Not every zombie is the monstrous, brain-eating type.
One night while walking home from the convenience store, regular high school boy Ayumu Aikawa is killed by a serial killer, and is just as suddenly brought back to life by a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe. One small caveat: he's now a zombie. Things get even weirder for him when he accidentally steals a magical girl's uniform, and thus her powers! Haruna, the ex-magical girl, orders him to fight evil creatures known as Megalo in her place until they can figure out a way to get her powers back to her.
It seems that life is just going to get stranger and stranger for poor Ayumu from here on out in Kore wa Zombie desu ka?.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and senile, but it seems that the more anime I watch, the less sense they seem to make. You could imagine my confusion when I started watching Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? "Why is the zombie weak to sunlight but not the vampire? Why the hell is he in a pink frilly dress? Why is that monster a giant lobster?" In exasperation, I put these questions to a good friend, and I found that his reply turn out to be a very apt one-sentence summary for my review.
He said to me: "I dunno lol, who cares? It's fucking hilarious!"
in Kore wa Zombie Desu ka, from story to character to humor, is based on complete outrageousness. I hesitate to call Kore wa Zombie~ an original anime, because it's seems that Kore wa Zombie~'s idea of originality is to take as many ideas as possible, exaggerate them to the absolute maximum limit of the imagination, and then cram them together into a single, epic anime.
So exactly is it that I mean when I say outrageousness? Let's pretend that there are 2 'idea guys' who started working on the story for this, whom I will dub them Jim and Bob. (Warning, minor spoilers)
"Here's an idea!" says Jim. "Let's make the main protagonist a zombie."
"Great idea!" replies Bob. "We'll have an utterly immortal zombie who constantly gets humorously dismembered, baked like a potato chip when he stands in the sun, and receives magical powers that turns him into a pink cross-dressing/chainsaw wielding mas(h)ou shoujo(nen)."
"Awesome," nods Jim with approval, "and since this is a harem, we need at least one tsundere character."
"Of course," replies Bob again, "we'll have a pseudo-sadistic tsun~ ninja girl with a ridiculously named fighting technique that uses cellulose (leaves), cooks up acid pots, and plays the violin in a maid orchestra."
"Let's make her a vampire as well." adds Jim.
"Why the heck not," laughs Bob, giving Jim a high-five.
... and you get the idea.
What is most surprising about Kore wa Zombie~ despite having so many wild concepts crammed in, it somehow still manages to tie it all into a very neat comical package. Normally you'd expect something so slapstick-heavy to comprise it's plot and characters, but Kore wa Zombie~ manages to seamlessly incorporate all it's content into an (almost) coherent and flowing story.
The characters in Kore wa Zombie~ are all, well, ridiculous. I mean one of them literally has like, 10 different voice actors. And she doesn't talk! (try getting your head around that one). Needless to say, all the characters are very 'interesting' and their backstories relatively well thought out and presented. There is the exception of the protagonist's human friend cuz, he's well... y'know, normal. Kore wa Zombie~ is a harem of course, so there is the usual male lead and his entourage of female companions. What is great though is that unlike many harem (to Love-Ru for instance) that focuses on the protagonist's perverse interactions with the females, Kore wa Zombie~ instead chooses to emphasize building the relationship between the male lead and his companions, which I thought was a nice change of pace.
I wouldn't exactly call Kore wa Zombie's story solid, the plot itself isn't exactly complex; there are various backstories which were left untouched and minor plot hole issues. As far as harem-type story goes however, Kore wa Zombie's plot is definitely up there in with the rest. The interesting aspect of Kore wa Zombie~'s story isn't WHAT is happening, but HOW it's happening, and I found that with Kore wa Zombie~’s almost surrealistic approach, I was caring about the actual plot a lot less that I normally would have, because I was too distracted that ridiculously hilarious thing that just happened.
Another thing is the art. While Kore wa Kore~'s animation quality is nothing too spectacular, the action scenes are unique in that they contain a very interesting combination of a dark tone, spectacle, gore, and an excess of pink. Yeah don't think too hard on that one. The OP is also surprisingly well done, and it almost makes me sad that they couldn't maintain the same level of quality throughout the entire episode.
The only gripe I have with this anime is due to it's comical nature, there are various moments when supposedly serious scenes are ruined because they took the humor a little bit too far. To give one example (spoiler alert), in the final moments of the main antagonist's death, as he lies dying in the arms of his necromancer, he looks into her eyes in a touching scene, and he says:
"If I die, make me a penguin."
Hahaha... No wait. Seriously?
This really isn't a major issue, but I was disappointed in the show slight deficiency in real consequential, solemn scenes which didn't involve some sort of joke tacked on the end. It made the anime feel a little bit one sided and narrow, and prevented me from giving it a higher score. One thing to mention though. They actually bothered air another episode after the 'big climatic battle'. I literally can't count the number of times I've watched anime that seemed to think that a 3 minute epilogue was sufficient in ending the story after the big boss goes down. Kore wa Zombie~ actually took the effort to give some rarely found closure to the story. Thank god.
Kore wa Zombie~ is a rather unique anime, perhaps something you'd expect if you crossed J.C. Staff with SHAFT. It definitely won't win any awards and it's not exactly thought provoking, but it easily makes up for it in sheer ridiculousness and outrage. So why should you watch Kore wa Zombie desu ka?
Given the recent surge in stories involving the shambling undead it's pretty obvious that there are people out there who believe that they can improve any form of entertainment, so much so that at times it seems as though the world is already in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Tales of creatures that wander aimlessly, groan a lot, and have the annoying habit of eating people while they're still alive are rife in movies and games (although I tend to class Resident Evil as more of a playable soap opera with added undead), but that's only the tip of
the iceberg. Zombies are now appearing on prime time TV (The Walking Dead), and even literary works have fallen foul of them (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies).
Of course, anime and manga are no strangers to stories of the undead, and while there are some interesting takes on the theme (and before you ask, no, the adolescent wet dream that is Highschool Of The Dead isn't one of them), the majority of titles on offer follow the George A. Romero method and offer up a healthy dose of body shock. While there are stories like Zombie Loan that try to do things differently, these are often lacklustre affairs that are more drama than actual horror.
And then there are shows like Kore wa Zombie Desu ka (Is This A Zombie)?
Originally a popular light novel series by Kimura Shinichi (which has also spawned three different manga that are set in the world of the story), the anime adaptation follows the life of Ayumu Aikawa, a highschool student who was murdered by a serial killer. He was quickly resurrected as a zombie by the necromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe, and since that time he has tried to make the best of a bad situation. His life now consists of everyday mundanity (barring an inability to tolerate the sun and avoiding fire hazards), as he lives in relative peace with his silent saviour, but all that changes when he meets the young, chainsaw wielding masou shoujo in training called Haruna (and no, that's not a spelling mistake).
After that his life takes a turn for the worse.
Okay, it all sounds pretty intriguing, but that's as far as it goes. The plot features some interesting tokens that work well with one or more of the themes in KoreZom, but the series composition has been poorly executed, so much so that viewers may find themselves wondering if there's any point to the show. The main problem is that there's simply too much going on, and because of this the storyline is so disjointed it can sometimes seem like the narrative is being held together with some glue and a couple of nails, and that's not the worst part.
KoreZom attempts to parody some well known genres, and initially it may manage to raise a few laughs with its approach, but this quickly becomes tiresome as the series attempts to turn them into running gags. In addition to this the idea of putting all of the protagonists under one roof has only been done for those stereotypical comedy moments that are amusing to those with more teeth than braincells, which is a shame as there are a few hints of how funny the show could have been. The storyline appears to be desperately trying to reach for ... something, but what it is and how it could be achieved are things that only the producers may know.
Unfortunately the shoddy workmanship continues into the visuals where generic design seems to be the order of the day. Aside from the outfits, KoreZom features some truly unremarkable looking characters, all of whom look like they were copied directly from other harem based shows. That said, Studio DEEN are only partly to blame for this as the main inspiration came from the light novel's illustrations by Kobuichi and Muririn, which is a tad unfortunate as if the rest of the artwork is anything to go by, the series would have been better served with the producers creating everything from scratch. While the scenery and settings may sometimes be generic, they can also be atmospheric and detailed, and there's a variety to the imagery that highlights the difference in creative mentalities. Granted the character design may have been an attempt to support the parodying of specific genres, but that's no excuse for the obvious lack of originality or innovation.
Which brings up the issue of fanservice.
When a show has a transparently weak foundation there are many ways to bolster the viewer's opinion of it, but the one that takes the least effort follows the simple ethos that "sex sells". Now somebody on the production team obviously realised very early on that KoreZom was a shaky proposition so not only is the fanservice aggressively blatant, it often feels more like a slap in the face.
