I was on Facebook last week and came across a page simply named ‘Anime’. I noticed a post which claimed that ‘Highschool of the Dead’ needed a second season way more than ‘Attack On Titan’. Conveniently, I had just started watching Highschool of the Dead only a day or two before. I can say right now that it’s not really fair to compare the two because they are very different anime. They aren’t without their similarities as you might expect: both begin on the day of an apocalypse that threatens to wipe out humanity, and all attempts at survival seem futile. They both try to create an atmosphere of desperation and hopelessness, and both of them have the main characters witness something horrific in the first episode, leaving us wanting more.
Let me then begin with the story: Highschool of the Dead begins with our protagonist Takashi Komuro being lectured by Saya Takagi (a childhood friend) about being an idiot for some reason. Suddenly, zombies invade the school. Nothing like a simple plot device to abruptly plunge our characters into action. Our heroes: Takashi along with his love interest Rei Miyamoto and her boyfriend Hisashi Igo (also Takashi’s best friend); Saya along with fat nerd Kohta Hirano; and third year kendo expert Saeko Busujima along with the school nurse Shizuka Marikawa, (all in different places) do the sensible thing and cheese it! Well, they try to, but it’s not quite that simple. Hisashi gets bitten and asks Takashi to kill him before he turns. Takashi reluctantly complies, beating his head in with a baseball bat. This made me sad seeing as Hisashi was clearly the only character that had taken the time to clue himself in on zombies. If you watch any zombie movie, you’ll most likely get some kind of exposition telling you that to kill one, you have to attack their head. Despite this information being so openly available, Hisashi seems to have been the only one to take any of it in. I will add that most of the episodes do not take place on school grounds, so ‘Highschool of the Dead’ may be somewhat of a misleading name.
So what should one expect from this anime besides the obvious things that can be found in most zombie films? First of all, the anime has comic relief throughout which I was most grateful for. Not a single episode goes by without something being thrown in to take the edge off. This makes it differ greatly from Attack on Titan, which thusfar (pre-second season) has all of its comic relief packed into a single episode, and even then, I literally counted two occasions where I laughed.
On top of that, Highschool of the Dead has more fan service than a restaurant dedicated entirely to serving food to ceiling fans. It’s got jiggling breasts; it’s got phalic symbolism; it’s got panty shots. Indeed, this anime has got fan service up the a***. I didn’t really have any strong feelings about this, I was far too busy concerning myself with some of the bulls*** physics. In one episode, Rei falls off the roof of a car making an emergency stop at a speed clearly above 30mph, yet instead of flying into the brick wall ahead of her and dying on impact, she simply rolls onto the bonnet and falls off, grazing her knee. Minutes later, Takashi fires a bullet past Saeko, whose breasts must be jiggling at supersonic speeds or something, given that they individually move out of the way of the bullet just in time. I know it seems pointless to argue about realism in an anime, but it’s not like any of the characters are supposed to have superpowers. Indeed, what makes the anime scary is that one could imagine the events occuring in real life, so why do that? One final complaint is that some of the female characters can be annoying. Rei annoyed me the most for some reason. I won’t go into it because it’s a matter of taste. One character that confused me was the school nurse Shizuka. She sort of looks like Miyo Takano from Higurashi, and despite being the most qualified of the group, she consistently proves to be the most childish. In fact, at certain points, I thought she might have been stoned.
Here’s where the anime makes up for the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph: First of all, we have Saeko, a strong, independent female who is by far the most competent of the group, yet not without weaknesses of her own, letting us know that she is human. Secondly, we have Takashi, our male lead. Takashi is the kind of male character I look for in a series, somewhere between a tough guy and a gentleman. It’s no wonder that he seems to have every female character in the series after him.
Now we come to the important questions. First of all, is it scary/disturbing? Well, yes actually. It wasn’t the zombies either, it was the actions of the nameless survivors. As a rule, I hate watching people lose their humanity and turn on each other, even in fictional settings. So if that’s the case, then why did I enjoy this anime so much? Indeed, I actually feel ashamed of myself for enjoying it as much as I did. It’s made clear that our protagonists are all losing their humanity as the days roll on, and because I was seeing the same things they were, I felt part of it. I guess what I’m trying to say is: It’s immersive, or at least that it’ll suck you in if you let it. Now for the most important question: if one took away all the fan service which was clearly put there in order to draw in a male audience, would it still be good? The answer is a rather undignified “Hell yeah!” If there’s one accomplishment that this anime shares with Attack on Titan, it’s that it had me yelling that phrase regularly. I await the second seasons of both of them, each with equal childish glee.