High School of the Dead Episode 4: Running in the dead
This is a recap episode for the first half with the second half focusing on Rei and Takagi as they make their way to the rendezvous point. It is definitely way too early to be showing a recap of the past events but it is well cut and over fairly quickly. They show the timeline of events interspersed with some cuts to present time. There are also some nice backgrounds of a zombified Japan such as shots of a ramen restaurant and an a wrecked beamer. And we get a quick scene of Mr. Shindo as her continues to be a psychotic perv. capitalising on the fact that he is in charge.
In the second half of the episode Rei and Takagi as they travel to meet up at the police station come across a crashed cop car slammed into by a truck. Rei salvaged the cop’s gun and show some her knowledge with weapons (as the daughter of a cop). Next they stop to fill up on gas, in Japan some of the gas stations are self-service where you have to enter cash or a card before you can fill up. They are out of money so Takagi goes into the store and fulfills a fantasy of many by smashing open a cash register with a baseball bat. Meanwhile a crazed survivor sneaks up on Rei and holds her hostage.
Overall it was an alright episode, pretty pointless but there are some parts worth watching. It is heavy with emotions of Takagi reflecting on the events of the past 24 hours telling us a bit more about the characters and their state of mind.
Episode Summary: The zombie pandemic has been confirmed as having spread all over the world. In the U.S. the white house has been evacuated to a naval warship, Beijing is ablaze and Paris & Rome are a disaster with mass lootings. In London the authorities are doing a better job at maintaining public safety while no one has heard anything from Moscow. Everything was alright in the morning highlighting the fact that it has spread over the world in a matter of hours. The nurse brings up that the pandemic is akin to black death in 14th century or the spanish flu but much more deadly. They also speculate whether the zombies will decompose after a few weeks in the sun but aren’t sure if normal rules will apply to the zombies. On the plus side they do confirm that the zombies only react to sound not sight or smell.
As they make their to the bus they pick up another group of survivors who are clearly not as zombie ready as our lead group. One of then cause an echoing sound that attracts all the zombies in the school to their location. When they reach the bus another group of survivors rush to them including another teacher Mr Shindo. Rei immediately shows her disgust towards Mr Shindo and unsuccessfully tries to urge them to go ahead with out him. Why does Rei hate Mr Shindo so much? There are definitely some history between them but his first action in the show sets up his character, as he is guiding his group of students to the bus one of them fall and all he does is a foot to face saying “that’s it for you“.
They all get on the bus and leave the school and soon after Mr Shindo tries to take charge to become group leader. Here is where the democracy in the episode title comes into play. Mr Shindo is voted as leader with the majority of votes. Rei can’t handle this and gets off the bus, Takashi follows and a runaway bus full of zombies crashes near them. They get separated from the bus and plan to meet up at the police station at 7pm later in the day or at the same time the next day.
The end of the episode involves the best part of the series so far (for me), a crazy awesome encounter occurs with a motocycle helmet wearing zombie. I don’t know why this was so awesome to me but let’s hope there are more moments like this.
The second episode of H.O.T.D. introduces us to the full cast of survivors at the school as they find a way to survive and escape. The show is sticking to the classic zombie action genre, having a whole bunch of characters with different strengths and weaknesses defeating zombies in interesting ways as they aim to get in contact to their family.
Full cast of characters:
Kohta Hirano: The fat guy of the bunch is an otaku military gun hobbyist.
Saya Takagi: Pink haired arrogant A student, the brains of the group.
Saeko Busujima: Captain of the Kendo Team, has adapted the fastest and the most level headed of the group.
Miss Marikawa: Blonde ditzy school nurse, age wise the adult of the group but her personality is not suited to a leader role. The medic of the group.
In addition to Takashi Komura and Rei Miyamoto introduced in first episode.
There are quite a few cool moments in the episode in terms of the ways they defeat the zombies. Hirano and Takagi stock up on improvised weapons in mechanics room where Hirano modifies an air powered nail gun for stability and accuracy. Takagi later uses a hand drill in desperation to take down a zombie. Takashi uses a fire hose to clear the zombies on the roof. Saeko uses her bokken to deliver a quick blow to the head which seems to kill them without taking off their head.
Takagi does some experiments to learn more information about the zombies finding out that they only react to sound and are blind. They are not sure yet if they are attracted to heat sources.
Episode ends with them barricading themselves in the teacher’s office. Their plan is to take one of the mini buses and go to each of their homes to see if their family are there. On the TV is a news broadcast about the outbreak, they mention that 10,000 are dead in Saitama, riots are occurring everywhere and that emergency defensive measures are in place. And of course in well versed zombie movie tradition the newscast is interrupted by a zombie attack.
High School of the Dead (H.O.T.D, strange abbreviation but that’s what the show uses) is a Madhouse produced show directed by the relatively young director of Death Note (TV) Tetsuro Araki. He has almost solely worked on horror/thriller shows and with H.O.T.D he directs another show adapted from a manga. But unlike the serious Death Note, H.O.T.D seems to be a light action horror with unnecessarily high amounts of risque fan service. It’s the typical shameless fan service in Japanese animation showing scantily dressed women and highlighting it at every moment they get. I was put off by this as I didn’t expect this from Madhouse but after some research I found the reason for this. The original artist of the manga Shoji Sato is the founder of Digital Accel Works a famous doujinshi circle. I’m going to stick with it for a few more episodes to see how things progress as I’m mainly interested in how the Japanese tackle the popular zombie genre in modern times.