I mean seriously, is there any need for all those close ups during the fights? This is supposed to be a comedy, not Ikkitousen or Queen's Blade.
Aside from the background imagery, the only other good point about the visuals is the animation, most of which is of a decent standard. There are a few blips here and there, some of which are purposeful to highlight certain comedic aspects while others simply slipped through the net, but these can be forgiven in light of the major problems this series has.
The opening sequence features a rather dramatic array of imagery depicting the main characters in various "thoughtful" poses before adding some action sequences to highlight their combat skills, all set to the song Leave-It-To-Me-Tonight by Nomizu Iori. Unlike the OP, the ending sequence is more true to the predominantly humourous tone of the series, and features the track Realize, Mr. Zombie, I Am Your Classmate by Rie Yamaguchi and Manzo. As for the background music, KoreZom has a nice variety of well choreographed accompaniments, but the truth is that a few of them are unnecessary as they don't really add much to the scene and seem like nothing more than another support for a weak storyline.
Surprisingly, especially given all of the production issues, the acting is actually pretty decent. The script is fairly mediocre as it follows an age old comedy format (so repetitive phrases abound), which isn't really the best thing for the serious moments in the show as it can be difficult to make the mental switch between humour and action - and this shows in several places. Thankfully the seiyuu are on hand to save the day, so what could have been very flat comedy routines gain some life and the more emotive scenes are provided with much needed personality. Unfortunately the actors are only human, so even though they do their best with the script, there's simply not enough viable content to support or develop their roles.
Now given that KoreZom is supposed to be a parody of sorts it should be the case that characterisation is all that's needed to make the series work, so it's a little disappointing that the characters are nothing more than shallow copies based upon one or more archetypes that are generally found in harem romantic comedies. Aikawa is the typical clueless lead male with few future prospects who is suddenly surrounded by females who apparently like necrophilia (he's a zombie, remember?), and after his introduction viewers can engage in a spot of ornithology (bird watching).
Oh look! There's the Greater Spotted Tsundere Loli, and over there is the Large Breasted Warrior trying not to look embarrassed, and in front of the TV you can see the Silver Haired Silent Warbler waiting to be entertained.
Yes, KoreZom has a wealth of common character types that will keep any harem junkie entertained for five minutes, and the best thing about all of them is that viewers will never once believe that they could ever be real, so feeble is their characterisation and development.
So is there actually anything good about this series?
Well ... actually there are a few bits worthy of praise, and if one discounts the generally banal and inane humour then KoreZom has a few morsels to offer. There are some genuinely funny moments that are both surprising and well executed, and the while the initial parody of the mahou shouko genre is pretty bog standard, the second one actually refutes the idea that Puella Magi Madoka★Magica was in any way genre breaking.
Unfortunately the comedy can only carry the show so far, and the simple fact is that KoreZom simply doesn't know what it's supposed to be, so it winds up being nothing in particular. It's a shame really as the seeds are there for this to have been either an interesting supernatural tale, or a very good parody (if one removes the unnecessary fanservice), and it's nice to see a different take on zombies once again.
The sad fact is that the traditional zombie is now almost extinct in entertainment media, and those that remain are treated as rare relics of the original belief that a person could be magically raised from the dead in order to complete tasks like carrying the shopping, painting the house, etc, etc. These old style zombies from West Africa and Haiti are usually a far cry from the modern take, often being better groomed, able to speak, and capable of following simple orders.
So what is 'Is This A Zombie?' aka 'Koreha Zombie Desu ka?'
Zombie Desu ka (as I'll refer to it from now on) is an anime that abuses genre cliches, it's horrendously inconsistent, shockingly violent and has some of the most uncomfortable shots of a guy's ass on several occasions...and it's easily one of the funniest animes I've ever seen.
YES. Zombie Desuka is the BUSINESS. I honestly couldn't contain my laughter ever since the dynamic and hysterical first episode. What makes this anime so special is, as I've mentioned, how it abuses genre cliches such as harem, shonen, fantasy, fanservice and even a bit of heavily
implied yaoi. There's an ample amount of fanservice in this anime, ranging from your typical 'pantsu' shots to bouncing cleavage, but there's also a surprising amount of fujoshi bait (and by that I mean moments that would make girl fans cream themselves) which is a nice balance. So while it was uncomfortable to see the main character's ass every so often, I can take it as fair since modern animes try more to appeal to both perverse fanbases.
