Sunday, July 17, 2011

Highschool of the Dead (Anime 2010)

Zombies, guns, blood, gore, T&A, oh my! How can you go wrong with that winning combination? Well, let me tell can go wrong, and H.O.T.D. (学園黙示録) is proof of that. Don't get me wrong, the series oozes with promise and possibility, and there are some great moments, but that just makes it's glaring flaws all the more frustrating.

Takashi Komuro is just a loner high-school student that is lost in thought, pondering life, love, and how unfair both can be. His "me" time is interrupted by his old childhood friend, the pink-haired Saya Takagi, who seems to be constantly on Komuro's case about being stupid, a day-dreamer and so on. Both students are interrupted by a rattling coming from the front gate of the school. When some faculty members make their way over to the gate, they realize something is very wrong with the stranger trying to make his way in. The man at the gate bites one of the teachers and for all intents and purposes, kills him. After a few seconds though, the recently deceased begins to move again and gets up with a moan in his voice and a lifeless look on his face. What we have here is certainly no longer human. That's right folks, the zombie invasion has begun. Komuro and Takagi take no time in realizing that all is not right at the front gate and rightfully decide to kick things into high gear. Komuro's first stop is in getting his classmate and friend, Rei Miyamoto, and her boyfriend (who happens to be Komuro's best friend) Hisashi. Meanwhile, Takagi runs into the fat, nerdy, and somewhat awkward Kohta Hirano, and explains that there may be a situation at the school and that they need to prepare themselves. Luckily, everyone here seems to be familiar with the concept of zombies so they make sure to grab whatever they can to use as weapons. Komuro, Rei, and Hisashi decide to make their way to the rooftop, thinking that help will come for them if they barricade themselves away. Fighting their way to the top, Hisashi is bitten and things take a turn for the dramatic. Once securely barricaded away, Hisashi begins to turn into one of them and Komuro is forced to take his best friend's life. Rei is overcome with emotion in having to witness her boyfriend's death, but she and Komuro realize that they need to stick together in order to survive. As zombies continue to swarm the rooftop, the two realize that being stuck on the roof might not be such a good idea after all and begin making their way out of the school. They run into Takagi and Hirano on the way, and just before they leave they also meet Saeko Busujima, a kendo expert, and the school's giant-breasted, mostly aloof nurse, Shizuka Marikawa. Ah, the band is together and ready to rock. Everyone brings something unique to the group with Komuro's leadership skills, Rei's defensive skills (taught to her by her policeman father), Hirano's expert aim with firearms, Takagi's genius, Busujima's kendo skills, and Marikawa's ability to care for the injured. Wow, it's like an RPG game! The group decide that the best plan of action is to get the heck out of the school and stick together in checking on each others families.

Time to smash some zombie brains!
So what lies in wait for our band of unlikely heroes? Well, mostly a world in turmoil and countless walking undead. Turns out this is a worldwide pandemic and nations across the globe are in panic mode, unsure of what to do. Chaos is breaking out in the streets and no one is safe. The group, having picked up some other students and a teacher, Koichi Shido, who is hated by Rei, make their way to the city on a school bus. Shido tries to convert everyone into making him the boss, and it gets to the point where Rei can't stand to be on the bus with him anymore. Rei leaves and Komuro goes with her, thus separating the group but they all (minus Shido and his brainwashed followers) agree to meet at the police station the next day. Being alone gives Rei and Komuro time to bond and understand each other better, while Takagi and the others eventually separate themselves from Shido as well. Shizuka tells the group that they can rest up at her friends apartment close by and luckily, Rei and Komuro stumble upon the group just in time. Now that everyone is back together again, it's business as usual as they all continue to talk and bond, forming friendships and slaying zombies together. Their goal remains the same, to try and find family alive and well (wait till you get a load of Takagi's parents), and they even take in a little girl, Alice Maresato, whose family was killed, and an annoying little dog name Zeke. Sure, you'll find out why Rei hates Shido so much, and just who is Mirakawa's friend with the well-stocked apartment, so fear not.

Pink-haired girls and shotguns...awesome.
I'm obviously not going to tell you every little thing that happens in H.O.T.D., because I'm a spoiler-free advocate, but it's safe to say at this point that you get the gist. A group of survivors, mostly high school kids, are just trying to stay alive in a world gone to hell. This type of zombie-apocalypse scenario is generally right up my alley, and there are certainly a lot of things in H.O.T.D. that I dig. For one, there's no shortage of action and with that action comes plenty of blood and gore. There's also a lot of half naked (and sometimes fully naked) girls and women in this series, with breasts and crotch-shots flying across the screen in almost every scene. I feel like this anime is paying homage to those low-budget zombie movies of yesteryear, what with the over-the-top action sequences, and the out-of-nowhere panty shots and breast-bouncing. I mean hell, throw in the rock/metal guitar riffs for good measure and you basically have all the ingredients for cliche zombie entertainment. I say this because H.O.T.D. both takes itself seriously at times and at other times it's quite comical, but intentionally so. It's an interesting blend to say the least. There are 12 episodes here, and that's really not that many episodes when you consider all the scenarios you could put these characters in. Oh the possibilities! However, that's where things go horribly wrong and totally piss me off. For one, it takes three of those precious twelve episodes for the group to get out of the school. The fourth episode is half flashbacks from the first three episodes, and the sixth episode is a pointless, hentai-esque, filler episode in which nothing of real significance happens except for nudity...which is kinda awesome, but let's not get sidetracked. What is going on here!? Why are we squandering such potential on nothing!? I mean, I like looking at half naked animated women with big breasts as much as the next guy...I guess, but for 20+ minutes while the crap is hitting the fan just outside your door? Anyway, consider all the time wasting a low point for me in this series and a major reason why I didn't like it more. I should point out the art and animation are both quite good, although I'm not a fan of mixing the CG with traditional 2D art. Thankfully those moments are more in the minority. I also want to say that the character design is decent enough, although Rei's hair looks strange to me, like she has two alien antennas coming out of her head and Mirakawa's boobs are...well, ridiculous. The characters themselves though are all interesting enough with Busujima being my personal favorite, mostly because she seemed to have the most depth to her. Although I would've tossed that little dog Zeke to the first group of zombies I saw...maybe even Alice too.

H.O.T.D. overall is a fun series and any hardcore anime fan will love it, and more than likely any hardcore anime fan has already seen it and probably did love it. I'm just a casual anime viewer however, and I had a good time with the series for the most part, but I'll never forgive it for all it's filler and squandered potential. It came so close to hitting the mark across the board. I hope they have a second season and if they do, I'll be waiting with my always fine-toothed comb. (Lee)

Grade: B

No comments: