Here is the basic premise of High School of the Dead. There are zombies. There are high schoolers. The high schoolers beat up zombies. Some of the high schoolers have big breasts.
On the surface, that should be a show I’d really like. As I said when I talked about Gunsmith Cats, I’m kind of a fan of well-developed women who kick lots of butt. Unfortunately, High School of the Dead (which I will now refer to as HSotD, because I’m lazy), is a mixed bag. While technically impressive and fast-paced, some of the content made me feel pretty uncomfortable.
And not in the way that horror shows are supposed to.
I’ll explain in detail after the jump.
There’s not a whole lot to talk about plot-wise, since episode 1 is just supposed to set the stage. It all starts at the high school, where we meet Takashi Komuro, Rei Miyamoto and Takashi’s best friend, Hisashi. Takashi has a crush on Rei, but Rei’s currently dating Hisashi. Needless to say, there’s some drama between them, but it doesn’t last long. When a zombie appears at the school gates and bites a faculty member, all hell breaks loose. Takashi, Rei and Hisashi try to escape, but get trapped on the roof. Hisashi, having been bit on the way to the roof, turns into a zombie. Takashi bashes his head in during a moment that’s supposed to be emotional, but I haven’t been with these characters enough to care much. That’s pretty much it.
Also, it’s a little strange that the infection moves so quickly, but I feel it wouldn’t be fair to fault HSotD for plot-convenient time dilation. After all, every zombie movie plays fast and loose with infection speeds. Besides, there are more significant things to take issue with.
The fanservice, for example.
I have to admit, I was amazed by how many completely unnecessary panty shots there were in this episode. Sure, there were your standard “camera upskirt” and “girl falling down” shots. But then Madhouse got…creative. One of the most hilarious examples of trying too hard is in the above screencap. Not sure how to get a girl to flash her panties during a stampede of scared students? Just kick her in the back! It’s okay, there’s certainly nothing degrading about that.
Which brings me to my next—and biggest—issue with this episode: there’s some pretty uncomfortable sexual imagery in this thing. Other than the first faculty member that gets bit and Hisashi, the kids the camera spends time watching get killed by zombies are female. That would be odd but not really worth noting if the way the girls died wasn’t so disconcerting. One girl is on the ground with a male zombie over her, in a position that in any other drama would imply rape. A girl in a swimsuit has her legs spread open as she’s being attacked. And in the scene that actually caused me to yell, “Oh, give me a break!” at my computer screen, a girl is abandoned by her friend, who kicks her down some stairs into the zombies that have caught her leg. The scene quickly changes to show the consequences: she’s lying on her back, upside down, with feasting zombies covering the top half of her body. And what about the prominently displayed bottom half? Her skirt was displaced during the fall so viewers can enjoy an unobstructed panty shot as she’s being devoured.
The frustrating thing is that there’s a fun show behind the gratuitous fanservice. Madhouse spent a lot of time on the animation, and it definitely shows. Plus, I’ve read the manga. I know there’s some interesting character interaction that takes place in between all the fight scenes. Unfortunately, when I’m watching the show, I’m forced to see all the stuff I’d normally skip over if I was reading the manga.
I’ll be sticking with it, partly because I’m covering it for Project Haruhi and partly because I don’t want to dismiss it after just one episode. I’m not very optimistic, though.
SPECIAL NOTE: If, like me, you’re watching HSotD the legal way by using The Anime Network’s streaming video player, you should know something important about the subtitles: they’re not very good. While I’m not in much of a position to judge the accuracy of the translation, I can say that it’s in serious need of some proofreading. Case in point:
And that’s not the only place it happens. Look, I’m glad simulcasts are finally happening; but if companies want to convince fans to use legal services instead of fansubs, leaving embarrassing grammatical mistakes in the subtitles is not the way to do it.
Also, the text is in that lovely yellow color we all love to hate. That probably won’t do them any favors, either.