There’s a lot of zombie stories around, almost too many one might argue, and yet we’ve come along way from the shuffling hordes of days past (okay there are still some shuffling hordes and they are still pretty fun, but there’s other options now in our undead characters). Here are my top 5 undead anime characters chosen because while they might be the walking dead they still have an undeniable human heart.
Yes, there will be spoilers in the list below.
Number 5: Rea from Sankarea
Her human life was tragic and her becoming a zombie actually wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to her. Still, life is hard for an undead who is constantly fighting off rot as well as still having to deal with the baggage from their life. Fortunately Rea has someone standing with her as she tries to move on with her death.
Number 4: Sid from Soul Eater
A little more upbeat, Sid is a teacher as the DMWA in Soul Eater who succumbs to death off screen and returns as a zombie who at first seems like an opponent but turns out just to be still doing his job of teaching his students. Still, absolute props to Si for using his own tombstone as a weapon and despite being dead he’s still got a lot of life in him.
Another more comical pick, Ayumi dies horribly, possibly a victim of his own curiosity or bad timing, but is brought back to life by a necromancer. Despite being dead, life goes on, and Ayumi is still making the daily trudge to school and trying to avoid too much direct sun-exposure, all the while he’s on the hunt for his killer. Things take a turn for the weirder when he also becomes a magical girl and a vampire ninja moves into his house. All things considered, Ayumi deals with everything life, and death, throws at him fairly well.
Alright, so this one was a major spoiler if you haven’t finished School Live but I absolutely had to include her on the list. The teacher who died defending her students, though we don’t know this early on because we see her still interacting with one of them, and has become a zombie. Yet despite that she still in her own way is working toward helping them find what they need. It is absolutely tragic and yet beautiful and is one of the reasons School Live is such an amazing anime.
The arc of Sunday Without God where Ai travels to the city of the dead and meets their Princess is one of my favourites and my only real regret is that we don’t get to return to the city later and see how the characters are going. Hecmatika is unaware that she has the ability to kill the living and turn them into zombies being surrounded by the dead as she but even on learning the truth she accepts it. This one is kind of a cheat because Hecmatika herself isn’t a zombie, though everyone around her is.
I’d love to know: who are your favourite anime zombie characters?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Demons, Grim Reapers, and Zombies? Why didn’t I watch this sooner?
I’m wondering how much they paid in royalties for Titanic
for this one? Pride and Prejudice got a zombie version and this one is
definitely Titanic with Zombies. Not that I’m complaining. There’s an absolute
delight at seeing our favourite characters cutting loose and not taking it all
so seriously. And believe me, you can’t take this one seriously. Where Book of
Murder took a more measured tone as it built its atmosphere, Book of Atlantic
goes for sheer spectacle and entertainment.
I will admit, a good choice was to leave the other
Phantomhive servants on the short so once they boarded the ship we only had
Sebastian and Snake at hand (definitely the A Team when it comes to those who
work for Ciel). Lizzy and her family were also onboard for an unrelated matter and
we also came across familiar faces such as Grell, Knox, Undertaker and Grey as
well as the always creepy in a different sense Druitt.
With the players in place the story unfolds as Ciel is
investigating a Doctor who claims to be able to bring the dead back to life and
for whatever reason is demonstrating this on the ship. Naturally he succeeds
but the end result is a ravenous zombie that promptly bites the grieving
mother. Still, this isn’t about a mass infection but rather there was a whole
cargo hold of bodies being transported, again for reasons unclear and not
really necessary to know because this story isn’t taking itself seriously
enough for that to matter.
The Grim Reapers are involved because dead people who have had their soul collected are kind of supposed to stay dead and apparently it is a great affront when the dead start walking. So you would think the Repears and Ciel’s group would be getting along except of course the Reapers want Sebastian to stay out of it and Ciel, being Ciel is pretty determined to have the final say.
And so the story unfolds with a lot of ridiculous cutlery vs
lawn-mower and chain-saw action as Sebastian clashes with the Reapers.
