Highschool of the Dead
by Polly



WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Alright, folks, I know this is where I'd normally do some silly intro explaining a bit about how I became acquiainted with a show or something, but this time I'mma just shoot straight with you up front. This show wastes no time getting to the point, and I really don't see much point in me pootlin' around and not giving you the same courtesy.



TITTIES 'n ZOMBIES: THE JAPANESE CARTOON

There ya go!

...and for some people, that's really all I have to say. It's like instant review in a can. I'll guarantee that somebody out there who's only made it this far into the review has already made up their mind about this show and they've decided either one of two things:

1.: "Holy fuck, THIS SHOW IS FOR ME! THIS. SHOW. IS. FOR. ME! FUCKING TORRENTING NOW!"

or

2.: "That's not something I'd ever watch. I know all I need to know about this show. I am also a poet and didn't know it. My god that joke was lame. How come all my jokes are lame even in my head? Fuckin.... I should just kill myself and be done with it. Anyway, I'm not watching that show."

And that'll be that. Christ, all reviews should be that easy.

But hey, I guess there's the two of you out there in Interbutts Land that actually read these things. You may have actually stuck around and not already clicked the Back button by this point, and that means I probably owe you some sort of critique. The kinda sub-standard critique you can only get from me, right here on the ol' SMPS.Net, and luckily for you, I'm in just as much of a mood to disappoint as I've always been, so let's just get right into this thing, shall we?

Highschool of the Dead is exactly what one might expect from just hearing the title. A zombie apocalypse story whose opening chapters take place primarily in a Japanese high school where girls have big ol' floppy milk cans (though, I'm not too sure if one could deduce that latter part just from the name). The manga has been running a good four years now, spanning six volumes, and is written and illustrated by brothers Daisuke and Shouji Satou, both of whom are fairly accomplished in the manga field. Anime super studio (because I like putting "super" at the beginning of everything I like) Madhouse was pulled in to handle the Japanese Cartoon adaptation of the manga, so initial speculation for how the series would pan out was almost immediately positive. With Tetsurou Araki at the helm, whose resume includes various directing credits across titles like Galaxy Angel, Gungrave, and Black Lagoon, as well as his most noted role as the director of Death Note, fans of the source material, and likely even those who'd never read the manga before, had good reason to go in with some expectations.

It's highly likely that upon loading up the first episode of the show that a lot of those expectations weren't betrayed. Within the first thirty seconds, we're just thrown smack-dab into the ugly of it all. Two wacky highschoolers rushing through a mob of lumbering zombies. One, a male student, whacking heads, bodies, and limbs with a metal ballbat (Keiichi Maebara would be proud!), the other, a female with physics-defying breasticles jiggling every which way, impaling them one-by-one with her makeshift spear, blood and bodies just-a-flyin' every which way. What a spectacle it is. An immediate hook for the action junkie and a good bit of eye candy for all the Jell-o lovers out there.

Highschool of the Dead comes charging right the fuck out of the gate making no excuses or apologies. In those brief opening seconds this series is saying, "You're either with us or against us." What you're seeing is almost all that the show boils down to, and truthfully encapsulates all of its finer qualities in terms of production values. I was cool with that, so I stayed. I can do brainless every now and again, and I love a good well-produced popcorn flick, so why the hell not?

Once the action settles down a bit, and after the viewer is treated to a moderately rockin' OP theme (but nothing I'd actually go out of my way to listen to) accompanied by visual styles, filters, cuts, and transitions much like those seen in Death Note's second opening, time gets rewound a bit. We're dropped back to just before all that action silliness that happened in the first two minutes. It's during this time we're introduced to the show's two main leads, Takashi Komuro and Rei Miyamoto. They're a couple of former lovebirds with their friend Hisashi now playing the role of the wedge between them, as he's now Rei's new boy toy.

Don't get it twisted, though. Highschool of the Dead isn't a love story. These zombies make a life out of eating peoples' faces and there won't be time enough for huggin' 'till the killin's done. And needless to say, it ain't gonna be done for quite some time. Regardless, we do have to suffer through these two going through odd emotional bouts every now and then. There's a real history between the two, and events that transpire do cause an understandable rift in their already frail relationship, but when the series slows down to pay attention to these sides of the characters, it's really only showing just how horribly they're conceived and written.

As the zombie apocalypse brigade begins to fill up, we're introduced to Saya Takagi, Kouta Hirano, and Saeko (Psycho lol) Busujima. Respectively, they fill out the smart 'n sassy girl, military nerd, and quiet girl with a dark side for enjoying violence tropes. That's really all there really is to them. An added bonus for your harem lovers out there is that both female characters mentioned are also hungry for Takashi's cock, which ends up more than irritating for poor Kouta, as he spends almost the entire first half of the series protecting smart girl without so much as even a thank you hug in return. The fact that almost every female in the show lusts for Takashi really put me off. I know it's predictable Japanese Cartoon nonsense, and this isn't a show to be taken seriously anyway, but you gotta feel sorry for the guy that's proven himself to be arguably the biggest asset to the team getting shit on and only given a token loli later in the show to cling to. Also, I hate the stupid loli and wish she'd died.

