Sometimes, when you put two good things together, you get something great. Like putting chocolate and peanut butter together and getting Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. On the other hand, sometimes you put together Anime and Zombies, and get Highschool of the Dead, a series where the result is less than the sum of its parts.
Highschool of the Dead, is, as you might imagine, is the story of a group of highschoolers who band together to try and survive the Zombie apocalypse. There, series synopsis. Oh sorry, you want more detail? Well, since their names are so flinging-flanging hard to remember, there's Cool Guy (main character), Dumb Girl (his bestie who he can't understand why a pinky promise in kindergarten doesn't mean they'll be together forever), Mean Girl, Kendo Girl, Fat Guy, and Dr. Boobs (didn't even make that one up, Mean Girl calls her that once or twice).
- Decent Action Sequences. Despite some rather...umm...dubious matrix-style bullet dodging sequences, the action in HotD is rather respectable. There's some fun and inventive zombie squishing, from Fat Guy's hallmark custom nailgun to Kendo Girl's training sword of doom.
- Less Gore Than Expected. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty, but unlike a lot of other recent Zombie flicks, it wasn't for its own sake. There was some gore, sure, but not, largely for shock value. It was just there when it was supposed to be. It's hard to explain, but it didn't get to the point where I thought it was needless.
- Kendo Girl. Okay, so her name is actually Saeko. She's one of the better characters in the series, and I managed to remember her name, do I get a gold star? It's funny to see someone who is actually portrayed as sensible in a zombie series, because even among the other survivors she seems out of place. Also, her skirt is long enough that you aren't constantly panty flashed. I consider this the hallmark of a classy gal.
- Fan Service. Was this made by Gainax or something? There's so much bouncing and gratuitous underwear shots in this that it made me wonder. At one point even the otherwise levelheaded Kendo Girl starts walking around in just an apron. Seriously, guys, this is not practical Zombie-crisis attire.
- Names. You might have noticed that I had difficulty remembering character names. More than other anime series, even. This is partly because they have long names, partly because they use different versions of each others' names during dialogue, and partly because you just don't care much about some of the characters.
- Rei Equals Zero. I might be wrong, but I believe Rei means zero in Japanese. I know they also say zero to mean zero, but anyway. Dumb Girl's actual name is Rei, and when the group gets a dog, Fat Guy names it Zero. Seems like naming the dog the same thing as a girl in your party might be a bit...devisive.
- Meanders. A big chunk of the story of this seems to just kind of wander around. The party just bumbles from one encounter to another, and right when they get to a do or die moment, there's a Deus Ex Machina which hauls them to their next, coompletely unrelated, segment of the series. This might be the main issue with this title. It sort of wanders for a good bit, then it ends in a bit of a shrug. There's just no real investment in the fate of the world after the last episode.
This is a series that should have amounted to more, but ended up rather disappointing. Sort of like when two Nobel prize winners have a kid who turns out to be a pothead or something. There are a lot of decent dramatic elements woven in which never amount to anything and some decent romantic entanglements that go nowhere. Even much of the background story is compelling, like the nuclear strikes and the Joint US-JSDF Navy missile defense. Sadly, not much is done with the story after that point.
Unfortunately, I don't recommend this one very highly. Despite some excellent features, it simply feels unfinished, and like they just dead-ended too many story threads for no purpose.