Highschool of the Dead: Episode 5 – First Impressions

We’re now hitting the series’ stride with Episode 5 of Highschool of the Dead. I think any sort of introductory exposition and sequences will now be limited to recurring side characters. One of whom was introduced in this episode. I’m talking about the character of Rika Minami. She’s the friend of our intrepid little band of high school survivors, the ditzy and oppai-centric school nurse. School nurse Shizuka Marikawa looks to be settling in as the comedic release for the series’ tension-filled episodes. From the way she’s animated, her seiyuu‘s way of voicing her character to how she reacts to the going-ons around her. Even the sound-effects used to focus on her character is used for comedic-effect.

Her friend Rina happens to be one of Japan’s top police sniper and we see her in action right from the start as she eliminates all the zombies which have stumbled onto the runways of Kansai International Airport which also happens to be an airport built on an artificial island. Before anyone thinks this is a creation of the animators this particular airport actually exists. Rina continues the manga and anime’s style of drawing and animating all it’s female characters in as fanservice a way as possible. I think any viewer of this series who still objects to how the women are drawn should’ve gotten the hint after the first two episodes. If they’re still watching then they shouldn’t be complaining.

The episode was actually free of any sort of censoring from the broadcaster which is surprising since the previous four had them in some level. It seems that certain fanservice scenes can get through without censoring being used and from what I could tell the line between what will be censored during the Anime Network silmulcast and what won’t be is a very fine line.

I can’t finish this recap without pointing out that this episode definitely belonged to the series otaku, Kohta Hirano. We get to see him in action in this episode and why his very otaku nature may just keep him alive through the duration of the series. We get to see him switch from his nebbish and geeky nature to one that’s able to kill in a heartbeat. Saeko Busujima may be the more kick-ass character in this series but Kohta Hirano can definitely keep up as long as he has access to guns.

One other observation I like to make is how the anime writers continue to make Shido-san, the self-appointed leader of the other group of students, the definite human villain in this series. From the way they’ve adapted his manga character to how they’ve animated him he is one Grade-A heel who even has classic jazz porn music playing in the background when he makes of his speeches to his followers. It’s going to be real interesting how the writers and animators of the series will deal with the scene on the bus as his followers pass the time and boredom.

Episode 6 is just hours away and I’m excited to see how this series continues as it enters even heavier fanservice territory.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 4 – First Impressions

We’re now an third into the first season of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the Highschool of the Dead manga. The first three episodes have been used mostly as a set-up to lay out the basic premise of the anime series in addition to introducing the main players. The third episode also sets-up conflict between two groups of survivors as our students (plus one ditzy school nurse) must contend with another teacher (Shido-san) who seems to have some ulterior motives in trying to proclaim himself the appointed leader of the surviving students and faculty in the school bus which just escaped from zombie-infested school.

So far, the series has followed closely the storyline from the manga. There’s been some minute changes to character backstory and certain scenes have been extended or given more time to develop unlike their original manga. Still the writers for the anime look comfortable enough in following the manga with some fidelity instead of venturing on a different path or switching the order of story-arcs around like how some anime adaptation of manga series in the past.

If there’s one thing to take away from this fourth episode it is that the Anime Network’s simulcast of the series definitely has censored the more ecchi scenes to make them more acceptable to North American audiences. I like to point out specifically the sequence at the gas station between Takashi, Rei and the crazed human who holds Rei hostage. In the manga this scene definitely remains uncensored (though it remains to be seen whether Yen Press will keep it that way when they bring the manga over to the North American market), but in the simulcast the scene has some of the details blurred out, but not enough that the audience cannot figure out what is going on.

I definitely think that the more blatant use of fan-service deeper into the series will get the same treatment. This definitely will mean the dvd set when its released better have these scenes uncensored or there will be much declarations of shenanigans sent Sentai’s way. But now that censoring of these scenes have been established further use of it in upcoming episodes shouldn’t come as surprise so I shall keep my complaints to this recap and leave it at that. Other than that the episode was good just like the previous three and I don’t see the series doing nothing but continue to be very good as it moves forward.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 3 – First Impressions

We’re now up to Episode 3 of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of Sato Shouji’s  and Sato Daisuke’s very popular manga, Highschool of the Dead. The first two episode have been mostly about introducing the main characters of the anime and the basic premise of the series. We now know that the surviving highschool students like Kohta Hirano, Saya Takagi, Saeko Busujima, Rei Miyamoto and Takashi Kimuro are not the only survivors still left alive in the school. Now joined by school nurse Shizuka Marikawa, these band of students and one adult are slowly finding out that it’s not just Tokyo or Japan that the zombie crisis has hit upon.

There’s a great sequence early in this third episode where we see news footage from other countries having a similar outbreak with places like Beijing and Moscow having been hit even harder by the undead plague. We learn that the United States, Europe and the rest of the world are also in chaos. I like how this sudden flood of news reports sink in for the students. For some their reaction is to try and reach their parents, while for some the cold, calculating need to survive kicks in.

One other thing this episode does well that actually improves on the manga source is setting up the rules of how the zombies themselves behave. While in the manga its mentioned that the zombies do hunt by sound. In this episode we see in one harrowing sequence just how true such an assumption was which leads to one exciting action sequence once an inadvertent sound echoes through the school courtyard.

It’s during this particular section of the episode we’re introduced to one character who will become a sort of a “foil” to our main characters. I speak of the douchebag teacher, Shido-san. We see him cruelly leave an injured student to the zombies to help him get away. He also tries to appoint himself leader of the smal group of survivors once they escape the confines of the school in one of the buses. While the zombies themselves still remain the primary danger for the series’ main characters Shido looks to be a “Manson-type” character looking to take advantage of the crisis to put himself above everyone else whether others want him to or not.

