Author of the zombie apocalypse novel Rotter World and The Vampire Hunters trilogy. Author of the short stories "Last Flight of the Bismarck," "The Hunger," "Rednecks Shouldn't Play With Dead Things," "Cruise of the Living Dead," and "Deck the Malls with Bowels of Holly" (think zombie reindeer).
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. Slashing action, stunning animation, and jaw-dropping excitement make HIGH SCHOOL OF THE DEAD the most hotly anticipated event of the year.
We’ve all been there. You stumble across a movie you have never heard of before, take a chance on it, and then wonder where that little gem has been hiding all your life. This was the case for me with High School of the Dead, an anime series from Japan. I was introduced to this movie by a dear friend who was trying to expose me to the world of anime and knew it would appeal to my love for zombies.
High School of the Dead is based on the manga comic strip by Daisuke Sato titled Academy Apocalypse (Gakuen Mokushiroku). The movie centers on five students and a school nurse who are among the sole survivors when a zombie apocalypse known as the Outbreak ravages their campus. They make up an unlikely band of heroes. Takashi Komuro, a seventeen-year-old second-year student and the head of the group; Kohta Hirano, the class geek whose esoteric knowledge of firearms comes in handy when the group find a stash of weapons to defend themselves from the living dead; and Takashi’s “harem” (in anime, that refers to a coterie of women who all have the hots for the main character): Rei Miyamato, who has loved Takashi from childhood, even after he bashed in the head of Rei’s current boyfriend after he was infected; Saya Takagi, the sexy brains of the group; Saeko Bushujima, the quiet and intense third-year student and an expert with the bokken (wooden sword); and Shizuka Karikawa, the busty school nurse whose only talent (besides jiggling through twelve episodes) is her ability to drive.
As the survivors soon find out, fighting their way through classrooms swarming with zombies and watching their friends become school lunches for the living dead is not the worst of their problems. The group’s best chance of survival is to make their way across a zombie-ravaged Tokyo to the compound of the Takagi clan (led by Saya’s father), an ultra-nationalist district leader who runs his protected enclave like a prison camp. The only thing between them and sanctuary is a city overrun by the living dead, an ineffective and hapless government bureaucracy unable to cope with the crisis, a populace rapidly devolving into savagery, and a megalomaniacal teacher from their school who wants Takashi’s team to join his personality cult of terrified, brain-washed students.
High School of the Dead is an action-packed zombiefest that provides more than its far share of gut munching, gunplay, and gore. The plot flows in a logical progression, as does the character development. A group that would never interact with each other under normal circumstances, the apocalypse forces them to work together if they want to survive, to put aside their petty jealousies and emotions, and, in the case of the students, to mature. However, in moments of relative safety, they are still teenagers. For anime fans, the movie provides plenty of fan service (“fan service” refers to female characters dressed in skimpy outfits, up-skirt shots, and bouncing boobs – and I’m not complaining about that one bit).
One word of warning: The movie does have a slightly ambiguous ending, and although it can stand alone, the viewer does get the impression that there may be more. This is because the graphic novel on which the movie is based is still in publication in Japan. The graphic novel is still popular so, with luck, hopefully we will see a High School of the Dead II.
This is a must-see movie for all zombiephiles. I give High School of the Dead five out of five rotting zombie heads.