Home > Check-out Station > Check-out Station: Highschool of the Dead (don’t look away, it’s gloriously tragic)

Check-out Station: Highschool of the Dead (don’t look away, it’s gloriously tragic)

Wow!  That’s finally over.  A popular opinion I’ve been hearing on the interwebs is that the Summer season was one of the most horrible ones that they can remember.  That however does not mean that there was nothing to watch.  Sometimes it’s fun to watch a trainwreck or disaster as well.  There are actually movies out there that are legendary and popular because they are so bad.  There’s a reason Court TV turned into Tru TV and started showing all those horrible “Worst”, “Dumbest” and “Most Dangerous” tv shows where they show real life footage of  people in dangerous, or ridiculous situations.  There’s a reason Youtube videos of people getting hurt or hurting others or just making fools of themselves get so many views and make people so much money (just look up the Bed Intruder phenomenon).  And there’s a reason people slow down to stare at carwrecks as they pass by.  People are just naturally compelled to look at the outrageous and unbelievable.  I saw a video the other day of a motorcycle getting hit by a truck.  The guy (formerly) on the motorcycle was flipped in and through the air when he was hit.  HE LANDED ON HIS FEET!  The guy walked back to the site of the accident and exchanged insurance information with the truck driver.  I’m showing that video to any and everyone who will let me.  You can bet on that.  And that’s what Highschool of the Dead capitalized on, our natural inclination to observe a disaster and tell everyone about it.  Like it or not, this show was a terrible success.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad.  In the beginning this show already had a lot of hype around it.  And the first few episodes were actually pretty compelling.  A fast spreading zombie epidemic ravaging the country, then world.  The drama of who is saved and who dies as everyone frantically tries to escape their rapidly zombiefied school.  The brutal over the top violence and despair.  It was all really quite good.  Despite some annoyances with the characters I didn’t see much that could be a problem in the beginning.  There was the sexualization of the high school girls being eaten that kinda disturbed me, but given all the anime I’ve watched it wasn’t a surprise.

I think where this series really jumped the shark, where it really started to show signs that it was going down hill was the infamous episode six.  The episode before there was a scene where the zombie killing action took a definitive John Woo-type of turn.  It definitely threw me for a loop.  I had no idea that it was a sign of things to come.  In episode six, “In the Dead of the Night”, there is the intersting dichotomy.  On the one hand, our lucky group of highschool survivors are camping in a secure apartment; bathing, flirting, polishing their rifles, enjoying air conditioning and refrigerated food and beverage.  What looks like a mere half mile away, there’s a bridge where there is a huge bottleneck as the police try to keep things safe and secure and avoid pandemonium.  The people at the bridge are basically caught in betweent the very jumpy, and suspicious police who are now operating without a leash and the horde of zombies which are now nipping at their heels.  This could be played for great drama, but two things screw this up; the writing (something I try my best not to directly point out) is horrible and cheesy for most of the bridge scenes.  And the whole other part of that episode taking place in the apartment.  I won’t go into too much detail, since I already vented my feelings in my moby post on the episode.  I’ll just paraphrase that I felt a little insulted as an anime fan that the show thought that that was what I wanted.

It was all down hill after that sixth episode.  I learned that the show was more successful and more interested in starting internet memes and sexually objectifying (that complaint feels so weird coming from me) the women, than it was in giving us decent action and drama.  Anytime the show gave even the slightest hint at decency it would find some way to “class it down” by the end.  Honestly there was so much screwed up about this show that I find it difficult to keep this post brief.

The characterization was terrible.  I saw some of the weakest villains and stereotypes I have ever seen in an anime in this show.  Take Koichi Shidou for instance.  He was such a cheesy, pointless one dimensional antagonist that I wondered if his character had actually been forgotten about during the storyboarding for the episodes.  He does practically nothing during the entire season except convince a bus of kids to join his cult and ride around in an orgy bus.  Mind you, orgy bus is another one of the memes started by this show.  It’s laughable.  The March analogy works perfectly for him.  He entered the series like a lion and left like a la– , like a beaten dog.  He’s a prime example of how the show failed to do anything eventful with its characters.  What poor, pitifully written characters.

