High School of the Dead tv Review
It's an ordinary school day for Rei and Takashi...or so it seems. A strange man suddenly stumbles inside the school yard and bites one of the employees. From then on, chaos ensues: the bitten die and transform into flesh-eating zombies who stop at nothing to get their food. Rei and Takashi are caught in a fight for survival, forced to kill their own infected friends and classmates (whom Takashi dubs "them").
After some time, the two decide to escape the school and head for their homes to check up on their families. Along the way, they meet other survivors and group together, doing their best to protect themselves against the increasing hordes. However, they also meet rivals, and must rely on mutual trust and play by the new rules at all times in order to make it out alive.
Story & Characters
It is my belief that there are just some shows in anime to which its better to know what you're getting into when you decide to watch them as opposed to casually clicking the play button on your laptop/dvd player and going off of good faith that whatever you're watching is going to be jaw droppingly epic. This is something I tend to do from time to time--if not just to keep my expectations or standards of a show fairly reasonable. Now I can't really give out a list of shows that fall under this category since it tends to vary from person to person, but in my personal repertoire you'll find most of the slice of life moe genre, the Monogatari series, Neon Genesis Evangelion--
--and Highschool of The Dead.
Yes, I went into Highschool of The Dead with a generous amount of hear-tell of its popularity (mainly on the male side of the otaku fanbase) and it's infamous reputation. That being said, I'm pretty sure returning readers from my other reviews are probably expecting me to tear this anime a new asshole (especially given my somewhat pretentious standards) so let me surprise a few of you by saying that I actually enjoyed this show to some extent. Merely because this is one of those shows meant to be nothing more than a mindless form of entertainment and it makes NO attempt whatsoever to disguise that fact.
Probably by far the best thing (story-wise) that Highschool of The Dead has going for it, is the simplicity of its premise. Everything the plot entails is pretty much in the title. Its easy to follow, and it does a fairly good job of building a new world around itself in which we get to see just how badly society breaks down in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. From one episode to the next HOTD did well to introduce new concepts in its story to keep me interested--be it watching the main characters crawling into precarious situations only to come out by the skins of their teeth, or alluding to the fact that the real monsters in this apocalyptic setting is the people themselves.
As per typical of horror-thriller-action-based shows more often than naught you'll have a cast of unlikely heroes forcefully thrown into a dismal situation beyond their control that you, as a viewer want to see them climb out of. Preferably with their lives, limbs, and wits in one piece. Now while HOTD does do well to follow this rubric there's one aspect in particular I've a few grievances over:
The Freaking Characters.
You've got our main protagonist Takashi Komura, your typical Spiky-Haired-Chip-On-The-Shoulder-Reluctant-Shounen-Hero who undergoes a transformation from your angsty specualtive (if not horny) teenage boy to the still somewhat angsty but authoritative badass leader (now hornier than ever I'd imagine with all the female body parts waved around his face from episode to episode). Rei, our resident tsundere who can't seem to choose between the wanton damsel in distress or the stuck up (if not bitchy at times) cold shouldered highschool prep. Saeko, the would be badass swordswoman had she not been presented in a way that makes her more or less seem like fodder for the hormonal teenage fanboy's fantasy (see the episode when she rides into battle on top of a vehicle wearing nothing but a black pair of panties and a maid apron). Saya, the supposed brains of the group nursing a secret crush on our protagonist (surprise surprise). Other than them the only other character worth mentioning is Khota, the normally squishy-nerd turned gun enthusiast, whom I found to be way more likable than our protagonist.
Okay, why am I supposed to care about these characters again?
Yes, I know that sounds heartless, but in all honesty the main cast of characters in HOTD is just a collection of cookie-cutout archetypes seen before in other anime with little development that even then is about as shallow and predictable as the rest of this series was. And this really hurts the show as a whole since it takes away half the edge of seat entertainment garnered from watching them repeatedly escaping death. In an action-horror-thriller, it generally goes without saying that if you can't get attached to a character then you're not really going to feel the anxiety of watching said character fight for his/her life in a life or death situation. Bottom line, in terms of character development HOTD is a show that more or less forgoes fleshing out its cast and expects you to care for them given the context of the story and its setting.
For those who've seen this anime, or at least caught wind of its reputation, then you ought to know that there's simply no way to talk about HOTD without mentioning its infamous penchant for fanservice. Now to all you male readers out there I am a female and no, I've generally got no bones to pick with fanservice or manservice. As an artist I've got no problems appreciating the fine art EXCEPT when it gets in the way of the story and its presentation. And the biggest bone I've got to pick with HOTD is how they go about advertising fanservice with no restraint or consideration of the tone or setting. Moreover, how the heck am I supposed to take any of the female characters in this series seriously when I'm getting an eyeful of their tits, and asses every damn episode?
All in all I'm pretty sure the result of the generous amounts of fanservice present within this anime was the product of giving control of the camera to a group of pervy, horny, frat boys, since its almost always positioned at the most revealing angle possible. Not only can it be a complete mood-killer in the more action based and darker pieces of the show but it completely destroys any possibility of it getting taken seriously.
Ultimately the story of HOTD was meh. I enjoyed it as much as I could but I really wouldn't have minded a new and creative anime that opts for showing the very worn down zombie genre in a more unconventional/imaginative light. Because whether you've been watching anime for 9 weeks or 9 years it's not hard to see that not only has it created it's own set of genres, it's also taken old ones and re-invented them using creative techniques and unique settings that couldn't carry their weight in any other medium.
Under the usual circumstances most production studios won't touch shows like Highschool of the Dead-- shows that tread the tightrope between fanservice and soft core hentai--with a ten foot pole. So you can imagine my surprise to learn that a studio like Madhouse (for those that don't know the same studio that brought us Death Note, Monster, Trigun, Claymore and Black Lagoon) was responsible for the production of this rather risque anime.In terms of visuals though I do believe HOTD can hold its own against Madhouse's previous works, even though pretty much everything else in the show is complete shit in comparison.
