What They Say:
It began without warning. It continues without mercy. Now a band of high schoolers join forces with guns, swords, baseball bats and anything else they can get their hands on to battle a bloodthirsty, flesh-hungry zombie apocalypse!
For the purpose of this review, the English 5.1 track was used. The soundtrack mostly utilized the front and center channels. There was very subtle usage of the rears for an all over blended sound. The vocal track was very clear and easy to hear.
This is a transfer of a recent anime series. Presented in glorious 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, every single bit of action is presented. The colors are very vibrant and the transfer itself seems to be very clean. There were no interlacing issues. Nor was there any pan jutter or issues of a similar nature.
The full 12 episode series is housed in a single double hubbed dvd case. There are no liner notes or booklets included. This is a very minimal release. The front cover features the well-endowed Rei and Saya. While Rei seems to be slashing through the hordes of the undead, Saya seems to be taking a breather in the background. On the back, a smaller picture of Saeko is featured opposite a short summary. A few small teaser images and specs for the release are listed on the bottom.
The main menu of each dvd featured a static image of a main character. The episodes are accessed directly through the main menu. There are submenus for language selection and for “special features.” These were very easy to navigate and use. All of the menus had a different song in an infinite loop.
The extras were minimal in this release. We are treated to a clean opening and closing on the first disk. Also included on the first dvd are trailers for other titles.
Content (portions of this review may contain spoilers)
“I used to think High School was Hell, and now it was…”
It’s Z-day. What was once relegated to B movies and horror flicks has now become a reality. The dead are reanimating and martial law has been declared world-wide. The last vestiges of civilization are disappearing at a frightfully alarming rate as humanity begins its decent into chaos in the wake of their nightmares becoming real. With the White House being evacuated and Moscow in chaos it seems only a matter of time before
Having been lamenting over his lost love, Takashi was in the perfect place to safely observe the beginning of the end. The concept of “Zombies” is familiar to most people in this day and age. When he observed faculty becoming involved in a feeding frenzy he knew it was time to evacuate. Stopping only to rescue his former love and her current beau (his best friend), the three show no mercy to their former classmates turned zombies as they race to a safe haven. Similar scenes take place through out the school as friends either turn against one another or classmates defend each other. Such is the fickle nature of high school. One of the first groups to form is the unlikely duo of intelligent and rich Saya and outsider Kohta. Born into a family of strong personalities, Saya does not know how to mince words and has no problem relying on others when the situation calls for it. She convinces Kohta to come with her and shows him what happened to the poor students that followed through with Kohta’s ill conceived plan. They end up encountering the school nurse Marikawa. With more bounce and jiggle than jello and a rack that even Naga might envy, she does have some intelligence beneath the ditzy exterior. The last member of their little group is the school Kendo club captain, Saeko. The group of unlikely friends bands together in order to escape their High School alive. Their main goal: to survive long enough to see if their loved ones are alive.
One of the interesting angles this series explores is how the average high school teenager might react to such a crisis. The reactions tend to be all across the board. There are those who leave the weak behind and those who would fight to defend them. One of the more curious cases is that of Kohta. He is the stereotypical outsider and viewed by others as possibly an “otaku.” In the past he had always managed to keep a tight reign on any unconscionable actions that he might be inclined to take. There were cases of students and perhaps faculty ridiculing him for his interests and personality. In a country where it is most likely frowned upon, he is extremely fascinated by firearms and demonstrates a great skill and capacity for them. After the initial infestation occurs he takes control of his situation and saves Saya from certain death. Despite having negative feelings towards certain people he does his best to initially get along with them as well. Having been empowered by his role in the group and the strength to defend that the firearms grant him, he is perhaps more true to himself and “alive” than he was in the past.
Morals are not a luxury that can be afforded while trying to survive. As is typical in horror or post-apocalyptic films, the dark side of humanity rears it’s ugly head quite often. There is a certain “us versus them” mentality that takes place almost immediately. It is common to cope in extreme situations by disassociating oneself from an unpleasant task. By labeling Zombies as “Them” the living dehumanize the creatures, thus rendering acts that would normally be considered ‘atrocities’ to be reclassified as acceptable. The group of students tends to view themselves as having lost a bit of their own humanity due their actions during the flight from their school. It isn’t until they work together to save an innocent that they regain a bit of themselves and fight not only to survive but to retain their humanity as well.
Highschool of the Dead follows in the vein of traditional zombie lore. Contrary to recent movies these zombies are not super humans who can run for hours on end. Nor are they “intelligent” zombies who are able to work doorknobs or congregate where they had during their lives. These are your average run of the mill shambling zombies. Infection is spread through the typical bite of an infected person.. On average they seem to turn at a quick rate once they have been infected. There are a few times where artistic license is taken and the final moments are stretched out. There is no spontaneous reanimation from death unless a person has been bitten. These zombies are seemingly blind and are attracted by loud noises. There are quite a few nods to Romero and other zombie movies as well. Most noticeable are the Shaun (Shaun of the Dead) and “Double Tap” (Zombieland) references. There does seem to be some localization occurring on the English track, but it does not detract from the series. One of the bonuses of this being a TV series versus your standard 2 hour movie is that there is a bit more time for character development. Unfortunately there was no resolution nor any explanation about why the outbreak occurred. With the events of the last episode it is doubtful that the knowledge will become easily known. There is definitely plenty of room for a second season. As far as zombie genre pieces go this is pretty good. The premise is decent enough and did not need all the extra bounce added in to make it more appealing. If you can get past all the fanservice this is something to check out.
Following the traditional conventions of the Zombie genre as established by Romero, Highschool of the Dead offers plenty of excitement, action and bloodshed. Coupled with more developed characters than would typically be seen in your standard 2 hour movie, this is a great choice for Zombie genre fans. The only possible downside is that the extreme use of fanservice may turn off some who would otherwise enjoy this series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 28th, 2011
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
106″ 16×9 DaLite HC Screen, Panasonic PT-AE4000U LCD Projector, Playstation 3 connected to receiver via HDMI, DVD Upconversion handled by Playstation 3 , ONKYO HT-RC180 Receiver, 7.1 Channels using Klipsch Reference System (RB-61, CS-52 and RS-42) speakers and a Sony SA-WMS5 100 Watt powered subwoofer.