Anime Review: Highschool of the Dead September 23, 2010Posted by navycherub in Anime, Review.
You’re sitting in school one day, skipping class. Your genius friend comes to berate you for being so stupid, your childhood crush is dating your best friend, your grades aren’t great and you don’t have much direction in life. In other words, a usual day. Suddenly you see an undead monster bite a teacher, and from there you can see what happens – all Hell breaks loose, literally, and your first instinct is to save your friends who haven’t been treating you all that well recently. Now you have to deal with relationship drama and zombies attacking from every angle; fun, right?
Highschool of the Dead is nothing if not simplistic. It has just about every cliche one might expect from a zombie story, so anyone looking for something they have never seen before should look elsewhere. However, it is quite a bit of a breath of fresh air in the anime genre; Western stories are filled with zombie apocalypse scenarios, so much so that one must be exceptional (or a decent comedy) to stand out. Anime, on the other hand, hasn’t had the same oversaturation of the zombie genre, so the sort of generic anime antics are applied to what one might think is a worn-out idea to bring about something more interesting than at first glance.
Gratuitous ecchi is rampant in Highschool of the Dead. Understandable, as the artist Shōji Satō is quite used to drawing for h-doujinshi and the like. Luckily for him, this artstyle of his fits seamlessly into the world of Highschool of the Dead, and Madhouse did quite an impressive job in translating his art to an anime form. As a result, the adaptation is almost panel-for-panel correct, with only a few creative liberties taken by Madhouse, and this is definitely something to be thankful for as there really wasn’t anything to change to make it work.
The story itself, as I said before, is simplistic to the point of being very predictable. While this might normally be a bad thing, it actually adds some charm to the series for a few reasons. One is as I said above – anime doesn’t have zombie stories around too often if at all, so from that perspective there isn’t much that can be generic for the genre. Another is that the normalcy is almost welcome in the zombie genre at this point; too many zombie stories have been written recently using irony, over the top comedy, and post-modernism in order to avoid the inherent silliness of a zombie movie. Fortunately one of anime’s high points is that it rarely takes itself too seriously unless it really wants to, and on the other side of the spectrum it is almost never afraid to go the whole nine yards with an aspect before giving into the absurdity of it all and attempting to add other unnecessary things such as irony in order to appear more “edgy.” Perhaps that is the reason that the entirely normal and reasonably simple storyline of Highschool of the Dead is still very entertaining.
The third and final reason Highschool of the Dead is an enjoyable addition to anime is that the genre actually does lend itself to things anime rarely sees other than zombies – male protagonists that can stand on their own two feet. Takashi, the main character, begins the story appearing to be a normal dejected anime lead, but as soon as the situation gets serious he takes things into his own hands and begins protecting the people around him without hesitation. He still has some of the issues with girls that most anime characters do, but he doesn’t whine about them, he deals with them, and when an issue arises he deals with it himself. The other male lead, Hirano, is another anime stereotype-breaking character. He’s overweight, wears glasses, and is a gun freak; being obsessive and overweight almost always makes you absolutely useless in anime. However, he takes his chance to shine and from there becomes one of the biggest offensive forces in the group, as well as earning the respect of even the most judging people around him.
All in all, Highschool of the Dead may not be the most original anime ever, and it may not have the best written story. But it is truly entertaining for various reasons, the biggest of these being its uniqueness when considering the plethora of endlessly rehashed anime that appear so often. In this regard, it is definitely worth at least checking out.