Highschool of the Dead: Zombies and boobs, together at last
Having heard such infamous things about this show, I had to check it out. After having watched it, I have to say, it deserves its reputation, but that shouldn't overshadow what is a solid anime series and a good zombie story.
This series is infamous not because it is bad, or because it is controversial, but because of its fanservice. And, admittedly, there is a ton of it: all of the female characters above puberty have D-cup or larger breasts, panty shots are somewhat irritatingly frequent (at least once happening while a girl is being eaten by zombies, which was jarring to say the least), and clothing getting torn happens on occasion (although it's generally girl's skirts instead of their shirts that are getting torn). The female protagonists even spend a short arc of the 12-episode series in what is essentially their underwear (there is a somewhat legitimate reason for it, but it is noticeable nonetheless).
After reading the preceding paragraph, some of my readers are undoubtedly running off to buy the series while others are swearing never to see it on principle. Before either group makes up their minds, however, I'd like to present the rest of my review:
The fanservice, while a big part of the show, is in essence incidental to the actual plot. And the plot is fairly solid, following a small assortment of relatively normal Japanese high school students (plus a school nurse, a little girl, and a small dog) as they try to fend off a global zombie apocalypse. The characters are interesting, and the plot has a lot of unexpected twists and turns that should keep the average viewer watching to see what happens next.
The plot revolves around Komura Takashi, a fairly normal high school student who suddenly finds the world around him crumbling as zombies start attacking worldwide. Teaming up with his ex-girlfriend Rei, fat gun nut Hirano. arrogant know-it-all Takagi, kendo expert Saeko, and the ditzy school nurse Shizuka, Takashi has to find a safe place to survive as well as see if his parents are still alive or dead.
Although the fighting skills of the group (particularly Hirano and Saeko) are a little ridiculous, and about halfway through the series they basically luck into a stash of really good guns AND A HUMVEE, other aspects of the show are surprisingly realistic. We get to see people's reactions to zombie attacks, most of which are not helpful to the situation (people abandoning their friends to certain death, crazy psychopaths wandering the streets, and a high school teacher turning the students he rescues into a sex cult with himself as God). There is also tension within the group, particularly a romantic triangle between Takashi, Rei, and Saeko, which serves as an undercurrent to but never overwhelms the larger story.
Another element I liked was the presence of the government in the story. Usually, in zombie stories, the government has shut down entirely, and while that is sort of the case here (from what we see of the US it appears to have happened there, thanks to zombies biting the president), we do see at least attempts by the police and the JSDF to maintain order-- at least at certain important areas. However, as Takagi makes it clear early on, the reach of the authorities only goes so far (and it can act as an impediment as well-- for example a bridge our heroes need to cross that has been sealed by the police). It was a nice touch, even though we still largely see our heroes out on their own, with no help from the authorities.
The series does have a few issues with its story, however. One of these is the sidelining of Rei in the second half of the story in favor of Saeko, which was a little irritating to me as a watcher-- I had grown to like her, and I disliked that she spent most of the last quarter of the story not doing much, with one notable and awesome exeception.
I also wish that the series went on longer. My understanding is that there's a proposed second season which will happen once more of the mange this anime is based on is written. As it is, the story finishes its story arcs but leaves the overall storyline unresolved.
All in all, however, despite its occasionally distracting T&A and the sometimes implausible good fortune of our protagonists, this was a great series if you're in the mood for a good zombie story. Check it out if you come across it, and keep an eye out for season 2 if it comes along.