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‘Zom 100’ Review: Akira’s toughest test arrives in “RV of the Dead”

By September 1, 2023No Comments4 min read
Shizuka grimaces at Kencho and Akira’s over the top energy in “RV of the Dead.”

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead has established a winning formula. Each week Akira leaves his apartment and looks to cross off another item on his bucket list. He encounters an obstacle but is able to move past it thanks to his new attitude. Watching Akira grow every episode is satisfying and it would be easy for the series to coast on this pattern. Instead “RV of the Dead” breaks the pattern to present Akira with his biggest challenge to date and signals an intent to dive deeper into the trauma he suffered at his abusive workplace and how difficult the healing process can be.

“RV of the Dead” begins just like the last couple of episodes have with Akira and Kencho crossing a minor item off the list but the routine is interrupted quickly when they discover that they are out of water and power. Despite run-ins with the occasional zombie group, Akira and Kencho have been living in relative comfort and this is their first time dealing with a lack of resources. Zom 100 has mostly avoided diving into the logistics of survival, preferring to spend time on Akira’s emotional and psychological journey and his hopeful quest to embrace the joys in life. So far, this approach has been a breath of fresh air for the zombie genre which typically delves into the way people descend into despair and cruelty after society collapses. 

The main way the series has engaged with the topic of survival has been focused on Shizuka’s character and although she comes across as hyper-competent and impressive, she’s cold and even robotic at times. Akira and Kencho seem to pity her and are saddened by the way she interacts with the world. Shizuka surfaces again at the RV expo that Akira and Kencho head to on their search for a luxury travel solution. The unlikely convenience of the outbreak happening while a massive RV expo is taking place in Tokyo is easy to forgive when it leads to a delightful shopping sequence. The RV sequence is a perfect encapsulation of the charms of Zom 100. Akira and Kencho freak out over the increasingly lavish RV’s and their hyperactive energy crashes headfirst into Shizuka’s aloof pragmatism. After a couple of false starts, Shizuka finally joins the crew thanks to some A-plus peer pressure and another zombie attack.

After treading familiar waters in the first half of the episode, “RV of the Dead” heads into more traditional zombie genre territory. Traveling along a highway the crew runs into a trap set by a group of survivors that damages their vehicles and results in Kencho sustaining some serious injuries. Human-on-human violence is a hallmark of zombie stories so the inclusion of it in Zom 100 isn’t particularly surprising. I had a brief moment of worry that Zom 100 was going to spend time on a more cliché storyline and lose some of its signature flavor. That worry was quickly allayed when the leader of the survivors turned out to be Akira’s former manager. Up to this point, Akira hasn’t been confronted by anything from his former job and the impact on him is immediate.

After the incredible highs of “Hero of the Dead,” it’s shocking and upsetting to see the way Akira regresses here. As soon as he sees Kosugi, he’s flooded with flashbacks of the abuse he endured and he’s overcome with fear. His fear is understandable. Kosugi is manipulative and he insults Akira from the first moment he realizes who he’s caught in his trap. At the survivor’s camp, Kosugi’s more than happy to slide Akira back under his thumb. Although Akira has a small moment when he attempts to remind himself of the progress he’s made, a direct confrontation with Kosugi breaks his spirit and he finds himself as a drone once again. Fortunately for Akira, he has something that he didn’t have in the first episode: support. Kencho is hurt but realizes that Akira is acting strangely and the first glimpses of Shizuka’s past reveal that she understands how Akira feels because she’s experienced something similar. With Kencho and Shizuka there to support him, Akira has an opportunity to break free from Kosugi of his own accord this time.

“RV of the Dead” leaves Akira in the most vulnerable state he’s been in since the first episode. Even though it’s painful to see Akira forced to face his trauma it’s a bold choice for the story at this point that pays off. Zom 100 could have continued with the rhythm that has proved successful through its first five episodes. Instead, it has placed Akira in a tough spot but with an opportunity to take on a difficult challenge. Growth and healing after the type of abuse that Akira suffered is not easy and it’s not always linear. Setbacks are to be expected and it’s commendable that this series is willing to engage with Akira’s recovery in this way. This episode’s ending is the first to feel like a cliffhanger. Thanks to all of the time spent with Akira in the previous episodes it’s tremendously effective and leaves me itching to see next week’s episode as soon as possible.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is available on CrunchyrollNetflix, and Hulu.

Featured Image ©Haro Aso, Kotaro Takata, Shogakukan/Zom100 Project

  • ‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead’ - “RV of the Dead” - 9/10
Jose Cordova

Jose Cordova is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lifelong appreciator of film, television, and video games, he can usually be found sitting on his couch desperately trying to make a dent in his watchlist.

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