AMV of the Day: You Can Be King Again (Hotarubi no Mori e)


hotarubi no mori e

In my absence, Lisa Marie did quite a great job picking up the slack when it came time to put up a new anime music video. She had quite the eclectic choice of videos that ran the gamut from comedy, space opera, ecchi to drama.

As I continue my return back I thought it was high time to put up a new AMV and this time from an anime I haven’t even seen. It’s actually an anime that even the site expert pantsukudasai56 hasn’t seen but had heard of. The anime in question is the supernatural romance anime film Hotarubi no Mori e.

Just from researching what the anime was about I knew this was going to be one of those shoujo fares that I would need to find time to watch. It helps that the video’s creator, youlazybum, did such a great job pairing scenes from the anime with one of my favorite songs these past ten years, Lauren Aquilina’s “King.”

So, here’s my latest AMV of the Day, “You Can Be King Again.”

Anime: Hotarubi no Mori e

Song: “King” by Lauren Aquilina

Creator: youlazybum

Past AMVs of the Day

It’s Love, Part 2


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Last year, at this time, we shared some classic romance comic book covers.  Starting in the late 1940s, many comic book companies tried to broaden their audience by publishing romance comic books.  These comics told dramatic love stories in which young women had to deal with issues of cheating, divorce, jealousy, heartache, and the search for the one.

By Gene Colan

By Gene Colan

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s more love and romance.

By Bob Oskner

By Bob Oskner

By Bob Oskner

By Bob Oskner

By Jay Scott Pike

By Jay Scott Pike

4 -- Teenage Love

By Nick Cardy

By Nick Cardy

6 -- Young Love

7 -- Haunted Love

8 -- His Hair Is Long And I Love Him

By Nick Cardy

By Nick Cardy

10 -- How

And remember, while you’re searching for love, be careful and don’t accept a ride from the first guy who offers.  Or you could end up with a bad reputation like Toni!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

By Gene Colan

By Gene Colan

AMV of the Day: Strangers Like Us (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)


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It’s been a month since Anime Boston 2014 and I’ve decided to put up the third AMV to win one of the categories from the con.

This particular AMV won the Romance category and for once it uses an anime that I’m not familiar with, but after watching the video I’m definitely looking forward to checking it out once the blu-ray comes out sometime this year.

The AMV in question is “Strangers Like Us” by davenfonet who uses the Phil Collins song of the same title and the mecha series Gargantia on the Verdorous Planet. The video itself doesn’t go for the usual ballad-like tone, but instead goes for a much more fun romance vibe that doesn’t seem to win many Romance category contests. This time this type of romance AMV wins and the fact that it makes me want to watch the series after never having heard of it til Anime Boston means the creator succeeded.

Anime: Gargantia on the Verdorous Planet

Song: “Strangers Like Us” by Phil Collins

Creator: davenfonet

Past AMVs of the Day

 

From the Lens Crew to All: HAPPY VALENTINES!


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Will make it short but sweet. Happy Valentines from everyone here at Through the Shattered Lens.

What better way to celebrate today than with one of the most romantic scenes in cinematic history. Classic romance for a classy time.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

Scenes I Love: In the Line of Fire


LincolnMemorial_InTheLineOfFire

1993’s In the Line of Fire was and continues to be one of my favorite action-thrillers. What’s not to like about a film that has John Malkovich playing a rogue and mentally-unstable CIA assassin who has decided that he wants to assassinate the current President of the United States. Then there’s Clint Eastwood as the last living Secret Service agent who failed to prevent Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen and was both tense and thrilling in equal amounts. Yet, the film also took some time to develop the relationship between Eastwood’s aging Secret Service agent with a much younger, but capable agent played by Rene Russo. This is a relationship that starts off as quite adversarial but one that gradually moves past that into one of respect then romance.

It was the scene with the two characters taking a break from the dangers of their job to debate the role of women in the Secret Service. It makes Eastwood’s character sound very old-fashioned and while it annoys Russo’s character to no end there’s a sort of playful and flirty byplay between the two throughout the scene. It’s a scene that culminates with Eastwood’s character predicting through years of experience that Russo’s agent character has shown interest in him and thus planting the seeds of a budding romance.

This is the scene I’ve chosen to continue the march towards next week’s Valentines Day.

