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Highschool of the Dead 12. Huh? It’s over already?

September 21, 2010 18 comments

It’s not right!

For such a gripping series to finish, their world only half-explained, after only twelve episodes, it’s just not right. I protest! No doubt there will be a sequel—some day, but I feel cheated, like a delirious promise made to me was not kept. Twelve episodes, bah!

A bright light from the sky that isn't the sun is never a good thing.

To make it worse we get a great finale. We start with the nukes. The Japanese shoot down three of them but one gets through and causes an EMP blackout. Nothing electrical is working. Right when Shizuka had gotten through on a cell to Rika. Well, at least they know the other is alive. In this show that’s a big thing. But overall it’s a minor inconvenience to our heroes. A slightly bigger one for the Takagi compound as Shido’s bus’s brakes won’t work and he slams into a barrier (and, alas, not dying), letting the you-know-whats in. Soon they’re at the main gate.

The aforementioned main gate.

The Tagaki clan has to make some decisions and we return to the family issues Saya has been dealing with. I still don’t quite understand them. In the past couple episodes Soichiro has gone from being a autocratic, cruel, uncaring man to one who will take care of his duties at any costs, and he has gained respect for Takashi and the rest. But Saya, I guess, is not one of his duties since he gives her to our heroes for protection. It seems cruel, but it’s possible he recognizes their strength and the bond she has with them. When she leaves with them he says he now has no worries.

Saya's parents in action.

Apart from the brief Shizuka/Rika phone scene this is about the only quiet moment in the episode. The rest is action and setups for more action. Highschool 12 outdoes itself with the action scenes. They’re incredible. It’s all guns, katanas, last-minute escapes, humvees riding on two wheels … Each character gets a moment. Alice even saves Shizuka!

All of which makes me hate the series even more for finishing too soon. There is so much to explain! How do the zombies find people to eat (because they hinted that sound isn’t the only thing)? What the hell happened, anyway? How did they appear all over the world like that, all at once? That’s annoying enough, but the show didn’t even get a chance to flesh out all of the main characters. Shizuka did nothing but act stupid and flash her body this entire time. She’s a nurse, yet she didn’t get to treat anyone … well, Rei did mention she would see her about her injury, but that happens offscreen; besides, she was more sore than injured. The closest thing to character development for Shizuka, besides having Rika as a friend, was her breaking the fourth wall to say “That’s the way the author made me.” I had been waiting to learn more about Shizuka. I never got the chance.

No, this can’t be the last of Highschool of the Dead. You just can’t quote T.S. Eliot and call it a day. Besides, who was the girl sneaking through the closing credits? So, bitter that the first series wasn’t 24 episodes long as it should have been, I guess I’ll start to wait.

One more of Kohta.

Elevens: Highschool, Yakuindomo

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Another episode of Highschool of the Dead where no one whacks a zombie. Instead we get characters talking, decisions made, and Shido’s brief and ignominious return and departure. Oh, and some fun at the end, if you can call it that.

Each main character gets a scene and then we move on. We don’t see the aftermath of last week’s little crisis. Apparently Takagi was impressed enough that Kohta and his weaponry are left alone. But we get some spillage when Saya confronts some adults who claim the zombies are still alive, that it’s a disease and they shouldn’t whack them. It’s an interesting question, actually. But Kohta makes the argument that the adults are living on fantasies because they can’t handle the truth. They want the hope that the world can somehow get itself back together. And really, when a zombie’s about to bite you what ARE you supposed to do? And that’s it for those characters this episode. Next it’s Saeko and Takagi doing some bonding and sword-giving, and the thought that Takashi’s heart might waver too much to be an effective leader, which leads to Takashi and Rei’s nice scene which expands on the topic. As for me, I’d choose Takashi to lead for the same reasons Rei does: sometimes he wavers but when it’s important he leaps to the right course of action. Besides, I’d prefer a leader who sometimes doubts himself and listens to council.

