I actually stumbled upon this manga by accident, I saw that the main character look like the one from my hero academia, so I was like, "ehh why not." This manga is something else you fall in love with the characters, throughout the story and the story flows like water. I honestly recommend this if you're looking for a different kind of story. Yes, it's cutesy wootsey but it gets out weighed by the great story telling and relatableness (I know its not a word) to the characters. If it weren't ecchi it would be great for all ages. Even though the ecchi art can
sometimes be over the top it will not hinder the story and you'll still be interested in it. Please give this manga a shot it deserves an anime adaptation.
TL;DR: Hatsukoi Zombie is without a doubt worth the read if you're willing to invest into it. It seemed to me like a generic high school ecchi romcom at a glance, but I was completely wrong - It instead functions as a near perfect genre deconstruction, and has far exceeded any expectations I had going in. I highly recommend it as one of the best romance stories I've read in recent years.
From this point on this review will contain spoilers to the premise, mood, themes, and (to a minor extent) the plot of Hatsukoi Zombie. If you wish to find out for yourself what lurks
beneath the surface of this manga, I would recommend stopping here, but be prepared to commit: it takes some time before it starts to show through, but when it does... it's worth it.
I don't think I can do the premise justice without spoiling anything major, so please bear with me as I sell it in a manner no less deceptive than Hatsukoi Zombie appears:
Hatsukoi Zombie follows the story of a high schooler by the name of Tarou who encounters a being personifying his first love, Eve, in a manner also representing his ideal figure. The catch is that no one else is able to see her or hear her: a delusion of Tarou's own creation. Unable to realize his own first love, Tarou and Eve work together fulfilling the first loves of others and removing the burdens from within their hearts. During this time, Tarou and Eve both realize that they too must one day confront their own love: a can of worms that neither of them wish to open. But as the saying goes: all that glitters is not gold.
Hatsukoi Zombie's premise is pretty unique, even though it may not seem like it based on my description of it. It pulls a few twists and turns in the beginning that amount to nothing other than serving to hook you in long enough for it to set up what it needs to pull off what it does later on when you reach the climax of the story. It sticks quite heavily to the tropes and cliches of its genre and does a pretty good job of it as well. However, this changes quite abruptly once the characters and setting are all introduced and given some time to marinate.
The trick to Hatsukoi Zombie's story, and the reason why I will give it so much praise, is that it addresses the problem that you should begin to ask yourself after only a few chapters:
How can this illusory, contrived love between Tarou and the delusion of Eve ever work?
Simply put - it just can't. Rather than pandering to fanservice and pretending that it can, the author chooses to tackle this problem head on in a perfect deconstruction of the tropes and genre it had played up until this point. It completely changes the tone of the story from a lighthearted romance story to a bittersweet Romeo and Juliet style tragedy. The author pulls this off effectively by spending an incredibly large portion of time just building the characters through exploring trivial events in their day-to-day lives in the standard romcom style fashion.
The characters themselves start as blank slates: Their personalities are made visible through their actions and words rather than being explicitly stated, and rarely do they adhere to any specific tropes. They all act in a believable manner and rarely in a way that is excessive without some kind of rationality behind it, even if that rationale seems silly from an outside perspective. The personality of Eve is probably one of the most complex I've come across recently to the point where she feels about as real as it gets despite being a delusion of Tarou's creation - a kind of cruel, twisted irony in a way.
The art of Hatsukoi Zombie is also incredibly solid. While it isn't anything special, being neither extremely detailed or experimental in style, it does the one thing it has to do to make the story work - it flawlessly shows emotion through the facial expressions and body language of the characters. The expressions of the characters give away more than their words as to their inner thoughts and emotion. It hurts when you see a character talking in a relatively positive, upbeat manner only to see a major disconnect in their facial expression and body language at the same time that shows that they don't actually feel that way: that they're putting on a front for others.
All of this combines together into what I would consider a near-perfectly executed genre deconstruction and tragedy. Why? Because it doesn't simply throw it on you like some series do. Instead it waits until after you've gotten invested in the characters and only hints at it until the author knows that the investment is there to make it work and feel organic. If you are willing to take the time to get attached to the characters through a relatively slow-paced buildup, it is well worth it.