Chopping The Log #2 Toradora part 1 premium edition


After the last set that I reviewed, I was glad to see that next on the list was a title I knew I was going to enjoy.  This release of Toradora memorable and special for a couple reasons.  First off, this was NIS America’s very first title that they released back in July of 2010 (yes, I’m just now getting to it, so now you know how bad my backlog is!).  July of 2010 is also the first time that site founder Arleigh and I attended Anime Expo together (but not the first time we met in person, that would be Anime Boston 2008).  It was my third Expo, but I believe it was his first.  NISA decided to really go all out and in order to promote this title the brought over two of the stars of the show, Yui Horie (Minori Kushieda) and Eri Kitamura (Ami Kawashima).  Getting to meet Yui Horie was a dream come true, so I’ll always remember this particular convention fondly.  And of course, they had their booth set up in the dealer’s room where they were selling this set, so when I saw it, the collector in me demanded that I pick it up.  These NISA sets are made with the collector in mind.  The giant artboxes definitely draw the eye to them, and although they’ll likely need special display space, it’s fully worth it if you are the collector type.

Toradora was a great choice for a newcomer in the market too.  From a star studded cast to nice visuals and an engaging story, there was no reason to expect anything but success from this.  I’ve seen sites list it as a comedy, and while that’s not wrong, it’s not entirely right either.  People that have watched a lot of anime might be familiar with the term “romcom” which is shorthand for romantic comedy.  That’s getting closer to the mark, but mixed in with the romance and the comedy is a good helping of drama too, so I dare say the proper term for this show is “draromcom”! 

In this first of two sets, we get the first 13 episodes of the show, plus two bonus shorts.  This set is largely setting things up with comedy and light drama for the more involved romance and heavier drama to come in later episodes.  So, we have our main protagonist, Ryuji, who is always mistaken for a delinquent because of his looks, and our other protagonist, Taiga (played to perfection by the legendary Rie Kugimiya), who looks like an adorable little doll but is actually short tempered and vicious, to the point that her nickname is the Palmtop Tiger, referring to her small stature and vicious nature.  Through a series of misunderstandings and other events, they come to find out that Ryuji has a crush on Taiga’s friend Minori, and Taiga has a crush on Ryuji’s friend Yusaku.  They decide to team up to help each other confess to their crushes, but while neither of them wants to admit to it, over the course of these 13 episodes it becomes apparent that they are falling for each other.  It’s pretty standard fare, but the execution of it is done extrememly well so it doesn’t feel old and tired like it very well could have.  Having a character like Ami come along to play an antagonistic role helps get the story moving, and provides a good bit of the comedy in this set.  And while this is lighter on the drama than future episodes, the last few start to build it up with Taiga’s deadbeat dad making an appearance. 

From a story and character standpoint, I think this show is in the upper tier, but this set does suffer from a few production problems.  This was NISA’s very first release as I mentioned before, and they definitely had some growing pains.  Once in awhile there are some spots where the video transfer was a little rough, resulting in some jagged images or blurred lines.  This seems to be most noticeable when the camera pans across a room where there is a lot going on.  I’m not a big technophile, so I don’t go through it frame by frame trying to find any sort of imperfection, but from those that do (seriously, how is that even enjoyable?) it’s said that there are several instances where it seemed like frames were overlapped on each other, hence the blur.  For those of us who are just watching on regular HDTVs without big fancy blu ray players beyond a PS3, while you will probably notice a couple janky areas, but nothing that will ruin the enjoyment of the set.

All in all, this is a show that I could easily have written an Anime You Should Be Watching column on, and only didn’t because I’m generally lazy.  If you can find this set, and you’re a collector, I say snap it up.  NISA has released a standard set, that doesn’t come in the fancy box with the nice hardbound episode guide, and this premium set is sold out at the distribution level, so it may not be possible to find it at a sane price anymore.

Also, I wanted to add, don’t let the fact that I’ve written 2 colums in 3 days fool you.  I don’t intend to be nearly as prolific as Lisa Marie is, and it’s completely dependent upon me finishing something from my backlog.  I have plenty of material to choose from, but some sets might take me a few days to finish, or I might take a break from watching anything for awhile.  But with my beloved New England Patriots out of the playoffs now, and me having very little interest in other sports, I should find myself with a lot more free time so who knows?  Maybe I can put a dent in this backlog after all.  Current backlog count: 847 discs.

