Overly-sexualised and wonderfully violent anime.
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High School of the Dead (2011)
12th Oct 11
Zombies overrun a Japanese High School, with overly-sexualised and wonderfully violent results.
Review High School of the Dead is a Japanese Anime effort, named after a Manga of the same name, which chronicles the story of a small group of High Schoolers following a zombie outbreak. It's a pretty standard zombie apocalypse set up, with everyone going about their usual business initially - students turn up at School, there's a few episodes of teenage angst and inevitable establishing of who's cool, who's not, who cares, who doesn't, who's the outsider, who's the loner, and so on. He said this, she said that, he breaks up with her, whatever - the kind of stuff that happens in High Schools every day.
Then this pale looking guy turns up at the front gate with a thousand yard stare and bellowing moan. The caretaker goes to tell him to move along, but the bloke bites him. Well, more like rips a big chunk of flesh out his arm. When the Principal runs over to see if he's alright, the caretaker goes nuts and bites her. Then she bites her assistant, and so on until before you know it the whole School is overrun by the screaming, moaning, hungry living dead.
As usual there's a lot of scrabbling around with characters cropping up then getting wasted, but by the end of the first episode the main characters are pretty much established, and while they are a fairly solid bunch, there are no surprises.
Lead generic male everyman hero type (with standard generic anime hero spikey black hair) is Takashi. He's the guy most guys will associate with, and his dialogue is designed around that. The love of his life is second character Rei, the really hot chick that he's known since she was a child. They broke up recently though and she started dating some other dude, but since he turns in to a zombie quite early and Takashi's unleashes a can of baseball bat on his undead ass, we can safely say that releationship is over. Next is Takagi, the gorgeous bossy red haired poor little rich girl who's used to getting her own way and wants to extend that in to the zombie apocalypse, even though realistically the only person still letting her get away with that is archetypal anime fat kid Kohta, who dotes on her every word and she knows it. That relationship begins to change though, as Kohta realises his geeky obsession with firearms actually makes him a force to deal with in the new world. Then there's Seiko, an uber hot wooden katana weilding chick who has taken to the carnage and violence of their predicament with worrying ease. She also develops a thing for Takashi, adding to his woes. And lastly there's the whatever-her-name-is nurse, who tags along. She's unique in the group for being the oldest (and can therefore drive) and being the most stupid (her stupidity is played for comic effect regularly as an intermission) and she has perhaps the largest breasts you've even seen on an anime character. More on that later.
So with our protagonists established, the plot cracks on. There's a lot of fighting and zombie carnage in the first couple of episodes, and the violence is pretty cool for an anime. The influence regarding the fight choreography is clearly video game culture (the moves characters like Seiko knock out wouldn't go amiss in the Street Fighter fighting game franchise) and the series benefits from that as the cast battle there way out of the School in the first few episodes and across town. And that's the real trick - we're all zombie fans so we're all engaged at the initial outbreak, but once they regroup and move on, what happens now? You can always tell a good zombie production by what the characters do next being as interesting as the initial outbreak, and this time that delivers as they battle across the city, through a safe zone and on to sanctuary, sort of. It's worth watching to discover this for yourself.
But there is something else you will discover for yourself if you make the decision to watch High School of the Dead. If you've watched a lot of anime over the years, you may well be familiar with this, but if you're not it's time to google the anime term 'fan service'. If you've ever watched the original uncut version of the Urotsukidoju series (dear lord) or are familiar with other High School kung-fu series (like Ikki Tousen for example) you'll be aware of this bizarrely Japanese phenomena. And that is, that High School of the Dead, is really unashamedly a bit pervy. Or, a bit porny, if you prefer that phrase.
At times, it's shocking. Why frame a shot of a zombie drooling, when you can frame it by placing the camera between a Schoolgirl's legs, so that as well as getting the zombie, you get a cheap flash of knickers too? And see that triple somersault cartwheel attack Seiko did, wasn't it cool, and then watch for a couple of seconds as her ample bussom bounces up and down a bit in her too-tight-top before the camera pans away (yes, of course it's just animation, but you still frame shots like live action surely?) Then they're driving, and they drive over a bump in the road, why not close up on Rei's tits and they bounce gently with the inertia of the event? And for good measure, how about a close up on the nurses massive tits again?
Now, you could argue that this is outrageous and the sexualisation of our children is one of the major issues in Western society. That's a point nobody will dispute. But this is a Japanese adult animation with an adult certificate. Does that make it okay? How do you pass judgement on something like that? We at eatmybrains.com aren't going to get in to that debate, we're just going to tell it like it is. To be truthful, there's a lot of fan service anime out there that involves younger looking girls (at least this lot are supposed to be above the age of concent) that is a lot sleazier (look up the wikipedia entry on fan service if you're intrigued). That doesn't, of course, make it any less contravercial. And no, there are no actual hard sexual acts depicted (not like in Overfiend uncut, which really is shocking), in fact there's only nudity in one episode, and that's very brief, but the smuttiness is constant so it is something you should be aware of.
But the bottom line is, High School of the Dead is immense fun, particularly for male viewers. If you can see past (or, dare I say it, quite enjoy) the fan service, the zombie apocalypse in a High School idea is a real laugh, the action and plotting is engrossing and each of the 24 minute episodes zip along. The soundtrack is seriously J-Rock, which works brilliantly, and the overall presentation is glossy and high budget for an anime of this type (compare it to say, the original version of Evanglelion and it's surprisingly much better). But the fan service is overly prevalent, so you have to get your head around that first. Girlfriend or wife friendly anime? No, not really. But someone somewhere loves this stuff as season two has already be confirmed, so make of that what you will. A western live action remake? Doubtful, but we can only hope.