Writer: Haro Aso
Illustrator: Kotaro Takata
Translation: Nova Skipper
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Vanessa Satone
Publisher: VIZ Media
WHAT IS IT?
The end of the world is finally here in the form of a zombie apocalypse. But for 24-year-old Akira Tendo, this is the beginning of a beautiful life free from the grip of an exploitative corporation.
The beginning will have you recalling Office Space but quickly turns into a fun mix of The Bucket List and The Walking Dead.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After finding his dream job at a production company, Akira Tendo finds himself in an exploitative corporation that has him working days on end with no days off. After working there for three years he quickly resembles a brainwashed employee zombie, going so far as to make a comment how he'd never work for a company like that. Then, one day on his way to work, he notices dozens of people have turned into zombies. Now, with zombies walking around, Akira has no reason to go to work. Thus, he can finally live free and make a list of everything he has ever wanted to do.
At a glance, ZOM 100: Bucket List of The Dead VOL. 1 (AKA ZOM100 VOL.1) seems like just another zombie story. But what transpires is more of a cultural universal: a story of companies overworking their employees, and how it takes a zombie apocalypse to make these workers free.
ZOM100 VOL.1's cover seems awfully bright, colorful, and cheerful for a zombie story, huh? Well, that's for a good reason! The content inside focuses more on Akira's newfound happiness in life, so the cover matches the tone of the story magnificently.
Akira is a relatable and realistic character. Everyone has had those days/months/years where they don't want to go to work and just want to be free. Wanting to be free is a common thing, so we can relate to that. But, something that really stuck out is his response to a zombie is to run like hell. That's one of the most realistic reactions out there.
Akira as a character is just plain fun, and a good main character, as well. He isn't overly pervy, annoying, or crazy. Instead, he seems real and you want to root for him. You want him to complete his list and have fun!
Aso made ZOM100 more of a character-driven work than a plot-driven one. This helps the story stand out from other works of zombie media and makes it fun. At times, zombies just feel like a device to show Akira being free, which works.
The comparisons of working in a demanding job and the zombie apocalypse make so much sense. The feeling of constantly being tired to the point of being a zombie is spot-on.
ZOM100 has so many deeper meanings that it deserves to be studied as closely as possible. The many parallels that Aso writes are insane, and the concept that Akira is happy in the zombie apocalypse when others are terrified is amazing. It's such a huge juxtaposition to have Akira so cheery compared to others being terrified and generally not having a good time. This cheerfulness is one of the things that helps set the story apart in the genre.
So far, Akira's list is fun, and I'm excited to see more of it.
Takata's art works amazingly for the story being told. Nothing looks overdone or unrealistic and the panel work is never confusing.
Takata helps contrast the "darkness" of the zombies and the cheerfulness of Akira in a simple yet fun way. Anytime we focus on Akira, the art is lighter, more fun, and just more cheerful. Yet, when it's zombies, you see them decomposing, and the horrors they have wrought.
The opening of ZOM100 includes Akira watching a zombie film with the MC screaming he is in hell on a double-page spread. Later on, when Akira realizes that he is in a zombie apocalypse, they mirror that page, but with Akira happy and screaming he is free. This page was fantastic and just smart all-around.
The emotions that Takata applies are gorgeous and helps sell how characters feel, especially in key moments.
Even though I don't know Japanese, the translator, Nova Skipper, did fantastic with the translation. Nothing seemed off, or "lost in translation."
For sound effects, the artist working on them has to "touch-up" the work so they can change it into English. In this case, it was Vanessa Satone. Throughout ZOM100 VOL.1 are some fun sound effects that help build the moment, and Satone is able to make sure they hit to their fullest while looking great.
Memorable Quote: "Maybe some women's magazines? The trashier the better." - Mr. Kosaka. I mean, got to have your priorities, right?
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: It's a zombie manga, so go in expecting blood, gore, and guts. There are also some bits including nudity.
It does include a little fan service – not much (especially as others), but it does. If that isn't your thing, be wary of that, and of other moments of zombies exposed at the top or in bikinis.
ZOM100 VOL.1 strongly revolves around Akira and his newfound happiness, so if you go in expecting zombie-killing action it is not for you.
Akira's friend Kenchiro Ryuzaki feels like he can easily become a one-note character. Although he is fun when we meet him, he quickly becomes the comedy character that seems like he will stay that way. Hopefully this changes in future volumes.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
ZOM100 VOL.1 feels different from other zombie media that I have indulged in. Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, but ZOM100 VOL.1 feels so refreshing that the zombies feel like a side-plot. Instead, the focus is on Akira and him finally having the chance to live his life freely, something we all truly want. The story is so relatable because, even if you love your job, there has to have been times when you didn't want to go in. And although it took a zombie apocalypse for Akira to finally be free, he is the happiest anyone could be. It's honestly invigorating!
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