If Madhouse has proven one thing to me, it's that they know how to create a visually appealing anime with fluid animation and jaw dropping action sequences. The cinematography is very well executed and the pacing of the camera compliments the heart-pounding animation perfectly with added effects such as slow motion (because why the hell not). Though there are times when the action does feel a little stupid and unrealistic. All in all, it felt eerily familiar to another of Madhouse's works called Black Lagoon, which, incidentally enough, had more than its fair share of ridiculously attractive female characters tapping into their inner Matrix-like powers, kicking hordes of ass and flashing us some skin in the process.
Color Palette and Lighting:
While I can say for certainty that HOTD in terms of art and aesthetics is definitely above average and up to Madhouse standards, I wouldn't call it picaresque by any means. There's nothing truly imaginative or stand alone about the show's art style. Granted though, the lighting is smooth and nicely detailed (the sunset settings being my personal favorite) and the colors can vary depending on the tone of the scene (not gonna lie those zombies really did give me the spooks) but at the end of the day HOTD really is just your typical anime in terms of design, given bonus points for extra attention to detail here and there. Sometimes with more of a focus on the characters themselves rather than the setting. Not that I don't follow the logic behind that. After all if you're going to slap a harem-ecchi-sub genre label onto a series in an attempt to appeal to the horny male otaku fanbase then your animated bootie better be pretty damn good.
Still, in terms of art and animation the show was very well executed on a technical standpoint. While the art doesn't wow me it's still pretty to look at and it fits the show down to a T, since in many ways, there's nothing really new and imaginative about the entirety of HOTD itself that we haven't seen in other shows.
In terms of Original Soundtrack there really isn't much to say about Highschool of The Dead since it doesn't really have any noteworthy tracks that sell the scenes they're played in. And I did find this to be a bit of a disappointment since creepy atmospheric tracks that could give you chills up an down your spine wouldn't have hurt since this IS a horror anime about zombies.
In a sub vs dub fanfare I tend to be the person in the middle ground. If an anime is dubbed in English I'll watch it in English (after all I do like the sound of my own language) if not I watch it subbed. And knowing that for some (rather stupid) reasons the sub vs dub issue in anime tends to be a big one in the community I try to avoid the subject in my reviews (since I'm pretty sure to piss a few people off). But the dub for Highschool of The Dead does deserve some recognition. Even more so than the subbed.
For those who chose to or have made plans to watch this show subbed all I can say is you're missing out because the dub
is sooo much fun. Granted, at it's lack-luster moments it's a little rough around the edges and slightly cheesy in the
acting department, but on the upside the dialogue is highly entertaining. I can only imagine how heavily the script was
re-written in this show, since you've got everything from the slang/swearing to the western pop culture references to
Sarah Palin jokes (I wish I could make this up folks). And to me it suits the show better since HOTD really is meant to
be nothing more than mindless fun anyways, and while the sub is better acted, I think it takes itself a little too
seriously at times.
Hands down, all Higshchool of The Dead boils down to is entertainment. No brains needed (this is a zombie flick guys really--no brains needed. Get it? GET IT?!....shut up). The story line is un-creative and predictable at best, and the characters really aren't anything other than your one dimensional anime archetypes. Still, it's not as though the show tries to hide this fact and it still is a really fun anime to watch during its high points. HOTD is above average, but not great, not masterpiece material and definitely NOT something you watch with your girlfriend or your parents in the room.
In terms of immersibility I really do think HOTD has its hit and miss moments. Once again, I point the finger at the overabundant fanservice and its annoying tendency to break any emotion you may have felt in a serious scene. Like everything else in a show fanservice has its time and place--a concept which was pretty much thrown out the window in this anime and it really is a damn shame too. Like I said before, from a technical standpoint the show is very well executed. It's pacing is spot on. It knows when to speed up and when to slow down, and had it not been for the big pile of tits and ass the producers try to shove down your throat, it would've gotten more points in enjoyability. In addition to being better overall.
It is my firm belief that any anime with the words "harem" and "ecchi" in it's genre is going to contain some sort of comicality. And when I say comicality, I mean the age old scenarios where our main male protagonist finds himself in pervy situations, while we the audience are supposed to laugh at his predicament of trying to keep his dick in his pants with the freaking sex parade walking in his face 24/7. So if you're not already de-sensitized to this gimmick that's been in harem-ecchi anime since the 90's (see Love Hina for further reference) then you may garner some laughs from the show. Personally, I recommend watching this show dubbed since most of my laughs came from the witty dialogue. That and there's always the overtly stupid action scenes involving Saeko's tits developing the innate ability to doge bullets (and yes you read that right: bullet-dodging-boobies ladies and gentlemen).
HOTD for me was like blindly sticking your hand into a bag of trail mix--sometimes I got the M&M's sometimes I got the raisins but it was still an enjoyable snack as a whole. I really can't recommend this anime to anyone squeamish to gore or the exposure of female body parts . And honestly this really isn't a show I can take pride in watching--or something I could show to non anime fans not used to this shit without getting scoffed at. But then again, HOTD really wasn't anything more than a marketing gimmick from start to finish anyway, considering how blatant it was with its intentions: Boobs, babes, blood and explosions. This is a show most of the males in the otaku community will eat for breakfast lunch and dinner, then ask for seconds. As for you lady nerds out there who happen to like off the wall action sequences involving guts gore and zombies, remember to bring your fanservice filters along for the ride, because this anime really does borderline on soft pornography at times.
Reviewed by animefreak114, Jul 23, 2013
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