Starts in a Tokyo high school, the lead character Takashi is looking down at the closed school gate where a man is clawing at the gate. Teachers go to see what’s the problem, gets bitten and starts the outbreak at the school. Takashi rushes to his classroom and takes her former girlfriend (Rei) and her current boyfriend (Hiroshi) out. they head to the observatory on the roof. As this happens a speakerphone announcement happens partly until the announcer gets attacked, huge panic occurs and the rest of the school evacuates. The school is in immediate chaos and full of zombies. The types of zombies are the shambling kind with super strength. If you get bitten there is a delay until you turn into a zombie and if you get killed you immediately turn. The only way to stop them is the traditional smash of the head. Takashi is carrying a baseball bat and Rei is carrying an improvised lance. When they get on the roof we see that the whole city is affected. The JSDF is shown briefly as they fly by in their Blackhawk helicopters. End Spoiler: (They barricade themselves on the roof but Hiroshi was bitten on the way. Hiroshi dies, turns into a zombie and has to be taken out by Takashi with his bat.).
The thrid and last season of Nodame Cantabile brings an end to the anime adaptation of the popular manga series with a pleasant and reassuring conclusion. Continuing on from the second season Nodame and friends are nearing the end of the education at the Conservatorie de Paris and begin the harsh transition from education to career. This is while Chiaki continues his ascent in the music world as a young and upcoming conductor. This season’s most poignant aspect explores the coming of age topic of reaching your dreams and the tough path you have to take to meet them. Nodame goes through a crisis of sorts unsure of her future in music and her relationship with Chiaki. Like the last season the series may have lost some of its wacky humour but it is more than adequately replaced with character development and romance.
The core of the series has always been the music and again we are treated to some grand classical music. The series has always done a good job of explaining the background and history of each piece. Each major piece performed is explained musically in terms of what is going on and is matched thematically with what the composer tried to convey. It really does give a different appreciation of classical music that was written hundreds of years ago. As someone who played a classical instrument for 4 years and quit abruptly it made me regret not sticking with it.
While the animation series has ended I believe the manga still continues on with the story. There is also a live action drama for those who aren’t ready to leave behind the characters of Nodame Cantabile.
Rating – A –
Year – 2010 Length – 11 Episodes (24 minutes per episode)
After the excellent 2006 movie “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” Mamoru Hosoda was a man to watch in the Japanese animation industry. Given a larger budget he set out to create a summer blockbuster with the appropriately generic name “Summer Wars“. It’s a summer blockbuster in every way in terms of the film’s budget, marketing and broad appeal which instantly should have signalled that it was not going to be like his comparatively indie classic “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time“. A blockbuster approach doesn’t necessary have to result in poor plot and character that are overshadowed by the action but in the majority of the cases this is what happens. “Summer Wars” does exactly what it sets out to do trying to appeal to the broad Japanese audience which from my view (an Anime fan outside of Japan) was never going to impress me. I was bitterly disappointed that it is not as good as his brilliant previous film but it is a different type of movie that sets out to do precisely want it wants, enjoyable for the 2 hours but there after completely forgettable.
The premise of “Summer Wars” surrounds high school math wiz Kenji Koiso who takes on an unusual job offered by fellow student (Natsuki) who is from a large prestigious family (descendants of a warrior clan). Natsuki initially tells Kenji his job is to come to Ueda to help with Natsuki’s Grandma’s 90th birthday. But in reality his job is to pretend to be her girlfriend as she promised her ailing Grandma she’d bring her boyfriend the next time she visited. This is all just to conveniently set up Kenji to be in the right place at the right time. The internet has evolved into a true virtual world called OZ which controls the real world (traffic, gas, water, and even over military weapons) and has become a business hub, and essential for the functions of the government. An A.I. has taken over OZ by hacking and controlling user accounts causing havoc by messing with important services all over the world. There is definitely a need suspend your disbelief (especially if you know anything about networks and security) which might turn off some people but to the general audience they have no idea that this is pretty ridiculous situation. Kenji has to try and get rid the A.I. as he is surrounded by a family who have strong ties to OZ and the problematic malignant A.I.
The implausible plot is my main problem with the film which just escalates as you watch. The ridiculous ending, let’s just say it involve playing cards, was the peak of the problems. The characters were my other problem with an annoying cop the worst culprit. Everything else is fantastic, which definitely does allay some of the problems. The animation is amazingly detailed with vibrant and lively colours of the countryside contrasting with the virtual world of OZ. There are really some great backgrounds and sequences showing us the beauty of Ueda’s countryside and life. Like “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” there are some humorous moments but nowhere near as hilarious. Also this is the first time I so clearly noticed embedded advertising of well known products in an animated movie (i.e. NDS, Sony monitors, iPhone).
Ultimately it’s a techno thriller that has been done better elsewhere. It treads familiar ground and doesn’t do much more than what it aimed to do as a summer action blockbuster. It is still worth watching with some redeeming qualities but mostly because there is shortage of decent big budget Japanese animation movies.