All of it is highly entertaining, even if the story does
take a pause long enough for Grell and Knox to ripoff the Jack and Rose moment
at the prow of the ship.
However, the all-star award goes to Lizzy who despite her
determination to be a cute girl is forced into a situation where she finally
has to reveal that the scared little blonde girl act really is just an act. All
this means is Ciel may be the most helpless in the room but even he gets a bit
more direct action than normal taking a gun to multiple zombies. This is
certainly a bit more action focused than we’ve seen these members of the cast
before but given the circumstances it works well.
I’d also like to say that Undertaker entirely steals the
final act and it is brilliant. A character who has been on the edge of things
throughout the other series and arcs now takes centre stage and the results are
nothing short of brilliant. That said, I’m going to leave that conversation
here because otherwise it just plunges us straight into climax spoilers and I
really think you should just watch the movie.
The sound is, as usual for Black Butler, spot on. I watched
the Japanese version with English subs because I still can’t get used to
Sebastian’s English voice (it isn’t bad but I just don’t match that voice with
Sebastian and the Japanese voice is brilliant). All of the characters do a
solid job though Grell might be a little too subdued at times.
Visually I wasn’t that impressed at times with this.
Exterior shots of the boat and the mass of zombie hordes at times seemed very
basic and while the characters are beautifully detailed, backgrounds and the
like don’t really give off the sense of luxury that you would expect from the
setting here. That is probably the biggest complaint I have about this movie is
that while if this was an individual episode it would be fine, for a movie I
expected a little bit more effort on the visuals.
All and all though, if you are a Black Butler fan, this movie gives you more Black Butler, some of the best characters, some great fight sequences, and some solid character moments. It is a zombie story to be sure, but a zombie story told only the way Black Butler could do it.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Kotaro as the manager is doing a good job at fighting with Haiji from Run With The Wind for gaining the title of most obnoxious character of the season. Haiji at least has his good moments in between being a blatant manipulator whereas Kotaro here is just obnoxious in every single scene he is in. It is almost a shame that he’s voiced by someone so recognisable because I’m honestly never going to be able to hear that voice again without seeing this smirking idiot screaming into the faces of the zombie girls or being unbearably smug about doing something fairly lame.
And the reason I’m fixating on that is because very little else in this episode gained my attention. The girls are all about working together to overcome their doubts and actually practice to become idols (meanwhile they have this touching heart to heart while shirking practice to take in some sights). We get a performance that goes better than most of their shows so far and then we get dumped into what I guess is more traditional zombie horror territory but here it is played for cheap laughs and to be honest it wasn’t so much amusing as it was just a little mind boggling.
Still, I guess episodes 3 and 4 have at least established the idol tone this show is going to take, I’m just not so sure I’m up for a whole season of this. The character dialogue between the girls is very flat, the music isn’t really getting any better, and even though the girls are zombies they clearly have no interest in exploring the horror element of that, so I’m just not sure what is left for me to enjoy here.
I’ll probably give this another episode but I’m fairly certain this one is going to get a mid-season drop because I’m just not feeling it and unlike other titles that aren’t exactly nailing it for me, I’m not even overly optimistic that this one will improve as time goes on.
As much as the first episode made a splash and instantly grabbed my attention with its zany and hard hitting first scene and a follow up that was fairly surreal mostly because the audience didn’t see it coming, episodes 2 and 3 had an uphill battle to maintain that. Firstly, the surprise is lost. We now know what this Zombieland Saga is about and so far there hasn’t been anything added to the plot beyond that initial zombie girls forming an idol group to somehow save Saga. So without surprise and without any kind of overall plot we’re left with a group of zombie girls who intermittently practice and perform slightly improved routines becoming more and more idol like interspersed by Kotarou (the manager and supposedly the guy who brought them back from the dead) shouting at them or generally being fairly incomprehensible in both his motives and actions.
