Monday, April 28, 2014

Highschool of the Dead (2010)

Highschool of the Dead has the distinction of being a Japanese anime series on the subject of zombies. While this may be a plus for zombie-obsessed Western audiences, as an anime fan AND a horror fan, I have to say that it is a very mediocre entry into the worldwide collection of zombie stories that are out there.

To be honest, I thought the idea of a zombie outbreak occurring in a high school, with a focus on several high school students (and maybe their teachers) - which is a popular theme in Japanese anime but not many Western zombie stories - was intriguing and original. But the setting of the story does not remain in the high school for the entirety of the series, and it quickly becomes an average attempt to tell the same kind of formulaic zombie story that any zombie fan has seen a hundred times before - with boring, cliched characters that an anime fan has seen a thousand times before.

If that were all, it would simply be a mediocre series. But I have a problem with the excessive fan service on display. Don't get me wrong, it's not the fact that there is fan service in this series, or even that there's a lot of it, that bothers me. I enjoy scantily clad female characters, and I don't believe that nudity or even sex scenes ever need to be "justified" in any type of media, as they serve as their own justification. But the fan service in this series is ridiculous.

The point of view frequently goes so far out of its way to exhibit this or that character's striped panties or perpetually jiggling boobies (along with the typical, annoying "boin boin" sound effect - I have never once heard a breast make this noise in real life) as to take me out of the show. And the juxtaposition of the psychological trauma of mutilating the reanimated, flesh-eating corpses of the dead, with the copious sexual objectification of the show's female characters is confusing and a little bit concerning. I honestly can't decide if the creator was more dedicated to writing a show about zombies or a show about women's underwear and big boobs; sticking them together is an odd choice.

I wouldn't have a problem with a zombie show where all the (living) characters were naked for no reason at all (why is it only ever just the women?). And I wouldn't have a problem with a zombie show where the (living) characters had sex at every opportunity (who wouldn't, in that situation?). Hell, I wouldn't even have a problem with a zombie series that shatters the taboo surrounding necrophilia, as long as it was done effectively. But the fan service in Highschool of the Dead (which, in typical teaser fashion, never actually shows you anything of significance) is ridiculous and draws too much attention to itself. And the zombie story hiding behind it, while not being complete garbage, isn't really good enough (and doesn't have the chance to develop far enough) to really be worth watching.

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