High School of the Dead — the new summer series from Madhouse is your standard zombie apocalypse meets fan-service romp.
And therein lies my problem with the show. Those two elements do not mesh anywhere nearly as well as they should. Tonally High School of the Dead plays the Zombie Apocalypse with dead seriousness. This is no dark comedy ala Zombieland, which make the gratuitous panty shots and pneumatic boobs feel badly out of place. I also happen find this kind of T&A to be tacky, and feeds into the worst stereotypes of anime. So it’s not my thing as a rule.
That complaint aside there is a lot to recommend High School of the Dead. As I said, it takes the concept of the Zombie Apocalypse seriously, and the character’s various reactions all feel real enough — though the characters themselves are at this point in the show fairly one note. The action sequences are fluid, and the animation on the whole is perfectly satisfactory. The animators have apparently hit on making a crane shot style pan their visual signature. It lends a cinematic feel to the show, as well as giving a sense of the scope of the catastrophe that’s befallen the world. It’s nowhere nearly as self-conscious as Zombieland, but that’s ok. It’s a nice change of pace to have a straight up action/thriller zombie story. The show has also done a nice job of keeping the gore at a reasonable level. The action is bloody, but not in a torture porn sort of way. Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Marina Inoue and Nobuyuki Hiyama and providing voices.
In the end High School of the Dead reminds me most of Shaun of the Dead since both are somewhat uneasy blends of zombie and another genre. This is in contrast to Zombieland which drew it’s humor from the nihilism of the story — as an aside, despite the fact that the zombies are different I choose to believe that Columbus, Tallahassee, Witchita, and Little Rock are running around on the other side of the Pacific. But just because something is an uneasy mix doesn’t make it necessarily bad, and there are still another ten or so episodes for High School of the Dead to really take off.
Despite my misgivings I’ll keep up with High School of the Dead. If nothing else it’s a serviceable action show with plenty of zombie bashing. Plus I can keep track of how many Rules for Zombieland the cast follows/breaks.