We’ve all heard the story before; a mysterious illness rapidly spreads through the population turning humans into zombies. We’ve seen this illness ravage places like southern California, London, and more recently the American south. The tale in this story takes place in Japan, initially in the titular High School before spilling out into the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. The cast of characters is diverse in ability, size and age, but all share a common goal: to survive. We all have two base instincts flight or fight the main cast of HOTD spends most of their time doing both. The teens battle the undead in the school, budging of zombie heads with baseball bats, wooden swords and broken mop handles. You watch as the bonds that make us human begin to degenerate as the inhuman plague begins to rise. We see friends turn on each other quickly in a battle for survival. The teens in our crew all have skills, swordsman, tactician, sniper, and leader each critical when fighting for your life. The kids fighting the zombie terror have simple goals survival and being reunited with their parents, goals leading them on a dangerous journey into the crowded city beyond the school gate.
(Caution: Some Spoilers)
10. Rika Minami
Rika is a tall, slightly busty police officer with brown hair often seen wearing tactical gear and Ray-Ban sunglasses. She is the best friend, and possibly more than that, to a member of our main group of protagonists Marikawa Shizuka. You even hear her mention her strong desire to go out in search of Marikawa despite her assignment defending the airport.
Rika gets too little screen time in our opinion, and that little screen time is the only reason she is at the bottom of our list. She makes the list, though, by being a total badass. She is the chief of the first squadron of the Special Assault Team and an expert sniper. Her calm, collected demeanor as she pulls the trigger and picks off the infected at the airport is just the sort of professionalism you want in an unreal situation with the undead.
9. Hisashi Igou
Hisashi Igou is another character that doesn’t get much screen time but attempts to make a big impact. He is a tall, handsome and athletic high school boy. He is also the calm, collected type that people seem to turn to for leadership. He is the boyfriend of one of the main cast members, Rei, and the former best friend of another main member Takashi. He proves himself a competent fighter as a member of the Judo club as they find a place of sanctuary in the school.
Hisashi Igou is on this list as much for the way he died as the way he lived. You see, Judo, a martial art that involves grapples and throws, is not good for fighting zombies. When you get too close you get bitten. When you get bitten you become infected. This was the case for poor Hisashi and he knew it. So, he begged for help to get to the edge of the school roof so he could fall to his death, before becoming one of “them.” He was willing to face his death like a man and that’s why he makes the list.
8. Marikawa Shizuka
Marikawa is a 27-year-old school nurse with 108 cm J cup bust, that’s 44 H when you convert it to American measurements. She is blonde, ditzy and you are left wondering how this girl was able to finish nursing school. She is also extremely sensitive and confused about what has happened to the world since the outbreak. In several ways she’s the weakest member of the core group of protagonists.
Marikawa makes the list for three reasons. First for her special skills as a nurse; yes, we did wonder how she passed, but she did pass. Second, her kindness is important to the group, reminding them that in a world where you shoot and brutally smash in the heads of most of the population that not growing cold and emotionless is extremely important in part of holding on to your humanity. The final reason for her to be on the list is the comic relief she brings with her lack of modesty. The two male members of the group often get and eyeful and then some, especially when alcohol is involved.
7. Saya Takagi
We know that every group of post apocalyptic survivors in anime needs at least one twin tailed tsundere and Saya Takagi fills that role. Saya is a genius and knows it, she tends to have some issues with people skills because of it. She is shorter than the other two girls her age in the group but makes up for it in attitude and bust size. She, despite his affections, often has a look of disapproval when it has anything to do with Kouta.
Saya makes the list for her brains and her ability to use those brains as a way that keeps her fellow survivors alive. She doesn’t cower in the corner like an egghead either, when it starts getting real she locks and loads just like the rest of her comrades. Saya may have a smart mouth and a bit of a temper, but as long as she follows the orders of Takashi Komuro and can bury her attitude when the time comes, she is an excellent asset for the team.
6. Yuriko Takagi
Yuriko Takagi is Souichiro’s wife and the mother of Saya Takagi. Yuriko has purple hair and eyes and, when she isn’t fighting the zombie hoard, wears fashionable dresses that ooze sexiness and wealth. She is also apparently a genius. Yuriko took her smarts to Wall Street and made a small fortune. Then after marrying Souichiro, she made an even bigger fortune for the family. She tends to stay in the background and lets her husband take the lead despite being exceptionally capable.
Yuriko makes the list for being capable despite appearing otherwise in the presence of her husband. She is also one of the few parents we see in the story and she acts like a caring parent, in her own way. We don’t see her stand up for her daughter when Saya comes into conflict with Souichiro, but we do see her standing alongside her husband, with a sub-machine gun in hand, in the middle of the compound making a last stand against the hoard and giving her daughter and friends time to escape.