Nice talking by everyone. Too bad Shido has to show up. He’s still got his cluster of fanboys and girls—well, most of them, because he sees no problem with sacrificing a member when he feels like it. And what the hell has he been doing to them? It’s like they’ve got a perpetual orgy (or pre-orgy, since everyone’s still somewhat dressed) going on in that bus. It’s one of the things in this scene that doesn’t make sense. When he’s allowed into the Takagi compound Rei immediately freaks out and threatens him with a knife. We learn the reason: Shido made her flunk a grade to disgrace her father. Fine, so why didn’t she react like when they first ran into each other early in the series? And what’s with his reaction when she decides not to kill him? He had just played a “you’ll live with the guilt” card, she turns away … and he gets upset. He ought to be happy. “He’s not worth my time” isn’t the best comeback I’ve ever heard. Never mind. He is ordered to leave along with his students. You think they would have rescued them and done some reverse brainwashing. What I’m most sorry about is he still hasn’t been eaten.

To top off the episode we get a glimpse of things to come. Looks like everyone’s in for a lot of fun in the last couple episodes. So to cheer us up a little:

A rare moment of goofiness.

It’s pointless to describe Seitokai Yakuindomo 11. I’ll list the gags and post screenshots of various reactions. Let’s see … Kotomi tries to study, Takatoshi conducts a mock HS entrance interview, Takatoshi slept wrong, Aria has a small mouth …

Takatoshi gets ink on his fingers, Takatoshi tries to yawn, Hata interviews Mitsuba, it’s windy, students hanging around after school, Kaede brings a report, Suzu is short, Suzu overhears two weird conversations, Suzu is short again (appparently this is the Suzu block), Takatoshi sets up a kotatsu. Then a subset of jokes around cleaning the office: a cleaning spray which turns into a commercial …

This joke wasn't bad.

Watching a magical girl show, cleaning behind things, Takatoshi gets bossed around, they clean windows. Then we move to Aria’s vacation house for Christmas festivities: Exploring the house and acting childish, a present exchange that includes a vibrator, the girls play a board game, more vibrating presents, it starts to snow, Santa shows up and gives a vibrator. Uh, that’s it.

I'm with Suzu.

Tens: Highschool, Yakuindomo

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Highschool of the Dead 10 doesn’t bring us much wild action, only one zombie gets decapitated, yet the team still finds itself threatened.

Safely behind gates, in the womb of the Takagi family, it looks like they’re in a good spot, . But maybe that opportunity to rest and think is the thing that allows some of them to start to fall apart. Especially brittle Saya. This is her home and obviously an emotional minefield for her. When they meet to talk over what to do next it’s she that explodes first, and she has a point. The Takagi empire moved quickly to save and protect their workers—all except her. You do have to wonder why such an efficient and powerful organization behaved like this and whether it’s a good thing to stay under their protection. And earlier Saya’s mother told Takashi that they’ll only taking in people who are prepared to survive. As opposed to our heroes, who risked their lives to rescue a helpless little girl.

As for the rest of them, they’ve lost their freedom to act. We see it early on when some adults reject Takashi’s offer to help carry a box: “Let the adults do it.” And other staff see Kohta’s caring for his weapons as a a kid playing with toys he doesn’t understand. To give it a further twist, Soichi, Saya’s father and head honcho, arrives with a caged zombie who used to be a friend. He cuts off its head before his people to demonstrate something that any sane person had already figured out by this time, a demonstration of both practicality and his autocratic power. Saya, meanwhile looks at the beheading with disgust. Again, is this really the best place for them?

The Takagi empire can't inspire this kind of loyalty.

So they can remain there in a gilded cage, grow soft (Takashi’s fear), and let the grownups make the decisions, even if the decision might not be best for them, or they can leave. In the back of my mind I wonder how long the cage can even hold up. It looks safe for now but sooner or later they’ll run out of power or supplies, and the zombies are still everywhere. Saya and Saeko hint at this possibility. These questions are put on hold when some of the men try to take Kohta’s weaponry away from him; in this relative paradise he’s in danger of becoming an ineffectual fat nerd all over again. The rest of the team rush in to defend his honor. Saya gets in the zinger at her father: “Unlike you, he has been protecting me!” Alas, we’ll have to wait until next week to see what happens. We can assume they will eventually escape, and that Saya will be with them. But the previews suggest that Shido is going to have a hand in it as well. Damn, I was afraid he’d be back.

