Having dragged its heels for a little while, the previous volume of Highschool of the Dead finally seemed to find its groove once again and deliver a suitably compelling story in the midst of its disastrous zombie apocalypse. The bad news, however, is that this seventh English language volume is also the last before the series went on hiatus in Japan, meaning that if you don't like being left hanging with an unresolved storyline you're going to be left feeling decidedly frustrated until the series makes a return in the future - assuming it makes one at all, of course.
As this volume begins, our group of survivors are quickly faced with one major and previously unforeseen problem - the mental state of Hirano, who is still in turmoil following the events which closed off the sixth and previous volume. Can his friends get Hirano's mind back on track and suitably focused in the midst of fending off regular attacks by "them"?
From here, it's time to redouble efforts to find the parents and relatives of those within the group, beginning with Miyamoto's high-ranking policeman father - a task which involves a visit to the local police headquarters, offering both more immediate threats to the group as well as the ability to stock up on necessary items for self-defence and, perhaps, even an ultimate means of escape from the current nightmare engulfing Tokyo and beyond.
Unfortunately, it's more or less here that we have to leave the series as it currently stands - with salvation finally making a tantalising appearance over the horizon. It's a shame really as this is another decent instalment of the series to follow on from volume six's upturn in quality, providing a well-paced blend of action and character-driven moments spoiled only by occasional descents into humour which more often than not miss the mark. As per previous volumes, the level of artwork on show (which includes a colour fold-out "poster" in this instalment, incidentally) is consistently good in the vast majority of its depictions of both characters and backgrounds, with elements of fan service that largely mesh pretty naturally into the flow of the story and art rather than announcing their presence from the rooftops.
While Highschool of the Dead has never quite succeeded in recapturing its early form, this is another volume that at least comes close to matching its core principles of delivering great action via an interesting set of characters, all from a zombie apocalypse story that revels in its clichés (and its fan service for that matter) rather than shying away from them. The popularity of zombie fiction may arguably be on the wane, but if you're looking for a Japanese spin on such fiction in manga form then nothing has Highschool of the Dead beaten, full stop.