First Impression: Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead

Akira Tendo is a corporate slave. He is so badly sleep-deprived that he looks like he could blend right in with the hordes in the late-night zombie movies he watches every three or four days when he finally makes it home for some cup noodles and a bit of kip. Things weren’t always this way though: he started out full of hope and excitement to be working in the entertainment industry, even if it was just on the marketing side of things. But three years of inhuman working conditions and toxic office culture have sucked the color out of every last fiber of his being, and left him with such large bags under his eyes that airlines would charge him for the extra luggage. Poor guy. But then, the impossible happens: out of nowhere and completely without warning, Akira gets a day off! So what if it’s because the zombie apocalypse has struck and human civilization as we know it has come to an end? The corporate drone is at last free! So, what to do first? And so the zombie apocalypse bucket list begins.

Oh man, I’ve been waiting for this one with great anticipation, and I’m delighted to say that this first episode exceeded my expectations! I’m a fan of most things zombie, largely because of the allegorical nature of this type of horror (unthinking, oppressive, relentless, infectious hordes—modern society, anyone?) and the deep moral quandaries that inevitably arise (What does it mean to be human? Can we regain our humanity once we’ve abandoned it?). And when these themes crop up in a comedy, it’s even better! Who can’t relate to Akira’s reaction to the apocalypse, after all?

But what I was most looking forward to with this premiere was seeing how brand new studio BUG FILMS, formed in September 2021, would handle the manga adaptation. They’ve been doing 2nd Key Animation on a number of top animations over the past year (Ancient Magus Bride, G-Witch, Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, and this season’s Undead Murder Farce), but this is their first production. And wow, they knocked it out of the park! Particularly the color design. We see Akira’s world fade from the technicolor of his youth, to the monochrome of working-adult drudgery, three years on, and then, in sudden bursts and flashes, everything explodes back into color with his newfound freedom. And the color returns not just with your regular, realist palette of hues. We’re talking 1990s neon: hyper pink, electric blue, neon green—great big splotches of neon bleeding all over the mindless horde. This was a brilliant artistic decision, because it not only anchors the series in the realm of comedy (the waves of undead resemble inept graffiti artists rather than a gorefest) but also picks up on the spirit of the manga with its vibrant dayglow covers.

Speaking of the manga (created by Haro Aso, who also penned Alice in Borderland), I also appreciate the way the anime tones down the sketchy horror vibe to the linework and smoothes it into slick seinen style, which I found more evocative of Akira’s emotional state than the OTT style of the manga (the fanservice has also been dialed right down). The soundtrack by Makoto Miyazaki (of [K]NoW_NAME fame, who also scored Spy x Family) aided in this as well, redefining scenes as comedic or melancholic almost single-handedly. Finally, the pacing of this episode is also on point, so much so that I had to check whether it was a double-episode premiere, since it covered so much ground without feeling rushed, even managing to linger on the mundanity of Akira’s office years to good (mind-numbing) effect. Once again, veteran series composer Hiroshi Seko (Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, Chainsaw Man, Vinland Saga, Summertime Rendering, just to name a few) proves himself to be a safe pair of hands for adaptations. All in all, Zom 100 and BUG FILMS are off to a spectacular start!   

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is streaming on Crunchyroll.


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