High School Of The Dead (Japan 2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/30/12

Contains 12 episodes.

It was just another typical day at school, until reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh started showing up and attacking people across the globe. Within minutes, the entire world erupts into chaos with no salvation in sight. High school students Takashi Komuro, Rei Miyamoto, Saya Takagi, Kota Hirono, and Saeko Busujima band together with the school nurse to escape the overrun school and attempt to reunite with their friends and families. No explanation is ever given for the cause of the outbreak, and the primary focus of the series is survival. The entire story takes place over the course of several days, during which a number of romantic undercurrents develop between the characters.

While Hollywood is busy trying to re-invent and modernize the zombie genre, HOTD proudly embraces the classics and delivers a straight-up horror series. I found the unapologetically grim story and the gruesome action to be quite refreshing and enjoyable, even though it's also sexist, misogynistic, and tastelessly fetishistic in its presentation. But at the same time, the female characters are also empowered to kick some major zombie butt, and their action scenes are by far more potent than their male counterparts. The characters fall into the typical anime stereotypes of adolescent male isolationism and wish fulfillment, and the female characters are cursed with ridiculously enormous and misshapen breasts. The characters are also rather annoying at the beginning, but they improve and mature as the series progresses. The characters are flawed and not particularly likable, and no one stands out as a clear favorite. There's also a "Tenchi-Muyo!" harem mentality with the primary cast, and the characters are drawn from the same archetypes. The animation is quite good and the character design matches the original manga pretty well. Consisting of only twelve episodes, the series ends with no resolution, but closes with a sense of hope that Komuro and his friends will continue surviving the apocalypse.