ZOM 100: Bucket List of the Dead Episode 1 Review: Akira of the Dead

ZOM 100 uses anime's tropes to prove that a zombie apocalypse is the lesser of two evils when it comes to a soul-crushing corporate job. .

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
Photo: Viz Media

This Zom 100 review contains spoilers.

“We could die today or we could die 60 years from now. Either way, there’s never enough time to do all the things we want.”

If there’s one subgenre that’s been done to death–literally–it’s zombies and even anime haven’t been immune to undead epidemics. The wealth of zombie content has made it difficult to find fresh angles that say something new about the genre. The circumstances behind ZOM 100’s zombie apocalypse are hardly spectacular and fail to reinvent the wheel in this department. That being said, ZOM 100’s goal isn’t to create the next great zombie horror story. It’s, in fact, a pitch black comedy about the crushing nature of the corporate world and how awful the world is when you hate your job. 

ZOM 100, through this malaise, uses an undead invasion as the ultimate wakeup call to get one’s life together. Akira Tendo, through a zombie apocalypse, learns what it means to truly be alive rather than merely go through the motions in an existence that lacks direction and purpose. It’s the difference between living and being alive. ZOM 100 pushes Akira to some fascinating revelations in only its first episode, all of which indicate a bright future for a seinen anime that strays from the lifeless zombie herds. It’s also endlessly gory and drowning in kaleidoscopic undead viscera. 

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ZOM 100 is honestly like a full-length version of the I Think You Should Leave “Darmine Doggy Door” sketch where Tim sees a monster and is momentarily relieved because he won’t have to go into work the next day. It’s a radical premise, but it’s quite comical for ZOM 100 to focus on someone who hates their life and has nothing to lose during the end of times. This first episode heavily embraces genre tropes like the awkward meet-cutes of a rom-com, only to undercut these sweet, optimistic moments with all-out destruction. 

The tone brings Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead to mind, even if it goes to much more intense and ridiculous places. In fact, some of the moments where Akira lifelessly shuffles to and from work are almost directly taken from Shaun of the Dead. Wright’s movie shouldn’t hold the monopoly on this subject matter, but it does take some time for ZOM 100 to prove that it’s just more than “Shaun of the Dead, but anime.” The anime’s heart comes from Akira’s ability to finally realize his goals and accomplish a bucket list’s worth of dreams.

The series also has a lot to offer visually. This first episode utilizes a simple, yet effective, trick where the color palette is actively muted during the extended flashback that’s set during the early days at Akira’s job. This is an effective way to articulate just how drab and drained of life Akira’s mechanical existence has become. It makes it all the more effective when vibrant colors finally invade Akira’s reality when he realizes that he’s caught in a zombie apocalypse and suddenly freed of all of his responsibilities. It’s almost like the moment in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy finally steps into a world of color. 

It’s an inspired decision to depict this maximum carnage through a rainbow-colored lens that’s as if it’s the world’s worst paintball game. It’s a simple stylistic touch, but one that quickly sets ZOM 100 apart from other zombie series. The music also properly rises to the occasion and ZOM 100’s opening theme song, “Song of the Dead” by KANA-BOON (which is featured during the end credits of this premiere entry), is an absolute banger and perfectly captures the anime’s bombastic, care-free energy.

ZOM 100 begins with a successful and engaging first episode, albeit one that’s rather slow (even if it covers three years in 24 minutes). The anime would have perhaps better benefitted from a two-episode premiere that allows the story to really get moving. Or perhaps “Akira of the Dead” could have kicked off slightly further on in Akira’s journey. Fortunately, ZOM 100 has script supervision by Hiroshi Seko, who’s responsible for the scripts for Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Mob Psycho 100. Seko appreciates long-form storytelling with delayed gratification and any misgivings with this first episode’s pacing should disappear after subsequent installments.

Dense in blood, guts, and a self-destructive superego, ZOM 100 blends zombie slaughter and a dead-end day job into one of the year’s silliest and most disturbing comedies.

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4 out of 5