Needless to say, this isn’t going to be enough for this to stretch a whole season riding on the shock enjoyment of episode 1. While meeting the now awakened rest of the girls is reasonably done, and the scene where they were essentially playing catch with Tae’s head while attempting to perform a concert and it ended up being a rap battle was amusing, and even the bad CGI actual idol performance in episode 3 kind of served its purpose if you are attempting to mock idol culture and idol anime, there just isn’t enough in this show to offset the lack of direction and the generally bad writing that even the most enthusiastic Mamoru Miyano (of Steins;Gate and about a zillion other anime fame) cannot seem to elevate beyond slightly eye-brow raising.
Not to mention, any pretence of this actually being a horror got thrown out the window once we started to meet our zombie crew. In the first episode, Sakura was alone and scared and neither she nor the audience knew what was really going on. It really worked as both horror and comedy. With no suspense left, nothing lurking in the shadows, and zero atmosphere to speak of, episodes two and three suffer horribly as they need to be carried by the momentum of the actual story (which we already established isn’t up to the task) and the character interactions (which might get better but certainly aren’t amazing here).
Now it isn’t bad enough yet to declare dead in the water, but without an injection of some serious chemistry between the characters or some fantastic plot direction, this one is going to end up wallowing in its own inadequacies before someone finally puts it out of its misery. A few good and eye-catching moments aren’t enough to hold an episode together and they certainly won’t hold a show together for a whole season without something sitting behind them.
Right, so I have no idea where this plans to go or whether or not MAL labelling it as an action/horror is accurate. So far I’m getting a very horror/comedy vibe and this first episode is highly entertaining but it left me wondering what they intend to do for the next 11 episodes and whether or not this one is going to suffer from diminishing returns. That said, its a zombie story so of course I’m going to keep going for at least another couple of episodes.
Of course, that makes it sound like this first episode was disappointing which is completely untrue. This first episode is a blast. We start off with our typical high school girl, Sakura, who wants to be an idol dressing for her day at school and running out the door and immediately get hit by a car. The timing is perfect as this sequence doesn’t drag and the impact of the girl flying through the air as the music starts to play is pretty fantastic.
There’s also the fact that when the girl awakens she doesn’t seem to realise she’s a zombie. Though I think the real supernatural effort goes to her clothes and hair ribbon which somehow have survived her getting killed and being dead for ten years. Even the bullet hole she acquires just kind of seems to disappear.
Tatsumi, as the manager and guy I assume is responsible for making them zombies, might become super annoying. He has this tendency to either be really vague in his responses and explanations or to just randomly start shouting. While it could be amusing in small doses if it becomes a prominent and repeated theme it is definitely going to become one of the lower points of this anime.
However, the end of the episode where the zombies are taken to perform at a death metal open mic kind of thing, is fantastic. No rehearsal or plan, most of the girls still mindless zombies, and there they are up on stage. It is exactly the kind of train wreck you would expect from such a set up.
So yes, plenty to enjoy provided you find zombie idols amusing though I still have to wonder what the long term plan for this show is because the vague ‘save Saga’ goal the manager threw out there isn’t exactly something I can see happening in 12 episodes.
Watson, a student doctor, becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing back a human soul after his friend dies. Using his friend’s corpse, he begins experimentation using the work of Victor Frankenstein as a guide. When he is caught, he is sent on a mission to retrieve Frankenstein’s notes and then a whole bunch of other stuff happens.
I don’t watch anime movies very often but every now and then one comes out that I think I’d really appreciate watching. The Empire of Corpses caught my attention early on being set in the 19th Century and focussing on the idea of Frankenstein’s legacy having become a reality. Building the British Empire literally through the use of an army of corpses and corpse labourers is a fascinating idea and thinking about how that would change the world, and the sheer number of arguments it would cause in terms of morality, is something that I thought I’d really like to explore. Unfortunately, this movie is interested in introducing those ideas but it isn’t interested in dealing with that reality. While the first half an hour or so sets up what looks like it will be an interesting moralistic tale about the subjective rights of the deceased and empire building, those ideas quickly get swept aside and make way for a convoluted and not entirely realised narrative that exclusively follows Watson’s obsession with death and scientific pursuits.
