High School of the Dead: If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me!

When I first heard of High School of the Dead, I figured it’d be little more than a mildly entertaining anime-style remix of the same old zombie movies I’d seen so many times before. I was completely wrong. Something unexpected and very disturbing happened at the end of the first episode: I realized I’d never seen a zombie movie before. I knew plenty about zombies from video games, The Simpsons, Maddox, classic literature, and living in the zombie capital of the world where I saw giant inflatable zombies on the street, yet somehow I never got around to seeing zombies in a movie.

How do zombie movies end? Do you have to kill all the zombies? Do the zombies get cured somehow? Do the main characters simply escape to somewhere safe? I was clueless. High School of the Dead quickly turned into the most thought-provoking anime I’d seen in ages.

The premise of High School of the Dead is fairly straightforward. A zombie outbreak is taking place worldwide. Zombies break into the titular high school. The main characters band together and fight for survival.

The team consists of a meganekko tsundere, a childhood friend, a dojikko nurse, a military otaku, a hot chick with a sword, and a male lead who looks exactly like Kazuki from Busou Renkin.

Overall, the characters are nothing special. Good thing it doesn’t matter. High School of the Dead is all about the action and fanservice. Behold:

If you don’t like ’em big, there’s always Kazuki, whose sideburns are still developing.

Episode 1

Episode 11

After escaping the high school, the gang finds and stays at various strongholds until they collapse. Inevitable collapse makes a great story. Triumph and togetherness are overdone. High School of the Dead gives you plenty of collapse and relatively little togetherness. The gang doesn’t infight enough to get annoying, but it’s not like they hold hands and skip down the street singing about themes of friendship. They just put up with each other for survival.

The show isn’t perfect. The nuke plotline was stupid, the nurse was useless, the dog was ugly, and there’s a lot you could nitpick about the zombie behavior and battle dynamics. The most annoying thing was the way they kept saying “THIS ISN’T A MOVIE!” every other episode.

Final Grade: ++

Reading this post will do nothing to change your opinion of High School of the Dead.

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  1. The characters are interesting, if only for some of the dynamics. I dropped this show after the first ep but a post on superfanicom changed my mind.

    I also read all available chapters of the manga, which makes me believe that the next arc (the mall) is the best.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Yes, the characters are interesting, in an “everyone in interesting in their own way” way. Pardon the cynicism, but I’ve seen dozens of these kinds of posts about K-ON. Here’s my take:

      Hot Chick with a Sword: great character
      Military Otaku: very entertaining
      Male Lead: Bland
      Childhood Friend: (Bland + Annoying)/2
      Meganekko Tsundere: Annoying
      Little Girl: 99% Useless
      Nurse: 100% Useless

      The only interaction I consistently found interesting was between Hot Chick with a Sword and Male Lead (even early in the show). Well, Saeko + anyone was usually a good watch.

      Not that it matters for this show. Action speaks louder than interaction.

  2. digital boy says:

    >>and a male lead who looks exactly like Kazuki from Busou Renkin.

    Not to mention the military otaku has the same name as the guy who wrote Hellsing.

    I’ll be finishing this by the end of the year. (Along with every other anime that aired this year.)

  3. Caraniel says:

    I enjoyed High School of the Dead way more than I thought I would. I quite like zombie flicks, but wasn’t sure if the genre would work in anime…..thankfully it was awesome.

  4. kluxorious says:

    The amount of blood couldn’t do anything to change my mind. I allowed the ecchi to get to me. I dropped it after the 3rd episode and decided to just stick with manga.

  5. LJ says:

    You know, I actually only watched the original Dawn of the Dead like two years ago. I was mostly kind of ‘meh’ about the genre and subgenres, but about halfway through the movie, something magical happened – the POST APOCALYPTIC BIKER GANG OF RAIDERS SHOWED UP.
    I never looked back since. I bought eleven volumes of The Walking Dead even though I’d never read western comics in any significant fashion. I watched 28 Days Later so I could mercilessly mock anybody who called the infected in that movie ‘zombies’. I participated in flamewars over what a japanese sword could actually do to a human body. And most importantly, I learned myriad ways to mercilessly mock the intelligence, social standing, and parentage of any who thought that saying “brains” was funny, let alone remotely apropos.
    Oh, and the show?
    I’d say it’s about as close to the core survival-drama (not horror, mind you) of Romero as a practicing, compulsive H-Doujin artist can get with the help of an actual writer, which is still pretty damn close.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Figures you’d like it. You can point to all the zombies and say they’re already dead. Bet you never came up with that joke before.