Anime You Should Be Watching: Bakemonogatari


Honestly, I try to keep this column a surprise to Arleigh.  I hate when the owner of this site knows exactly what I’m going to post.  However, with the recent announcement from Aniplex USA that they will be releasing this title on BluRay, I can’t very well ignore this awesome title any longer.

The problem with this title is, it’s very hard to talk about without spoiling things.  Every girl here has a very important story to tell.  The overarching story here is how our protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, interacts with the various girls in the series.  The thing is, every girl has her own problem that he must solve.  Since I hate spoilers as much as the next guy or girl I’ll refrain from going too in depth to what everyone has to overcome.  The best parts would have to be Mayoi Hachikuji and Suruga Kanbaru.  Luckily for all, the BluRay of this series will be available later on this year from Aniplex America.  Really, nothing else could do this series justice than a BluRay release, so I cannot help but be thrilled for this.  What I can say about this is that you need to be prepared to do a lot of reading.  People say that this is a very wordy title, and while I don’t necessarily agree with them in the fact that they think the dialog comes fast and furious, I do agree that the dialog is the most important aspect of the show.  There is a lot of Japanese puns and wordplay involved, and this title is not for the newly initiated to the anime scene.  Those that are used to reading subtitles won’t have too much trouble keeping up, but this is certainly not a title one can passively watch and expect to fully understand.

The thing to keep in mind is that if this show seems strange, by anime standards, it probably has a lot to do with the director.  It’s directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who also directed the very unconventional Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and his influence is easily seen in both.  There’s not a lot of action in Bakemonogatari but the visual imagery is classic Shinbo.  He makes full use of a lot of surreal backgrounds during long conversations, so instead of letting things get stale with long stretches of just the characters standing around talking, which as I said before they do a lot, he’ll at least have the background flashing by and changing often during those times.  On one hand, it’s certainly a cost saving measure since they didn’t have to animate the characters, but more importantly it makes it seem like something is actually happening, even when it’s really not.  In a visual medium like anime, nothing bores people more than just staring at the same thing for long periods of time, so this helps keep any feelings of boredom from setting in.  For a show without a lot of action, to be able to keep it from feeling dull is where you need a talented director, and Shinbo truly shines in this case.

So what worked with this anime?  Well, it has attractive and interesting characters.  Each story draws you in and makes you want to see what happens next.  While you assume that each girl will have her problem solved, this is a Shinbo show, so there are no guarantees that the problem will be solved, or even if it is that it won’t create further problems.  And that’s part of the fun of this series, expecting the unexpected.

What didn’t work?  Well, if you want lots of action and explosions in your anime, you’ll find little to none of that here.  This is a very character driven show, so if you find you dislike or don’t care about some or even all of the characters, then you won’t find much here of value.

All in all this was a pleasant surprise to me when I watched it.  The light novels it was based on have been very popular, but since I don’t follow the light novel scene very closely, this was unexpectedly good.  If you want an anime that draws you in and keeps you hooked with a compelling story, then look no further than Bakemonogatari.

Review: Three Sisters Island Trilogy (by Nora Roberts)


                                                           

[guilty pleasure]

My taste in entertainment tends to be on the darker, violent and existential side of things. Horror, action and sci-fi tend to perk up my attention when looking for something to read, watch and/or play. This particular guilty pleasure I came across by accident. I think most people’s guilty pleasure were discovered by accident or happenstance. I would be the first to admit that romance novels would be the last thing I would consider my type of entertainment. Not saying romance novels have no place, but it definitely doesn’t fill the criteria of what I like and listed above.

Ten or so years ago I would never have picked up these books, but I have since found them to be much to my liking. I’m still not sold on a majority of romance-themed novels, but I have been sold on the one’s written by that queen of the romance novels: Nora Roberts (and to a larger degree the one’s she writes under the pseudonym J.D Robb). The novels which sold me on her type of writing was her Three Sisters Island Trilogy.

1. Dance Upon the Air

Dance Upon the Air was a surprise find for me as a reader. My initial introduction to Nora Roberts’ writing was through a mystery-romance series of hers written by her under the pseudonym, J.D. Robb. Her In Death series had just the right balance of mystery, police procedural, humor and romance to make this male not feel all weird reading was really was a romance novel. On the prodding of a friend who is a voracious reader of all things Nora Roberts, I picked up Dance Upon the Air. From the moment I began to read the exciting introduction of the Three Sisters Island being born, I was hooked line and sinker on this book.

