First Impressions – High School of the Dead

Well now – I don’t know what I could possibly write that would do that justice.

Madhouse seem to have cornered the market on depressing, gore-laden series lately – Rainbow is the grim reality vein, and HSotD in the… Well, whatever vein, it’s definitely the one spouting great fountains of blood.

Take every Zombie film cliche you can imagine, set it in a Japanese high school and add some of the most gratuitous bouncing boob and pantsu shots ever, and you’re getting close to this series. Like all modern zombie stories this one is solidly cut from the George Romero cloth – things start out normal, something weird happens, and all of a sudden human beings are on the menu. A weirdo shows up at the gate of our hero Takashi’s HS. He bites a teacher, and that’s when things start to get weird. Takashi only witnesses this because – teen rebel that he is – he’s cutting class. He rushes in to warn BFF Hisashi and his girlfriend (and Takashi’s childhood crush) Rei. As the rule book (and poor Hisashi) says, “One bite and you’re fucked”. Hisashi seems to be the smart one in the group – he’s a black belt, too – but he inexplicably decides that the safest place to go is the roof. From which, of course, there is no possible escape. Not for Hisashi, anyway…

The hybrid here is interesting – Japanese horror of a more serious nature such as Kazuo Umezu’s classic “Drifting Classroom” has been set in school settings before. But this is pure, unadulterated camp – a heady concoction of sex, gratuitous gore and James Dean-esque “troubled teen” dialogue. It sort of works, but we could seriously use a little leavening for the recipe – that was a pretty heavy first ep, to say the least. Perhaps we’ll get some humor from the supporting cast, who appeared only briefly in this first episode. Indeed, the pacing of the episode was extremely rushed – not only did we get very little exposition of the main characters before the shit hit the fan, but the body count was off the charts. I think the audience would have benefited from a more measured introduction, in the mold of “Tokyo Magnitude 8” where we’re given an episode to learn about the characters before disaster hits. There’s not much empathy for the characters as a result of this omission – Rei, especially, comes off as shrill and unlikable.

This as all beyond silly, of course – but we’re not watching a zombie anime for realism. Madhouse is certainly the right studio to pull this off, and we have some esteemed names attached the the project (Tetsurou Araki, one of the directors of “Death Note” is at the helm). The concept of a fanservice zombie series is an interesting one and, while I haven’t read the manga, I know it has more than it’s share of loyal fans. If we get a somewhat lighter and more humorous touch with future episodes I think the show would be well-served.


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