Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Is This a Zombie? of the Dead
Episodes 1-6 Streaming
Ayumu Aikawa, indestructible zombie and part-time Magical Garment Girl, is attacked at school one day by a giant squid monster. Forced to don his revealing magical dress and fend the fiend off in front of his classmates, he's quick to use his magical pink chainsaw to erase everyone's memories. He's had to do it before. Only this time his magic chainsaw breaks and everyone—and their cell-phone cameras—still remembers his panty-flashing performance. Can Ayumu survive high school while known far and wide as a totally gross perv? Well, he can't die, so that's a start.
If the end of season one suffered from too much plot and not enough humor, the beginning of Is This a Zombie?'s second season has the opposite problem: too much demented guffawing, not enough demented plotting. Of course that's a problem that a lot of comedies would kill for.
And there's something to be said for putting aside the psychotic villains and bizarre alternate dimensions and blindsiding plot turns to enjoy Ayumu's totally f-ed up everyday life. For one, it's hilarious. Not everyday funny, but bust-your-guts, fall-out-of-your-chair, did-they-really-just-do-that? funny. It's the kind of humor you only get when you give people with deep and deeply screwed-up imaginations free reign to indulge in whatever their warped brains can devise. And thus you get something like the first episode, where the show takes the exact same joke as season one's first episode, escalates it with blossoming magical-girl drag and accidental exhibitionism, and then removes the escape route used by the first season so that it can spend the next five episodes exploring the consequences of Ayumu coming out as a cross-dressing, ass-flashing mega-pervert.
Watching what fresh hell those warped minds devise for poor Ayumu is the mean-spirited delight at the heart of these six episodes. You might think that having the world mistakenly shun you for being a mega-pervert is bad, but try having the world mistakenly embrace you for being a mega-pervert. Not to give too much away, but his “exposure” subsequently leads to viral videos, a grotesque fashion trend, and the lustful attentions of a butt-fetishizing, web-savvy vampire ninja. And when the show isn't dreaming up new comic inventions to inflict on Ayumu, it's finding inventive ways to inflict the old ones. The mileage it gets out of Ayumu's magical girl costume alone is…unspeakable. To say nothing of the novel forms of bloody abuse he's subjected to, the grotesque magical-girl combat, and Ayumu's own irrepressible pervert's instincts.
The second thing to be said for Ayumu's f-ed up everyday life is that it gives the series a chance to showcase its tender side. Yes, it has one. It shows up in the cute way Tomonori interacts with Ayumu and in the flash of deep, bitter hurt we see in pixie-teacher Chris just after Ayumu has gushed creepily about how great life is and just before she drowns it in cutely accessorized alcohol. Most importantly, though, we see it in the episode where Eu gets sick. Sudden sickness is a tired way of drawing out a character's gentle side, but it works here because the gentle character isn't who you expect it to be and because there are little nuggets of truth and sadness amid the tenderness. That there are big hulking hunks of disturbed humor throughout doesn't hurt either. Even when the show is at its most heartfelt, it still has time for a few gory sight gags and one very long, very mortifying prank.
What the show apparently doesn't have time for, ever, is an ongoing plot. That's not to say it doesn't have one; just that it spends zero time on it. That's the closest that this bloody, crude, uproarious slice of comedy comes to having an Achilles Heel. Total plotlessness isn't an issue in something that's funny enough, but a chronically delayed plot is a problem. It's obvious from the reappearance of Kyoko, the magical girl psychopath who took season one to some very dark places, and the cryptic comments of in-the-know characters like Saras, Ariel, and Chris that something big and ugly is brewing, and yet the series resolutely refuses to bring it out. Whatever its other weaknesses, season one never sat on its hands—it charged half-cocked into all kinds of whiplash tone shifts and big nasty plot developments. It was part of its ragtag charm. Season two on the other hand is one big tease (so far). It can be forgiven that in the face of its other qualities, but only for so long. If the plot doesn't make good on its threat to ricochet off in a new direction soon, it'll become a real issue.
It's easy when looking at Zombie's generic H-game character designs and pretty yet somehow terribly familiar settings to forget just how well-made the series is. Even its derivative surface serves a purpose: part of its humor comes from looking and sounding like a straight-up visual novel or a somber horror series while acting like a total mental patient. Of course a lot of its humor also comes from its ability to time, execute and frame sight gags. Whether it's the spaghetti-limbed dance that Tomonori and Haruna dance during one episode, the puckering of Ayumu's lips and wiggling of his butt as he's bamboozled into making a perverted spectacle of himself, or any of a thousand other little visual touches, the attention to comic detail is exacting…and murder on the diaphragm. The series also puts together some surprisingly spectacular (though so far completely frivolous) action scenes, and even displays an aptitude for emotional expression. Sure it's full of splattering blood, smears of gore, smuggled grapes, and general chaos, not to mention vapid girls and generic guys, but it also has a vast visual imagination and a fairly consistent method to its madness.
Zombie is one of those shows that's a matter of taste. Bad taste mostly. This is a show that, when the chips are down, thinks nothing of mutilating Ayumu or chainsawing a lemur (opening him from cute little cowboy hat to fluffy tail) for a laugh. If that isn't your idea of good wholesome fun, maybe a show about a cross-dressing magical zombie isn't the place to get your kicks. If it is up your alley, though, you'll find a surprisingly high quality series. It may be a show that thinks chainsawing fluffy animals is hilarious, but it's also a show that through smuggled emotions and sheer force of personality (Ayumu and the girls') can actually make a harem work. Whose dud episodes, like the dance episode, still have moments of comic genius. That at any minute could tip over the edge into god knows what. It is, in short, the best comedy to be offered up this season. If only it'd tip already, damn it.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ A wealth of unhinged humor; better character dynamics than season one; obviously cooking up something for later in the season.
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