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[High School of the Dead]
AKA: 学園黙示録 (Gakuen Mokushiroku)
Genre: Apocalyptic drama / ecchi action (with survival horror elements)
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Sentai Filmworks
Content Rating: 17+ (borderline-pornographic fanservice, graphic violence, vulgarity, profanity)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: N/A
Notes: Based on the manga of the same name, by two brothers named Daisuke and Shoji Sato.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

High School of the Dead

Synopsis

It began suddenly and the apocalypse will continue without rest. A small group of high school students stick together armed with bats, swords and anything else they can get their hands to battle a rampage of flesh-eating zombies!


Review

There have been a lot of 'zombie apocalypse' media in recent days. Such works as The Walking Dead, Dead Rising, Zombieland and a host of other zombie-related works have been hitting theaters and the airwaves. It would be of no surprise that anime would soon jump on this current trend and join the survival horror bandwagon by giving anime viewers High School of the Dead. High School of the Dead has a lot to offer fans of action but even more so for fans of ecchi anime. It is this dichotomy that would either make or break High School of the Dead and fortunately, the series has enough going for it to make it. Just barely.

For starters the animation is fluid and on the technical side of things there are very few corners cut. The budget is high and it shows, with some very well executed action scenes that showcase some of the most over-the-top fighting moves ever animated. The action displayed on the screen is bloody and brutal to the point where even Quentin Tarantino would blush. And in terms of ecchi anime, this will be one for the books especially with fans of the genre; female characters are pleasantly designed and exhibit the classic penchant for overripe high school girls that has become a staple in the genre. That would be all well in good if this was not supposed to be a survival horror series.

Unlike most other survival horror works, High School of the Dead does not have all of the nuances that make zombie films so intriguing for viewers. Survival horror is a focus on the human mind and the human spirit, when it is faced with a situation that is terrifying and defies explanation. With most zombie-apocalypse works there is a group of survivors that are doing everything they can to survive in a world gone mad trying to maintain their humanity in the process, as well as their sanity.

It is this aspect of survival horror which makes the genre interesting because it gives viewers something to relate to and a group of heroes to root for. High School of the Dead attempts to bring this aspect to the forefront by allowing time for character development and interaction but spoils it at times by reveling in its own style. It is difficult to take characters seriously when they are shivering in a corner one minute—terrified of a gaggle of flesh-eating zombies—only to have them 'locked and loaded' the next and fighting them with moves that seem as if they are withdrawn from a John Woo flick. The fan service at times can be overwhelming because of the near-constant rate at which it is shown. Viewers will get an eyeful of panties at almost every scene where there is a female presence and it does nothing to aid the series a lot of times.

The characters for the most part move the story along decently but feature the usual anime archetypes: Takashi Komuro is the typical 'shonen' teenager and leader with Rei Miyamoto being his childhood friend and love interest (go figure). Saya Takagi is the 'tsundere' girl and Kouta Hirano (gee, I wonder where they got that name from?) is the military otaku who has a crush on her. Saeko Busujima is the typical 'strong-girl' of the group with the will of the samurai and last—but least—of the crew is the ultra-busty (even by this shows standard) school nurse, Shizuka Marikawa who is—no surprise—a complete ditz. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is a little girl character named Alice Maresato who is joined by her little dog who represents the animal mascot motif. These archetypes would usually provide a cliché and in fact they do, but it works well for this kind of series.

The dub deserves recognition not because it is anything spectacular but because it adds explicit language where it really is not needed. In the original Japanese version profanity is kept to a minimum, especially when it came to Takashi Komuro. In the original he kept his words clean for the most part, in the English version he cursed like a sailor. Needless to say, it was unnecessary especially in series which glorifies its own smut. The story is standard of the zombie-flick genre and does little to change it. The only thing that is different is the fact that there is more of a focus on action. This is also the first time there has ever been a zombie-apocalypse work that features a multitude of 'panty-shots.' If you are looking for depth of story, look elsewhere.

With all of the seemingly negative views that this review has been heaping upon this anime, it begs the question; “What is good about this anime. Well it only takes one word to make answer that question and that is: Fun. This anime is a blast and falls completely into the guilty pleasure zone with a plot that does not take itself seriously and should be watched with that viewpoint from the beginning. If the viewer can let go of reason and just revel in the blood and the gratuitous fan service, than High School of the Dead can be an entertaining endeavor. It is trash anime at its best!

A work of smut and break-neck action with survival horror elements thrown in (not the other way around), High School of the Dead will be sure to entertain fans of ecchi anime who should add an extra star. As for those who do not, take one away. Dallas Marshall

Recommended Audience: Absolutely not for children. When the show isn't exploiting with copious amounts of blood and gore, it instead turns to exploiting with clothing of wire-thin skimpiness, communal bath scenes, gluteal shots, whole minutes where one's face is trapped against a mammary, and scenes in which the entire female cast appears to be having an orgasm. The English dub, meanwhile, also contains many utterances of strong profanity.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD (Japanese with English subtitles)
Review Status: Full (13/13)
High School of the Dead © 2010 Daisuke Sato / Shoji Sato / Madhouse
 
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