Seitokai Yakuindomo 10 starts in an elegant room with the music of flute and harp, and a demure nurse named Dejima, and it’s not fooling me a bit. Sure enough:

And off we go with more straight gag formatted lack of action. Hand injuries. The gang go to Aria’s mansion to hang out. Student Council budget reports. Career advice. And, er, other things that went by without thought. They bring back a segment called “You Tell ’em, (character name)!” Originally for Suzu, they add new ones for Kaede and Hata. And while it’s all stupid, we get a moment of non-sequitor when Hata points out that her segment overlapped with Kaeda’s, leading to three unknown boys shouting in disbelief. I actually laughed. This show is actually rather good with non-sequitors.

You KNEW they'd have a chocolate banana booth scene.

After that we get more of the same, except this time it’s the school festival. Let’s see, a dramatic play with dubious dialogue; the chocolate banana booth mentioned above plays out as we expect, then they move to a popsicle stand for an encore. Takatoshi’s asides are very effective this episode, in fact, in one scene, after the advisor says something I won’t repeat, Suzu looks around, begging Takatoshi to show up and say something. Andophobic Kaede serves the boys tea from long distance. Then we get the obligatory single, sane moment, where Shino invites Takatoshi to the bonfire dance, leading him to conclude:

This was the second not-bad episode in a row. Sure we get the dirty punchlines, in fact, they’re getting dirtier, but the show’s improved its timing and free use of sight gags, such as love-struck Mitsuba seeing Takatoshi in a sparkly pretty-boy mode, which makes him look disgusting. Just a little bit they added to liven things up. In other words the show’s not as tedious to watch as it used to be. Now it’s only tedious half the time.

Highschool 9, Asobi 8

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

If you’re wondering about what Saya’s mom was doing pulling off a big rescue last week you’ll just have to wait. Highschool of the Dead 9 follows Takashi and Saeko as they try to reunite with the rest after being cut off.

At first it’s simply their adventures. They find an amphibious buggy and manage to escape to a sandbank on the river. Zombies, apparently, can’t cross water. That doesn’t make much sense. More worrisome is that now they seem to be reacting to more than just noise, but the episode doesn’t expand on that. Anyway, the sandbank scene gets a little strange. Saeko is embarrassed because she’s dripping wet and her clothes are clinging (when earlier she was going around in no more than a thong and apron) and Takashi, out of the blue, asks her if there’s a guy she likes. If he is falling for Saeko it’s going to make future scenes with Rei very interesting.

Surprisingly, the episode takes off a little later, during a fight where Saeko freezes up at the sight of zombie children and nearly gets bitten. After they retreat to a nearby shrine it becomes confession time for Saeko, and we hear her story of being assaulted and injuring the man—and realizing to her disgust that she enjoyed doing so. What the sight of those zombie kids did to kick this feeling to the forefront of her head I don’t know. Takashi, meanwhile, takes on the role of confessor and hears her out. Of course, at the moment there’s nothing he can really do but comfort her. How far he goes in this is left to our imagination.

The power of persuasion, Takashi-style.


It’s in a battle the next day (again, how did the Zombies know they were there?) that Takashi snaps her out of it, practically giving a confession of his own, telling her she’s the coolest girl he’s ever seen and to please live and fight for his sake as well as her own. Naturally it works and we get a minute or two of furious Saeko action where she’s dealing death on all sides and enjoying every second of it. And they make it to Saya’s mansion. Takashi later muses that he said all that in order for them both to survive, nothing more, but he’s always thinking this way and I don’t really buy it. Everyone in this cast has shown that their instincts lean more to decency and support than to killing, Saeko’s blood-lust and Kohta’s wicked grin notwithstanding.

Next week it looks like we’ll be meeting more new people. As we’ve learned already, the living can be as troublesome as the dead for our heroes.

