High School Of The Dead Complete Series (Cert 18)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 302 minutes approx.
Just another day for the students at Fujimi High School: dozing off during class, sneaking off for a quick dalliance behind the bike sheds, messing about during PE, fighting off a horde of flesh eating zombies…wait…what?
Yup, a mystery global pandemic has reached Japan and the infected natives are now ravenous zombies with cannibalistic appetites, their latest target the noisy hive of activity that is the local high school. Takashi Komuro is sulking after a fight with childhood crush Rei Miyamoto who just happens to be dating Takashi’s friend Hisashi Igo. While licking his wounds on the school roof he is the first to notice the arrival of the flesh eating interlopers and his first thought is to protect Rei. Hisashi has the same idea but a zombie bite quickly ends his heroic deeds.
Meanwhile precocious spoiled brat Saya Takagi is uncomfortable being the last survivor in her class with weapon otaku Hirano Kota, who has a thing for the prissy little madam. Elsewhere Kendo group captain Saeko Busujima plays saviour to incredibly ditzy and equally top heavy school nurse Shizuka Marikawa when her patients make an unexpectedly violent comeback from the usual class skiving ailments. The three duos eventually meet up and plan to break out of the school together.
Adapted from the manga by brothers Shoji and Daisuke Sato, H.O.T.D (as it is affectionately abbreviated) was on the big hits of the summer of 2010 in Japan with its gory and bawdy content. With a body count and copious amount of blood letting not seen since the Hellsing Ultimate releases, this zombie outing is also unashamedly prurient with its rewriting of the fan service rulebook and its unabashed redefining of the gratuitous panty shot.
The 18 rating it has received from the BBFC is not an exaggeration, it is well deserved and for that reason alone, a fervent UK fanbase is all but guaranteed. Yet, aside from the ridiculous amount of fan service (or rather ridiculous fan service – more on that later) and lashings of gore, there is a sensitive side to the story exploring the emotional and psychological effect the plight to stay alive has on the young protagonists as well as the panic induced actions of others.
While Rei and Takashi struggle to define their true feelings for each other, stoic Saeko not only enjoys an intimate moment with our nominal hero but also hides her own personal unease as zombie slayer. Along the way the group save seven year-old Alice (inexplicably named “Arisu” on the subtitles – “arisu” being the phonetic way the Japanese would say “Alice”) and a small dog named Zeke, after Alice’s father is killed by a paranoid homeowner with whom they are trying to seek shelter from the undead, now referred to as “Them”.
Alice gravitates towards Kota for some reason and quickly feels at home with the others and becomes a sole cheery beacon in an otherwise dark and desperate world. Throwing the evil spanner in the works is creepy teacher Mr. Shido whose mere presence is such anathema to Rei that she’s rather take her chances with Them. While this grievance is not explicitly revealed, Shido’s disturbing and perverse cult like hold he has over another group of fleeing students says enough for one to put the pieces together.
Elsewhere political panic ensures that Them are the least of everyone’s worries as the Superpowers become affected by this out break and the US launch a global missile attack fearing the Russians might just do the same once they learn the US president is no one of Them. Just think, if George W. Bush was still in power, would anybody be able to tell the difference if he had been infected?
With just twelve episodes to work with, production studio Madhouse manage to create a steady pace for the story after a pretty rushed start. Indeed, the first half of episode four is a recap in case it was moving too fast for anyone but soon things settle down and we are allowed to get to grips with the characters and the various arising subplots.
By the second half of the show’s run the story takes place at Saya’s house where she is reunited with her rich parents and other adults, all of whom think they know better then the kids, leading to a distinct divide of philosophy. Of course, the kids were right and once Them break into the fortified Takagi residence there is no time to eat humble pie and the carnage is back on. As is often the case, the original manga is still ongoing in Japan which should come as little surprise considering the abrupt ending to this series, which either means a second series is due or we are left to use our own imaginations.
As mentioned earlier H.O.T.D is fearlessly heavy on fan service to the point that every female present (aside from Alice) is obscenely busty, with nurse Shizuka taking top honours, so much so that her jiggling movements are accompanied by cartoon sound effects. Even the other girls are in awe of Shizuka’s voluminous and disturbingly malleable assets as Rei decides to have a good fiddle with them during a needlessly explicit bath scene.
Not to be outdone, Saeko stars in what will either go down as the greatest scene in anime history or the dumbest in episode eight as she has a Matrix style bullet dodging moment in which her full on funbags independently perform some gravity acrobatics which has to be seen to be believed. And for up-skirt lovers no opportunity is wasted to show some undies, and if there isn’t an opportunity they’ll create one.
Opinion will be divided as to whether this harms or helps the show but even the biggest connoisseurs of fan service will find some of the displays here just a tad silly. Then again it’s fairly obvious from the onset that this show doesn’t take itself too seriously – the ultra thick Shizuka somehow being able to pass her medical exams and be left in charge of the health of school children is surely proof of that, along with how no-one didn’t just leave the uber snotty and obnoxious Saya to be eaten; honestly she is without doubt one the most dislikeable protagonists ever seen in any show.
With HO.T.D also being as BluRay release, this is open title that benefits from this technology as the visuals are not only crisp but the blood flying towards the screen almost takes on a 3D effect. The character designs are a little CLAMPI-ish in that they are rather lanky but the artwork and backgrounds are exceptional and the depth really comes through on an HDTV.
Even if a second series doesn’t materialise there is little doubt H.O.T.D is likely to be fondly remembered for a while to come, even if it is for the wrong reasons. With no bones made about what it delivers there is no-one who should buy this title without knowing what to expect so if blood, nudity, violence and panty shots offends you go elsewhere; everyone else have a blast! Oh and look out for the Shaun Of The Dead reference too!
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language 2.0
Ratings – ****
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