The Three Sisters Island is a small and quaint little island community off the coast of Massachusetts whose origins, legend has it, was due to a powerful spell weaved by three sister witches. Their spell ripped a portion of the Massachusetts coastline from the earth and floated off to just off the coast to form a sort of haven for their descendants. A haven from the puritanical witchhunts which have taken the lives of both real witches and those falsely accused as one. It’s through the later generations and their descendants that the story for this trilogy is played out through.

Dance Upon the Air deals with one of the descendants of the Three Sisters. The books tale concentrates on the trials and tribulations of one Nell Channing whose a direct descendant of the Sister whose powers were of the element of Air. A delicate woman whose life has been a living hell due to a very abusive and powerfully connected husband, Nell finally escapes her abusive relationship through guile and trickery, but as the story progresses its not long before the husband she left behind finds out the truth about his wife’s apparent “death”. Nell makes it to Three Sisters Island and upon setting foot on its soil feels as if she’s returned home. Whether by fate or providence, Nell soon meets two other women on the island whose destinies have been preordained to entwine with hers.

Dance Upon the Air sounds a bit like the Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping with the Enemy. The similarities are pretty close, but Roberts’ tale of magic, fate and self-reliance was the better of the two. Nell’s experiences as she learns to live and love again on Three Sisters Island has a sense of hope and self-reawakening which the Julia Roberts film lacked. This book shares some of the thriller aspect of the film, but doesn’t rely on it to weave a beautiful tale. Instead, Dance Upon the Air reads more like the journey of a damaged woman whose realization that the place she has now decided to call home and those friends and lovers she’s met will be the anchor in finally realizing the life she’s always thought she should have lived.

2. Heaven and Earth

Heaven and Earth marks the middle installment in Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island Trilogy. The first book in the series, Dance Upon the Air, started off the trilogy on a magical note with Ms. Roberts deftly combining romance, abit of the supernatural, and a nice thriller into an exciting tale of intertwined destinies and pasts, strong female characters, and passionate romance.

Heaven and Earth starts with the wedding and honeymoon of Nell Channing and Zack Todd (island town’s sheriff). This helps cement Nell’s full acceptance into the island town’s fabric. Her trials and tribulations which led her to Three Sisters Island and the test she had to pass to finally begin her life anew seem less of a coincidence and more fate and predestiny. Nell is very open to such a possibility and helps explain to her just why she felt so at home upon her arrival on the island. She thinks its the magic in her past and blood that she now has learned she has. Her new sister-in-law and fellow “sister witch” Ripley Todd thinks its all crapola and would rather not dwell on such things. Ripley Todd knows of the island’s magical history and her own role in it, but her fear and stubborn reluctance to accept her magical heritage makes up the meat of the novel.

Ripley’s attitude towards the magic that permeates the island and the two other women supposedly tied to her, Nell Channing and Mia Devlin (the resident island witch and seemingly its most desired woman on the island), run from tolerance to outright restrained hostility. Ripley’s willing to tolerate her new sister-in-law’s acceptance of her magical heritage. Mia Devlin on the other hand she avoids and ridicules in equal amount. Mia takes it all in stride but at the same time drops comments in an attempt to remind Ripley of her past and future. Ripley doesn’t like this at all and does all she can to avoid the fire-haired Mia. But soon a new factor drops into her life which would lead to her finally confronting her fear of her heritage and her role in what could be the survival of Three Sisters Island.

This factor comes in the guise of Dr. MacAllister Brooke. Mac, as he likes to be called, is a professor whose main call in life is the hunt of the so-called supernatural. His travels and research leads him to the island. He plans on researching the island and determining as to the veracity of the island’s supernatural past and origins. For some reason he and Ripley are set on a course to deal with each other. Mac sees Ripley as a challenge and an attraction forms. Ripley on the other hand sees Mac’s research and choice of profession as being something close to being worthless, but as they continue to stay in close proximity she too cannot deny the growing attraction between them.