Asobi ni Iko Yo 8 meanders around for a while before getting down to business. As usual it has to do with the girls and Kio.

Let’s see, the cat cult plans to scale down their operation and become more of a fanboy group. We learn something about the technology behind the charms used last week. Clarke’s third law is invoked. Sadly, in fiction it’s too often used to justify such magical items because the creators didn’t want to have to think up a rational explanation. The Dog race plot their next move. Manami, Aoi and Kio go to the holodeck or whatever it is to train, and Manami sneaks off to give them time alone. Aoi takes umbrage at this and confronts her, armed with bullets that destroy inorganic matter, which, of course, is simply an excuse to …

They both have rationalizations for their duel. Aoi says Manami is slacking off. Manami think’s she’s good enough already. The real reason, which they would both vehemently deny, is that they’re fighting over Kio. So off they go to the woods, followed by Doggie agents. The tracking down by both girls is used more as an excuse for alternating interior monologues. Manami’s is more interesting. Aoi is simply a girl with a crush who’s so far too shy to do anything about it. Besides, right now she’s on a combat mission. Manami takes the time to ruminate over her lost chance with Kio, and the fact that she still holds affection for him while putting on a brave face makes her situation poignant.

A lot of gun pointing in this episode.

When they do get around to fighting it’s entertaining enough. Aoi loses (out of bullets) and is forced to call Kio Kio-kun. The doggie agents interrupt with their own attack and are easily brushed aside by more science that is indistinguishable from magic, but the episode’s story had effectively ended by then. I really wish they’d get this harem business out of the way for a while and let the aliens play a little more. Especially that alien dog that sounds like Muttley.

Highschool 8, Yakuindomo 8, and a moment of silence.

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

First, a moment of silence to honor the memory of Satoshi Kon.

Thank you.

I’ll leave it for bloggers more capable than myself to write eulogies and appreciations. Besides, I’ve seen too little of his work. I will say that Millennium Actress and Paprika are outstanding films you really ought to watch if you haven’t already. As for me, I’ve moved Perfect Blue to the top of my Netflix queue. I have some catching up to do.

Returning to the my usual beat, I’ll add that writing these little reviews on the fly like I do has a disadvantage apart from the usual sloppy editing. It doesn’t allow time for the true value of an episode to sink in. I wrote that episode 7 of Highschool of the Dead “may be its best yet,” damning it with faint praise. Rather, that episode was so good I’ve watched it a half-dozen times since then. So, er, sorry about that. Episode 8 can’t possibly match the righteous mayhem of the previous episode but it does a damn good job anyway.

The quiet was nice while it lasted ...


After we see the bitten US Secretary of State (Defense?) try to talk the also-bitten president into launching all their nukes for no reason (I love how foreigners always assume the US high command are just waiting for an excuse to nuke everyone), a scene left unresolved, the episode gets … serene. The Humvee crosses the river. Kohta and Alice sing nursery rhymes. The girls go from nearly naked to wearing an odd assortment of clothes. There’s not a zombie to be seen. “Awful quiet, Tex.” “Yeah … too quiet.” It’d be a nice, peaceful moment except we know the zombies are around somewhere, else there would be no show to watch. Sure enough, they find more and more, they get cornered, and Rei is flung off the Humvee and possibly injured. Here they come!

Now, the gaps in the fence are plenty large enough for any of them to slip through, but they don’t think of that. Instead we get a prolonged fight scene with little triumphs when Takashi manages to fire a shotgun correctly, and a lot of despair because there are just too many zombies for them to handle. And they start running out of ammo. The fence, guys! The fence! Takashi and Saeko try to lure them away but there seems to be a limit as to how far the zombies can hear. It’s well-done as usual and has the usual mix of violence and fanservice, Saeko’s dancing around the bullets being the topper. And it looks quite hopeless. (The fence! The fence!) I actually thought we might actually lose a character this week.

Mommy!

