Highschool of the Dead
Takashi wasn't enjoying high school life much having been recently dumped by a girl he was interested in. While moping around in typical teenage angst, the zombie apocalypse begins to unfold. Takashi joins forces with a handful of survivors from his school, each with traits that are useful to the group. One of them also happens to be that girl who seemed out of reach not so long ago.
In America, the media industry is obsessed with regurgitating the same stagnant content I've been sick of for a long time now. If there hasn't been a Spiderman or Batman movie in 3 years, they'll make another and "reboot" it. The resurgence of the zombie genre was tired a year after it came back and has been going on a few years too long for me. Meanwhile in Japan, the anime industry has been busy trying to drown itself in fan service marginalization. Finally the forces of Japan and America have joined hands to tackle both at the same time: a zombie show with a T&A overload. This has nothing to do with the review, but I just had to get off my chest. Highschool of the Dead is typical of the zombie movie genre, so this review will also be a heavy critique on that topic. Sorry, but it's unavoidable.
It's pretty hard to screw up the beginning of a zombie show, and HSTD starts from a good perspective: a high school. It's the standard fair of people hysterically running around in a panic as they're devoured by zombies. No other zombie show has ever used a crew of stock anime characters, so that is something new. There's the intelligent "class rep" styled girl, the otaku, kendo girl, the male athlete, and the "popular" one. None of them manages to differentiate themselves to justify a zombie show done as an anime, but they are still interesting to watch.
There is one transgression any serious zombie movie must avoid. Zombie movies are a testament of survival of the fittest (or at least having enough sex appeal to find someone fit to protect you), but simply being fit will not ensure you live. Zombie apocalypse survival also requires intelligence, fast reflexes, and ingenuity. Touting that you were able to survive because of these attributes, and then proceeding into a long string of stupidity to advance the plot is the LAST thing any show of this type should do. And middle episodes of HSTD are spent doing just that. To be fair, if everyone did what they were supposed to in this scenario, there wouldn't be much of a story; however in a fantasy environment there are MUCH better ways to advance the plot.
HSTD had done well for itself up until they get into Rika's apartment which has a fair amount of food, is excellent from a defensive standpoint and offers everything else they could need to survive. Then there is this dog that starts barking and drawing zombies (which never attack it). Why they didn't just shoot the dog I'll never know. Then they simply abandon this perfectly good place of shelter. The next day they cross the river in a Humvee (which is apparently amphibious now). They find no zombies on the other side, but basically drive around until they find some. Instead of backing up and resting, they decide to drive through them. Zombies are also slow, but instead of driving at say 25mph, they go barreling through them at 50 which is obviously dangerous, considering zombie apocalypses tend to result in a lot of unexpected stuff in the road. Like the wire fence someone put up, and they "crash" into. Note that it's not razor wire, or even barbed... just regular wire with GAPING holes all over. But instead of driving through it, climbing through the fence, or simply hopping over it (as the Humvee is right up against it), they proceed to attack the zombies who swarm around them. They also have a really stupid habit of shooting from extreme ranges and missing. Zombies don't move that fast, and they could wait until they are like 5 feet away where there's almost no chance at missing.
Some parts of the story do get interesting. There's the teacher who wants to be a cult leader. There's also the conflict between adults and teens that would have been a really cool if HSTD had done more with it. HSTD isn't conclusive either. After 12 episodes it leaves the story to advance to the next chapter. That's not a big deal since apocalypse shows never really end. After the end of the world, it's basically: "our group lived, and it sucked, and we'll get by in this crap world we now live in". The good news is that the otaku and the genius girl are totally into each other, so it's quite possible that once these two start making babies that the Earth will be ruled by humans that are a genius / otaku hybrid.
The animation is only fair, but visually it's very attractive. It's nice to see that manga artist Shoji Sato is doing more with his talent then just making H-doujinshi for the rest of his career. This anime has adopted his artistic style very well; giving it a unique (and bouncy) look. If you're not into fan service, then this one will get on your nerves. Personally it overwhelmed me to the point where I got desensitized to it and hardly noticed the endless panty shots, and boob jiggles after a while. Yet even then some parts got so over the top, it became ridiculous.
Even though I'm sick to death of the zombie crap, I still found Highschool of the Dead to be a good watch for "guilty pleasure" territory. It's unfortunate the show doesn't do more than loading the zombie genre with anime fan service and extreme volumes of teenage hormones. As the story stands now it doesn't seem like enough is accomplished to recommend it, and the fan service does get so excessive that it's detrimental, but if you're ok with fluff it's a decent watch.
I also find it sad to say that if I were incarnated in this anime, I'd be a girl with pink hair and pigtails.
Takashi: I had always thought high school was hell. Now it really was.
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