Speaking of the main character, Ayumu is your typical, lazy-eyed, dangling spiky hair protagonist. You can draw comparisons between him and Tomoya from Clannad and Ichika from infinite Stratos, but I believe that he is a lot like Sato from the anime Ben-To. They're both energetic guys who don't go out of their way to be perverted but are definitely guys who wouldn't pass a chance to take a look, nor do they act all bashful when they're caught. In fact, there's a lot of similarities between Ben-To and Zombie Desu ka, from the absurd plot devices, the pacing and tone as well as the random comedy. And like Ben-To, I found myself surprised by wacky elements popping up every so often and it was great how it managed to blend with the semi-serious story. I've grown fond of animes like this; the whole 'comedy action fanservice' genre, cause it manages to not take itself too seriously but delivers a hilarious plot with some great action and fanservice shots. It's a delicate balance that few animes manage to achieve properly, but these few are pretty amazing. Animes such as Heaven's Lost Property and Highschool DxD have much 'darker' stories and heavy ecchi/ fanservice, whereas animes like Ben-To and Zombie Desuka are lite on the fanservice but emphasize the wacky side more often.
So as the title implies, the anime revolves around Ayumu being a zombie, resurrected by a quiet, moe necromancer named 'Eu' who treats him as a servant and friend. He uses his newfound life, and surprisingly superhuman powers, to find his killer. If this all sounds awfully serious and deep, trust me the first episode derails that by the end. The dramatic air that the first few minutes of the first episode give off is immediately dispelled by a hilarious moment when Ayumu gets hit by a car in a wacky fashion. By the end of the episode, I shit you not, he becomes a magical garment girl on top of being a zombie, doing a whole long-ass magical girl transformation and everything, with PANTY SHOTS AND EVERYTHING *shudders*. The weird train doesn't end there, as he ends up having a 'masou-shoujo' in this house, then later a vampire ninja girl (with big boobs, cause why not) and eventually has another vampire ninja girl (also well endowed) end up falling in love with him, under ridiculous, parody-cliche circumstances. While this all sounds like a cluster of absurd plot devices, it's exactly what makes this anime so hilarious.
One of the defining features of Zombie Desu ka is the aforementioned moe necromancer, Eu. Her full name is 'Eucliwood Hellscythe' and she takes the quiet moe girl cliche to a whole new level. What I found very creative is how, while she doesn't speak at all and prefers to write down what she wants to say, the main character imagines her voice in his head, saying perverted things in place of the normal request she asked. This is done each episode by a different voice actress (both in the sub and dub) so you're never sure which voice is her real one, and it's probably one of the most creative things about her character. While there's a lot of cliches in her design, her reason for not speaking are actually quite dramatic. The explanation comes off as a load of over-complicated fantasy mumbo-jumbo, but it fits in with the semi-serious tone of the show and it's a major plot device. I won't ruin too much but there's a lot of surprises in store regarding her reasons for not speaking, and trust me you'll wanna see what those reasons are.
The antagonists in this anime are unexpected but manage to be entertaining in their own ways, and the overarching main bad guy delivers one of THE funniest lines in the second to last episode. The final episode decides to take all the cliches it hadn't touched upon and abuse them to a comedic end as well, and so does the OVA episode. While this can be considered a harem anime at its base level it surprisingly manages to dodge a ton of genre cliches or use them in moderation; strange for an anime that parodies cliches. It almost never uses the typical 'walk in on girl naked' cliche and 'fall on and grope girl' cliche that animes like To Love Ru are infamous for, and when it does the result is violent retribution (as usual) which is balanced by the fact that Ayumu is a zombie so any physical damage is real but doesn't last. The main character however does go through a ton of physical and verbal abuse from start to finish, being called 'pervert' and 'maggot' for a ton of different reasons, a lot of which is funny. However the vampire ninja girl Sera does weigh on your patience with her persistent insults and she's not even a tsundere or love interest waiting to happen, she's more of the freeloader who has her own motives and shits on the main character all the time. While she is hot and her insults are funny for the most part, it can become annoying after a while. Despite that, every character manages to be goofy and funny in a variety of ways so small things like that don't get in the way.