As the story moves along, Ripley and Mac must contend not just with each other’s prickly and stubborn natures, but an outside force threatens to destroy the peaceful lives of the original Three Sisters’ descendants and the idyllic island home they and the other townspeople call home. Ripley will have to decide in the end whether to accept that which she has feared for so long, or close herself off from it forever and thus dooming her and everyone close to her. In the end, Ripley will not be alone in her own confrontation with the darkness looming over the Three Sisters Island, Mac, Nell, Mia, Zack and many others will be there to help and support her.

All in all, Heaven and Earth is a great continuation of the epic tale began with Dance Upon the Air. Ripley and Mac’s relationship is a source of both humor and heat. It’s amusing to see polar opposites, yet with so much in common personality-wise, fight tooth and nail not to give in to what is definitely two halves of the same coin finally finding each other.

3. Face the Fire

Face the Fire is the third and climactic installment to Nora Roberts’ entertaining and fun Three Sisters Island Trilogy. The first two books dealt with the first two “sisters” whose powers were tied with the elements of Air and Earth. In this third book, Mia Devlin, the third so-called sister of the title takes her power from the element of Fire. Like the element itself, Mia mirrors it in her stunning look, with her flowing fiery-red hair and even fiery demeanor. In the previous two books in the trilogy it was always Mia who guided and helped both Nell and Ripley to finding their true path in life and in finally accepting their magical heritage.

Face the Fire now has Mia becoming the center of all the magical happenings on the titular Three Sisters Island. The previous two books gradually gave its readers more and more information concerning the original Three Sisters and the prophecy/curse which befall them and which still hangs over their descendants and the island refuge their created. Nell and Ripley have done their part in trying to prevent the darkness about to descend on their island home, but its all up to Mia and her own intertwined destiny with a man who broke her heart many years past that must find a way to head off disaster and break the curse that has plagued their line through the generations. Will Mia succeed in breaking the chain of heartache which started with her ancestor? No matter what, Mia has her two “sisters” to help and assist her in her own trials.

Of the three books in the trilogy this one would lean heaviest on the supernatural aspect of the series. We learn even more of the back story of the Three Sisters Island which Mia has called home all her life and one she’s protected by herself against the evil her ancestors (also Nell’s and Ripley’s). Of all the three “sisters” who form the core of the trilogy it’s Mia who has fully embraced her heritage and her story also show’s that she is the most powerful of the three but no less damaged by a past relationship that she must acknowledge and repair if she, Nell and Ripley will succeed in preventing the age’s-old evil from returning to Three Sisters Island and finishing what it was preventing from doing so by the original three sisters.

In the end, Face the Fire is a worthy conclusion to what has been a magical trilogy. The novel continues where Dance Upon the Air and Heaven and Earth left off. It was nice to have Mia becoming the center of the story. In the previous two books she’s always been like the omnipresent powerful white witch who knew all. This time around we got to see her human side and know that she’s as damaged as her other sisters. Ms. Roberts did a great job with this trilogy and as great as the three books has been and why it continues to be a guilty pleasure of mine.

AMV of the Day: Kobato – Ring a Bell


Been awhile since I was able to find and post a new AMV (anime music video) which means the pickings have been slim. But as I was writing up the post commemorating the site’s 1000th post milestone I was listening to some J-Pop as background music and one particular song came on. It was BONNIE PINK’s “Ring a Bell” which was used as the opening song for the very fun and beautiful JRPG Tales of Vesperia. As soon as I finished writing up the milestone post I searched YouTube for AMV’s which used this song and after finding a couple AMV’s which used it I settled on the best one I was able to find.

The latest AMV is from YouTube user XValkyrieAngelX and it was titled Kobato – Ring a Bell. I knew of the song, but the anime used was one I’ve heard about but never had the opportunity to watch: Kobato.

First off, the editing work by XValkyrieAngelX was very good. She didn’t make the video too cluttered and confusing with massive amounts of quick edits and cuts. Her use of particular video effects was timed well with the song that they weren’t distracting. One thing she was also able to do was keep the AMV relatively spoiler-free. The anime itself has been called one of the many romance-comedy that continues to be quite popular in Japan and pretty much with most anime fans so the video shows of the romance side of the anime but not enough to ruin the whole story.

The song “Ring a Bell” is one of those catchy J-Pop ballads which just sticks to one’s mind and won’t let go. Using this song really matches up well with the visuals used from Kobato. One of the best compliments I could ever give an AMV creator is that they were able to convince me to watch an anime I’ve only remotely heard of just based on watching them use it in one of their videos. Kobato – Ring a Bell is one such AMV and as soon as I finished watching it I went over to Amazon and, lo and behold, the DVD was up for pre-ordering and I went ahead and pre-ordered it.

