Anime Reporter studies hard for High School of the Dead, the post-apocalyptic manga series written by Daisuke Sato.
It’s easy to look at the titles of this series or glance at the covers and assume that High School of the Dead is about the troubles of being a teenaged vampire or where ghosts learn how to be ghosts. Those assumptions would be completely wrong. High School of the Dead is a bloody, gruesome, gritty tale of survival when the inevitable wave of zombies (generally referred to as “Them”) arrives, with a fairly hefty helping of large breasted females and some pretty regular nudity and explicit content.
Despite the title, the series spends very little of its time in a high school, though that is where it begins, bringing together a bunch of terrified students and one or two members of the faculty who make a bid for freedom while the world goes to hell around them. Our intrepid gang must make their way across their once familiar city, trying to reunite with loved ones, contending with the occasional waves of walking corpses to overcome and more than a few encounters with survivors who abandoned all civility astonishingly quickly before turning to indecent assault and attempted murder.
Some of the main characters to pop up in the narrative include Takashi Komuro, the effective leader of the group for little apparent reason other than looking like the stereotypical manga group-leader, Saeko Busujima, a fierce and adept samurai-like character who carries a wooden sword with her wherever she goes. Kohta Hirano seemed to have been regarded as something of a geek before the dead began eating everyone, but suddenly everyone’s happy to know the guy who knows everything about guns and ammo. Hirano comes into his own in a big way, even if he does occasionally get a little carried away with his gun-love. Shizuka Marikawa was the school’s nurse, but with no known medical treatment for a zombie-bite, her role is reduced somewhat to driving and providing comic relief which regularly involves her incredibly large breasts.
Each of the characters has their own personality and drives, without ever really falling into anything deeper than the standard team tropes from the resilient leader, the stern warrior and the somewhat arrogant genius, everyone’s personality is pretty much a case of ‘what you see is what you get’. This is not the weakness it could be however, as the series employs an excellent sense of humour, taking the opportunity to rebuke itself any time it uses a manga cliché even to the point where characters find one another’s back stories to be too convenient or generic. There really is a lot of entertainment and comedy throughout the pages of HOTD and it manages to strike a keen balance between these moments and the darker, more twisted tones it adopts as the story requires. These darker moments include some pretty insightful glimpses into what humanity is like when civility is stripped away.
Particular praise must be given to Shouji Sato, the artist for the series who manages to render each scene in an appropriate and effective style. Humorous scenes are given a lighter, more simplistic style, while scenes of violence are often given very graphic levels of detail. Sato’s backgrounds are intense and instantly manage to convey the dread of an oncoming horde of “Them” or the eerie emptiness of an entire city devoid of life. His artwork also includes a large amount of gratuitous up-skirt shots, overly ample breasts and more nudity and suggestive poses than the plot could ever really require, though it could be argued that this falls under the tongue in cheek, manga-parodying which the series employs.
Comprising just barely over 7 volumes and a total of 30 chapters, High School of the Dead was put on hiatus apparently permanently, just a few years ago. For this reason, the story is currently without a satisfying climax, but it remains a solid example of zombie-apocalypse story telling with plenty of nudity, violence and humour to cater to a wide array of fans.
High School of the Dead is available in English print from Yen Press and is well worth taking a peek at. If only there was more of it!
Likeable Characters: 7.5
71% – “Will Be Missed”– High School of the Dead is a wonderful take on a genre that just keeps coming back. If zombie-apocalypse stories are past their prime in your eyes, then you could probably take or leave this manga. If however, you haven’t quite had your fill of flesh eating corpses, this is well worth a look.