The first two episodes of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead focused on Akira’s coming back to life after his traumatic experience at an exploitative company. After this honeymoon period, Akira realized that wants to do more than survive, he wants to thrive. “Best Friend of the Dead” reveals another way that Akira’s job stole his life away, souring his mood and leading to a falling out with his estranged best friend Kencho. Akira sets out on a mission to rekindle their friendship, leading to a heartful and hilarious reunion. The introduction of Kencho demonstrates that like any good bucket list, Akira’s isn’t just fun and silly activities. There are also important goals that will be much more emotionally impactful.
Having secured basic supplies in “Bucket List of the Dead”, Akira decides to work his way through his bucket list when the return of his cell service dredges up an old wound. Zom 100 continues to add to the list of ways that Akira’s job destroyed his life. This time it’s his support system. It’s another astute observation from creator Haro Aso of the way the effects of a toxic work environment can extend far beyond the workplace. Akira’s memories of his time in the rugby club show that the person we’ve observed post apocalypse isn’t a new personality he’s putting on. Ditching his job didn’t prompt a transformation, it allowed him to recapture his old self. The next step in that process for Akira is to try to rebuild a broken relationship and experience human connection again.
Across town, Kencho finds himself in a precarious situation. “Best Friend of the Dead” initially sets Kencho up as a stereotypical jock type. Akira is shown to be athletic and on the same Rugby team but Kencho towers over him and has a muscular physique. He’s the life of the party and after college goes on to have a glamorous real estate career. In Akira’s memory, he appears to be in the complete opposite situation that Akira is in. That sets the expectation that Akira will need to apologize to him for their falling out.
The surprise of the episode comes after Kencho reveals that he feels that he is the one who owes Akira an apology. His brash and confident attitude was a cover for his own misery with his job. The climax of “Best Friend of the Dead” is another showcase of the strength of Zom 100’s particular mix of comedy and sincerity. Akira has already had his breakthrough and so he’s in the perfect place to encourage his friend to take a literal leap of faith. Kencho’s proclamation of freedom is as cheer worthy of a moment as Akira had in the premiere. It also elicited the biggest laugh of the episode when Kencho manages to shed all of his clothing mid-jump.
The bait and switch with Kencho’s character continues to make Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead a breath of fresh air, especially in the zombie genre. There are countless zombie apocalypse stories that explore how survivors lose their humanity after society collapses. Zom 100’s optimistic take is a wonderful perspective on this material. Every episode so far has ended on a hopeful note that always feels earned. The closing scene with Akira and Kencho sitting naked together enjoying their beer is very sweet. The nudity isn’t played for laughs at that point anymore. Being naked is being vulnerable and here it is a testament to the bond between Akira and Kencho as well as their shared experience of revival. Akira’s list continues to grow and after three episodes there’s every reason to expect the series will keep delivering like it has so far.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is available on Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu.
Featured Image ©Haro Aso, Kotaro Takata, Shogakukan/Zom100 Project
Zom 100 - “Best Friend of the Dead” - 8/10