As of the point I've read up to as of the time writing this review, It's probably fair to say that I love Hatsukoi Zombie - I love the story, I love the art, and I love the characters. It's fulfilling and fun, albeit slow to develop (which I personally prefer). Every chapter left me desiring more and every chapter only served to enhance my passion for the story and characters. Sandwiched within the farce of a cheery, lighthearted romance manga came a remarkably well-written story of love and heartbreak that has stood out as one of the best I've ever come across and probably ever will. I'm glad I gave Hatsukoi Zombie a chance and chose to read it on a whim over the rest of my backlog - it is a true hidden gem among hidden gems. I highly recommend Hatsukoi Zombie to anyone who is willing to give it a chance.
DISCLAIMER/AFTERWORD: I'm neither an expert in writing reviews nor deep analysis of literature and art - someone more skilled than me can probably easily point out flaws with Hatsukoi Zombie that I might've glossed over. Regardless, I hope I have provided a good idea of an "average reader" sort of analysis.
So Hatsukoi Zombie, is a manga full of drama and teenage stuff, i don't know why and how, but, i actually came to like this particularly.
Now, i'll admit that the manga sometimes has his 'only fanservice' episodes, but, they rarely happen to appear(on my opinion).
*this contains spoilers*
I won't explain the whole plot becuase i find it kinda slow at the beginning but the more you read, the more you keep reading, i think the fact that i had none expectations for this manga actually made me enjoy it, you see, i've already read himegoto by the time i started reading this manga, so my expectations
for the author were really low, especially since i find every character of himegoto so disgusting to the point that i actually dropped it, and now, Hatsukoi showed me that the author really can make some good stuff.
Most of the characters on this manga are actually just fillers, so the plot beetwen the MC's can develope properly, now let's begin with Tarou our MC, he is a energy saving guy who happened to receive the most unexpected power, the one that builds the whole plot around him, it's really a guy that sometimes annoys you with his carefree decisions but you actually don't get to hate him or anything like that.
Our second protagonist/antagonist(because she could end the main issue whenever she wanted to) is a girl who happened to known Tarou back when he wasn't a energy saving man, well she holds a grudge to him, becuase he cursed her? don't know how to explain what he did tho.
And our last MC is Ebino the girl who knows tarou 3 years before the story takes place, she is the character with the best development at this point, she used to be a tomboy and now is trying to be with Tarou after a couple of misunderstandings and a bunch of drama.
the art has a lot of ecchi scenes(not as many as himegoto tho) but you don't actually feel like it's the main objective of the manga(like himegoto or Amano Megumi), the drawing is pretty good, you can see that the characters sometimes have a lot detail to the point you wonder if it was really necessary and actually that makes you appreciate it.
i do recommend this manga if you are looking for something funny and a bit romantic, i'll give it a 9/10 because is still publishing nowadays but i don't think my opinion changes.
Edit: Holy f**k i actually changed my mind after finishing the manga sh*t, while i made the first review i was far from the end, but now, after a few hours of finishing it and having a time for reflection i came to the conclusion that it was a huge let down about the last 20 chapters of the story everything is kinda rushed becuase you get introduced to a relatively new character that serves for nothing but to trigger a epiphany to our mc companion which, at the same time triggers another epiphany to him. We get seeing how my preferred heroine wasn't in love enough to fight and reminds me of nisekoi and multiple series where the best heroine is left aside.
Even though I still recommend this manga, I don't feel it deserves the rating I gave it the first time so I'll change it to 6/10 for the unnatural and rushed the end of events it had.
Not so unoriginal as far as these things go, and the pacing and plot development is good in the beginning. It drags on a bit later, but that sort of thing can be alright depending on personal taste. I did like how it kept us guessing about some things, but I found other things frivolous.
Art: Typical manga art. Lots of semi-naked ladies all the time.
I liked Ibusuki, though not so much later on when his character was modified to be 'appealing' and vulnerable. The main character, Tarou, was average, kind of dull but at least slightly different to the cookie-cutter Harem
Main Character (though still had that standard 'unfathomable mysterious allure'). The others were two-dimensional and not really worth mentioning.
Overall: An entertaining enough manga (most so early on), I just personally found it lacking substance other than fluffy love and needless drama.
Also, it bugged me a lot how all of these First Love Zombies were men's fantasies of females. Why did only men have them? What about gay men? And so on. Questions I will never have the answers to.