High School of the Dead Episode 2

Episode 2: Escape from the Dead

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: Episode 1

Director Tetsuro Araki

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

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.

Episode Summary

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.).

Screen Capture Gallery


Nodame Cantabile Finale Review (TV)

DirectorChiaki Kon

Animation ProductionJ.C. Staff

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)

Genre – Comedy, Drama, Romance

Spice and Wolf Season 2 Review (TV)

DirectorTakeo Takahashi

Animation ProductionBrain’s Base

Brain’s Base is getting a lot of attention now with the excellent Durarara!!, but before this have done some other well-regarded series such as Baccano, Kurenai and the first season of Spice and Wolf. If anything Spice and Wolf is an interesting premise for a show that on the surface seem dull. With Brain Base’s excellent ability to craft a story they are able to make the life of a merchant trader in the medieval times full of drama and suspense. The second season of Spice and Wolf continues the same formula with merchant Kraft Lawrence and companion wolf god Horo going town to town making high risk trades. In this season there is an overall plot of Horo wanting to return back to her home town of Yoitsu, but this doesn’t happen in S2 so expect at least another season in the future. In fact in this season there are really only two arcs each 6 episodes which surround two different towns and trades.

I found that one the biggest draws of the show for me was the medieval fantasy setting. Seeing the architecture, churches, roads and the lifestyle in this time period is always interesting. It is all beautifully animated and has great detailed still shots every so often (some included in the screenshot gallery). Unlike other shows with a fantasy setting you get a different perspective of the period as you are following a merchant and not a warrior. You get a view into the lifestyle of merchants which is full of bartering, relationships, tricks and opportunities. In particular you get a good sense of the mind games that are played between merchants. For example they talk about future contracts in episode 4 along with some basic economics principles and market manipulation.

The romantic element of the show involving Lawrence and Horo is genuinely played out with enjoyable dialogue and dynamic between the two. Lawrence is less awkward this season as he has more confidence and ability to make quick comments and remarks.

Overall an enjoyable show, nothing that stands out as unbearable but also nothing spectacular.

Rating – B+

Year – 2009 Length – 12 Episodes

Genre – Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Bakemonogatari Review (TV)

DirectorTatsuya Oishi

Animation ProductionShaft

Bakemonogatari is a spectacularly stylish and eerie series similar in tone to other atmospheric shows such as Ghost Hound and Paranoia Agent.

Based on the light novel by Nisio Isin, Bakemonogatari (lit. ghost story) is about Koyomi Araragi, a final year high school student, who deals with supernatural beings. After recovering from an undead state as a result of a vampire attack, Araragi has retained the ability to quickly recover from any physical harm. He now works with Oshino Meme an expert on vanquishing the supernatural. The 12 episodes involve Araragi’s encounter with different spirits that have inhabited other humans.

The supernatural spirits manifest in people as a result of some deep emotion problems, for example we first are introduced to Hitagi Senjougahara, who has become nearly weightless. Araragi discovers this when he catches her while she is falling down stairs at school (some really long, winding abstract looking stairs). Senjougahara for some reason is also able to hide a multitude of stationary which she uses aggressively to keep her secret and to make her point she jams a staple onto Araragi’s mouth. This serves as an introduction to the supernatural elements of the show and the recovery power of Araragi. The great thing about Senjougahara’s character is that there are many layers to her and as the series progress we learn that she is an emotionally scarred but independent girl lacking social interaction until meeting Araragi.

The animation style of the show is very interesting as it uses a range of different colours, frames of view and abstractions. It is very artistic in the way all of this is brought together as it keeps the viewer engaged since the show is mostly conversations. Something that is distinct in the show is that during the conversations, a frame of animation with text on a single colour background will pop up sometimes related to the emotions going on or something seemingly unrelated and random. Eerie real life footage also shows up, cementing its attempt to be abstract and adhere to a modern art style. Some episodes like the first use black and white, shadows and a sepia tone while others are colourful. The show rarely seems bland animation wise and this is probably due to the fact that you rarely see other characters except those you are introduced to. It is very clear that a lot of care went into the animation to the extent that every frame tries to do something intriguing.

