ANIME REVIEW | High Goals & Body Counts in Inspirational "Zom 100"
Many things can assist finding the meaning in one's life. Sometimes it can be a new friend, a new job, or even a new destination that revives meaning. For Akira Tendo (Shuichiro Umeda), who finds himself stuck in a dead-end toxic work environment, it takes a little undead power to revive his sad life. And with that begins Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, the most refreshing take on the zombie sub-genre in years!
Based on the manga by Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata, Zom 100 starts with Akira still stuck in that horrible job. He’s drained of life, with his own well-being placed into question thanks to the long hours and mental abuse. The one thing that’s making him cling to that job is his crush on one of the office secretaries…who is also banging the boss in his office. But one day, Akira wakes up to a zombie apocalypse, and quickly realizes something: he doesn’t have to go to work anymore!
Thus starts Akira’s new chapter in life, one that he literally starts to write via a bucket list. With no cure currently in sight, Akira aims to accomplish as much as he can before he inevitably becomes a zombie himself. From simple goals like day drinking and owning a big-screen TV to big aspirations like finding true love and owning expensive things, Akira does all that he can to make sure that he crosses everything off his list before his time on Earth runs out. But he’s not alone on this adventure.
Enter childhood friend Kenichiro Ryuuzaki (Makoto Furukawa), who also hated his job and dreams of being a stand-up comedian. Together, he and Akira live the best life possible in a world gone mad, as they dine with flight attendants and claim ownership of the sweetest swag imaginable. However, they need a plan to survive, which is where the levelheaded Shizuka Mikazuki (Tomori Kusunoki) comes in. Although her and Akira cross paths early in the story, it’s not until Akira saves her and a few others from zombies at an aquarium where she considers becoming a part of his team.
Zom 100 embraces the concept of taking things one day at a time. Although achieving goals is something one should do as soon as they can, it’s through Akira and Kenichiro’s laid-back ways that demonstrate how to accomplish them at a steady pace. Shizuka, who spent most of her life being pushed & berated by an abusive father, slowly comes to terms with such a lifestyle, even if the undead are close behind running towards them. It takes a different amount of time to achieve a goal, be it days, weeks, months, or even years.
Thankfully, with their RV filled with gas and provisions, Akira’s journey towards a goal-driven life will be smooth sailing…maybe. There are speed bumps, one of which is an unexpected run-in that causes Akira to revert to his worked-to-death lifestyle. But with a little waking up from Shizuku, Akira is reminded of the importance of living the life you want, not the one that’s dictated. The addition of German girl Beatrix Amerhauser (Minami Takahashi) later on also aids with the crew to reach their biggest goals in life, such as finding great sushi and the nicest hot springs Mother Nature can offer.
The attitude of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is what makes it a big breath of fresh air for the zombie genre. It may take some cues from Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, but it’s in its execution where the originality flows on through. It knows when to be funny, it knows when to take itself seriously, and — most important of the genre — it knows when to be grotesque. With all those factors, this anime takes a run-down horror narrative and injects it with much-needed adrenaline.
Newcomers Bug Films impress with its visuals. The premiere episode is presented in a beautifully cinematic fashion, with color exploding onto the screen once Akira’s mundane life is given an overhaul. When they’re onscreen, the zombies are disgusting and funny at the same time, thanks in part to the rainbow blood this adaptation uses. Watching Akira play superhero also demonstrates the strong quality of the animation, with the movement flowing with beauty and ballet-like grace.
However, this production of Zom 100 hasn’t been without issues. There have been countless episode delays, which will make some wonder when this anime’s finale will come. A dip in quality of animation has also been noticeable, with some of the CGI zombies blending in poorly with the hand-drawn ones due to their stiff movement. With that being said, the dip hasn’t taken away from the strong narrative and fun attitude this series has been presenting.
It’s thanks to the voice cast that the anime’s presentation has been a powerhouse. Umeda takes on Everyman Akira with great stride, jumping from a man whose life had been sucked out by corporate greed into one who embraces every day like it could be his last. Furukawa is hilarious as Kenichiro, who shines on screen as brightly as his bare-ass when it’s time to go sans pants. Kusunoki starts out cold as Shizuka, but slowly warms up with joyful personality as the story goes on.
Composed by Makoto Miyazaki, the anime’s score takes cues from past zombie films and TV series. But it finds a way to bring something new to the table when the time calls for it, especially when the gang take into action. KANA-BOON’s opening theme “Song of the Dead” is the band’s best song ever composed, with its happy lyrics a fun contrast on a world gone into chaos. (Sadly, it’s only the second-best song called “Song of the Dead”. Sorry, but Queens of the Stone Age already beat them to it.) Matching that joyful attitude is Shiyui and her end theme “Happiness of the Dead”, a finger-snapping romp of a song that embraces the attitude of every hero in this story.
I honestly don’t know what the fate of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead will be after this season ends…whenever that will be. One hopes that the narrative will continue in anime form, as the manga keeps getting better with each new volume released. With there being one too many zombie stories with a dreadful tone, it’s fantastic seeing a show like Zom 100 deliver an undead tale brimming with positivity. It just goes to show that even if the world is about to end, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on living. All you need is a good crew and a never-ending to-do list to keep you moving on through the decaying carcasses that are piling up along the road of life.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead can be viewed on Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu. It has been licensed by VIZ Media. Episodes 1-9 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll and VIZ Media.