have found themselves trapped in a school where their fellow classmates are being ravaged by flesh hungry zombies. High School of the Dead is based off a manga series which had an initial run between 2006 and 2008. It’s being produced by Madhouse and is licensed here in the US by Sentai Filmworks. No doubt, this was one of the most popular series of the past summer season as I heard nothing from friends other then how cool this show was. Finally seeing this show and off the heels of a blu-ray U.S. announcement, I’ll let you know if it is worth investing time in.
I did not read the manga prior to viewing this so I couldn’t anticipate the copious amounts of fan-service that goes on in this series. Wow! There was also one character that refused to believe that the zombies were just suffering from some illness and looking for help, and she thought that they could work things out by talking. One of the things I like about Highschool of the Dead is that it attempts to portray a zombie apocalypse in a somewhat realistic fashion. However, there are a lot of out of place scenes and stupid sequences that don’t add anything to the mix. So even though episode five had the refreshingly competent and jovial snipers and a visually impressive fight scene, it ended up being a disappointment.
Mix in a sadistic teacher, a retarded school nurse, an innocent little girl and weird looking dog and you have a main cast that ranges from boring to awesome. We see friends betray each other, others breaking under the strain of it all, and students just getting killed in class. But most importantly the fight scenes are intense and somewhat over-the-top, and exhibit a ton of splattered blood. Hirano is my personal favorite character. He is that silly fat nerd that finally gets to take his rage out on society by blowing out zombie brains. Overall, this anime is successful for what it’s expected to do, and that is to entertain us with the slaughtering of zombies and the non-physics of high school breasts.
Additionally, High School of the Dead uses color tints very cleverly, and adds some great looking still shots and freeze frames to emphasize key moments. The Art direction, cinematography and choreography for the series are very well done. It may not be blessed with the greatest animation budget, as demonstrated by the stiff looking CG it sometimes employs, but overall it looks attractive. The character designs have a great level of quality about them with some really attractive colors and details. The numerous chases down endless corridors and tight alleyways is furious and fast paced; the scenery distorts as the focus moves around a slickly drawn character with an amazing overall effect.
Devouring this show in two sittings might not have been the best idea I have ever had, but this series did provide a lot of entertainment despite its flaws. High School of the Dead has a nice and original story about zombie invasion and throws in references like Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. It is a stellar show, and I recommend it to anyone with any interest in anime. Although somewhat stereotypical at times, the protagonists often struggle with important decisions that at times, put themselves and their friends in danger. However, Madhouse did a bang up job with animation (at parts) and ties up loose ends by the finale. In conclusion, from a cold critical perspective, it’s definitely a good representation of a zombie apocalypse, or how capricious human loyalties can be.