Points therefore must be given to Watson’s characterisation. He really does follow the mould laid out in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein perfectly. Pursuit of answers and science at the expense of anything and then the horrible realisation of what his pursuit has wrought but still an attempt to justify the actions and to bring some good from what is in this case a steaming pile of corpses. If the movie was seeking only to bring the tale of Frankenstein to a new era through a story that could almost be seen as a very late entry sequel it may have even been successful as Watson’s links to Frankenstein are incredibly clear and his relationship with Friday, the corpse he has brought to life, is definitely the high light of this film.
But why stop at just referencing Frankenstein? Why not reference any and every classic work and character from the era, even when it makes zero sense to do so? Also, why restrict the story to just one location and setting when we can trot around the entire globe? Let’s deal with a former American President visiting India, the Russians attacking various groups through the use of exploding corpses, a trek through Afghanistan, skip on over to Japan where we can get some cliché culture before exploring a lab, and then we’ll just jump across to America before getting back to the Tower of London. The whole movie is so incredibly cluttered with unrealised ideas and most of them end up being fairly pointless.
The entire Russian influence is one of the most pointless aspects of the story. There are Russians attacking our main characters, but they meet with a Russian who is going to guide them to where the notes might be in Afghanistan. We’ll meet another Russian scientist who will point out the horror of the research (and in so doing will turn his actual living friend into a living corpse before having the corpse do the same to him) and then somehow this becomes the point that everyone will remind Watson about later on that they died for something. None of this ends up feeding in to the overall narrative where we end up with The One (Victor’s original creation that could talk), using Frankenstein’s notes to try to create a soul in an android and trying to transfer his own mind into the mind of Friday because apparently Friday’s corpse has been well taken care of. In case you got lost there, don’t worry, it doesn’t actually make any sense while watching it either.
And this brings me to one of the most maddening points of the entire movie. The final half an hour. Let’s just ignore the fact that they were on a quest to retrieve the notes, which turned into destroy the notes, which turned into Watson’s obsession with copying the notes before destroying the notes, and then they had to retrieve the notes when they got stolen again. Let’s just ignore that. It isn’t relevant. And we’ll ignore that midway through the story we suddenly had characters who could influence corpses by sound, either voice or stamping their foot. Why and how this works is clearly unimportant to anyone writing the story so we’ll just let it go. I’ll even ignore the fact that somehow our main group of two guys, an automaton girl and a shuffling corpse managed to get through a heavily armed military installation in order to get to the final confrontation even if that doesn’t end particularly well for the corpse and the girl as they end up at the centre of the whole thing.
What I won’t ignore is that until this final part there was an attempt to at least make corpse technology look like a technology. Out of place in the time period technology, but technology. This final sequence forgets all of that and instead we suddenly have green lights floating about and random blue crystals growing over things as organ music plays. It is all visually spectacular and all completely fantastical gobbledygook with no grounding in anything that could be considered reality even within the reality constructed by this movie. It is like they just ripped up their own rule book and went for broke. Including, after one of the character cuts the power, smashing some keys on an organ manages to repower up the device momentarily. I’m really willing to suspend disbelief during a film, particularly one about reanimating corpses in the 19th Century, but there is suspension of disbelief and then there is swallowing bull and this movie crosses the line far too much in the final sequence.
Not to mention, even after it is all done and we get an aftermath, the story only deals with Watson and Friday. We do not get to see how the world has changed after the night the corpses that were relied upon as labourers went crazy and the sheer mass murder of civilians. You would think that there should be some significant social reform going on but why bother letting the audience know about any of that. It’s clearly just background noise.
Anyway, I bought this film on sale and I’m glad of that because full price would have been asking too much. I’m also glad I watched it with someone because the two hours would have felt really long if I didn’t have someone to help me make fun of the sillier moments in the narrative. Not to mention it was nice to know it wasn’t just me losing track of what was going on at the end. It just does not make sense.
So do I recommend this?