      Shoji Sato is perfectly capable of drawing non-hentai artwork (citation needed).

  6. Kyoin says:

    The second post about an anime show that I’ve understood due to actually seeing it. The action was clearly the main focus of the show with story taking up the rear. The sword chick was the most interesting character, second to only the military otaku. All the other characters were bland and have been done before. The show was good because they always got in terrible situations (suprise!) and had to get out of them in some crazy way. One of my favorite solutions being just to walk past the zombies without making any noise. The only down side to the show was there was a little too much ecchi for an anime taking place in a fairly serious situation. But I heard they will have a second season in a mall. George would be proud.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      That silence in the middle of zombies scene was the best scene of the whole show. (I never knew zombies were blind. I’m assuming this isn’t always the case.)

      The fanservice may have been disturbing to some. Not me. I’m desensitized after watching Queen’s Blade.

      The mall arc has been hyped up by several sources. I’m unwilling to jump into an ongoing manga right now, but who knows when that could change…

  7. Hana says:

    Would you believe me if I said I’ve just been discussing zombies in class this past week?! (We’re doing a Gothic and the Supernatural themed unit of work at the mo’.) Amongst other things, I showed them clips from four Zombie films from the 1930s up to more recent times (White Zombie, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (the remake) and Shaun of the Dead), and realised that I’d only ever watched one zombie film in total (Shaun of the Dead, though that’s more of a comedy, or a ‘romzomcom’ as the makers would say!). I guess the genre doesn’t really appeal to me (I prefer less gore and more suspense in my horror), which would also explain why I dropped HSotD halfway through the first epi. Glad you enjoyed it though!

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Nice to know you’re preparing your students for the real world. If a zombie outbreak hits, they’ll be the hope of humanity.

      I rarely watch horror movies. They don’t scare me. Gore is great, but I don’t remember seeing much in any of the horror movies I’ve watched.

  8. fathomlessblue says:

    I actually detested this series with a passion, although I’m seemingly alone in that view. Sorry to disagree with ghostlighting but I found nothing redeeming or interesting in the characters, to me they just dropped of the conveyer belt of tired anime stereotypes. It also doesn’t help that fan-service is something I tolerate rather than like, so when it’s pushed in my face in such a ridiculous and tacky manner, I cringed rather than laughed. Plus theres no story, which unless I’m watching a straight-forward comedy or slice of life anime, is something I need.

    However, I guess that zombie stories aren’t necessarily supposed to be big on story, with the tension and shock-value violence of surviving in a collapsing society being the substitution. The problem was found neither in this series, unlike Caraniel I really didn’t feel an anime zombie series worked, it just didn’t survive the translation.

    I’ve tried for years to introduce my friends, who mostly think of of anime as perverted nonsense, to decent shows like Cowboy Bebop or Baccano! etc, in order to change their perceptions. A series like this would undo all that hardwork in an instance. I seriously couldn’t stand it and I’m supposed to be used the more bizarre elements of anime by now. Bleugh!

    I get why you found elements of the show quite thought-provoking, but those elements are staples of pretty much every zombie movie out there, just usually executed better. I’m not a huge fan of the genre (I’ve only ever watched one or two of, “… of the dead” movies), but I recommend the more recent flicks 28 days/weeks later as a better example of the zombie format, they were pretty damn good films.

    Oh; one positive thing about the series was the soundtrack, which used variations of classic zombie movie themes for it’s score. I only actually recognised two in the seven episodes I made it through, but it was a nice touch none the less.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      I’ve read several negative reviews of HSotD, but most of them were apologetic about their negativity. I don’t know whether they’re sincere or simply want to avoid controversy. In any case, unabashed negativity is more than welcome here.