That isn't to say that Zombie Desu Ka is perfect, far from it. There's a lot of plot holes, inconsistencies and moments that go unanswered. There's characters that get introduced but disappear just as quickly or aren't seen often. There's plot devices that are mentioned or implied, but never expanded upon. And there's a lot of issues regarding the depth of Ayumu's powers and why he's able to steal someone else's powers. However, I don't believe that any of these are an issue since the animes M.O. from the start was to abuse plot devices and cliches, so you tend to go with the flow rather than look for answers in a semi-serious anime. A lot of the occurrences in animes like Excel Saga go unexplained and we accept them purely because it's wacky fun, and whilst a lot of comedy animes have a decent amount of wacky elements I'd say that Zombie Desu Ka is one of the few animes that fully embraces the wacky side. Despite the inconsistencies, there's a lot of subtle things that this anime does well. The animation is solid and the fight scenes are fluid and epic. The music is upbeat and can be mellow when dramatic things occur. The plot device of Ayumu hating the sun since it dries him up (strange plot device for a zombie, I know) is interestingly accentuated by how blinding the light is during the day and each character has one or two defining quirks just like this, including the main bad guy. So while it was the kind of anime you don't have to think too deeply about, it was easy on the eyes too.
In the end, what can I say about Zombie Desu Ka? It's absurd, it's violent, it's random and it's just plain weird sometimes. But it's also hilarious, epic, touching at times and surprising at other times. I don't usually give numbered scores but if I could give this anime a score i'd give it a 9/10. I've only watched the first season so far so I have big hopes for the second. I watched the dub of it, and the cast did a phenomenal job, especially with the many voices that portrayed Eu in Ayumu's thoughts. Both the japanese and english versions manage to be funny for their own reasons in both the delivery of jokes and contexts of funny situations, so each is a unique watch. I look forward to watching the dub of the second season and I really hope it doesn't derail itself like too many second seasons do. However if it's like Heaven's Lost Property or Highschool DxD, it can only get better and funnier. Despite all the physical violence, verbal abuse, weird situations and world ending events that come across Ayumu's way, he can take it. Why? Cause he's a zombie.
Have you ever seen an anime you were convinced was going to be really cool and interesting and only just to have it let you down to no end? Welcome to my experience with Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka. After two episodes which presented a genuinely interesting and refreshing take on the harem genre (interesting takes on mythological creatures, nobody particularly interested in each other romantically, basically just putting up with each other simply because they have to), this series succumbs to the harem tropes it actively avoids and just becomes ultimately a very lazy series.
The initial concept for this show is actually
pretty interesting, with Ayumu who has just recently become a zombie living with the necromancer who resurrected him because, well what else is he going to do realistically. After his transformation, they meet other mythological creatures and beings such as a magical school girl and a vampire ninja. They fight creatures called megalos which are evil spirits that actually have some really creative and inspired designs to them. In one episode, they fight a giant whale in a school uniform that would put Sin from Final Fantasy X to shame. In another, they fight a giant enemy crab and attack its weak point for massive damage. One of the big points of humor in these fights is how as a zombie Ayumu basically has no powers, so he has to use magical girl powers a la Sailor Moon, which include gratuitous transformation sequences (it’s actually pretty funny in practice.) In this regard, the first half of the series is the best because it focuses on the sheer lunacy of the entire situation and the creatures they have to fight.
But then something terrible happens, Zombie No Desu Ka starts to take itself seriously. This show, about a zombie living who uses magical girl powers and lives with a necromancer, another magical girl and a vampire ninja, starts to take itself incredibly seriously for some reason right around episode 4 or 5 and it absolutely kills the momentum. When the show isn’t having fun with its ridiculous premise, its bogged down by pointless drama about Ayumu’s killer or a story arc later in the series that is so ridiculous that I can’t believe they even animated it. On top of all this, after episode 6 the show just starts to become a victim of the same tired harem/ecchi anime tropes that we’ve seen a million times before. The jokes start to get really lazy, the girls start to get interested in Ayumu, a new tsundere vampire ninja is introduced, and the entire show just becomes a drag. It just drags itself through the motions up until the final episode, which is almost unwatchable. It’s a pool episode featuring some terrible J-Pop performances from the cast of girls that I’m convinced almost made my ears bleed. How in the hell did we get to this point?
This is what happens when you completely forget why your show works and just start pulling stuff out of thin air to kill time. This show could have been really cool by sticking to having fun with its absurd initial set up and following it through to the end. I was completely on board to enjoy this show thoroughly. Please don’t waste your time on this show. It’s a crime that a show like this ended up getting better ratings across Japan than a masterpiece like Fractale, despite this being a wasted opportunity. If you want a real comedy series, look elsewhere; this will just leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.