That’s tough because I know I’ll probably rewatch this next year at some point. It is bad, terrible in fact in terms of story, but there’s enough ideas and the like here that I wouldn’t mind another watch. It also looks really good with some great atmosphere. Not to mention, its a zombie anime and I like bad horror stories. So, no, I probably wouldn’t recommend it but it isn’t a completely unwatchable, fling the disc out the window kind of movie. That’s not exactly high praise but its the best I can manage for this one at the moment.
Thanks for reading.
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There will be some spoilers for School-Live and Shaun of the Dead in this post.
While my initial thoughts on this post were sparked by watching School-Live, I will admit, the question of zombies has been one that has been rattling around my brain for awhile. Not that that’s surprising given the prolific nature of zombie movies, TV shows, video games, and books and my love of terrible horror (and the occasional good horror story).
So what is the question?
What makes something a zombie or a zombie horror?
That seems like a really silly question given, as I already mentioned, the vast number of stories that feature zombies. In the last ten years you’ve barely been able to blink without a new zombie story being thrown in front of your face.
While some people will argue that this is an over-saturation of the market and that zombies are now pretty boring (and they aren’t entirely wrong), what they miss is that a zombie is not always a zombie and with a vastly over saturated market writers are becoming more and more innovative in how they present their version of a zombie filled future. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t entirely limited to zombies. We’ve seen the same thing occur in super hero movies. So many super heroes and the movies are all the same? Time for a gritty reimagination. Then again, zombie movies were always pretty gritty and depressing so I guess we’re doing the opposite in that some of these shows and movies are having a bit more fun with their zombies.
I do find it interesting that both werewolves and vampires had their make-overs done nearly two decades before zombies though I’ve noticed some modern vampire shows are starting to dump the romance angle and are heading back into actual horrific territory. It would be interesting to see the lore come full circle and more of the ravenous beasts and less of the cool beauty for awhile.
However, let’s focus on zombies. Specifically zombies in anime.
If you want classic zombie silliness with some fan-service and not a lot of plot (unless bouncing breasts count as plot) you can’t go past High School of the Dead. It will give you exactly what you expect as the teenagers go from frightened students to armed and dangerous literally hacking their way through anything without a pulse that moves. The zombies in this story are as stock standard as they come. They shuffle and walk in mobs with limited to no intelligence demonstrated and are only to be feared because of sheer numbers and the fact that normal injuries don’t dissuade them. Go for the kill shot or run.
There is nothing noteworthy about the portrayal of zombies here except that it seems decidedly old-school considering the zombie movies of the time were adding in zombies that could sprint, jump, and generally seemed to work together in a terrifying manner. Seriously, zombies that can move quick are unfair and 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later (not to be mistaken with 28 Days that deals with drug addicts and not zombies – though you’d be forgiven for that mix-up) took the fast violent zombie angle to new levels of terror. It was probably the first time I genuinely jumped watching a zombie movie.
Of course, the standard commentary that both High School of the Dead and 28 Days Later incorporated was the question of ‘who is the real monster?’ Both show that the human survivors are frequently more terrifying than any virus running rampant. I will note here that zombie stories have kind of moved beyond using zombie culture as a metaphor for consumption and consumerism which is kind of nice even if that particular metaphor is still pretty apt at times. Instead questions of identity and what makes a person a human float to the surface but never for too long because there are zombies to kill.
Then we have the story that decided to play zombies for laughs: Is This A Zombie? And the question had to be asked and I had to rewrite my title for this post because originally that was my question about zombies in general but given it is also the title of one of the examples I was discussing that just seemed confusing. Despite the comedic nature of the show, you are left wondering what actually does it mean to be a zombie in this story?
Ayumu is definitely dead. He died and was brought to life. He is pretty indestructible (a fact which is played for laughs many, many times) though is weak to sunlight. Otherwise though, he has his memories, his personality, everything about him is pretty much unchanged. There’s no shuffling mindlessness and apparently no concern about him infecting others (mostly because he didn’t become a zombie via a virus or contamination but rather due to a necromancers magic).
