Zombies have been one of the most reoccurring themes in the horror genre for the last few decades and Japan’s J-Horror genre certainly has its fair share of all the zombie films ever made, however, until now the undead have remained unusually absent from the anime scene while vampires have reigned supreme, all this is about to change as one of the years most anticipated titles is about to arrive on our fair isle, High School Of The Dead.
As the name of the show might suggest the story begins in the familiar setting of a High School that is very soon over-run with the dead that waste no time in consuming (and groping) the students. The main protagonists of the show are very quickly introduced as they fight to survive the zombie onslaught, the characters fulfil their rather generic roles well, you have the usual hero, damsel, otaku geek, intelligent student, silent and mysterious type and the air head, there are a few other character types introduced later that have little consequence to the story. The closest you will find to character development here will be the unusual combinations and situations you find the characters in but this is not a show that intends to draw its audience in with interesting characters, beauty really is only skin deep with this bunch.
Surprisingly only the first few episodes of the series are based in the High School setting, soon the motley cast are travelling through the city in an attempt to escape the horror and reunite with their families, things are not so easy though, the entire world has been over run by the zombie outbreak and their is little refuge left in the city. If you excuse the characters and abundant fan service then there is a pretty descent story on offer here, a zombie story that is actually worth watching and tries to do some new things with a pretty stale genre. The amount of content and explosive action you get per episode will leave you breathless the story has a consistently fast pace that is more cinematic that you would expect from a series.
The animation if High School Of The Dead is simply stunning, the character designs are fairly simple and exaggerated but work extremely well and the overall artwork is magnificent there are some stunning action scenes. CG has been used frequently but to great effect, it works very well with large crowds of the undead and many of the vehicles are also CG but again they fit very nicely into the animation. It’s kind of ironic that something as rotten as a dead city over run with zombies can look so beautiful. The quality of the animation is very much on par with many modern theatrical releases and in terms of quality is up there alongside Evangelion 2.22.
The english dub by Sentai Filmworks is a standard fair, it does the job but doesn’t really offer any stand out moments of great acting, some of the lip syncing could be a bit better but it’s generally good. In a similar fashion to the animation the soundtrack is fantastic featuring tracks varying from twisted heavy metal to dramatic orchestral scores, also nearly every episode has a different song for the end credits which is a nice touch.
Of course I should not forget to mention that there is loads of fan service in this series so there is lots of cleavage, sweat, groping, compromising situations and panty shots. Normally I’m not fond of fan service but it does work fairly well for this series in a strange kind of way, without it the show would not be as varied as it is, on occasions it can feel a little forced but it generally fits in to the style of the show well but if you are easily offended by jiggly anatomy and sexual innuendo then you have been warned. It’s very surprising that the series has managed to get a 15 certificate because of the amount of mature and suggestive content, this certainly not a show for the faint of heart.
Overall High School Of The Dead has been one of the most enjoyable series I have watched for a very long time. The zombie, action, fan service formula works well and we have one series that will stand the test of time. I won’t be surprised to see more of this series over the next few years.