HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD – 01
「Spring of the DEAD」
After several hiatuses on the manga, an oddly surprising adaptation appeared out of nowhere for HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD, and today, here we are. The episode starts off with a cold start with a stern narration done by Takashi (Suwabe Junichi), the protagonist of the show. “They” flash by with a direction of cinematography that soon grows familiar to those well versed in horror flicks. The scene quickly pans to Komuro Takashi, Miyamoto Rei (Inoue Marina), and Igo Hisashi (Miyano Mamoru), as they run towards “them”, smashing “them” left and right to get to their destination. As Takashi reaches the stairs, he looks back at the rooftop filled with “them”, and screams questioning why this was happening as the camera fiercely pans out. Show “them”. Cut to OP. Suffice to say, my mind is blown. Most of the supporting characters were also introduced in this episode, such as Takagi Saya, a close classroom friend of Takashi’s, played by Kitamura Eri. The wonderful Busujima Saeko was also shown for a couple seconds, but she doesn’t have any lines in the first chapter. This kind of sucked for me as she’s played by Sawashiro Miyuki, a seiyuu favorite of mine (and I don’t even have that many). As far as my ears can tell of “quality japanese voice acting”, these seiyuu pull off the screams and panic required in the show spotlessly. Hisashi’s agonizing screams as he took his last few breaths had my gut twisted right along with Takashi.
As for the Opening and Ending songs, I’ve never found myself liking most anime OP’s or ED’s, but HOTD’s OP wasn’t one of the worst I’ve heard (remember Death Note’s second OP?). The electric guitar in the background fit the adrenaline pumping show, and the OP itself was entertaining. The ED had the same effect for me, as it was just your typical anime songs that you’d find in any action anime. ED animation was pretty disappointing to say the least as there’s lots of good animations they could’ve done as an ED. But honestly, don’t take my word for it as my failure to understand the lyrics just makes any song without a good melody seem bland to me. However, the background music must be mentioned though, as one of the main background songs has a chorus that sounds suspiciously like 28 Days Later’s “In A Heartbeat”. It’s so familiar that I swear it must be a homage to the movie. This is definitely not a bad thing, as I loved that movie and that theme. With a badass movie already attached to the song in my mind, it just makes the scenes with that BGM appear that much more awesome. Take for example Hisashi’s death scene. That particular song played in the background, and right away I noticed the similarity. The epic levels just flew into space. If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out (and it’s sequel). It’s well worth your time if you love zombies.
For those that are unaware, HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD is animated by Madhouse Studios. For those who aren’t familiar with the studio, they’ve animated many popular anime, such as Death Note, Kaiji, Monster, and the recent RAINBOW. Madhouse is well known for taking up projects with serious matter, as well as having an animation style that’s bold and atmospheric. HOTD is pretty much typical fare for Madhouse as it’s pretty much right in the ballpark with their skills. While the show’s characters are rather 2D and stay true to the anime medium, the backgrounds in HOTD are incredibly dynamic. These aren’t your typical static backgrounds that you see in average budget anime, as they are not only drawn well, but constantly being rotated and zoomed around to create the illusion that the buildings are 3D and well existing within the world. This is obviously a good thing for creating an immersive experience as a zombie apocalypse’s main attracting value is feeling as if you’re struggling for survival along with the viewers. With the clever and dynamic cinematography, brilliantly created atmosphere, and some of the best looking blood animations I’ve ever seen, everything comes together to make HOTD one of the most beautifully animated series this year. The fight scene somewhere in the middle alone left me on the edge of my seat, but hey, I’d expect nothing less from Madhouse. What made me smile was the fact that even all the zombies in the background were constantly moving and rocking about, which really gives that extra bit of despair the characters are feeling of that of being surrounded by hundreds of zombies. On the ecchi side, something which is also a unique factor to HOTD (sexuality and horror somehow seems to work well with each other, as it gives a nice dynamic to the horror aspect), Madhouse did pretty well, even going so far as to add more scenes showing Rei’s pantsu in as many scenes possible. They also made sure you noticed her trampoline jugs, and especially how bouncy they are. Well Madhouse, I noticed. While many people were concerned about censoring, there actually isn’t any done by the broadcaster, but the gore is toned down from the manga by Madhouse themselves. I’m not sure if the manga ever showed any half blown heads, but most of the scenes in the anime didn’t have the aftereffects of the attacks laid out by the characters. Perhaps that’s just for dramatic effect, I don’t know, but I’m fine with it since the blood spatters are so beautiful.
With all that said and done, the first episode is not without problems. The main issue I had was that they skipped a bunch of dialogue between the characters, most of which took place on the roof at the beginning. There’s also a bunch of scenes that went along with those dialogues, such as additional deaths they had perceived from the rooftop. Originally, there was dialogue about saving water, starting up the generator, and even a suicide right in front of the characters (although the suicide was shown, it wasn’t in front of the characters, which makes no sense to me why they would change that). These things were completely left out, and subsequently the characters had far less variety to react against except screaming their asses off at zombies. Where the show boasted with visual immersion, it sort of lacked with character immersion. As a result, the first episode feels like you ate a bag of potato chips rather than a full course meal. These skipped scenes obviously had value to the story itself and its characters, and that kind of downtime between characters was lost. I suppose they had to keep the cold start short in order to cut to the OP, but they could’ve just skipped the OP altogether. Considering how long each manga chapter is, and with content that could last even two 24 episode seasons, it should’ve been fine to not skip anything. There’s not even any hope to seeing it next episode as well, since that scene is already over. I mean, for you manga readers out there, don’t you feel Hisashi’s death felt just a tad bit weaker because of the smaller amount of interaction between the characters? Then again, it was still incredibly powerful, especially with the decision to put the aftermath after the ED song. The seiyuu really pulled their weight here, so they should be given a medal for making such a moving scene. Adaptations always differ, and in the end, none of these changes might matter. I’m just a tad disappointed at the lesser experience, but nontheless I’m going to be blogging this till the end as it was still 90% a faithful adaptation. Honestly, there’s really nothing like HOTD in the anime universe, which makes me all the more appreciative.
So here’s the tl;dr folks. If you like zombies (who doesn’t?), breasts (like I said..), occasional pantsu (that’s an understatement btw), and people getting eaten, you will like this (which is like, 110% of males). If there’s any show amidst the blazing summer to see, it’s this one. Grab a drink, turn on the fan. Just don’t puke when guts start flying at you.
**What’s interesting to note is that Tetsurou Araki is the Director for this series, who was responsible for also directing the Death Note series. Even more interesting is Kuroda Yousuke being responsible for screenplay, script, and the entire series composition, and has been known for his work on Honey and Clover as well as Hellsing Ultimate.