High School of the Sci-Fi Channel “Original” Movie-Quality Anime Series
If you’ve ever seen a modern zombie movie, then based on this first episode of High School of the Dead you’ve already seen this anime series.
That isn’t to say that High School of the Dead sucks or anything like that. Rather, it’s an indication that this series knows its stuff. The series plays out the suddenness of the zombie epidemic pretty well. It tosses in some personal drama, shows us what live was like before the attack, and then has the attack come out of “nowhere.” We, the audience, know what’s going down, but the first batch of requisite victims don’t see it coming. That bloke shambling in front of the school isn’t some undead fiend out for your flesh, he’s just some pedo wanting to get in the skirt of the first girl he sees. It’s the “logical” thing to think when you view things from the point of view of a character within a zombie attack universe. Those are the rules of the game. It’s through that misunderstanding that the epidemic is allowed to blossom within the confines of the story’s setting.
The personal drama present is another cue taken from zombie flicks. More often than not, someone important is going to get bitten and someone else that’s more important is going to have to put down that person when they finally turn. And there’ll be more to the situation than the mere need to take a bat to the dude’s head. This soon-to-be zombie is the focal point of people’s affections. No one wants to be the one that puts him down, and someone’s going to be more than hesitant to do the job. “He’s special! He won’t turn! It can’t happen to him!” It’s the usual zombie movie plot point that emphasizes the “yes it can and yes it will” aspect, and it also gives the main guy/girl the means to exert their “manliness” by pulling the trigger, thus uniting the remaining survivor behind their banner. The fact that it results in an inevitable romantic pairing is icing on the rotting, infected cake.
The first episode of High School of the Dead is, in ever way, a stereotypical zombie movie. Save for the minor (And pretty cool.) detail of the above “killing my best friend” scene happening in the first episode, rather than being something that’s built up over time, it’s hitting all of the notes in the exact same way every other zombie movie has done in the past. Cue the attacks. Cue the military involvement. Cue the scene where you escape to a high vantage point. Cue this. Cue that. If this was a live action movie, it’d be the stuff of a Sci-Fi movie of the week. Based on this single episode, and based on everything I’ve read about the manga, there’s nothing about the storyline that ever breaks from the formula. It is the formula.
Despite all of this, I don’t think this is a negative thing. This is due to the fact that we’ve never seen a straightforward zombie attack story in anime form. We’ve seen zombies used in single episodes, and we’ve seen them as plot points, but we’ve never seen them as the plot. It isn’t like zombies are a foreign concept in Japanese pop culture, since there’s the likes of Versus and other movies, but no one’s gotten around to doing a zombie TV anime series.
It’s funny how something that’s considered a cliché in so many other mediums is downright inventive in another due to a simple format shift.
Also: I saw that Shinmaru was placing odds on who will survive. I have a nagging feeling that everyone is going to survive. While this may be playing by the zombie movie book so far, I have a feeling that the anime book is going to have its say and not allow any potential fan service or audience cypher characters to die. Since the entire cast seems to lean one way or the other, I doubt we’ll see any major character death. Would be awesome if they have the guts to pull it off, but I’m not seeing it.