Panty Shots & Zombies

I enjoy zombie films, but regarding the zombies themselves? Not so much.

From a literal standpoint, I don’t really find a shambling, brainless mass of meat and bones to be very scary. But a zombie is a lot more than another monster that goes “Boo!” in the dark. What the zombie can represent is fascinating.

The first zombie hit was none other than the classic Night of the Living Dead. Black and white, placid and crude by modern standards, the film isn’t what most of us would consider scary. Appearances, however, betray the brilliance of the film. At its core, Romero’s movie is about the breakdown of traditional power structures. Released in 1968, it was so easily identifiable with much of the strife afflicting contemporary American society, i.e. the Vietnam War, civil rights, the disintegration of the nuclear family, etc.

28 Days Later is another great zombie flick, but not just for its literal representation of the zombie. Yes, the zombies are faster now and everything’s a little gorier thanks to 21st century film technology, but that’s honestly the least interesting aspect of the movie. It’s much more important, instead, to wonder why the zombies are now fast and wonder what it means for the zombies to be infected with a “rage virus?”

The film opens with a chimp being forced to consume violent images. In the film, we get a very clever critique of viral media; the movie toys with the notion that the zombies are fueled by a media-born “rage virus.” Didn’t William S. Burroughs once say that language is a virus? In 28 Days Later, we see a similar idea played out to catastrophic results.

So finally, we come to Highschool of the Dead (I guess I’ll reluctantly spell “highschool” as one word). Although the adaptation is being handled by Madhouse, it’s not hard to see how zombie with an anime twist could go so wrong. What can schoolgirls, panty shots and hyperbuoyant breast physics do for the zombie genre? What can be said about babes with big guns and fat nerd wish-fulfillment fantasies beyond simply how trashy it looks?

Looks. That’s the key word above.

I’ll be honest — I’m not crazy about the anime from a literal standpoint, but like other zombie cinema, Highschool of the Dead is palatable for reasons beyond the expositional details.

The zombie infection first begins in the story when a man in a business suit pounds against the gate of the school. We immediately see the division between school and the rest of the world. From a certain angle, the school gate looks like a prison bar, but who are the prisoners? The dichotomy most overtly portrayed here is the separation between adulthood and childhood. It can’t be a coincidence then that the first zombie in the narrative is a salaryman. After all, which adults are the likeliest in Japan to dress in such a fashion? It also isn’t a coincidence that the first people to be infected were also adults.

In the mass hysteria following the first few zombie attacks, the students’ immediate reaction was to escape from the school at all costs, but that is where they erred. The danger lies on the outside; the danger is an impending adulthood and yet they’re trying to escape from school, a childhood santuary. It is as if they reject adulthood, but think that they can change it from the inside. Similar to the like-minded Battle Royale, a misguided attempt to escape authority will often turn former friends against each other.

From the school roof, the main characters observed the destruction of Japanese civilization. Modern society becomes pointless and meaningless not because everything has fallen to chaos, however, but because the zombies are so regimented like the adults they represent. The death of Japan is the death of the human soul, i.e. the death of free thought and creativity. Adulthood is the death of the childish imagination.

The zombie’s purpose in life is to survive. They survive by mindlessly hunting for food. A great zombie is simply one that hunts for food better than other zombies. I am reminded of my parents’ derisive reaction to anything that didn’t help me get into a good school and thus land me a well-paying job. For a lot of us, just getting by is often the only important goal in life. Some of us endlessly slave from 9 to 5 just to put food on table and for what? To do it all over again the very next day. They can’t afford to indulge in anything else if they want to avoid starving to death. They can’t escape their position because they are the lumpenproletariet. How different is this from a flesh-eating zombie bound by its natural instinct to obey nothing but its inhuman hunger for human flesh?

And thus our heroes are schoolchildren. Kids with “frivolous” interests in the spear martial arts club (those exist?!), kendo club, in guns, etc, and you can be certain that it is these qualities that will aid them in surviving the zombie apocalypse. It is only in their childhood fancies, in their selfish individualities, that allows them to stand apart from faceless horde. There’s an unreal, video game-esque quality to the anime. They even run in a nice RPG formation in the screenshot above.

The heroes are those concerned with more than just their hunger, which brings me to the final point: all the fanservice. The first episode alone is littered with nubile teen girls bouncing their ample bosoms and baring their long legs, but notice that the zombies don’t really give a shit about any of that. They just want to consume flesh. In a regimented world where the only concern is surviving until the next meal, sex becomes a tool. In a zombie outbreak, it becomes even more useless. It’s only in childhood that we can afford to dally about with concerns about romance and the enjoyment of sex.

Of course, adults enjoy sex too, but it is often not professional to do so. It is often hidden behind closed doors and hushed away with a single finger. Sex in Highschool of the Dead, however, is out in the open. It is one of the few things left to enjoy. It becomes something humanizing to cherish in the face of the mindless drones of zombies.

So final word… did I enjoy the first episode of Highschool of the Dead. Yes and no. Despite all that I’ve just said, it still looks really trashy, but in the end, I’m curious to see how the rest of the story plays out. I guess I’ll keep watching for now.

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18 thoughts on “Panty Shots & Zombies

  1. frog212

    Your looking way too deeply into this. The show is trashy plain and simple and just another means to give fanservice to the viewers.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Your looking way too deeply into this.

      I didn’t, actually. It’s not like the show is even subtle about its subtext.

      Reply
      1. Ryan R

        I agree with frog212.

        I also think that you’re reading too much into this. I daresay that you’re projecting your own personal opinions and viewpoints unto this anime, when the people behind the anime really doesn’t care about that at all.