What this does is makes us re-evaluate the term zombie. Because prior to the movies, older zombie lore was more about a zombie being made. The idea of rapidly spreading infection and bio-hazards is a far more recent entry into the genre even though it is now the standard.
Still, a comedy play on a zombie doesn’t really allow for much discussion of the genre because any idiosyncrasy can be laughed off as part of the humour of the story so we’ll move on to School-Live which is mostly what brought me to this topic.
School-Live has your slow moving and shuffling zombies that seem to swarm at times and infect others through a bite. The spread of the virus seems pretty rapid considering how slow the zombies seem to move but I guess once they had numbers on their side there was little normal civilians could do if they got themselves surrounded. What School-Live does that is different from High School of the Dead, other than far less fan-service (though they didn’t remove that aspect entirely) is that the survivors don’t become fearless zombie killers and the zombies themselves seem to retain some memory of their former life.
I was kind of reminded of the joke in Shaun of the Dead when the son is trying to convince his mother to abandon the step-father because nothing of the man he was remained and then the step-father in question leaned forward in the car and switched off the annoying music. It was played as a joke but it raised a significant question about the moral implications of bashing the brains in of a zombie if it still had a personality and an ability to think. And Shaun of the Dead took this further where at the end of the movie we see the two main characters (one human and one zombie) playing video games together in the shed. It really makes you wonder about all those zombies that were ruthlessly mowed down and how many of them could have learned or been saved and whether or not living chained in a shed is actually considered to be living.
School-Live raises this question early on when the zombies are noted to follow the pattern of their previous daily routine. They rock up to school during the day and seem to ‘go home’ at night. Sometimes the boy zombies seem to be ‘playing’ soccer. Basically the zombies seem attracted to places and things of significance during their life.
However, it is with Megu-nee (the teacher) where this question really becomes important. We have the obvious encounter between one of the students and the zombified teacher where the teacher does end up biting and infecting the student. So we know that the zombification does in fact over-ride some of the basic instincts of the human they were. And we have the student unable to defend herself because she likes that teacher and can’t bring herself to kill her (kill her again?). That’s pretty standard. However, the presence of the teacher in the sub-basement, the note book that was clearly written in after the teacher had ‘died’, all of this hints at a life after death that is more than just being a mindless monster.
The dog also demonstrates this point where even after becoming a zombie (and zombie dog is really cute even though he is terrifying) he ends up protecting one of the girls from a zombie attack.
If further evidence of this theme of zombies that think needed to be given in the show, they then get the zombie students back out of the school by telling them that school is now closed and it is time to go home. Seriously. They make this announcement over the school speakers and the zombies all just kind of leave and go home.
In a genre full of spectacular and bloody murder, such a clean solution to a zombie crisis seems crazy and yet it kind of changes how you look at every other show about zombies and what is driving the zombies. In many films and shows it is clear you couldn’t interact with a zombie in this way. You would be dead. They don’t respond at all. But others? Even Resident Evil attempted to domesticate the zombies throughout the films despite miserable failure at doing so.
So my next questions are for you:
What are your favourite zombie shows/movies/books?
And which classic monster needs to have the next make-over? (My vote is for mummies.)
Thanks for reading.
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The School Live club are a club that live at school. They sleep there, they eat there, they attend classes there, and they check the barricades to make sure they are alone there. Yes, this is another zombie story however School-Live decides to combine the cute girl genre in anime with zombie horror and the results are kind of interesting.
I started watching this after reading D’s initial impressions when they watched the show about two months ago. I’ve also posted my episodic thoughts previously so if you are interested check them out, but be aware of spoilers if you read beyond the first post.
As I said above, I initially started this anime after reading about it on D’s blog. I’d heard about it before but never paid a lot of attention. The art for it with the cute girls in school uniforms (even if they were hanging around a decrepit school room) just didn’t really leap out and say it was a must watch.
I mean, you’ve got all your cliché’s in one. The pink haired and bubbly girl. The tough girl who is actually really sweet and loyal. The conservative girl that ends up being used for fan-service way too often. And then the serious leader type girl who acts like everyone’s big sister. Throw in a cute puppy and there you go.