5. Rei Miyamoto
Rei Miyamoto is one of our student survivors. She has long orange-brown hair and when you stop staring at her ample breasts, you’ll notice she has reddish eyes. She is the daughter of a police detective and has made getting to his precinct one of her top priorities. Rei is headstrong yet reliable and trusts the leader of their group, Takashi, on whom she’s nursed a crush since they were in kindergarten.
She makes the list for her ability to step up and fight when her back was against the wall. Rei, as a member of the Sojutso Club, prefers spears as her weapon of choice. A spear is also a great choice when you need to fight beyond the reach of your opponent’s teeth. She does eventually upgrade to a rifle, but still attaches a bayonet to it, making it essentially a spear. She seems at first to be the kind of girl you’d have to rescue; though you soon find out she is the kind of girl you find fighting next to you.
4. Alice Maresato
Alice is short with pink shoulder-length hair, held in place by a white headband. She also has the flattest chest of all our main characters, which is only appropriate considering she is only seven. Alice was rescued and adopted by our team of high school survivors early on in the series. She maintains a cheery attitude despite seeing the cruelty of the world up close when neighbors refused to open their door and allow her father and her refuge directly leading to his death. She treats each member of the team like an older brother or sister. She has a special attachment to Kouta Hirano, becoming his munitions girl and feeding him ammo while they fend off the hoards.
Alice, though an unlikely top 10 member, is on the list because she represents what the students are trying to protect. The happy-go-lucky attitude of the little girl and her refusal to let go of her childhood is one of the best motivators for the crew to survive. The group also has to plan their moves more carefully and not be as reckless for fear of putting Alice in danger. She simply makes them a better team by giving them something to protect.
3. Takashi Komuro
Takashi Komuro is a 17-year-old high school sophomore and is the de facto leader of our core group. At the outset, he is a slacker who’s nursing a jealous grudge against his best friend for dating the girl he likes. He is the first one in the school to recognize that there is a problem and does his best to get Rei to safety. He is also initially reluctant to kill despite being the one who encourages the others to arm themselves.
Takashi is on the list because not simply because of his status at the main protagonist. He also brings much needed leadership to the table, even though it’s not in his nature to command others. We also see his instincts are pretty good when it comes to assessing a situation. His almost reckless need to attempt to sacrifice himself to protect others in their group is an admirable trait. We also wouldn’t get nearly the fan service if we didn’t have him for the ladies to throw themselves at.
2. Kouta Hirano
Kouta is short, not athletic, and is an otaku. Before the outbreak he’s rather timid and often bullied by royal douchebag/ teacher Koichi Shidou. He seems to be on the route of becoming a NEET after graduation. We are led to believe that his parents are wealthy and connected, giving him the opportunity as a gun enthusiast to spend a month training in America with the American military contractor Blackwater. He couldn’t even get the girl he liked to give him a chance. In other words, his school life sucked.
Kouta is one of those people who were reborn in a world of the undead. He makes this list because he excels in the environment. His knowledge of weapons and ability to use them proficiently as a marksman makes him an important asset. He is also resourceful; when we see him create a shoulder stock for a nail gun and then plug zombies between the eyes, we know he will be a killing machine when he gets a real gun.
1. Saeko Busujima
Saeko Busujima is a high school senior and awesome at kendo; she is the president of the kendo club after all. Her father is also a master in self defense and her family has considered itself to be guardians of Japan for generations. She is tall and has long, shiny purple hair with bangs that sweep over her eyes. She is often found in revealing clothing, be it her school uniform soaked to the point you can see her lace underwear or the scene where she has nothing but a lace apron on but still cooks up a load of whoopass on the undead. Saeko often seems to be the true adult in the group, though she’s only 18. She is kind and caring, although you get the impression she is cold. She’s not; she’s simply reserved and a follower of the Bushido (Samurai) code.
Saeko may be the most obvious choice for number one on this list. She is cool under pressure; she is an excellent asset to have in a melee of close-quarters combat you often get in with a swarming enemy. She is one of the most reliable characters, always willing to hold the line, no matter the odds, in order for them to accomplish their objective. Saeko is at heart a maiden, despite looking like a man-eating dominatrix, and a pleasure to watch fight.
The list above may not represent everyone’s view, especially taking the one-off characters into consideration. High School of the Dead is a rather different action, harem, comedy, apocalyptic, romance than other anime you’ve seen as the plot is really moved forward by the characters’ actions. Those actions and their results are sometimes traumatic. Especially at the beginning, many characters mention that this is an unreal situation. A man even says that before throwing himself out a window to his death. We watch these characters rise to the challenge of staying alive, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes embracing the change -- but all dealing with the consequences of the brutal things they must do to survive.
HOTD is one of the series that makes you want to pick up a manga to find out how it ends since we only got one season. High School of the Dead has become a cult classic of high school girls who fight zombies with guns and swords while getting their clothing torn to revealing shreds. You may also wonder why someone very important wasn’t added to the list despite being considered part of the core group of characters. We just ran out of space to mention that reliable member of the cast who often barked orders and was constantly protecting young Alice, none other than her dog Zeke, if only because he has the best name ever.