For fans of the manga the introduction of Shido-san and the bus means that it may only be an episode or two before the infamous “bus-orgy” scene shows up in the series. One wonders if Madhouse will go through with that particular scene from the manga or will they just skip over it. If they did skip over it there will definitely be many fans who will be seriously disappointed.

To close things off the series finally hits it’s stride with this third episode and it looks like it will just keep on-going full throttle from now on. As an aside for fans of Shaun of the Dead they would get a kick for a brief “cameo” late in the episode.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 2 – First Impressions

We’re now into Episode 2 of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the popular manga Highschool of the Dead. The first episode was one of the most popular series premieres simulcast over at Anime Network and with reason. This manga has gained quite the following not just in Japan, but in North America. What’s not to like about it. It has great artwork which meshes well with the subject of zombies, apocalyptic settings and, most importantly, the ecchi nature of the female characters’ designs. It’s a teen biy’s and young men’s dream manga and now it’s well-done translation into anime should guarantee that Highschool of the Dead‘s first 13-episode will be a success which can lead to another order of 13-episodes (a number that Japanese anime production houses have deemed the correct and ideal one for a series of late).

Episode 2 continues with the first one’s introduction of the premise and the characters who will be the focal point of the series. While we see the two main characters from the first episode appear in this episode they’re definitely not the focus. This time around we’re introduced to four more characters in the form of 3 females and 1 male. The lone male is a favorite character of mine and that is the gun otaku, Kohta Hirano. He’s like the geek in pretty much every anime/manga fan who finally has a chance to actually make use of a particularly useless skill. In Kohta’s case it’s the use and maintenance of weapons even to the point of creating a makeshift one out of a portable nailgun. The three new females to join Rei Miyamoto introduced in episode 1 are Saeko Busujima, Saya Takagi and Shizuka Marikawa.

Saya becomes attached to Kohta during their attempts to avoid the zombies now roaming and hunting the surviving students and faculty. Saeko Busujima joins up with ditzy and fanboy wetdream Shizuka Marikawa. Saya’s character seemed to be set-up to become the annoying one in the group in the anime as she’s shown to be bossy, too smart for her own good, but also quite helpless when confronted with danger. School-nurse Shizuka is quite helpless herself, but probably due to her being such a ditz to begin with. Of all the characters shown so far she seems to be created just to be fan-service. Not that I am complaining mind you. Now we get to one Saeko Busujima. The sophomore who also happens to be the school’s kendo club captain and champion in her own right. She’s cool, calculating and quite the badass. It doesn’t help that she’s also the hottest thing in the anime by a huge margin. The 1/8 resin and PVC figures made of Saeko are becoming as popular as another fan-service heavy character anime/manga fan know as Kanu Un’chou of Ikki Tousen fame.

The quality of this second episode is on the same level as the pilot episode and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I do hope that these two episode will be all that’s needed by the series writer  Yosuke Kuroda to introduce the series plot and it’s characters. While I’m more than happy about the pacing of the series so far the casual anime fan who have never read the manga may get bored and move onto something else. Like any tv series whether animated or live it’s keeping the casual viewer interested that makes or breaks a series.

Now bring on Episode 3!

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 1 – First Impressions

One of the most awaited new anime series has finally premiered over in Japan this past July 5, 2010. MadHouse’s Highschool of the Dead will air in Japan but will also be simulcast in the US with subtitles. Fans of the manga can now watch the series without having to wait for the dvd to be released by Sentai Filmworks in the future.

From what I can tell from this first episode the anime seem to stay quite true to the original manga source. While it doesn’t take everything from the manga scene for scene it does keep enough of the first couple chapters from the manga to set-up the series’ premise and introduce a couple of the main characters. The two characters introduced and which the first episode spends most of its time with are Rei Miyamoto (voiced by Marina Inoue) and Takashi Kimuro (Jun’ichi Suwabe).

The episode does a good job in setting up the personal conflict between these two childhood friends. It actually builds more on this conflict and it’s backstory than it did in the original manga. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the main characters in the manga also get more fleshed out in the anime as it moves forward. But for now, I like what MadHouse and series writer Yosuke Kuroda have done in adapting the manga.

One thing I didn’t have to worry about with this series is the quality of the animation. MadHouse is and still remains one of the top animation studios in Japan and their work on this anime doesn’t do anything but continue to prove their reputation. The characters look pretty much just like their manga counterparts which is great. Not all manga-to-anime adaptations get such an accurate transfer of character designs. The look of the zombies themselves were slightly exaggerated especially once they’re on the attack. This doesn’t bother me much since it does make them more menacing than just walking corpses.

The voice-acting I have to reserve judgement on until more episodes have been aired. The intro and end credits songs didn’t stand out, but that could change in time. Some of my favorite anime intro songs didn’t become favorites right away but took time after several listens.

As for the violence the anime captures it well, but I’m a bit worried that certain scenes may have gotten censored through cleverly added animations. I will have to see how the dvd turns out and see if some of the more overly graphic killings and zombie eating people were censored for the US market or if they were animated that way to begin with. I will say that the hype leading up to this series have created a high expectations for it but from my first impressions of this first episode I will say that it more than lives up to the hype…for now.

For those who want to see the first episode as a whole should head over to Anime Network where they have them up in one whole piece instead of broken up the way they are on YouTube. Link below should provide everything.

Anime Network – Highschool of the Dead