Then again, it is also a zombie anime. I don’t know about you, but if I were taking bets on who would survive a zombie apocalypse, group of cute girls in a high school with a puppy wouldn’t be my first pick. Even after watching the anime I’m still not convinced on this point. Given only one of them actually ever even carries any kind of weapon for defense (until the very end), and one of the characters seem perpetually stuck in her own fantasy land where normal classes are continuing and all her friends are still alive, you kind of have to just accept the basic premise that these girls through a series of coincidences did survive and for some sort of reason the school seemed prepared to house survivors in the case of a zombie outbreak. They never really get back to that point though so if you are after a full explanation of the reason why you will walk away disappointed.
My overall thoughts after watching this anime are that I absolutely loved it until the half-way point. The first six episodes were brilliant. The direction, the way the reveals were handled, the characterisation, everything just worked. There were some really clever choices made and there was suspense, laughter, and enough creepy horror to keep you completely engaged even during the more mundane meal sequences and playing around the girls got up to.
Then we went into the second half. Three of these episodes kind of just focussed on the cute girl aspects and they kind of lost the suspense and mystery. The show that had balanced its elements nicely (or at least in a way that was highly entertaining) suddenly seemed to throw itself far too far toward the cute girls hanging around a school mode. These episodes dragged and just didn’t hold my interest. Even the direction, which had been exceptional earlier on, kind of became fairly ordinary during this sequence of episodes.
Then the final three episodes switched again and went into full blown zombie horror. Admittedly, as a bigger fan of horror than slice of life and cute girls, I liked these episodes much more but that unique feeling where these two aspects were working together that had been so prominent during the first half of the series was gone.
I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of mysteries about the school and about the zombie outbreak that will never be solved. That isn’t a deal breaker for this show. This show isn’t looking at a government response to the outbreak or following a group of scientists or someone involved in the release of the virus. This show follows four high school girls just trying to live (not just survive). The distinction between living and survival comes up a number of times throughout the series. Sometimes it is addressed carefully and subtly and other times it just kind of smacks you in the face (Kei leaving Miki behind in the mall being one of them).
Because of the characters we are watching and their limited knowledge and limited access to knowledge there’s a lot we’ll never know about this world, and that’s okay. This story is built on tropes. Audiences know what cute girls in high school should get up to. These girls take a field trip, visit the library, do some gardening, have a sports festival, and camp out, a pool party, and more or less anything else you would expect from that sort of story. Audiences know what to expect from zombie horror. There’s been an outbreak. Does it actually matter why? Unless the story is focussed on finding a cure, I’d say probably not.
Yet, that reliance on the audience knowing the genres is also a weakness in the story.
And we’re plunging headlong into final episode spoilers so please bail out now if that’s an issue.
Toward the end the girls learn that the highschool was prepared for a zombie outbreak, including the possibility of a cure for the recently infected being hidden in a sub-basement. This essentially tips the hand of the remaining plot (what little there is) as one of the four receives a bite from a zombie. Not because she was overwhelmed but because of who the zombie had previously been and her inability to bash the brains out of a former friend (another issue the story touches on that I’ll get back to). Admittedly, this character getting bitten had been foreshadowed far earlier when she’d made the leader of the group promise to kill her in an instant if she got infected. Seriously, raise a death flag much.
Rather than actually follow through on the promise, the girls work together to get the antidote that essentially serves as the most convenient deus ex machina ever given why does this exist? Why is it in the school? Why isn’t there more of it already made if people were expecting and preparing for a zombie outbreak? It kind of kills any tension or suspense for this final sequence of events.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t something there though.
Delusional girl has finally snapped to reality and realises her friends are in big trouble because there are zombies. Turns out though that even when she’s in the real world, she has some interesting ways of viewing things. Instead of going gung-ho zombie killer, she makes her way to the school announcement room (or whatever it was called) and essentially tells the zombies she knows they love school but it is time to go home. And they leave.