      I’m all about plot (post forthcoming). I found plenty in the story to keep me interested, though I’m fully aware that my lack of zombie experience is a probably a big part of that. At the very least, breaking out of the high school made a good story. We didn’t know about their fighting skills or how they’d end up together. I didn’t even know they’d escape the titular high school at all, let alone do it so early in the series. The story does dip after that.

  9. Epi says:

    This was my favorite show of the summer season… good old mindless fun.

    I approve of this line:
    “Zombies break into the titular high school.”

    On purpose or coincidental?

    I saw a funny related chart in this month’s Wired Magazine which shows that we’re actually in the midst of a ‘zombie bubble’ in terms of number of zombie related media out there which is kind of funny.

  10. Well, I think now that you’ve finally watched something with zombies, you should now go watch Shaun of the Dead. It is hilarious. And then you may as well watch Hot Fuzz, which has nothing to do with zombies, but is hilarious and gruesome.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Watching entire movies nonstop is currently impossible with my Eyes of the Dead. I’ll stick these two on the list of things to do when my eyes get better. Right now they’re at #181 and #182, right behind driving to McDonalds so I can eat a McRib.

  11. chii says:

    I want the Military Otaku to bone the Meganekko Tsundere please.

    I like that your fan service was sideburns. Those are some DIRTY pictures you have up there!

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Anyone who doesn’t want Military Otaku to bone Meganekko Tsundere is a communist.

      These days it’s easier to find nipples than sideburns in anime. Clearly that means the latter is more obscene.

  12. Glo says:

    The school nurse sucked. But I think they had to add a sucky character to show just how awesome every other character was. Fuck I want more of this.

  13. epigeios says:

    The best part of High School of the Dead is that the male lead’s crowning moment of badass is when he slaps the bitch in the first episode.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      While I do enjoy seeing uppity women being put in their place, it’s easy to beat up on women during a zombie apocalypse. I’d be more impressed if he did it when there’s a functional law enforcement system.

  14. Shiro, Long Tail's says:

    If Kazuki is in this does that also mean it contains a hilariously awesome Hard Gay Subplot?

    I remember when the Manga came out and I’ve been meaning to get around to it. Would you recommend watching/reading one before the other?

  15. Zantetsu says:

    Eh, the overdone fanservice ruined it for me. I don’t know, fan service is supposed to be that special spice you add to your favourite series; When you make it the main attraction of the show it loses flavour.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      If fanservice is everywhere, it does defeat Maddox’s analogy:

      So here I am watching the movie and it’s pretty badass, but then out of nowhere *WHAM*. Tits on the screen. Like finding an unexpected $20 in the wash, the director throws in some jugs for good measure.

      $20 bills get inflated if they’re all over the place, but I’d never be disappointed to find a $20 bill.

      I never felt like the fanservice interfered with the show. Queen’s Blade has corrupted me.

  16. Yi says:

    I can’t believe you’ve never seen a zombie movie. There’s so many of them, and some of them even pretty good.

    Anyways, I liked this a lot too. It’s not perfect, but it did what it wanted to do: bring the zombie genre into anime form.

  17. Praz says:

    Never seen a zombie movie? I call BS. After turning into a zombie, the main character busts some badass dance moves and encroaches on his girl, only to wake up in her room and find out it was all just a dream… or was it??? (Surely youve seen the music video to ‘Thriller’ in its entirety at some point. That counts.)

  18. ~xxx says:

    I thought you had watch resident evil?

    well, anyways fighting zombies is not that bad asides I played plants vs zombies which by the way kills time.

    HOTD, haven’t watched it… but i think its too much for me so i pass.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      I played Resident Evil 4. Technically they weren’t even zombies. Never saw any RE movies. I tend to avoid game-inspired movies.

      HOTD isn’t for everyone. Pregnant women and people with heart problems should avoid it.

  19. vendredi says:

    Good gravy, his sideburns actually do grow over the course of the series!

  20. OBALLER says:

    the endings of zombie movies are actually always different. for example, in the original Night of the Living Dead, all of the characters die at the end… not your typical happy ending.

  21. Michael says:

    I watched the entire series for Saeko. The best episode was episode 9. I wish Rei would die. I wish Saeko ended up with Takashi.

    I enjoyed the show because of Saeko.

    I don’t care about the others.

