Before the recent boom in supernatural fiction, I never really thought much about the undead. Sure, I’d hacked my way through my share of animated skeletons and zombies in many an RPG, but they were just sort of incidental monsters, the sorts of things you get thrown at you in the early levels of a game.
Since Zombies became The New Big Thing, however, it’s been hard to avoid them.
In the last few years, I’ve watched “28 Days Later” and “Shaun of the Dead”. I read and quite enjoyed Mira Grant’s “Feed“, was somewhat less enthusiastic about Marvel Zombies, and I own a copy of the Zombie Survival Guide. I’ve played games that took the whole zombie thing very seriously, games that take a bit of a lighter look at the living dead, and games that use the whole zombie apocalypse thing as an excuse to have half-naked girls running around with Big Damn Swords.
And yet I’ve barely scratched the surface of the whole Zombie genre of fiction, because I’m honestly not seeking it out – if I WAS seeking it out, I could probably spent every hour of free time on zombie-related activities.
Speaking of zombies as an excuse to have girls running around without many clothes on, I spent a few hours recently watching last year’s “Highschool of the Dead”, an anime which at first glance seemed designed to cater to the fetishes of, respectively, zombie porn, gun porn, and plain old porn porn.
Actually, it seemed that way at the second, third, and fourth glances too. It centers around the struggle for survival, post-zombie-apocalypse, of a group of five high school students and their school nurse, with a male:improbably proportioned female ratio of 2:4, who manage to live through the infection of their high school and escape to find that the entire world is full of groaning hordes of flesh-hungry zombies.
Through one contrivance and another, they stumble into a massive cache of military weaponry and a humvee – I’m not spoiling anything that isn’t in the opening credits, here – and spend the dozen episodes getting chased by zombies, killing zombies, dealing with the living who have used the whole zombie apocalypse thing as an excuse to shed the veneer of civilization and get with the murdering, finding the occasional refuge that is inevitably overrun…
You know, normal stuff for the genre. There are a few tropes of the genre that seem mandatory in any treatment of the subject, and HotD does its best to hit them all.
I was also ready, four or five episodes in, to point out that it reused animation an awful lot – one episode runs through a 8-9 minute recap of What Has Come So Far before you get to any new animation, and in a show that’s only 24 minutes long and has to include an OP, and ED and a preview of next week’s episode, 8-9 minutes is almost half the episode.
Fortunately, the excessive reuse more-or-less stopped after that episode.
Toward the end, it gets quite a bit better. With 12 episodes, it’s able to cover the main tropes, get the flounce and bounce out of the way and then get on to some actual character exploration and thinking about what it is that allows us to stay “human” in the face of extreme adversity.
Of course, that’s about when it ends. Now, while the ending is actually a decent ending, rather than the “wow, you guys better hope we get to make a sequel” ending that has been rather prominent in recent years, it still somewhat grates that the producers could spend 12 episodes not really answering any of the questions that the story raised.
We do find out in the next-to-last episode why one of the main characters had to repeat a grade of school. That’s something, I guess.