Instead we get an unexpected rescue and the first appearance of a family member. It works well. We had pretty much given up on them finding their families so when one shows up alive and well it’s a moment of joy not only for Saya but for everyone else, including us the viewers. Maybe there’s going to be some happiness in this show after all. What she’s doing there with a bunch of firemen can wait for next week.

Seitokai Yakuindomo 8 has just enough variety to keep it going, though the usual gag business runs throughout. Including the usual innocent double-entendres which don’t translate well into English.

Takatoshi is Japanese, and HE can't always figure them out.

Much of the time is spent talking about the upcoming sports festival and the events they should have now that the school has gone coed. You can imagine the suggestions. But we don’t get to the festival. Instead we get a visit from Kaede, a morals officer, who has pictures showing the student council sleeping in the same room (from last episode). Her schtick is that she’s afraid of boys.

Unfortunately, that’s all she brings to the show. There’s a non-sexual oriented scene where Takatoshi kills a bug and gets more praise than any of them have given him before. Let’s see … there’s the inevitable “Suzu is short” sketch. Oh, we get a judo match. The team is a girl short, so Shino volunteers, and wins by using grappling techniques she learned from a yaoi novel. It’s all just more of the same. Some of Takatoshi’s weary asides work, some don’t. I’ll leave it to Shino, deciding how to handicap the boys during the sports festival.

Never mind.

The hell with it. I’m going to go rewatch Paprika.

Highschool 7, Asobi 6

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Highschool of the Dead 7 may be its best yet. Not just for the action (terrific again) but for why they decide to go into action in the first place.

To start with they’re temporarily safe, resting, keeping watch, being nearly naked, and talk turns to how they can survive. Saeko says that in this hellish new world you cannot risk being brave and rescuing other people. Even the remaining living cannot be trusted. And to demonstrate we flash over to a nearby residence where a father is desperately trying to find a place for his little daughter to hide. He threatens to smash a door down, the terrified residents open it, skewer him and close the door on the girl. Here come the zombies. Highschool likes to put in at least one moral dilemma per episode. What gives this episode its extra energy is that Takashi and Kohta witness this from their balcony.

Kohta is the first to snap. The music kicks in, and soon everyone in the apartment (save sleeping Shizuka) is smiling. “We realized that we’re still human!” Exactly. The group is not simply surviving, they’re working to help others.

But rescuing the girl isn’t going to be easy. Takashi saves the girl from the immediate threat but soon they’re trapped inside the gated front yard while dozens of zombies try to get in. The stuff that comes next is almost as satisfying because of what it demonstates about the characters. Takashi shows his quick-thinking by walking ON the stone fence, very quietly, inches away from the zombies, not helped by a yappy, face-licking dog the girl has picked up. And now the rest of the team is energized and come to his aid.

I wonder if Kohta's ever had dreams like this.

Action-wise this tops the first fight, and it again demonstrates people acting like human beings. Takashi had gone off to rescue the girl. The rest come to rescue Takashi … and the girl. Again, I love to watch these characters when they team up. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and trust each other implicitly. It may be unreal for a team to bond like this so quickly, but consider how much they’ve gone through together. I could be cynical and point out they now have to protect a little girl and a yappy dog but instead I’ll look forward to what complications this brings them as they try to maintain their humanity.

Asobi ni Iku Yo 6 is a filler episode where characters split up and do different things.

Kio’s film club wants to film a SF story, so Eris is invited along. Again, I love how the people on Okinawa just happily accept the presence of aliens on their land, that high schoolers can get them involved in little projects. Unfortunately the scene doesn’t work too well. Eris doesn’t look like a space alien, the assistaroids are too cute, and the spaceship they fly in for FX looks like it’s dangling from a string. The film fails, and so does the scene. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Talking to a virtual Kio.