        Furthermore, some of your viewpoints really make me wonder, E Minor. You’re against fanservice, but you think its cool to have sex “out in the open”? Do you mean discussion of sex, or the actual activity?

        If it’s the latter, that seems a bit odd to me.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          I daresay that you’re projecting your own personal opinions and viewpoints unto this anime, when the people behind the anime really doesn’t care about that at all.

          death of the author, the reader(s)’s viewpoints are just as valid as the creator(s)’s, etc and so on. everything written on this site has and will always take that into account. clearly, this is not a popular form of critique among the general anime viewing populace, but unfortunately, i can’t preface every article with a summary and defense of roland barthes.

          Furthermore, some of your viewpoints really make me wonder, E Minor. You’re against fanservice, but you think its cool to have sex “out in the open”?

          fanservice is hardly sex and it would be rather reductionist to equate the two in any substantive notion, but i’m not going to quibble about it here because i’ve long since abandoned the idea of maintaining this blog daily, weekly or even monthly. and i don’t think anyone would care to read it anyhow. if somehow, you stumble upon this reply, we can agree to disagree.

  2. gorgeglish

    I think ‘highschool’ as one word makes more sense, given its pronunciation. If it has to be two words, I’d rather just say secondary school. Didn’t watch the show.

    Reply
  3. additer

    It depends on how you perceive the show. If it would be only meant to offer fanservice than the gore/horror parts would be so well constructed. Some say it’s trash, some loved it – everybody must understand it.

    Reply
  4. 2DT

    I have yet to watch this. But the way you describe it reminds me of Dawn of the Dead, and how the zombies in that film go to the mall and promptly resume their consumer-zombie habits.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: High School of the Dead 1 – Zombies. *crowd goes wild* « UNMEI KAIHEN

  6. Anonymous

    I think the analysis is good. The same people who are saying not to overthink it would also discuss the merits of Night of the Living Dead, which Romero specifically said wasn’t meant to be a critique on conformity. It just ended up like that because of the theme of masses with one desire can be applied to A LOT of things.

    The same can be said of schools. One can say that the high school harem show is an attempt of self inflicted infantilization in the same way that people feel nostalgia for things that were’nt particularly good.

    In High School of The Dead, you can then say that this infantilization is turned on its head, in that the lead characters are not allowed to indulge in pettiness anymore and instead must grow up or die. In that case ,that means that adulthood as normalcy is destroyed, since adulthood is very basically the seque into ennui of working life and the zombies utterly destroyed that.The only other path left for adulthood is through breaking conformity , to stay alive and to live another day, just like Joe Salaryman once did before he got zombified..

    Reply
  7. RomComZom

    I think the analysis is good. The same people who are saying not to overthink it would also discuss the merits of Night of the Living Dead, which Romero specifically said wasn’t meant to be a critique on conformity. It just ended up like that because of the theme of masses with one desire can be applied to A LOT of things.

    The same can be said of schools. One can say that the high school harem show is an attempt of self inflicted infantilization in the same way that people feel nostalgia for things that were’nt particularly good.

    In High School of The Dead, you can then say that this infantilization is turned on its head, in that the lead characters are not allowed to indulge in pettiness anymore and instead must grow up or die. In that case ,that means that adulthood as normalcy is destroyed, since adulthood is very basically the seque into ennui of working life and the zombies utterly destroyed that.The only other path left for adulthood is through breaking conformity , to stay alive and to live another day, just like Joe Salaryman once did before he got zombified..

    Reply
  8. Pingback: One Year Down … « UNMEI KAIHEN

  9. endless

    I got what you are going for in this post, but at the same time I have to agree that you began to over analyze the situation and true meaning of the story. Yes the story has the elements of Students being forced to grow up, but this is only a small portion of the over story.

    I’ll start off by saying “HOTD” is and was intended to be a parody of zombie thrillers, going into the series with high hopes of a serious zombie saga will only end in disappointment. HOTD is littered with cameos from comedians and other Zombie series elements. One of the most noticeable cameos is of the main protagonist from “Shawn Of the Dead” in the original manga that even carries over into the Anime adaption.

    Take a look at most of settings in HOTD and you notice right away that these are common hotspots you see throughout Zombie series: The Mall, Gas-station, Hospital, Abandoned homes. All intended to mock the zombie franchise, I’m pretty sure you noticed that most of the deaths that took place in these setting are also pretty stereotypical, even quite funny.

    As for the Raunchy, Over sexy, “Did we really need that,” panty shots part of the series–well the author/artist of the series is an H-Mangaka for a living. His art-style is already “flashy,” add that to animation and I’m pretty sure every scene would have sex appeal…you know exactly what we see going on in HOTD the anime.

    Teens/Highschoolers being forced to fight off sexual temptation–even more to fight off zombies is the biggest part of the joke. HOTD makes fun of the fact that most anime today is about Highschool romance and hat if japan was hit be a wave of Zombies, That out there somewhere in Japan would be a Group of hormone raged teens fighting off hords of zombies, So that one day when they can return to peace again they might be able to overcome there shyness and possibly ask out the one they love!

    Overall, don’t over think the series, Read the Manga because it’s a lot better, and be thankful that the series had nothing to do with “moe!”

    I would also I like to point out I enjoyed the opening of this Post about classical Zombie horror.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Sorry mate, don’t believe in “overthinking” things. I’m not trying to discern the true meaning of the story. The notion that there is only one way to understand something is antiquated. Sure, there are wrong interpretations, but I don’t think “overthinking,” in itself, is a valid criticism.

      I appreciate the effort you put into a comment on something I wrote, and if it was still the summer when the anime was fresh on my mind, I’d really engage it, but considering it’s not, I have no desire to exhaustively defend this post anymore.

      Reply

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