Saeko Busujima ended up annoying me the most because her entire character quirk ends up being stupid and is presented in an equally braindead manner. She's the type that literally gets off on violence (think Witchblade), but doesn't expose this side of her personality until she and Takashi end up separated from the main group for a time. There's no reason for it, she just likes it. It's stupid, but whatever, I can roll with it. Then she and Takashi go on a tear through some zombies, she gets all hot and bothered (there's even a fucking freeze frame close up of her face with an "I'M WET" quote on screen), after which she tells Takashi to "Take responsibility." Yes kids, that means they probably fucked. I felt my IQ drop by about 45 or so points during this whole experience and I could never take her character seriously again. But, again, this is fucking Highschool of the Dead, so what the pissballs am I even thinking trying to take something in it seriously?

Maybe I wouldn't say it's a problem that every character in the show is fairly dry and one-dimensional, because again, look at what I'm watching. But at times it's like the series can't seem to decide if these elements of the characters are important or whether it'd just be content smashing faces and splattering undead brain matter all over the place. There seem to be genuine attempts at trying to show these characters begin to slowly unravel mentally and morally under the stress of the world they know essentially ending and being completely unsure of everything around them. They had me believing it every now and then. But the relationships between the characters themselves and how they interact never gave me any sense of chemistry or the feeling that they really even fit together. They're so devoid of anything but the basest emotions with predictable and annoying characterizations that when the show slows to an almost full stop for the final 1/4, these quiet moments end up being completely boring and frustrating.

Which is why it's a good thing that the series spends most of its time doing what it does best: Looking good and kicking ass. The production values exhibited in Highschool of the Dead are nothing short of top-notch, and those coming in seeking action will certainly be pleased for the first nine episodes of the series. From top to bottom, this series is beautiful in motion. Slick character designs, great animation, careful editing, excellent background work, all mixed together with a rockin' techno-infused soundtrack (which strangely also includes twelve different closing themes). All elements which can do nothing else but come together seamlessly. The action is very reminiscent of Black Lagoon, with the over-the-top fights against the horde being intense and satisfyingly visceral.

Of course, I did say that this show was all TITTIES and Zombies, so of course an equal amount of work went into creating the show's notorious fanservice. The director is on record saying something to the effect of, "There's no reason there can't be boobs in every shot." (I'm not making this up!) and belive me when I say, they're flashing bouncing boobies all over the screen every chance they get. Big ol' ugly sacks of Jell-o and water light up the screen damn near every chance they get.

Let's revisit that .gif up at the top.



I mean, Christ on a cracker look at the cool-down time on those damn things! Unless you're in a horrible accident, you, under no circumstance, want those things getting loose in a moving vehicle or you'll be guaranteed to be in an accident only moments later. And there are boobies way bigger than that, too. Ones that likely rupture discs anytime the character owning them has to take a shower or bends over to remove her shoes going into someone's house.

Seriously, the fanservice in this show is pretty damn gross, and at worst, it's honestly pretty embarrassing. Okay, one instance is so god damn ridiculous that it's hilarious, and I'll only say three words regarding it: Bullet. Time. Boobies. YouTube it. Episode eight.

Episode 6 is a prime example of the fanservice being too damn creepy and nasty for its own good. The requisite "bath" episode, where all the females are reduced to little or no clothing and might as well be having a four-way orgy with the way chests are getting molested in these scenes. The worst part is that even once this episode is over and the characters are forced to flee the area, the dumbasses don't even think to put any clothes on until two fucking episodes later! This whole portion of the show was just painfully stupid. There's no other way to describe it.

Stupid as it is, Highschool of the Dead can be enjoyable for a short amount of time for the action junkie who isn't all that bothered by the rampant amounts of fanservice. Its strong production values aren't anything to scoff at either, even if the show they belong to simply isn't very good. There's too much holding the show back, mainly the lack of adaptable manga material, which makes the series end on a rather anti-climactic note. The show ending with a title card displaying a quote by T.S. Eliot ("This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a wimper.") really says more about the show than I think the creators intended.

It blows its load up front, and once the cast has made it out of the high school everything slowly starts going downhill. By the end of the series we're no more aware of what's really going on than when we started. I certainly wouldn't be in any hurry to watch a second season either, as I've heard the manga has gotten increasingly boring as it's gone on. I'd have to be at the very bottom of my "To Watch" list and not wanting to rewatch Baccano! or Durarara!! to wanna really check it out, and those are honestly the only conditions I'd recommend even checking out this first batch of episodes.






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