“Truck Stop of the Dead” is the high point of an already outstanding season. “RV of the Dead” ended with Akira in a dire situation as he slipped back under the influence of his old manager, Kosugi. As Akira struggles, Shizuka reflects on her own experiences with abuse. This leads all of the themes that Zom 100 has explored to converge in an episode with such a strong emotional climax it feels like a finale. Having Akira suffer a large setback and then pull through thanks to the support of a new friend is a natural development of the story that Zom 100 has told so far. It only works as well as it does because of the groundwork that has been carefully laid in the first six episodes.
“Truck Stop of the Dead” begins by offering up a completely new perspective. Shizuka has been a mysterious character up to this point and has repeatedly refused to get involved with Akira and Kencho. After all the effort she’s put into keeping her distance, she finds herself drawn to Akira’s predicament because she recognizes the playbook of abuse that Kosugi is using to break Akira down. The flashbacks to Shizuka’s childhood and her relationship with her father serve two important purposes. They provide insight into Shizuka’s personality and they explain why, after all of Akira’s bids for connection, this is the moment she finally allows herself to care for him.
The early moments of the episode reveal the true depths of Kosugi’s ugliness. He’s not only verbally abusive but also incredibly misogynistic. He maintains control over the settlement by creating a rudimentary class system. He browbeats the weaker members of the group into performing the difficult labor and keeps a small group of favored “employees” satisfied enough to keep them from challenging his authority. As Shizuka observes his treatment of Akira, the memories of her father mirror everything happening in the camp. Her father’s complete control over her life and his obsession with her success explain some of her own fixation on results. It’s unclear if Shizuka had broken free from her father’s control at the time of the outbreak. Her introduction in “Bucket List of the Dead” showcased her meticulous nature so whatever state that relationship is in, it’s clear that his influence made a tremendous impact on her.
Shizuka’s empathy for Akira builds as the episode bounces back and forth between the flashbacks and the present. When the time comes for their group to leave, Akira is completely under Kosugi’s spell. He’s been gaslit into believing that his best chance for survival is under Kosugi’s thumb. It’s another brutal moment given the series of victories he’s experienced in the first six episodes. It’s such a painful sight that it spurns Shizuka to deliver a powerful speech dressing Kosugi down and proclaiming her investment in Akira’s happiness. Anime is known for its heightened emotions and earnest moments. These types of scenes can come across as corny or unearned without the proper foundation but Zom 100 executes this moment brilliantly.
Akira is reminded of his new quest for joy and meaning just in time to defend the camp from a surprise zombie attack. The ensuing sequence is another fun and creative set piece that delivers Zom 100’s usual level of excitement. It’s another opportunity for Akira to recognize his strengths as his quick thinking and cooperation with other members of the settlement allow them to neutralize the threat. Akira’s display of heroism and compassion breaks Kosugi’s illusion of power and the rest of the people in camp realize that Kosugi is not actually contributing anything of value. It’s a potent example of the way that a small group of people can spark hope in a larger group by taking a stand.
“Truck Stop of the Dead” takes us out of Akira’s perspective to center Shizuka and her story. The window into her past comes at the perfect time and her bond with Akira is cemented in this episode. After surpassing the greatest challenge to his newfound determination Akira is ready to continue his journey. He, Kencho, and Shizuka are closer than ever and united in their hope for the future. Whatever adventures lay ahead, Zom 100 has proven that it can tell rich and insightful stories.
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: Bucket List of the Dead' - “Truck Stop of the Dead” - 10/10