This is probably the best thing School-Live does in the second half of the series. Even in the first half the girls had observed that the zombies seemed to be repeating events from their life, drawn to things they liked or did, and certain zombies in particular seem to act to protect things. This idea of zombies not being entirely brain-dead and having some part of their original personality isn’t new, but it is kind of interesting and throws a whole moral spanner in the works of shows where zombies exist only to be mowed down in interesting and violent ways. I’m going to touch on this later in an actual feature post rather than getting into that discussion now.
Alright, I’m done with spoilers.
Basically, this anime works incredibly well. The first half is superior to the second in terms of cohesion, tone and suspense, but the second half isn’t exactly a train wreck. In fact, it manages to pull out some great character moments, asks some interesting questions, and while the ultimate resolution isn’t perfect there really wasn’t any other way for the show to end given the initial premise.
I’m glad I spent some time at school with these girls. I’m glad I watched it all the way through. I’ll probably do a rewatch someday and I think that despite my issues with the second half that this is an anime worth checking out.
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There’s a lot I want to say but most of it relates to the overall series and I’ll save that for my series review of this. On these three episodes I did have some disappointments, but episode 10 did have a massive shift from the slice-of-life cuteness of episode 9 and we went into fairly full on zombie horror. However, it is in these three episodes where the delicate balancing act between cute girls/slice of life/zombie horror derails because amazingly enough you can’t satisfy everyone with your ending and this show already made it clear it was landing firmly on the side of cute girls dealing with zombies rather than a zombie story with cute girls in it.
So the end is serviceable enough, doesn’t resolve the mystery they started unearthing in the second half and doesn’t give us any real narrative resolution even for the girls. They graduate (or rather hold a fake graduation ceremony) and head off for hopefully another shelter (given the state there’s is in after these episodes). And that’s it.
Certainly there’s been character development and Yuki has finally faced her reality. All of the girls have grown a bit though most intriguing are the questions raised about whether the zombies are conscious or not and of course that line of thought doesn’t get any kind of answer. Nor does the emergency vaccine in the basement seem to have any purpose or explanation. Nor does the sudden hostility of the zombies other than they don’t like being out in the rain. You know, it works well enough but after the first half of this series I really wanted more.
Anyway, as I said, I’ll save a lot of that for the series review. I’m still glad I watched this series and even these episodes have their moments.
After such an incredibly strong and interesting first half, I guess it was inevitable that something would falter and these three episodes kind of bring a lull. It isn’t that things aren’t happening here but the focus after the reveal has definitely been on the cute girl aspect of this show. Cute girls writing letters and thinking of their future and cute girls messing around in a water tank (swim suits part two for the season).
In honesty there is nothing wrong with this. The characters are in a horrible position and they are making the most of it. There have always been these cutesy moments and they add to the enjoyment of the horror because you actually see what these characters would have been like if, you know, zombies hadn’t taken over.
However, I’ll swing my focus to the new mystery brewing and I’m less enthralled by it than I was over the question of whether the teacher were alive or dead. That mystery was clever and felt really genuine whereas this current one feels like they are over-complicating their plot and that its going to make it very hard to stick the landing in a satisfying manner. Essentially, the non-delusional girls in the club have been wondering about all the conveniences of this school that make survival even possible and with the discovery of a key they unearth an emergency evacuation plan for staff that kind of indicates that whoever was running the school knew a zombie plague was coming.
If you don’t tell me how the zombie outbreak started, I genuinely won’t care. Somehow, somewhere, an infection started and now we have zombies. These girls are just kids trying to survive. It makes sense that they don’t know why that happened or who started it so an audience member I don’t need to know either. However, if you try to tell me a high school was involved in some sort of national or global conspiracy involving biological agents and you are pushing my ability to suspend disbelief. They might still do something with this that I can go along with but I am now kind of worried for where the last three episodes are going to go.
I’ve really enjoyed watching this but I am hoping that it manages to end well. And by well I mean horrifically but that’s just me.
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