  22. Michael says:

    I’d like to see Rei die then TAkashi being consoled by Saeko then they end up together.

    oh best ending ever

  23. Jay says:

    Should have bumped off Nurse Bubblehead early in the show. A quite useless character. What a fine meal for the zombies she would make!

    My take on the series here: http://jaysteevee.blogspot.com/2010/12/not-so-hotd.html

  24. […] didn’t know the guy from Busou Renkin hated titties so […]

  25. Mike says:

    I enjoyed HighSchool of the Dead. I cant stand horror shows where the pray just lays over to die for the zombies. To combat the creatures with what ever means available makes this a great horror store.

  26. FaS says:

    Yeah, long time no post…to yours or my site lollll. Anyways, yeah speak of the devil, I just started watching it on Netflix since I’ve pretty much exhausted all the other (good) titles. At any rate, I’ve finished season 1…is season 2 out yet..? But yeah, the characters are ok..the sword chick is by far my favorite. I know this is off-base, but wtf is with anime and nosebleeds..??? Well let me re-phrase: why in the hell does anime always have the main character acting like some sort of prude even though the fanservice is soo blatant? Only about 2 anime HAVEN’T done this. Fortunately, this show didn’t do it as much (episode 4 I believe before they save the little girl – fucking amazing ass on the nurse) & desert punk. Why do the main characters have to be such…ummm…virgins!? Because we ALL know that I’d be asking them to rub on em for me lol…then I’d whip out my iPhone and make an HD vid lol hollaaaa

  27. Sekainoowaride says:

    I have no problem with More Action, Less Plot shows. But this show just didn’t do it for me. I have a low fanservice tolerance level unless it’s used appropriately(For plot, “character development” or comedy, only if it’s ALL for comedy, I hate when a show use it for comedy then skip 10 episodes and it’s either creepy or for angst,NGE is a good example)which is why I had no problem with anything that had to do with Busujima, except maybe…the apron,but even that has a bulshit explanation so fuck it.

    Maybe I’m a bit biased since I don’t really like Zombie flicks or eichi in general, so my interest level in this was REALLY low through out the whole thing.Only peaking once at the thought that the “Creepy teacher” was going to pull of something, probably something stupid but I needed an excuse to care about the characters,but then he got completely owned at the richgirl’s house so I was just waiting for the credits to roll(which btw I really liked,for two reasons, 1 New song and pics for each one 2 The episode was over).

    I didn’t even watch this on purpose since I saw this with some friends(who actually like it)and we did a vote to pick what we were gonna watch(Steins;Gate and Fate/Zero lost btw).The show is not bad, just average.I will see the second season if their ever is one though…if only for the sake of completion.

    P.S. Baka-Raptor is Queens Blade really worth watching? I read your views on it and the reviews of several “reliable” sources but I’m still not convinced, it still looks like high quality soft-core porn…with a plot to me. Take into account that Ive watched all of Seikon no Qwaser and I think they wasted a perfectly good concept. Not the most original, but the alchemy was rad as fuck…but then breast milk…The dominatrix/Gothic lolita was ok though…I just couldn’t take anything seriously.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Did I enjoy Queen’s Blade? Yes. Is it better than many reviewers are willing to give it credit it for? Yes. Would I recommend it? Maybe after 150 other shows. So if you haven’t watched Steins;Gate and Fate/Zero (or Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Detroit Metal City, and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood), no, I wouldn’t recommend Queen’s Blade. On the other hand, if you’ve seen everything I’ve rated ++ or higher, sure, give Queen’s Blade a shot.

      • Sekainoowaride says:

        Funny thing is I have seen most of it except, Legend of Galactic Heroes and Detroit Metal City. But I guess what you mean is that since I’ve(theoretically) seen almost all the good/bad “normal/Mainstream” stuff I should paddle my way through the unorthodox or alternative stuff right?

        • Baka-Raptor says:

          Well, more directly I meant go watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Detroit Metal City. But yes, it’s good to challenge your perceived tastes once in a while. I’m frequently surprised by what I end up liking. And if you watch something unorthodox and dislike it, it make the normal stuff seem a lot better when you get back to it.

  28. […] the Japanese music industry than I do, that means each episode of Shana III ended with a mix of High School of the Dead and Initial […]

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