XValkyrieAngelX has more AMV’s uploaded in her YouTube account and this one has given me reason to watch the rest of her work.

Song: “Ring a Bell” – BONNIE PINK

Anime: Kobato

Creator: XValkyrieAngelX

Review: Highschool of the Dead (Gakuen Mokushiroku) Blu-Ray


Highschool of the Dead (Gakuen Mokushiroku in Japan) is the horror-ecchi 12-episode anime series which had a simultaneous premiere and series airing in both Japan and the United States in the summer of 2010 has finally been released as a DVD/Blu-Ray set. I was able enough to watch the series as it aired during it’s initial summer 2010 run. I was able to watch 11 of the 12 eisodes aired and wrote up “first impressions” of each episode right after they aired. With the 12th episode still unwatched I held off doing a proper review of the whole series. Now that the series has been released on home video that has changed.

The anime was adapted from the original manga (still ongoing though on hiatus at the moment) from Sato Daisuke and Sato Shouji who wrote and drew the series for Monthly Dragon Age. This was a manga that gained popularity outside Japan through fan scanlations of the original Japanese issues. So, it was with great anticipation when Sentai Filmworks and Yen Press announced at anime conventions of 2010 that the series will be making its way to the US in its manga and anime format.

Highschool of the Dead has quite a simple story. It’s pretty much a survival horror tale of a small group of Japanese high school students trying to survive the sudden arrival of a zombie apocalypse. The zombies themselves don’t get too much of an explanation as to how they came to be only that one day the outbreak began all over the world. We see this through brief scenes when the core group of characters stop to try and get some news of the crisis at hand. It’s during the first two episodes that we meet the members of this group. There’s the group’s reluctant leader in highschool student Komuro Takashi who also happens to be in love with another group member, Miyamoto Rei, and best friends since kindergarten with another, Takagi Saya. Into this mix comes in the highly confident and supremely calm Busujima Saeko whose mysterious nature soon becomes clear later on in the series as a certain darkness in her nature becomes known which adds a layer of complexity to the character. It is no wonder that the Saeko role has become such a major favorite of the male fans of the series, but also of women fans. One cannot go into any anime convention in 2011 and not see dozens of females cosplaying as Busujima Saeko.

The group is rounded out by the military-obsessed otaku, Hirano Kohta, who seems to worship Saya despite her belittling attitude towards him. Also, rounding out the group is the only adult along with the teenagers, Marikawa Shizuka who was the school nurse at the school the group escapes from when the zombie outbreak reaches it’s height. Along the way the group picks up young Marisato Arisu, the 7-year old whose father gets killed in an attempt to save her young daughter from the zombies. The series even has a cute puppy in the form of Zeke who becomes quite attached to young Arisu and becomes the de facto mascot of the group who senses the arrival of zombies and barks out his warnings to the group.

To say that Highschool of the Dead is not your typical zombie apocalypse tale would be too simplistic. There’s enough of the usual zombie story conventions to make the series familiar to fans of the genre, but enough tweaks were added to the story that at times it does feel fresh to American eyes. For one thing with the series being set in Japan there’s certain Japanese cultural themes which may sound out of left-field to it’s Western audiences. There’s the concept of a land where violent crime is so low that it’s police force don’t come equipped with the necessary force to deal with the zombie outbreak which in turn just helps fan it hotter to the point that things quickly spiral out of their control and chaos becomes the norm in a society steeped in order. There’s also the use of fanservice in the series which may surprise new fans of the anime format who have been introduced to it by way of this series.

Highschool of the Dead has an inordinate amount of fanservice and this means most of the females in the series were drawn to be quite busty and beautiful. It also means that there’s huge amounts of scenes where the animators go out of their way to include panty, stocking and bra shots into a scene even when at times it boggles one’s mind why it was there in the first place. Some anime fans have complained about this and how it has ruined the series for them, but as a fan of the original manga I knew going in what the series will include so the fanservice didn’t bother me. The fact that the original creators of the series having done hentai-manga before this series should’ve given the more knowledgable anime fans a clue as to what they’d be seeing in the series. One such scene of the series’ use of fanservice which has become quite infamous (or famous depending on one’s thoughts about the subject matter) would be dubbed the “Matrix Boobs” by fans.