I’m going to briefly touch on the main characters of this story so I can properly cleanse myself and move on.  First is Takashi Komuro, or “Melee Guy” as I dubbed him early in the series.  One of the best fighters in the group, top 3 I’d say, he is your classic stoic lead male character.  I could easily see him piloting something in a mecha series bitching about how terrible and unfair war is and how he doesn’t want to become an adult or some other mess.  I generally liked him, despite his penchant for making stupid, heroic choices, some dickish moves when it came to dealing with the other females and not murdering Rei.  Oh and before I forget.  HE LIKES HURTING WOMEN.  ESPECIALLY THEIR BREASTS!  IN A CRISIS, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MAN IF YOU HAVE BREASTS!  HE WILL HURT THEM!

Now then speaking of Rei Miyamoto, or “Spear Girl”, she was very much my least liked of the main characters, and I believe it was that way for many people watching this show.  My reason for my disdain?  She had this horrible habit of becoming a complete b-word or c-word under pressure.  She would say the worst things under pressure, was extremely emotionally unstable under pressure and her fickle nature also was a grinding source of frutstration for me throughout the series.  Perhaps the moment that broke me was when I found out why she wanted to kill her old teacher, Shidou.  I thought it was something disgusting and sex related, but what it actually was was so petty and inconsequential given the current circumstances that her character just died to  me at that moment.  I suppose to be fair she did have the added benefit of being the second best fighter in the group.  But if something as important as battle skills could nearly be overshadowed by personality disorders during a zombie apocalypse, then I think we have a very damaged person on our hands.

I mentioned the third and second best fighters in the group.  And now I’ll tell you my feelings on the best.  Saeko Busujima, or “Samurai Girl”, is by far the deadliest character in the group.  She may also be a bit of a serial killer in waiting, but during the zombie apocalypse that’s not bad thing in my book.  Add to that the fact that she is stunningly hot, and we have a winner.  She felt like the opposite of Rei without being a character that actually opposed her.  Her cool, collected demenor was always pleasant.  Plus she had a habit of being a part of most of the memes this show started.  Memes like the famous “Matrix Boobies” scene, the scene where whe was on top of a Hummer in nothing much more than an apron, the super popular “I’m Wet!” meme. And come to think of it, she wore that apron so much at one point that the apron became it’s own little thing, too.  Man I miss seeing her in that apron.  It was so inappropriate that I couldn’t look away.  I was that “appalled”.

Saya Takagi, the resident tsundere/rich girl of the series.  Often annoying and unreasonable, I could never bring myself to actually hate her.  She was the smartest person in the group, by far.  I knew that without her telling me a hundred times.  And she was more than useful on several occassions.  Even brandishing a shotgun when “Melee Guy” couldn’t figure it out.  Plus, fair or not, she gets points for having awesome parents with an awesome compound.  She also has control over the team’s gun otaku which makes her a very powerful woman.

And who’s the lucky gun otaku I speak of?  Kouta Hirano.  I don’t have a nickname for him since everyone called him a gun otaku anyway.  It was pretty easy to identify with the guy.  He just wants to survive the zombie apocalypse, get a girl and protect his friends in the process.  As useful as anyone in the group, he also adds a special air of coolness when he picks up again.  He’s as good at gunplay as Saeko is at swordplay.  And that’s pretty damn good!

Shizuka Marikawa, the nurse, or as I nicknamed her, “Boobs”.  What point she actually served besides ecchi fanservice and being their bus driver is beyond me.  At this point I choose not to say anymore about her since I don’t want to dignify her presence in the show with a response.

You might be wondering why I didn’t bring up the little girl Alice and the dog.  That’s an easy one to answer.  They’re both more mascots for the show than anything else.  They were as important to the show as the plot.  And let’s be honest.  There wasn’t much of a plot.

This is a blood filled romp from hellish point A to relative sanctuary point B.  That is until point B becomes hellish and they have to move onto point C and so on.  There’s no real effort to delve into the “why’s” of the world they live.  Sure they’re looking for their parents, but that goal appears to be no where in site.  What parents did show up died a horrible death.  Highschool of the Dead is basically a video game animated.  We get some action and a lot of cutscenes and some very bad dialogue and acting, very much like a video game.

In the end, if someone wants to know if they should watch this show.  I would tell them yes, with the appropriate expectations held in mind.  This show is fanfiction come to life, complete with all the insanity you would expect and more.  If you view things through that prism then I think you’ll have a hell of a time.  Just remember, once you start you won’t be able to look away until the disaster is over and the zombies are crawling out of the rubble to come get you.  They want you to watch the inevitable second season.  Run!

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