Highschool of the Dead

Highschool of the Dead

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Takashi Komuro is just an average kid attending the local high school. One day, a mysterious infection breaks out that turns people into zombie-like creatures. Along with a few of his surviving friends and the school nurse, Takashi fights his way out of the school and begin a journey to find out what exactly has happened to the world whilst watching the societal collapse that is occurring around them.

If you haven’t heard of Highschool of the Dead before, you need to seriously reassess your knowledge as anime and fine-tune your otaku tendencies. This particular anime is what you get when you throw a zombie apocalypse, excessive violence, splattergore and extreme fan-service together. It’s exploitative and notoriously unapologetic and even if you’re not a fan, you definitely know of it and it’s simple-but-effective plot line.

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Though often derivative, you can’t fault the writers for making the story action packed and perversely enjoyable. It’s rarely boring and even though the plot is essentially high-schoolers running from or attacking zombies there’s always something to pique your curiosity, such as Takashi risking his life to rescue a small child or the introduction of other school friends that have somehow managed to survive the epidemic. However, some of the scenes still managed to make me grimace (and I’m not a person with a sensitive disposition to these things) and some are just a struggle to even watch. Despite the best efforts of the producers to make you think otherwise, there’s very little else on offer here other than violence and giant boobs.

high2There’s no secret of the fact that the main cast of Highschool of the Dead are stereotypes of some of the most archetypal anime personalities – angsty teenage lead, the whiny female friend, the ‘cooly mysterious’ girl, the nerdy girl, the fat otaku and a large-breasted bimbo nurse. Though I did sometimes find myself feeling sympathetic towards them (I assume Rei wasn’t planning on her boyfriend being turned into a zombie and having his head bashed in as a result) they never really break out of their archetypal boxes. But I appreciate that this probably wasn’t what the producers were aiming for. Getting better with guns and losing their clothes, yes, but probably not the character development thing. As they continue and the zombie situations are running a little dry, random backstories and love triangles become an area of focus to add new dimensions to their characters, but at this point they very much look like the afterthoughts they are.

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Terrible character inventions aside, you can’t say that Highschool of the Dead doesn’t provide entertainment on a very basic level. In the earlier episodes (before things started getting a little bit too weird to swallow – and that’s saying something) there were some very exciting scenes as the group became forged together as they fought their way out of school against the seething mass of zombies using both brains and brawn and the brisk pace served to keep the story coherent and moving along at an acceptable pace. I’ll admit – it was interesting. After the initial threat subsided, though, and everyone seemed to stop caring about what actually caused this horrific way of life, I just realised I was watching the characters switch between bloody violence and gratuitous and extensive fan-service that was completely derailing what little plot and momentum this anime still had. In one memorable scene, they managed to somehow combine the two themes into one scene which had Takashi using Rei’s boobs as a rangefinder for his rifle.

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And that’s where things sort of peter out for Highschool of the Dead. It’s one redeeming feature, it’s high-octane and fast-moving plot just grinds to a sudden halt with no satisfying conclusion, just a weird cliffhanger (the manga went on hiatus a few years ago and hasn’t started up again since). The vaguely entertaining premise has realised it didn’t know where it was going, or how to get back to where it was, so just appeared to abandon everything. The moral of this story is that gore and pantyshots alone can’t sustain an anime.

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I didn’t completely dislike HOTD, I can appreciate its entertainment value, but the point I’m trying to make is that under the initial zombie excitement, after the first pieces of action dissipated, there were no foundations set up for it to fall back on. I realised things had gotten to a desperate place when the characters (only the girls, for some reason) physically couldn’t shed any more clothes in order to fight zombies. There were no more clues about the origin of the mysterious infection and shower scenes and impromptu clothes-washing was preferred to purposeful instalments of personality to the cast.

Highschool of the Dead is probably a lesson of ‘just because you’ve heard a lot about it doesn’t mean that you should watch it’. The unnecessary amounts of fan-service make this one difficult to recommend. If I had to, I would say to watch the first couple of episodes until you feel yourself pull that first frown and then stop there. Because once you’ve reached that point, I’m afraid things just start to get worse.