High School of the Dead is brings the classic zombie apocalypse genre to anime. Complete with violence, sex appeal, and mobs of infectious undead, this series blends all the standard aspects of zombie flicks with common tropes in anime.
The story and the characters are very reminiscent of film classics. We have the average lead, the girl, a team of experts, the dictator that comes at a pivotal point, self-sacrificing heroes, the innocent child, and the sadistic psychopath. Similarly, the story follows a familiar formula. When the zombie epidemic spreads suddenly and quickly, our heroes embark on a journey to find their families. The road trip soon turns into a stagnant fight for survival with various zombie and human obstacles. Eventually, they do get back on track and the story ends with some dim hopes for what is to come.
The interesting twist to this classic genre is the incorporation of typical anime elements. The male lead, Takashi Komuro, is not just the average kid we can relate to. He is now in the middle of a harem-styled love triangle. The girls are not just token hot girls. They now kick serious ass. One of them is even a kendo master. Of course, the sex appeal now emphasizes breasts, legas, and panties as opposed to wild college sex.
While this mixture is fascinating, they do not all fit into a zombie flick though. The worst offense is the inclusion of teenage drama. The anime has enough complications just by being an apocalyptic story. It does not need that extra teenage angst. Furthermore, this subplot disrupts the overall flow of the series, and cheapens the significance of the characters’ struggles. Of course, properly done, a good romance in the wake of disaster inserts a contrasting brightness to an otherwise dark premise. However, the romance here is tense and unresolved. It only made me dislike the characters even more.
At least the women are sexy… Really really sexy.
Gore and sex have often been inseparable in various media, perhaps because of the gratuitous satisfaction that comes with both. The fan service in High School of the Dead is perfect for the story. Sure, there is some ridiculousness to the curves of these girls, the skimpiness of clothes, or the movements of breasts. However, the sex appeal adds an extra layer of passion during zombie killing scenes. Moreover, it keeps the anime exciting during slower moments. For a story with no real beginning and ending, the chase is pivotal. Fan service helps to maintain the necessary action-packed pace without having zombie killings in every single scene.
Besides fan service, High School of the Dead keeps the pace fresh through exploring different socio-psychological aspects. We see different ways people deal with this reality. We see relationships broken down, bonds formed, and mobs manipulated. The characters do not just have to survive, but survive with their humanity intact. That extra complication gives the characters’ struggles so much more weight.
Although the cheap love triangle somewhat dampens that intensity, High School of the Dead still kept a great pace through its twelve episodes. The series also weaves in a coherent story and gorgeous characters. While far from a masterpiece, this anime is a captivating take on zombie horrors.
Even more fascinating is the genre’s future in anime. High School of the Dead paved the way for zombie apocalypse to enter this medium. Perhaps we will see a Shinto or Buddhist influenced version a la Shikabane Hime, but with more emphasis on mobs of undead. Or maybe an anime in the zom rom com genre similar to Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. We might even get a blend of magical girls and zombies.  The potentials are endless and I am extremely excited as a fan of anime and zombie films.
- Magical girls and zombies… Seriously?
Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?
… Just kidding. This is not actually a zombie apocalypse anime.
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