Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On some of the fan-service in Highschool of the Dead Vol. 2

Each volume of Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato's Highschool of the Dead opens with a color section; in the second volume, the section featured a series of pin-ups juxtaposed with dialogue from the story. The above image was one of them, and features character Saeko Busujima.

Note the fairly ridiculous costuming—tiny panties that tie on the side, a tiny apron and, um, that's it. Note the posing, in which artist Shouji manages to include both her ass and both breasts without going for full-on brokeback pose, by positioning the "camera" near the ceiling of the room and looking down at her. And, while it may not quite come through in my poor scan of the page, the coloring mimics the sort of soft-lighting of boudoir photography or soft-core pornography.

Despite how fantastical, a word I'm using her to mean something out of someone's fantasy, the image might be, it actually occurs almost exactly like that within the context of the story (Sans the coloring, of course).
Highschool of the Dead follows a handful of students from a private Japanese school as they cope with a zombie apocalypse. Busujima is the oldest of the students, and a master swordswoman, who kept herself and her allies alive by bashing zombies with her bokken. The first day of their new lives ends in this volume, and they spend the night at the still zombie-free apartment complex of their school nurse's friend. There, the girls all take a bath to wash all of the sweat, dirt, adrenaline, blood and brains off of their bodies and wash their clothes (the boys, who have killed just as many zombies, for some reason don't seem to be eager to bathe or wash their clothes).

While they're waiting for their school clothes to dry, the girls borrow clothes from the apartment to spend the night in. The school nurse wears either a towel or nothing (oh, they also start drinking, the nurse getting pretty wasted), Rei Miyamoto wears a super=tight, super-tiny tank top that doesn't quite cover her panties and Saya Takagi wears a tiny, half tank top and shorts that aren't much bigger than a pair of panties. But the tall Busujima can't find anything in her size, save the apron.
An odd choice, really. I'm pretty sure she'd get more coverage from a towel.
She goes through much of the volume wearing that particular outfit, which allows Shouji to draw her pretty much naked throughout, no matter what's going on. And what's going on, for most of the scenes she's dressed like that, is preparing to defend the department, rescuing the life of a little girl and ultimately making a break for it through the zombie hordes.

Unsurprisingly, the boys do not strike this particular pose when bravely declaring that they will hold their position no matter what

Let's see...entire ass, both breasts...yes, I believe this likely qualifies as brokeback. That, or it's close enough that we might as well count it

I posted this one before, but I'm going to re-post it here, as it's a pretty good example of that particular outfit being worn in circumstances one might not expect such a costume to be worn in

I'm sort of fascinated by the over-the-top cheesecake or fan-service elements of HOTD, because the series isn't actually that over-the-top. Yes, there's a leering perversity to it, and obviously there's a lot of violence and gore, as the zombiepocalypse genre demands, but it's a pretty straightforward, serious horror drama: The fact that Busujima is dressed like that isn't presented as a joke, it's just matter-of-factly presented among the life-and-death elements of the comic, which are always played straight.

I also wonder about my reaction to it. I wonder why I like this comic, how I don't mind its portrayal of the characters in such costumes and poses in the least, whereas this is the same sort of stuff that I find literally outrageous in American super-comics.

I'm fairly certain that it has to do with the context, the fact that this is unambiguously a comic for grown-ups—It's rated "M", bears a "Parental Advisory/Warning/Explicit Content" label on the front that is visually reminiscent of early '90s gangsta rap CDs and cassettes and is sometimes even shrink-wrapped.

And it certainly helps that the stars are original to this series, not characters created for children's entertainment like, say, Wonder Woman or Supergirl, who are simultaneously appearing in hyper-sexualized comic books for teens and adults while they're also appearing in all-ages cartoons and comics and being sold as toys and bedsheets to little kids.

And it also helps that artist Shouji Sato is on the same page as the writer—the tone of the art matches the one of script, which isn't always the case in sexualized super-comic art. And it also helps that Shouji is a good artist (the above brokeback pose notwithstanding). I don't object to cheesecake or fan-service. I object to inappropriate cheesecake and fan-service. And I object most strongly to badly-drawn, inappropriate cheesecake and fan-service.

While Busujima's panties, apron and nothing else ensemble does give Shouji an excuse to draw her practically naked throughout the entire volume (or, alternately, readers an excuse to ogle her practically naked throughout the entire volume), this isn't a technically all-ages comic, so it's not like excuses are needed. If the Satos want to have Busujima, or any of the characters appear naked in the comic, they can just have them do so. Which they do in this volume.

Before she puts on the apron-only outfit, Busujima and the other female characters are all shown drinking and fooling around while bathing.
This image is cropped to make it Safe(r) For Work, but there are a few panels where she's not even wearing an apron and panties

It's amazing how refreshing genre comics for actual grown-ups, free of any and all valuable all-ages IPs, can seem if you've spent a lot of time—maybe too much time—with super-comics.

1 comment:

Aki Alaraatikka said...

I have a sudden urge to check this out now.