Akira Tendo had found his dream job, working in the world of commercials and media—or so he thought. After being forced to work more than 24 hours straight on his first “day,” Akira realizes that he’s been hired by a black company. Disturbed and frustrated, but afraid of what will happen if he quits, Akira continues under the terrible conditions for three long years, until the fateful day that, naturally, a zombie apocalypse occurs. Now, freed from the burden of his job, Akira will do all that he’s been wanting to: skipping work, confessing his love, and drinking lots of beer. In fact, he might write an entire bucket list of goals to accomplish before he himself succumbs to the zombie pandemic.
The zombie genre is one I typically avoid—indeed, I fear The Walking Dead, skipped Zombie Land Saga, and though I own Train to Busan, have never watched it. Zom 100, however, offers a take on zombies that’s palatable even to me, in the form of the usual anime-style tropes and a little bit of social commentary.
The story itself is surprisingly fun. Akira seems like a typically kind, normal manga protagonist, but his response to suddenly waking up to a zombified city is anything but. He is overjoyed at the prospect of not having to report to his job, takes unnecessary chances to grab items like alcohol (“I’d rather be eaten by zombies than go another second without beer”), and doesn’t care very much when his colleagues, even a young woman he spent years pining after, die. It sets a peculiar but engaging tone early in the volume, perhaps setting the series on the road toward a darkly humorous revenge tale, a commentary on black companies and a society that expects young people to give their lives—sometimes literally—to their work.
But then, the death of two relatively minor characters occurs, and sparks something within Akira. A random meeting with another character, who appears set to become a major one in volume two, as well as a purposeful meeting with one of his old friends also help to set him on a more humane path. And suddenly, the series seems to have found its ultimate tone with action-adventure, filled with humor and fanservice, and revolving around Akira’s growing bucket list (which I imagine will eventually hit 100) and perhaps, also, saving the world. It’s a rather exciting formula, as the series can stray into extreme violence without being too absorbed in horror, into the world of comedy while keeping a sense of meaning, and into action mode while referring often to tropes, setting it firmly in the world of manga rather than graphic novels, where zombie story lines typically live.
Oh, and that social commentary aspect, too—I don’t want to read too much into this part of the series, because Zom 100 seems to be more about fun than anything too serious, and because the theme of the first half of volume one—the evil of black companies (“I’ve been breaking my back for this company for years, and all it’s done is turn me into, excuse the term, a zombie”)—mostly disappears. However, a line spoken by Akira near the end of Viz Media’s release seems to align well with the title of the series, and could be the thesis of it all:
We could die today or we could die 60 years from now. Either way, there’s never enough time to do all the things we want. Life’s too short to avoid taking risks.
If so, what a perfectly appropriate idea for a seinen zombie manga, meant to be read perhaps by those who, like Akira, could see themselves wishing for some act of God to give them the excuse to “live,” and one compelling enough to add just the right amount of meaning to a series already carried by humor, horror, and adventure.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Vol. 1 is available for purchase through Viz.