May 21, 2011
Archaeon (All reviews)
Is everything really better with zombies?

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.

Actually, they sound a lot like husbands.