Ah, HOTD, you beautiful piece of shit.
This show is a damn conundrum if ever I saw one. It baffles me, purely because it is a total contradiction. 50% of it is adrenaline fueled awesome, while the other fifty percent is total sewage. I honestly don’t know how that’s even possible.
If you don’t know the show, let me explain. HOTD is a 13 episode series that follows a group of high school students during the first days of the zombie apocalypse. It is a straight up horror series, and at every turn, something horrific is happening as the kids try to escape their school and find a safe place in the city, which has become a nightmarish hellscape.
The animation is everything you would expect from Madhouse. Lush, visceral, and engaging, with stunning camera work, use of lighting, and excellent character designs. Mostly. The backgrounds are vivid, and the action scenes are intense. Everything moves in a dynamic way that is a real treat to watch.
The story itself is, while not game changing, pretty solid, and the pacing is well balanced between exposition and action. It never feels rushed, no more than it drags. The struggle to stay alive is presented with every bit the horror a full blown zombie apocalypse should have, with the characters making hard calls at every turn.
As for the characters themselves, they are written pretty well, with just enough shading to keep them from being simple archetypes, and as a group, they balance well, with each one having strengths that compensates for another’s weakness. They are given backstories that make them people, and they are not infallible, often making mistakes that put them in even more danger than before.
Basically, the show is really good, except for one glaring issue.
This show takes fan service to such an insane level, Ikkitousen thinks it’s offensive. It is so bad, and so out of place, that it becomes comical as the show goes on, robbing it of all the horrific elements that should make it stand out. It gets so absurd, it becomes impossible to take the show seriously, which is what confuses me, because if they had just left it out, it would have been a really amazing show.
Yes, yes, I know Madhouse was trying to stay faithful to the manga, but there’s a point when adapting a source material that you have to just let something go. Allowing the extremely graphic fan service of HOTD overshadow everything ended up being a strike against Madhouse, and did more damage to the zombie genre than Rick Grimes somehow not being dead.
The most mind boggling part of all this is that the music is amazing. With a different ending theme each episode, and an opening that is pure rock and roll, it’s a must own soundtrack. Even the background music is excellent at every turn, giving much more gravity and depth to the scenes than the fan service should allow.
Though, I will admit, the opening credit sequence does tell you exactly what you are getting yourself in to, and for that, it does strike the right note for the series as a whole.