Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
To survive a zombie apocalypse all you need is guns and big boobs.
Director George Romero was once quoted to have said that sometimes even we need a break from the usual and get lost in the unusual even if it’s a story about giant radioactive ants or flesh-eating zombies. Sometimes it’s fun just to dive into a story that doesn’t offer anything but a mindless diversion that sets out to titillate (pun intended and you‘ll see why soon) or just show you a really good time much like the Complete Collection of High School of the Dead.
Of course, if stories about the walking dead aren’t your thing you should certainly skip this but if it is you will find the High School of the Dead playfully tips its hat to Romero’s numerous “of the Dead” films that go from horrific to classic grindhouse-inspired bloody fun with a touch of the absurd just to keep things different. The very first seconds finds a trio of high school students racing for their lives on the roof of their school as scores of walking dead classmates rush after them.
The story back peddles to introduce us to Takashi Komuro, a young man nursing a broken heart after his hot childhood friend, Rei, dumps him for his best friend named Hisashi. He’s so depressed by this fact that he ignores the cute tsundere named Takagi who is so obviously into him even though she doesn’t hesitate to call him stupid every chance she gets. Suddenly, Takashi witnesses a strange man at the gate of the school who suddenly bites a P.E. teacher. In a matter of a few minutes, the teacher suddenly turns to fellow faculty members and tears into them with his teeth.
In an instant, the school is in a panic as Takashi and a handful of students begin to realize that students and faculty are being changed by what could only be some kind of fatal infection that has the dead rising like mindless drones that only think of devouring the flesh of the living. Takashi manages to escape up to the roof alongside Rei and Hisashi. Unfortunately, a moment’s carelessness turns into tragedy as Takashi and the voluptuous Rei are left alone and realizing that whatever is happening is occurring all over the city.
Takashi and Rei do manage to escape the roof only to encounter another set of survivors. One of them is Takagi and a chubby otaku named Hirano who has a crush on the busty girl with glasses as well as has a fondness for guns. Then there’s the beautiful captain of the kendo team named Saeko Busujima and the bubbly school’s physician with the biggest boobs of the bunch, Miss Shizuka Marikawa. Together they come up with a plan to take a school bus and try to reach their loved ones so they can get the hell out of the city.
They end up reaching the bus but they quickly encounter a new set of problems with one of them being a creepy teacher named Shindo who immediately wants to be considered the group’s leader for some pervy reasons. The second problem is Rei who seems to have such a hatred for Mr. Shindo that she gets off the bus with Takashi following after her. The pair is forced to separate from the others as they encounter the horrors of a city infested with zombies and crazed citizens who are resorting to crime to try to get out of the city. Takashi realizes that he has to be a cold bastard if they are to survive.
As Takagi, Saeko, Miss Marikawa and Hirano decide to get off the bus and leave the creep and his little group of followers; they are reunited with Takashi and Rei. It is this little group that comes to rely on each another for survival whether it’s Hirano’s knowledge and handling of guns or Saeko’s talented wooden swordplay. Meanwhile, the story shifts to what is happening to the rest of the world during this global pandemic as the United States faces a touch challenge without leadership and Japan sending their Defense Force to only specific key areas while the remaining authorities are trying to keep people from crossing a bridge leading out to another part of the city.
Along the way, the small band of survivors rescue a little girl named Arisu (an a yappy dog) as they find a means to cross the river without going through the checkpoint on the bridge thanks to a Hummer owned by Doctor Marikawa’s sexy sniper friend. Then some of the others, with the exception of Takashi and Saeko who are separated from the group for one night and show up at Takagi’s mansion where things get ugly fast. The events that go down hint at a second season as a decision is made that will have the group moving on again.
As I said, it’s mindless fun with an emphasis on zombie killing action and plenty of blood and gore. The story does start of strongly and there are a number of great moments scattered throughout but it comes at a price. For starters, the majority of the cast isn’t very likeable or adds anything to the story. Takashi, for instance, is as bland as they come and Doctor Marikawa is just dead weight. In fact, she’s just these to display her enormous boobs. Just about the only characters you will be rooting for are Hirano and Saeko who not only put their expertise to work but show more personality than the other survivors.
Secondly, there’s an excessive amount of fan service in this series to the point that is will actually start to become very embarrassing. Now, I usually don’t mind fan service at all but High School of the Dead’ use of it is overkill. If the camera is not zooming in for a panty shot, it closes in on all the girls’ enormous bosoms. At one point, Takashi even balances his rifle on Rei’s big chest to shoot a bullet that passes between Saeko’s jiggling melons and into the head of a busty zombie.
Then there’s the English dub that fills the dialogue with F-bombs but that could be remedied by sticking with the original Japanese cast that isn’t bad at all. In fact, Junichi Suwabe as Takashi makes the guy more likeable thanks to his great performance. Other than that, High School of the dead manages to keep things fun. Even the painfully obvious upcoming love triangle between Takashi, Rei and Saeko has its fun moments. On top of that, the animation looks excellent and even more so on Blu-ray.
The Complete Collection of High School of the Dead is an unapologetic guilty pleasure that sets out to be an ultra violent and fan service-laden series and nothing else so those expecting mindless fun will get exactly that. It’s also exactly what we would expect from a series inspired by George Romero zombie flicks. Unfortunately, High School of the Dead has its share of glaring flaws that hold it back from being a truly epic series but, for what its worth, those who like shameless and fun anime will find this to be a very worthwhile experience.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In a matter of minutes a school is turned into a living nightmare for the students and faculty of a high school and when a band of survivors manage to escape said school they find that the entire world if going through a zombie pandemic. Now these survivors are trying to get out to their loved ones in a city that is overrun by the walking dead.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Without a doubt, High School of the Dead should be experienced on Blu-ray and you’ll see why in the first minute. The animation is simply stunning when it comes to the backgrounds, visual effects and vivid colors. There’s plenty of blood and gore as is expected from a series with zombies and slick action sequences. I don’t mind fan service in anime but it becomes a cheap and tiresome gimmick when it’s overused to the point of absurdity.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The Japanese voice actors make for a better viewing experience in my book and even more so since it doesn’t resort to excessive profanity like the English dub. Then there’s the original score that brings to mind the now zombie classic, 28 Days Later, at times. The opening and closing theme songs are actually awesome.
There are few extras aside from the fact that the series is available on Blu-ray but just in case you’ll find the clean opening and closing theme songs and a few Sentai Filmworks Blu-ray trailers.
High School of the Dead is the kind of anime series that’s an acquired taste and if that taste is towards the over-the-top, take-no-prisoners escapist action fare with plenty of zombie-killing mayhem then this series is for you. While there are a number of great moments scattered throughout the 12 episodes, they’re spoiled by a number of things that hold it back. So why did I like it so much? What does work makes for a guaranteed good time for those who like a good zombie anime series.
Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks