Highschool of the Dead: Episode 11 – First Impressions


We are down to the last final episodes of this first season of Madhouse’s anime series adaptation of the zombie and ecchi manga series, Highschool of the Dead. The last episode was the start of the calm before what I hope to be the major storm that will take this series into a second season.

Episode 11 didn’t linger on too much on the fanservice side of the series with the exception of an all-too-brief look inside the school bus of Shido-san and his sex cultists. We get a glimpse at how Shido deals with the students who don’t conform to his twisted (albeit must be quite fun) outlook on the new world order as it stands now. The manga had shown that particular sequence of why that one student was thrown off the bus to be taken by the zombies. In this episode we didn’t see what caused his expulsion, but got a sense that the student didn’t want to join in on the bus orgy going on between the students with Shido-san acting as a sort of Aleister Crowley-like figurehead.

While inside the Takagi compound it looks like the episode skipped some more of the manga and didn’t show how Takagi’s father was finally swayed to allow Kohta to keep the groups weapons. I can understand the Madhouse writers trying to cram as much of the manga into a 13-episode season, but the way they’re going about things they could catch up to the manga by episode 13 which would definitely might be a sign that a second season won’t be in the offing. Here’s to hoping that the writers were just trying to move things along to the crisis which sends the group out of the compound and back into the dangers of the city-proper.

While the fanservice was limited the harem aspect of the story continued to grow as Rei literally threw herself at the mercy of Komuro but to no avail. Does Rei know that Saeko and Saya may be competing with her for Komuro’s attention? If that’s the case then Komuro definitely has shown quite a bit of restraint when it comes to Rei’s increasingly aggressive advances. There’s also the fact that Komuro and Saeko may have already sealed their partnership a few episodes past though we never really saw it but definitely implied.

The arrival of Shido-san into the compound definitely explains why Rei was so adamant to leave the safety of the bus early in the season. The fact that Rei dismissed Shido-san as less than worthy of her attention was a nice touch even though this could become a major problem for the group down the line. Even in the manga the fate of Shido-san and his group of students were not truly explained though not all of them could’ve survived their subsequent exile.

With two episodes left and with the major superpowers throwing nukes at each other, I hope that this calm has finally ended and the storm that’s been brewing since the group arrived at the Takagi compound can finally smash into the city. If there’s to be no second season then these last two episodes need to put the previous 11 in terms of action, horror and fanservice to shame. It’s the only way for the series to go out with a huge bang.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 10 – First Impressions


We’re now heading towards the end of this first season of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the zombie manga Highschool of the Dead. It is still up in the air whether this 13-episode initially produced will be the first season or just the first half of what will end up being the only season. If the latter is the case then the series just took a relaxing calm before the storm of what will be episode 11 thru to 13.

Episode 10 brings everyone in the group back together as Takashi Komuro and Busujima Saeko finally makes it back to the relative safety of the Takagi fortress-compound in the previous episode. This episode was actually pretty devoid of much of the fanservice which were prevalent in the last 5 previous episodes. The only nod to it’s ecchi side of the series was in the beginning where one might think Rei and Komuro might just end up going all the way (something that suspiciously might have already happened between Komuro and Saeko in the last episode), but alas it was not meant to be. It was just a medical intervention to help Rei heal up from being sorely bruised from the action of episode 8.

While within the Takagi compound we get to know more about the life of Saya and her relationship with her parents. To say that she has lived quite the privileged life would be an understatement. But while in other media the privileged children of rich and powerful parents end up being useless beyond being spoiled and entitled, Saya seems to have grown past being just a spoiled brat and into a child who has tried to live up to the perfection that are her parents. I mean her father is the lord of the manor in more ways than one as the Takagi-clan looks to have been the same clan in centuries past which ruled over the city during the Feudal-era of Japan. Takagi Souichiro and his wife Yuriko are quite formidable parents and we see where Saya gets both her beauty and coldly, logical brain.

This episode to me also shows us just how far Hirano Kohta has come from the geeky and shy introduction from the first couple episodes. We’ve seen him become quite the badass to help bookend Saeko in terms of pure zombie killing power. He’s been the most useful of the group not just in how expertly he handles the guns the group comes across, but in teaching others how to operate them. This new zombie apocalypse world has made Kohta useful in his eyes. So, when the demand by the “adults” at the Takagi compound for him to hand over the weapons he and his group brought with them his reaction was both understandable and quite saddening.

To survive the last couple days as a highschool student while adults around them died and became “Them” it’s jarring to Kohta and the rest of the group to suddenly be treated as children once more. While his tear-filled reaction to not wanting to go back to being a helpless otaku seemed overly dramatic it’s easy to sympathize with him. Thus, it was great to see not just for the group to have his back and support his decision to hold on to the weapons, but to see Saya do the same. The fact that she uses Kohta’s help in securing her safety a way to show her contempt for her parents for not trying to find a way to save her shows the rift between daughter and parents.

While this respite from the doom and gloom action of the previous 3-4 episodes was quite good, this partcular calm before the storm looks to be ending quite quickly as the sneak preview for the next episode show the return of Shido-san and his bus of cult followers. Plus, just when I thought Madhouse was going to cut the bus orgy scene from the manga it looks like they just kept it for the end of episode 10. Now all is right with the world.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 9 – First Impressions


yandere: A Japanese anime/manga character archetype, a character that is loving, sweet & gentle that can suddenly switch to brutal psychotic or deranged behavior

Why the quick brief lesson in Japanese anime/manga terms?

This brief lesson is due to the nature of episode 9 for Madhouse’s anime tv series adaptation of the horror manga title, Highschool of the Dead. This latest episode finally unleashed the dark secret one of the coolest characters in the series has been keeping to herself. For those who have been reading the manga on a regular basis already know of this secret, but for those whose experience of this title is only the anime this episode will open up Busujima Saeko.

The bokken wielding senior-class in the group has been one of the most level-headed in the group surviving since episode 1. Saeko never seems to panic and has shown to be expertly skilled in dispatching the unending stream of zombies with her wooden sword. Outside of the gun otaku himself, Kohta Hirano, she seems to be the one character in the group who has adapted well to the sudden and apocalyptic change in the world around them.

This episode puts her and Takashi Komuro (who is starting to gather quite the harem of hotties) on the run to find a way to the safety of Takagi Saya’s parents’ fortress compound. During their time running from the zombies to find a safe passage Saeko and Komuro get into all sorts of troubles with Saeko getting wet in more ways than one during their run. It’s during this time away from the rest of the group that we learn of Saeko’s penchant for just a bit of sadism.

A past encounter in her early highschool years convinced Saeko that she enjoys inflicting pain on those weaker than herself. This revelation becomes a huge 180 degrees from her earlier behavior. Out of the outside facade of being the cool-headed, elder student who never panics lies the heart of a sadistic yandere who has enjoyed killing “Them” with impunity. The changes in the world has allowed Saeko to indulge in her sadistic tendencies and maybe she’s in the right as it has helped her and her group survive the apocalypse, so far. Even Komuro has accepted this side of Saeko and sees it as a necessary evil in the days ahead.

The episode also hints at what could become a major love triangle (or is it quadrangle) as the relationship between Saeko and Komuro may have turned a particular intimate turn (before the scene faded to black). This episode has deftly laid the groundwork in what could become this series’ version of School Days and Higurashi no Naku Kuru ni. This new development in the series should quiet some of the nitpickers and naysayers (who still continue to watch despite their constant bitching about the series’ heavy fanservice) who wish for more character development and storytelling minus the constant oppai and pantsu shots.

One thing for sure, the anime has begun to take some liberties with details from the manga. This episode has changed the order of certain events and even changed the circumstances of how certain things occur. With four more episodes left in the season the question now is whether the series first season will end caught up to the manga (currently on chapter 26 or 27) or will it end on a cliffhanger that combines chapters 14-16 of the manga. Here’s to hoping that it’s the latter that way we get a follow-up season.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 8 – First Impressions


Madhouse’s anime series adaptation of the very popular manga, Highschool of the Dead (In Japan known as Gakuen Mokushiroku) is now 2/3’s into it’s first 13-episode season run. The reaction to the series has been pretty positive, but there’s definitely been some mixed to negative reactions to how the series’ animators from Madhouse has wholly embraced the ecchi nature of the manga. Some have even called it fanservice overload. I’m guessing they said the same about the manga when they first read it and thought the anime would tone things down.

My reaction to such criticism is “live with it”. There’s a reason why the manga has been so popular despite some long-delays from the manga’s writer and artist. For good or worse the manga and the series will succeed and fail because of it’s very ecchi nature. To expect the anime to actually tone down that particular aspect of the original manga source would be self-censorship and takes away half the fun of the manga. To continue complaining about the series because of its fanservice even this deep into the anime and still continue to watch it just speaks nitpicking and “grumpy old man syndrome”.

Now this eight episode does cut back on the fanservice after the some very heavy doses of it from the last couple episodes. There’s still enough of it that its not all about the zombies, but blatant fanservice sequences was very absent from this last episode. There are some very hilarious and awesome use of “bullet time” effects during the latter half of the  episode when the group gets trapped by an oncoming horde of zombies. We also get to see more great kick-ass action from the senior-class member of the group, Saeko Busujima, as she bokken smashes her way through the wall of zombies to try and distract them away from the main group. Takashi helps her out and it’s with his shooting and Saeko-chan’s acrobatic fighting that the bullet-time effects get put to good use.

