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Feature


After a teacher gets bitten though the school gates by a zombie, an outbreak sweeps across the highschool and takes out students and teachers alike. Now struggling to survive and with the realisation that this outbreak has taken over the entire country and most of the world, a group of school kids battle the undead and try to find a new life post Z-Day.

"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??!!!"
With an absolutely fantastic opening sequence that ends with lots of zombie bashing and lead character Takashi Komuro screaming “What the fuck is going on?!!” Highschool of the Dead immediately feels like classic, high octane anime with some awesomely delicious visuals. Thankfully its sticks to that and what could have coasted as a pretty madcap zombie bashing event for it’s entire twelve episode run actually molds itself into a very solid take on the age old zombie apocalypse blueprint.

The highschool setting for the first few episodes is used well and the coming together of the students as well as their top heavy school nurse Shizuka Marikawa really gets you involved with the team as they enter the larger over-run city and begin their city wide zombie bashing adventures. Everything feels well paced, the character development is good and despite the anime visuals and moments of melodramatic inflection, HOTD still has its own dramatic stamp on a world taken over by zombies.

This is in the opening credits of a show about zombies???
However, where HOTD forges its own path and sets itself apart from the rest of the zombie crowd is with its high volume of bouncing cleavage shots, intentional up skirt angles and a natural ability to show slivers of female undergarments however and whenever it can. Now, this in a live action movie would probably undermine the overall feel of the horror but somehow in anime this just makes everything a little bit cooler in my eyes. It’s like HOTD already had anime guys with cool hair and it already had adrenaline fueled blood spraying action sequences and it already had beautifully animated girls in school uniforms kicking zombie ass, so hey, why not go the whole hog and include another anime spectacle and go with a little tongue in cheek naughtiness from time to time, right? It’s probably because I’m a seasoned manga and anime fan but this stuff has always been something I love in the Japanese arena. Even in the goriest of movies, the sweetest of love stories, the craziest of comedies there’s still room to fit in a boob gag or some embarrassing blush inducing moment for someone over something a little risqué and weirder still, they manage to keep it ‘sweet’ or ‘cute’ even at its most inappropriate. It’s really something that only works in animation and now having witnessed this in a zombie movie it just makes me love the world of anime a little bit more.  

As for where all this zombie bashing goes over the twelve episodes, I have to say I was pretty impressed. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had with an animated series since Stand Alone Complex and the entire run really keeps up a good pace (despite a few repetitive elements) all the way up to the pretty epic finale. Highschool of the Dead takes the tried and tested zombie formula and has fun with it. It’s brutal, it’s dramatic, it’s sexy and more than that, it’s fun. I’d totally jump on a second season when and if it arrives and I can see me rewatching a fair few of the episodes here as well (especially when I get hold of the Blu-ray).

You really think I'm the best looking cheerleader on the squad?

Video


For starters the artwork here is consistently fantastic. I love the designs, from the girls all the way through to the dead eyed zombies and some of the action is animated in ways that live action just can’t match. Thankfully the transfer does plenty to present it to us well (even if I really did feel the lack of 1080p power due to my love of 2D in HD). Colours are bathed in sunlight, giving the entire show a very high quality look and while this can sometimes give a hazy look on DVD it still doesn’t hide the many cool visual tricks at work here. Shading and shadowing is solid, small animated touches such as hair movement and blood sprays looks sharp and the varied and wild colours (mainly for female characters' hair) all pop off the screen in ways only anime can muster. This is a solid transfer with only the standard definition weaknesses holding it back.

28 Days Later never went here.

Audio


The English 5.1 track is pretty straightforward with dialogue in the front and music living in the back. There’s the odd swoosh or splat that bring the two together but considering some of the crazy action on screen the audio track felt a little simple to really sell the good stuff. Outside of the lack of dynamics, the track often has a few layers working well together (zombie ‘urrgghhhs’ and shouting and guns) and the dialogue is always crisp but it’s all pretty standard and doesn’t do much to reach beyond its TV origins.

More visuals you don't expect in a zombie flick.

Extras


The textless opening song (01:29) and closing songs (20:23) are the only extras across the two discs, so if crazy Japanese credit music is your thing it’s here for you.

Cool guy + hot chick + a gun and a sword + an army of zombies = ANIME HEAVEN!

Overall


I liked Highschool of the Dead a whole lot. It lifted my enjoyment of the zombie genre again (after The Walking Dead’s first season wound up being a non event), it made me want to seek out a few more anime series (which I haven’t wanted to do for a while) and my appreciation of T&A being shoe horned into any movie situation was solidified too, so all in all I call this one an across the board success. The disc has solid A/V, so that’s good news but the total lack of any real extras is a bit disappointing, would have been nice to see some of the comic books for this one.


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