The series does explore some serious themes about human nature and their moral codes in the face of the zombie apocalypse and the possible extinction of one’s race. Like most good zombie stories the series tackles the concept of the human’s themselves becoming the bigger danger to each other than the encroaching zombie horde knocking on their door. We seen through the series how the teenage group of survivors have adjusted better to the apocalyptic event better than the very adults who are suppose to protect them. In fact, it’s some of those adults who seem to hide their heads in the sand or take advantage of the situation for their own benefit. I found it ironic that the only adults who actually fare well would be the right-wing extremist and his retainers who impose the necessary rules to keep everyone safe, but also try to rescue as much people as possible when the government (both local and national) have failed to do what’s needed and right to restore order.

As I mentioned earlier the manga is still ongoing with 27 chapters (or Acts as they’re called in the manga and in the anime), but with the series only at 12-episodes there’s much about Highschool of the Dead which get left up in the air once the 12th episode airs. The series also leapfrogs certain chapters from the manga to keep the series moving forward instead of being bogged down. The anime also borrows certain scenes later on in the manga and uses them instead to help create backstory for some of the characters in the show. No one knows is this 12-episode will be it for Highschool of the Dead or will a second season be in the future depending on sales of the DVD and Blu-Ray sets. I’m hoping for the latter since the manga definitely gets real serious about the story and tones down some of the fanservice in later chapters. It’d be a shame if Highschool of the Dead ends with just these 12-episodes.

To find more detailed recaps and reviews of the first 11-episodes they could be read here: Episode One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven

The Blu-Ray set for Highschool of the Dead has been released in the US through Sentai Filmworks which acquired the licensing rights for US home video distribution in 2010 (US manga distributer Yen Press releases the manga volumes). Like most anime Blu-Ray releases, Highschool of the Dead is pretty much barebones when it comes to supplemental content. The set comes in a two-disc set with all 12 episodes split between two discs. Disc 1 contains episodes 1 thru 8 while Disc two has episodes 9 thru 12 and the cleaned up versions of the show’s intro and end credit sequence.

There’s not much to the disc in terms of language content. Sentai Filmworks really keeps things basic as it just includes two languages to the series set. There’s the original Japanese language cast which (to my disappointment) has been mixed in just regular Stereo 2.0 while the English Dub option has been given the much more heftier 5.1 surround sound mix. I understand the reasoning for this as the original Japanese distributor of the series wishes to keep the Japanese surround sound mix in the more expensive Japanese region Blu-Ray. It’s just one of the more assbackwards business reasonings between the Japanese distributors and it’s American distributing partner that frustrates anime fans in the US.

Despite these flaws in the Blu-Ray set there’s no denying that the series has made a near-perfect visual remastering. The series looks great in 1080p HD with little to no digital noise in the playback. Madhouse’s visual artwork comes in very clean and clear with even some of the more CGI-element in the animation blending in well with the more traditional handmade animation of the series. While the animation is not the best Madhouse has done in the past for a series that’s a weird mash of horror and ecchi themes the look of the series should please fans of both (though I will admit that the series really leans a lot more towards to fanservice side of things than outright horror).

In the end, Highschool of the Dead is a series that’s tailor-built for people whose experience with anime is very little to non-existent. The two themes of zombie horror and softcore, fanservice of ecchi should be the sort of things in an anime that should reel in those wondering what it is about this show that has so many people raving about it. It’s almost like a gateway drug of anime. It’s not the greatest anime or even the best one of the past year, but it definitely panders (which in this case is a good thing) to the grindhouse and exploitation denominator that’s in everyone whether they like to admit it or not. If there was ever a grindhouse anime series then Highschool of the Dead is it.

PS: The titles of each Act (chapters) is quite grindhouse.

Episode 01: Spring of the Dead

Episode 02: Escape from the Dead

Episode 03: Democracy Under the Dead

Episode 04: Running in the Dead

Episode 05: Streets of the Dead

Episode 06: In the Dead of the Night

Episode 07: Dead Night and the Dead Ruck

Episode 08: The Dead Way Home

Episode 09: The Sword and Dead

Episode 10: The Dead’s House Rules

Episode 11: Dead Storm Rising

Episode 12: All Deads Attack