This particular episode actually combines at least chapter 8 and 9 of the manga and it looks like the anime writers may be looking to start condensing the latter chapters of the manga into one episode. This maybe Madhouse’s way of hedging their bets in case ratings for the series doesn’t get a second season greenlit. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen and we get a second season to see the anime through right through the end. The manga is still going and with the anime series’ release it looks to gain more readers.

So, even with the naysayers dumping on the series because of the fanservice (even though they still continue to watch) I do believe the series has done well in adapting the manga. Some of the characterizations may seem a bit off as the series’ writers try to balance action, fanservice and quiet character moments, but with most shonen anime series sometimes characterizations take a backseat to what its audience want: the visual stuff whether they’re action and/or fanservice.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 7 – First Impressions


We’ve now reached the midway point of MadHouse’s anime adaptation of the popular horror and ecchi manga series, Highschool of the Dead. Has the series lived up to the original manga source it’s based on?

Having seen every episode since I will have to give that question with a resounding yes as my answer.

Episode 7 starts off continuing with the very ecchi nature of the series as we see the women in the group in some way of undress and provocatively posed while doing so. Again, I will repeat that anyone still watching this series up to this point and still complaining about the heavy fan-service are just nitpicking. If these complainers don’t like the heavy fan-service then they should’ve dropped off the series around episode 2 and, most likely, after the previous episode. By this time of the series I think anyone still watching it either enjoys the heavy fan-service or has adapted and accepted it in some way. I’m definitely of the former.

This episode is notable for it’s introduction of the very last two characters which will join our interpid group of survivors. One is the little puppy Zeke and the other a little girl named Alice. The scene with Alice and her father looking desperately for a place of refuge from the mass of undead waling the streets is one of the most heartbreaking moments in this series. Say what one will about the series’ heavy reliance on it’s ecchi half, but when it wants to start plucking on the audience’s  heartstrings it does it well. While Alice’s survival once the zombies start converging on her is not a mystery (I don’t think killing a second child in the series will happen two episodes in a row) it does show our group in hero-mode.

Takashi and Hirano are stand-outs in this episode. The former for showing some humanity and putting his life in danger to try and save Alice. The latter for contuining to be my favorite character in the series as he swings from his awkward “nosebleed” self whenever he sees the ladies in skimpy attire to the ice-cold sharpshooter when it’s time to kill zombies. I have a feeling that Hirano will be a character from this series who will be cosplayed heavily in the coming slate of 2011 anime conventions.

The rest of the episode goes by-the-numbers as the group loads up the Hummer parked in the garage with all the supplies, weapons and ammo it could carry and they head on out into the zombie-filled world looking to get across the bridges to find their families. Missing from this episode (the last couple in fact) is the villain of the series, so far. We haven’t seen the sleazy Shido-san and his bus full of followers. Does this mean that the infamous “bus orgy” scene from the manga has been skipped over or will it appear in the next couple episodes. For fans of the manga the answer better be yes or that may be the first disappointment they will have with this series.

Yes, if that’s the only disappointment fans will have with this series then it just shows how good it is that the storyline itself hasn’t been the focus of any complaint. Now, onto the second half of the season.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 6 – First Impressions


Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the the horror and ecchi manga, Highschool of the Dead, has almost reached it’s halfway point with episode 6 and this time we get an unusual balance of both those traits. The episode almost does a schizo break in and out of it’s running time. For a 3-4 minutes we get scenes of pure ecchi (softcore fanservice) that definitely panders to the puerile minds of its target audience (teenage boys and young men) which is not a bad thing, mind you. But then it’s followed up with 3-4 minutes sequences of chaotic horror.

What’s interesting was that the scenes with the student (and one ditzy nurse) survivors were all ecchi, especially the opening scene with the females in the group deciding to bathe together. Yeah, much female bathing together shenanigans ensue. This scene was lifted directly from the manga source and expands on it to the benefit of its target audience and longtime readers.

The scenes where we see the zombie apocalypse unfolding and how the horror has put both civilians and authorities on the path of breaking doesn’t involve out intrepid survivors at all. It’s almost as if this episode was the group’s reprieve before the next storm hits them which should be arriving very soon (I’d say the start of the next episode). There’s a particular scene on one of the bridges where a police barricade has been set-up that really points out the horror of the series. It involves a young mother and her young daughter (one who has been bitten). To say that this scene is not just horrific and tragic would be an understatement. I’ve always said that in stories of an apocalyptic nature one of the first thing to go was sentimentality and this sequence in episode 6 hammers on this point.

Overall, the episode was very good as usual. For fans of the manga it should be a delight to watch. For those whose experience with Highschool of the Dead has been this anime adaptation this episode may seem a tad odd in that it tries to balance both the sex and horror aspect of the series. It might be difficult for these newcomers to buy into the episode that one minute has an almost softcore, all-girl porn scene going then followed-up with apocalyptic horror then back again to softcore. Again, I will say that the series will continue to weave these two traits together and if one is still sticking with the series waiting to see if things change then they will be sorely disappointed.

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!