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‘Zom 100’ review: Horrors beyond zombies in “Akira of the Dead”

By July 12, 2023No Comments3 min read
The main cast of ‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, notably the titular “Akira of the Dead”

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead bursts out of the gate with a strong first episode. Adapted from the manga of the same name written by Haro Aso and illustrated by Kotaro Takata and the first complete series from studio BUG FILMS, the animation is colorful and kinetic with stylistic flourishes that signal a desire to take full advantage of the medium.  There are no hints that this is a first-time production. The direction by Hiroaki Kojima is confident and propulsive. “Akira of the Dead” does all the setup and introduction required of a first episode economically and without any wasted moments, arriving at a perfect jumping-off point for the rest of the story by the end of the episode.

“Akira of the Dead” features some wonderfully efficient storytelling in the first half as the titular Akira’s life as an exploited corporate drone is laid out. The horrors begin before Akira even encounters any real zombies, as the opening scene raises questions about the state of his life immediately. Why is he up at nearly four in the morning watching TV and surrounded by trash? His story is sadly plausible and it makes him immediately sympathetic. 

This flashback uses expected tropes to drive home the shock and disappointment that Akira feels when he realizes the toxic workplace he’s ended up in. There’s hopeful music and vibrant colors that give way to dark dramatic drums and dark shadows. The most powerful part of the montage is the section where Akira is determined to find a positive spin on the cavalcade of abuse employees at his company are forced to tolerate and the way they are conditioned to feel like it’s completely normal. It’s painful to watch Akira be slowly beaten down and see his youthful energy drained out of him.

As “Akira of the Dead” outlines the deterioration of Akira’s mental state Zom 100 deploys any technique or effect it can to convey how Akira is feeling and existing in the world. Extreme close-ups underline the immense stress that Akira feels at work and scenes drawn to mimic the distortion caused by wide-angle lenses communicate the way Akira gradually detaches from reality. The standout sequence comes in the middle of the episode: Akira has withered to the point that his entire existence is rendered in black and white and fading away like a worn-out VHS tape. He’s jolted awake when he encounters his first real zombie and is forced to run for his life. It’s a tremendously energetic sequence with color slowly making its way back into the desaturated world around Akira. The moment he realizes that he never has to go back to work and color explodes back onto the screen is so triumphant that I cheered out loud.

The zombie media landscape reached the point of oversaturation long ago, but Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead proves that there are still opportunities for fresh takes on the zombie apocalypse. By embracing the strengths of the medium of animation and anime specifically, “Akira of the Dead” delivers an engaging first episode. Akira is an immediately endearing protagonist and it’s exciting to see what’s in store for him now that he has a chance to truly live after rotting away for so long. It remains to be seen if Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead can sustain a satisfying narrative to complement the inventive visuals but “Akira of the Dead” is a brilliant start.

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’ - “Akira 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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