As Halloween approaches the Zombies keep rearing their rotting heads in some of the most unexpected places. Ever wonder what the Zombie Apocalypse would look like if it happened in one of those sweet Japanese High-school love story Anime Series? Sorta “Love Hina” meets “Dawn of the Dead”? Well… just the other day, my sweetie Carolyn came home from work and told me someone at the college had mentioned to her about some Japanese zombie cartoon playing on Pay cable this October… and wasn’t her roommate into that sort of stuff? (“Roommate?” Wow… I guess I must start dropping by the college more often to bring Carolyn something sweet and romantic in the way of lunch on occasion just to properly define our relationship for her colleagues… Hehehe!!)
Anyway… it turned out to be something we could actually see on our Video On Demand service… for free!! Gasp!! So naturally… cosplay lovin’ Catgirl and anime fan that I am, I wasn’t gonna pass up this chance to see even more Halloween Zombie action.
Our overall story plot seems to go sorta like this: “Highschool of the Dead” is set in present day Japan, and begins just as the world is struck by the deadly pandemic that turns humans into zombies. The story follows Takashi Komuro, a Japanese student at Fujimi High School who manages to survive the initial outbreak along with several of his fellow classmates and the school nurse. As the tiny group tries to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, they must also contend with the additional threats of overall societal collapse, taking the form of other dangerous survivors with goals of their own and the inevitable decay of the group’s own moral codes in the face of unthinkable death at the hands of the cannibal dead.”
Episodes 1 & 2 made for a great night of Zombie fun on the ol’ couch with Carolyn, who gets this girl’s love and kisses for finding out all about this and letting me in on it….(Especially since neither “cartoons” nor zombies are really her thing… and finding out they were in Japanese and subtitled to boot means that I really… really… owe my sweetie a nice gift in return!!)
Wanna here if it’s worth a look for yourself? Then all you gotta do is “Read On”!!
Episode 1: “Spring of the Dead” opens with a quick intro to our main character Takashi Komuro who’s just had that tragic romantic falling out with long time schoolfriend and secret crush Rei Miyamoto that all these stories seem to have. They’ve been best friends since both of them were just little kids but there’s always been something more between them. Unfortunately, Rei has fallen for Takashi’s closest male friend Hisashi and those two are dating… putting a strain of the relationships that exist between them. Before any of this can take the usual path of such High School love drama, it happens….
A strange bedraggled figure appears at the front gate of the school… teachers try to warn the intruder away, but in the confrontation one of them is savagely bitten, only to expire moments later from the seemingly grisly but minor wound. Moments later… that victim rises and attack his colleagues and the zombie plague begins in earnest. Takashi runs to warn Rei and Hisashi as the emergency explodes out of control around them. Eventually they are forced to seek shelter on the roof of the school building, under siege by the seemingly unending army of zombies who were once their fellow students. Eventually… Hisashi gets bitten… and knowing what will be his fate asks his friend to make a horrible promise and kill him before he “turns”. Rei is horrified… begging him not to do what he must… even going so far as to accuse him of wanting Hisashi dead because of her.
It’s a grim… horrible thing to have happen… and this is only 15 minutes or so into the series. Cute and funny this anime ain’t…. There’s a level of gore here that you don’t get even in big budget zombie films…. and the almost wildfire speed with which the plague sweeps through the school is perfectly in sync with the genre. It’s a powerful opening that pulls no punches and gets right to the meat of the situation. The panic of the students as all this unfolds, and the way they easily betray each other even just for a slim chance to make it is chilling in it’s reality. I can definitely say, it left me very interested in seeing more.
Which brings us to Episode 2 “Escape from the Dead” introducing us to more survivors, class genius Saya Takagi and the geeky Kohta Hirano, trapped together by circumstance in another part of the building who manage to find their way to relative safety as Saya spends her time analyzing the zombies… getting a feel for their true nature as Kohta uses his knowledge of video games and military stuff to fashion a weapon from a nail gun to keep the flesh eating fiends at bay while they search for a way out of the mess they’ve found themselves in.
Meanwhile, perhaps the most deadly survivor of them all, Saeko Busujima, president of the school kendo club makes her way through the school, using her skills with the boken to utterly devastate the zombies foolish enough to get in her way. Eventually she saves the only adult member of the group, air-headed school nurse Shizuka Marikawa from being eaten by her patients in the school infirmary. Together they find their way to the rescue of Saya and Kohta, out of ammo and nearly overrun by zombies as Takashi and Rei show up drawn by Saya’s screams. The end of the episode leaves them barricaded in the Teacher’s Staff Room looking for the keys to the school’s minivan so they can try to make a final escape from the doomed campus.
Again… very strong characters, with very little of the silly humor that seems to crop up in most Anime offerings, even the more serious ones. There is some measure of “Fan Service” in the constant “pantsu” scenes and the massive gravity defying breasts sported by what are supposed to be schoolgirls, but hey….. the Japanese really… and I mean really… like their “panties and boobies”… and so who is this lil’ Catgirl to deny them their guilty bits of fun. Hehehehe! Overall, though, the sense of things remains grim and on course to keep the story firmly on track as a worthy legitimate addition to the “Zombie Apocalypse” genre. Isn’t that what we’re lookin for in a bit of gruesome zombie movie fun?
I can say, I’ve very, very happy not to have missed this series. Neko gives these two tasty samples a firm 4 “Meows” out of 5 and I’ll certainly be watching more and looking for them when the full 12 Episodes invariably reach Region 1 DVD release later this year.
Trailer? Naturally! The Zombie Apocalypse awaits!!