One of the few problems I had with the show involved the moe characters in a few of the episodes. They might have tried to be humorous and ironic but it was painful to watch. The other attempts at humour were more successful making use of awkward pauses, weird situations, bending cliché’s (usually by adding over the top violence), and unexpected turns in conversations. One final thing to mention is how well it ends, the final episode is surreal for 3/4 of the episode and then ends in an absolutely heart warming conclusion. Shows rarely pull off a satisfying pleasant ending but Bakemonogatari does.

Rating – A

Year – 2009 Length – 12 episodes

Genres – Mystery, Supernatural, Romance, Action, Dark Comedy

Note: There are an additional 3 web only episodes that I haven’t seen yet.

Nana Review

nana tv season 1 black stones

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

Director Morio Asaka

Perfect mix of music, romance and drama.

The Japanese television animated series Nana is adapted from the popular manga by Ai Yazawa and is produced by Madhouse Studios. Morio Asaka known for his strong portrayal of female characters excels with the source material and does the best directorial work of his career so far. Nana is an intertwining story of two girls named Nana in the world of music in Japan.

Out of all the shojo/josei Anime that I have watched (i.e. Nodame Cantabile, Honey and Clover, Paradise Kiss) this is my favourite. The music, character design, art direction, and writing are all excellently put together. The standout is the music starring Anna Tsuchiya and Olivia which are a step above in quality of anything else in Anime. The deep punk voice of Anna Tsuchiya fits Nana well and the opening theme “rose” is my favourite in Anime of all time. The iconic punk culture of Japan is well represented in the character design and clothing.

A strong aspect of this Anime are the relationships explored between all of the character. The essence of friendships and romance has been allowed to develop and progress throughout the 47 episodes. The most emotional developments involve Nana the lead singer of the Black Stones as she deals with problems of vulnerability, loneliness and dependence on others. The problems that arise in a group of people in a band who are always together are highlighted. The other Nana, also called Hachi, has her own problems surrounding her relationship (as an outsider) with the band members as well as in her love relationships. The changing relationship between the Nana’s is ultimately what drives the show.

There is no excuse for not watching this. If you have to watch one shojo Anime this is the one;  if you already are a shojo fan then my strong recommendation should come as no surprise.

Rating – A+

Genre – Music, Romance, Drama Length – 47 Episode series Year – 2006-07

Adaptation of  the first 12 volumes. Second season is expected to happen once the manga has been completed (currently on volume 21). Available on DVD and iTunes. Two live action movies have be released and cover roughly the same volumes (surprisingly well done and worth watching).

Nodame Cantabile: Paris Review

nodame cantabile paris opening

Animation ProductionGENCO, JC Staff

Director Chiaki Kon

Nodame Cantabile still continues to be as charming and uplifting as the first season

The second anime TV series of this popular property moves on from Japan to France where our two main characters Chiaki and Nodame begin to make their mark on the international stage. Chiaki continues to pursue his conducting career and Nodame studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. Chiaki Kon takes over from season 1 director Kenichi Kasai.

Expanding on the strengths of the first season we see the growth of the relationship and musical talent of both our leads in entirely charming and enthralling ways. Along with this the sense of humour has been retained with the eccentricities of Nodame as the source of the comedy. The new location also introduces a whole new cast of characters and provide a different view of aspiring musicians of different nationalities.

While watching this second season the reason for my admiration for the show became clear. Each episode ends on a completely upbeat and uplifting note. The creators have been able to weave the world of classical music, which is not very popular among younger generations, to a modern audience and keep them captivated. The music has always been good but in particular the ending theme stands out, it is sang in French by a Japanese.

It is a short season but the 3rd season coming out this year (fall 2009) which will be a direct continuation. This is a highly recommended series for any person remotely interested in music.

Rating – A

Genre – Music, Comedy, Romance Length – 11 Episode series Year – 2008

Currently not licensed in the US, Adapted from manga