Certainly one of the more daring and vicious animes to come out in recent times is “High School of the Dead”. Now, this is certainly not a genre which appeals to me. I mean, it’s:
OK, it’s not as bad as giant fighting robots, but I normally do not seek it out. There is something about gore that turns me away, and horror gore is along the lines of the more the gore, the show will flow. But there was a lot of buzz about it, so I thought that I should at least know what’s going on so I don’t sound like a total clot head.
It tells the story of Takashi Komuro atFujimiHigh School. A bit of a slacker, he is standing on a stairwell landing, looking at the closed gates of the school when some man staggers up to the gates and demands entry. The school administrators try to deal with the man, but he bites the administrator and becomes infected.
This is where it gets weird for me. I mean, the infection spreads through the school in a matter of minutes and we have all kinds of bloodshed and death and unpleasantness. You thought fighting for the last curry bread at lunch was a battle, this is even worse.
A few students manage to escape the attack and flee the school, but they soon discover that the streets are overrun with these creatures. The decision is to try and get home to see how the parents are all doing, but it is a difficult task, made worse by blind panic and dissention within the group. Adding to that is everyone in the group represents a faction.
We have the aforementioned Takashi, the Reluctant Hero who has to step up to the plate.
Rei Miyamoto is the Love Interest, as she and Takashi had a thing, but she went with Hisashi Igo (whom Takashi had to kill, lest he become a zombie).
Kohta Hirano, the over-weight Dork Nerd Otaku, with fantasies of grandeur (you may remember his type from the A/V team). He is a kind of armament specialist, but still a degree of loser. A useful loser, but a loser nonetheless
Saeko Busujima, a real fox, is a kendo specialist, a Fighting Femme Fatale. She has a tendency to let her violent nature come to the forefront when fighting ‘them’. Look, but don’t touch or she will hurt you.
Saya Takagi is the Brains of the outfit, but what she has in book-learnin’, she lacks in real life experience, so her overweening, condescending attitude gets in the way.
Shizuka Marikawa is the very Busty School Nurse, who is a major league ditz and, as the only adult, had to chaperone them, but is ineffective at a leader or a protector. So, as it turns out, they spend as much time wrestling with each other and their emotions as with ‘them’. And there is a lot for the cast to wrestle with.
What must you do when you have to kill a friend, rather than let them turn into a zombie? What happens when you have to kill and kill and kill and kill and there is no end to the killing? How does your psyche change when you are basically allowed to kill with no retribution on the horizon? Why is it we never use the word ‘zombie’ in the show, even though we all know what they are, but merely ‘them’? (Besides, every sci-fi freak knows that ‘them’ are giant ants.)
These are some valid points brought up, as one contemplates the possible end of the world, but HOTD brings with it something bothersome, and I am not talking about death sequences, but fan service.
I have never understood what it is about the apocalypse and fan service. Death is imminent…so let’s knock boots. But in this show, it is obtrusive to the point that it stops the action.
There is an inordinate amount of up skirt shots and boobs bouncing away and clothing getting soaked and clinging and other intense eroticism, and right from the opening credits. The troupe eventually finds refuge in a kind of safe house…so the ladies take a bath and squeal as they check out each other’s equipment. Those things are so large! They’re firm, yet soft.
I feel that it damages both the credibility and the pacing of the show to have the ladies, clothing not yet dry, waging war with the undead in their frilly frillups. It’s not like the zomb…uh, ‘them’ are going to go, “I want to eat you…but first, let me enjoy the vision of your enormous hooters. Don’t you need a leash for them?”
One truly bizarre sequence is when Takashi is shooting the undead, but cannot get the automatic rifle off of Rei to do so and has to shoot between and around her breasts. Even Stephen Hawking would have a hard time explaining the physics around all of that, as the flaming lead manages to just avoid searing the tender flesh of our maidens, bullets scorching through at 2300 feet a second.
Another aspect that bothers me is The Gap. This is not anything ecchi related, but a plot point. We have the best defense anywhere, until a small gap is somehow created. Then the structure fall into the cat box and we are overrun with these vile and fetid creatures. Do we really lack the wherewithal to be cautious?
I realize that if the end of the world was upon us (and keep in mind that the first season covers about three or four calendar days), I probably would not be in the best frame of mind, but not to the point where I am sloppy and/or careless. Those things out there are gonna eat me!
Now, the episode that closes out the first season (with immense hints that there is going to be a second season) skates as close to hentai as I have ever seen without actually being it. A truly, purely fan service episode, every kind of perversion, kink, fetish, fantasy or lustful overload is presented in this offering. You can kind of not watch the episode and you gain or lose nothing, but still………….
I am glad I saw the series so I know what’s going on, but I have seen things like this done before, and with a better degree of panache. The core story is good, but I feel it is so laden down with unnecessary bling, it really becomes a flip-a-coin approach if you wish to continue.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (It is a good-looking show, and with the fan service, it better be!)
Plot 8 (There is a compelling plot, once you get past the fan service)
Pacing 5 (Bogged down by the fan service)
Effectiveness 6 (It runs hit and miss)
Conclusion 5 (It stops, rather than ends)
Fan Service 9 (A similar show would “Eiken”)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. And since we have zombies, you’d better run anyway. Hey, a nail gun!