Meanwhile the Cathians invite Manami and Aoi to use their holodeck. Aoi wants to learn to cook for Kio, and Aoi wants to fire weapons. Aoi sticks to her plan, so we pretty much ignore her. Manami, however, can’t help herself and conjures up a virtual Kio, giving in and finally just asking him how he feels about Eris, Aoi, and herself. In spite of the “truth revealed” cliché aspect of this, last seen in Occult Academy, Manami is not pleased with his answers. Virtual Kio tells her that he lost his fear of talking to her when he thought she had a boyfriend, i.e., they’re just friends. They’ve been working this aspect of Manami for a while now, where she pines for Kio while supporting Aoi in her attempts to nab him. This episode they ramp it up, even adding a sad flashback. Even pointing out later that she was talking to a virtual Kio and not the real one doesn’t really help. Since nobody’s going to do anything about it for the time being it’s just an anchor on this series.

A couple little things. The Cathians are aware that the Doggies are on Earth (but the Doggies do nothing this episode but talk evilly). Eris is given drugs to suppress her breeding season urges, so maybe she’ll settle down for a change. Oh, the cat-cult have established relations with the Cathians. Next week I think everyone goes to the beach. Oh, joy.

Highschool 6, Asobi 5

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Doesn’t seem fair. In Highschool of the Dead 6 the world continues to go to hell. Meanwhile our heroes experience great suffering and privation.

Highschool of the Dead has something for everyone.

Of course the contrast is deliberate. The girls undress while a voice-over reporter tells us that two million are dead already. At least Takashi and Kohta are taking stock of their new weapons and discussing what will happen next. The girls, including serious Saeko, are too busy splashing around in the tub, grabbing each others’ boobs, and behaving, as one of them says, like they’re in an eroge anime series. On one hand I can’t blame them for having a bit of fun for a change. On the other hand, all hell’s breaking loose on the bridge nearby (which distracts the zombies away from them). This is where the episode’s moral dilemmas appear.

The news media has pretty much abandoned the place except for one crew. Then there are the zombies, of course, followed by terrified unbitten people, a mob who is blaming the pandemic on biological weapons, and the poor police in the middle, who have been abandoned by their superiors and told to do whatever they can. We get a scene where a child zombifies and bites his mother, who is zombified, and the cops shoot them. You can understand why Tokyo’s Finest feel a bit stressed out. Their chief orders a bulldozer to plow down everyone, undead or alive, then shoots himself.

Meanwhile, back in paradise ...

So for the gang it’s a chance to rest, cavort and reload. The outside world can go to hell without them for one night. Takashi and Rei have another Hishashi argument which nearly turns erotic. Saeko prepares food while wearing nothing but an apron. It’s getting clear that Takashi could have a harem if he wanted. It’s the first episode where they don’t have to smash anyone’s head in. It could be the last for a while.

Asobi ni Iko Yo has been known to pander, too.

In this episode we conclude, I think, the kidnapping story arc involving the Kitty Paw cult. The Doggy force also gets involved, and we get a lot of Manami and Aoi in tiny swimsuits. Again, at least they’re wearing something. It’s not terribly interesting. I think it’s because the cuteness doesn’t mix in well with the action.

The cuteness they do have is mixed in with forced pathos. While Eris and Kio relax on the yacht (while the others are busy planning violent rescues, or simply violence—rather like the situation in Highschool this week) Kio notices that the cult’s leader Antnia doesn’t have any friends of her own, just a lot of money and servants. I immediately worried that there will be a lecture about this from someone, and I was right. Though it cheered me up a little that after Kio finishes the lecture Antnia doesn’t break down and sob but simply says “Oh, your right. Sorry about the trouble.”

The action stuff isn’t bad. It’s complicated by the fact that the armed speedboat Aoi needs is in the hands of a flaming movie director, but that’s only to add to the cheese factor and to get the girls into something more revealing. A more entertaining diversion is the attack by the Doggy people, which undermines the cult’s attempts at taking down Aoi and Minami. There’s a bewildering battle in the ship’s bowels, still scratching my head over that. Kio puts on Eris’s powersuit, adding cross-dressing to the fanservice list. The assistroids do their assisting all over the place. I rather like them. So in other words, it’s people all over the place having all sorts of battles. Again, not bad. But this time the cuteness doesn’t do its job of dropping bits of absurdity in serious situations.