'Zom 100' review: More fun than a barrel of undead monkeys

'If these are Romero zombies, I should have no problem getting away on my bike. Oh heck, they're Snyder zombies.' Photos: Handout

If anyone thought the zombie genre had already wasted away, guess again.

For one thing, almost every key cast member of The Walking Dead will be in their own (standalone or shared) spin-off soon.

South Korea has just dropped another survival horror outing on Netflix, Zombieverse.

The hunger for a third season of the streamer's smash Kingdom still burns after three years.

And even a long-gestating project initiated by the late George A. Romero, Twilight Of The Dead (said to be the culmination of his saga begun in Night Of The Living Dead 55 years ago), is reportedly about to start production.

So, yeah, plenty of life in the old undead yet.

But speaking of life – or lack thereof – the new anime Zom 100: Bucket List Of The Dead (retitled from the original manga's 100 Things I Want To Do Before I Become A Zombie) has got just about the weirdest, most insightful, subtly subversive opening chapter I've seen in any walking dead-centric show. Make that any show.

Side note: the manga is the brain(eating)child of Haro Aso, who turned to writing after retiring as an artist. You may have heard of this manga he worked on previously – Alice In Borderland.

Too late, some hapless survivors learned that you can't kill zombies with paintball guns. - Photos: HandoutToo late, some hapless survivors learned that you can't kill zombies with paintball guns. - Photos: Handout

Anyway: Zom 100 revolves (mostly) around Akira Tendo, a young and (initially) enthusiastic hire at production company ZLM. His drive to excel and make his mark is snuffed out on the first day at work when he is forced to pull an all-nighter (that actually seems to last several nights).

Things get worse over the next three years, as the life and colour gradually drains from Akira's life and the show's colour palette.

His more senior co-workers drop like flies, causing more work to be heaped on the new guy; his immediate boss is like a mish-mash of the worst chaebol chiefs from your favourite K-dramas; and even his one spark of joy, a pretty co-worker from Finance, is already "taken" by the CEO.

The opening moments of Zom 100 deftly capture the slow leaching out of Akira's soul in about 10 minutes, a feat less capable creators would take way longer to achieve... if at all.

Then, when a zombie apocalypse breaks out, both the show and our hero erupt in a burst of bright neon colour. If Romero's Dawn Of The Dead was an indictment of rampant consumerism, Zom 100 is an outright (but witty) condemnation of exploitative employers who crush the souls of the very people who keep their coffers filled.

Once he realises that he no longer has to show up at the office, but fearing that an undead end is inevitable, Akira draws up a bucket list of all the things he never got around to doing because of... yeah, work. Does that make him an instantly relatable protagonist? (Maybe I shouldn't be too quick to say "Oh, hell yeah".)

Plus, aside from his athletic prowess that has been suppressed since his university days, Akira is well-meaning but kind of a screw-up. Yep, he's not exactly the most Michonne-y of walking dead saga heroes, and suffice to say he's more "ass" than "badass" (hey, I meant that as in "donkey"). And so even more relatable.

'Oh, don't worry. We're not undead. Just dead inside.''Oh, don't worry. We're not undead. Just dead inside.'

Only five episodes have dropped out of a proposed 12 so far, but guess what – by some (OK, not divine) act of providence, Netflix has also released a live-action movie based on the manga.

While the movie is pretty decent and close in tone to the anime, I wouldn't recommend watching it just yet if you don't want to inadvertently spoil the remaining episodes for yourself.

The anime's second through fourth instalments, while well above average, somehow don't capture the heady exuberance of the opener.

But the needle swings well back into wild and wacky territory with the fifth episode, Hero Of The Dead (all the episode titles, like the manga chapters, stick to an... Of The Dead naming convention). If you dug Zombie Tidal Wave and Sharknado, this episode will wed your worst nightmares in a pretty imaginative and unexpected way.

With the storytelling flair and kooky inventiveness shown in just these opening chapters, I for one wouldn't complain if this ran at least half as long as The Walking Dead.

Also, there's something to be said for a hero who embraces both the inevitability of his fate in a zombie apocalypse, and the endless possibilities in a world where his previous constraints no longer matter.

Despite some interesting supporting types, so far the show has been almost totally buoyed by Akira, one of the most winning undead saga heroes in a long time. Just keep these wise words in mind: Analyse risk.

New episodes of Zom 100: Bucket List Of The Dead drop more or less weekly on Prime Video and Netflix.

8 10


Drone of the dead

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