High School of the Dead: Drifters of the Dead OVA Review
High School of the Dead: Drifters of the Dead
BBFC Rating: 18
Runtime: 15 minutes, 27 seconds
Language: Japanese DD 2.0 Stereo
Year of Release: 2013
RRP: £4.99 on DVD only
High School of the Dead was released here a couple of years ago on DVD and Blu-ray, on the face of it an anime perfectly tailored for Western audiences, especially those of us who grew up on the anime nasty boom of the early to mid nineties. It’s a zombie anime with plenty of gratuitous violence, and even more in the way of gratuitous fan service. It is quite understandably a fan favourite, and there was great excitement and anticipation when Sentai licensed it in the US, and then Manga licensed it for the UK. It then fell victim to unfortunate timing. Sentai released the show, and then an OVA episode appeared in Japan. Prior to the UK release, fans asked Manga about the Drifters of the Dead OVA, but they couldn’t do anything if a US dub didn’t exist. We got the same High School of the Dead release that the US did.
But now, two years later, Manga Entertainment have re-released the show as the Drifters of the Dead Edition, remarkably cheap on both DVD and Blu-ray, but now containing the OVA episode on a separate third disc. Before Blu-ray fans get excited, there’s no way at this time that a company can warrant authoring a 15 minute episode onto Blu-ray. It’s just not financially viable. Blu-ray purchasers will find the same single layer DVD for the OVA as everyone else. Of course it isn’t very eco-friendly for people to buy the series over again for just the OVA, so Manga Entertainment have given fans the option of buying the OVA disc on its own from the various conventions this summer. But, if you can’t make it to an exposition, the online retailer UP1 has the exclusive right to sell the disc through mail order. I took advantage of that to get a copy, replete with that pervy artwork that was briefly promised for the complete series re-release, before wiser heads prevailed.
Fighting zombies is a draining business, and at the end of the series, our heroes had just about escaped from the ever increasing terror stalking the world. At the start of the OVA episode, they find themselves on an island off the coast of Japan, at the height of summer. It’s all good, because as everyone knows, zombies can’t swim. There’s an idyllic sandy beach, clear blue waves, and even an abandoned beach hut for shelter. The hut is also stocked with the skimpiest of swimsuits, and fresh drinking water. All they need is food to eat. What they don’t need is for someone to put the wrong kind of kindling on the campfire...
It’s just a bonus disc, although it comes with a rather nice animated menu, from where you can play the episode, and turn the subtitles on and off. Note that the UK is the first English speaking territory to have the Drifters of the Dead OVA on home media. Sentai apparently put it in iTunes in the US, which is one way to see the episode in HD, but otherwise DVD is all there is if you want a physical copy to hold in your hands. The quality of the authoring is not quite on a par with the series DVD discs, although Manga use their characteristic white font for the subtitles instead of Sentai’s yellow.
The image is clear and sharp throughout, with the usual DVD palette of colours, and the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer does what it has to, to truly convey the visual wonder of boob, and indeed butt-cheek physics. The downside is that it is an NTSC-PAL conversion, a little lower in resolution than the series DVDs, but thankfully ghosting and judder isn’t apparent. The audio is DD 2.0 Japanese with optional English subtitles, and with the exception of one typo, everything was fine in that respect.
Is it worth £5? Is a 15 minute episode worth £5? Is a 12 minute episode plus three minutes of credit sequences worth £5? Of course not. It’s just the economics that make this disc viable, and if you are a fan of the show, you will happily spend that money, even if the episode is worth it or not. I have to say that I enjoyed the Drifters of the Dead OVA, even though it is an egregious exercise in fan service even for a show that delights in fan service in the first place. You want to see the girls of High School of the Dead on the beach, wear teeny-tiny triangles of cloth, playing with big bouncy beach balls, just to see certain parts of their anatomies bounce as well.
That the show has something of a story to it is just a bonus. That the episode ends with a great punch-line is just icing on the cake. Drifters of the Dead is expensive for what it is, but it delivers enough in the way of fun to make you not regret spending that money for it.