Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day Fifty-four - High School of the Dead: Episode 1 - Spring of the Dead, or "Sex, Violence, and Despair... ain't it great?"

Let's face it... we're still in the Zombie Renaissance. For almost a decade now, and perhaps beyond, Zombie films have been chic. Most recently it was Warm Bodies and, coming soon, Max Brooks' World War Z is getting the A-list treatment courtesy of Brad Pitt.

I think, maybe, it all started with Zack Snyder's remake of the classic cult horror flick Dawn of Dead, changing the social satire of consumerism of the original into a bleak survival scenario with a simple alteration. The slow, plodding zombies just weren't scary enough... he made them fast, running and devouring with the force of madmen.

But maybe it wasn't Zack Snyder who started the Renaissance... maybe we could trace it back two years before his remake to Danny Boyle and Cillian Murphy with 28 Days Later... the zombie movie that wasn't a zombie movie, where a "Rage" virus turned everyone infected into brutal murderers who didn't care about brains or consuming the flesh of living, just vicious homicide by their own hands, snuffing out all non-"Rage" life.

Hmm. Something to think about, but not really why I'm blogging today.

I was in the mood for some anime when I woke up this morning. Unfortunately, the catalog on Netflix is kind of light. There are actually quite a few quality series that I'll no doubt be watching over the year, but they're all Americanized and dubbed. What I wouldn't give for an agreement between Netflix and TVTokyo or AT-X to get the hundreds of shows the studios produce on a yearly basis, quality or no, subbed and streamed.

I long for Hyouka to make it to these shores.

Still, I was in the mood for something anime but not in the mood for the likes of Full Metal Alchemist or Darker Than Black. I needed some fluff and while, at times, both of those could fit the bill, I also wanted some fan service that didn't really pull punches when it came to content.

For that, I chose High School of the Dead.

Basically, it's a zombie survival series set in Japan where a group of high school students and teachers, the grand majority of them voluptuous babes, with cup sizes to make even Americans blush, and all of them with the will to survive at any cost.

Of course, it makes sense for the lucky few who manage to make it through the zombie apocalypse to be the ones with the physical and mental fortitude to live by any means, but it does stretch credulity that they would mostly happen to be peak specimens of the female form.

It's pandering, and I cannot deny it.

I mean, you get bouncy breasts on the order of a Dead or Alive game from the start, and it doesn't take long for the low angle panty shots to dominate the frame, be it on the lead survivors or the nameless lolitas who are doomed to be eaten by the exponentially growing horde of the undead.

Yes, it's crass and gratuitous, but... it fits, somehow. It's sex appeal meant to draw in the base male brain and it works. It also serves to contrast the death and destruction as society breaks down immediately and bosom buddies betray each other during the moment of truth.

I especially liked those opening minutes when the outbreak spreads to the school. What could've been a protected area with high walls and a reinforcable gate, possibly with enough supplies and blunt instrument weapons to beat back the horde, falls to the simple arrogance of a staffer who abuses a walker trying to get in. The PE teacher gets bit and that's all it takes.

There's also the matter of language. Thanks to all the sex appeal and violence, there was no way HSotD was going to get a G or PG rating. It's TV-M at the very least, so the dubbing team decided to preserve the language. High schoolers actually sound like high schoolers again, cursing as much as I did when I was their age. Yay!

I also love how they lampshade the fact that they're in a zombie film/series by referencing that their situation really is like the movies (bites kill you and turn you, blows to the head are the only way to stop the walking dead, etc.). It's hilarious and a bit on the nose (I'm looking at you, Gomez), but worth it to have the nod. One of the tropes I hate in most zombie media is how long it takes for survivors to fight past their disbelief and experiment with the cultural myths to find a movie monster's weakness. Doesn't take long here and that's a boon!

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of progress in this series. This single episode only covers the outbreak and lingers quite a bit on running around the campus trying to find a safe place only to have one of the first trio get bitten. There's too much drama surrounding the love triangle and not enough time and effort given to the other characters who will eventually form the main party with the two who are up on the roof living out their own version of Twilight.

Heh, I kid, this trio shows MUCH more acting talent (and facial movement) than those other teen horror movie folks.

Still, it's sex, violence, and the existential angst of surviving in the zombie apocalypse. What more could a guy ask for when it comes to fluff? Maybe a little less death and a little more sex, but, oh well.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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